Chalky paint offers an easy way to touch up furniture

Adding a coat of paint has long been an option for giving furniture, cabinets, or other items a refreshed look. But in recent years, a paint which helps to impart a more rustic look to a piece has become more popular.

While chalky paint has been around since 1990, it has come into higher demand as more and more homeowners adopt the farmhouse style or other design trends that give their rooms an aged, classic appearance. The paint was first introduced by Annie Sloan with the brand name Chalk Paint, but there are now several other brands available along with a few recipes for homemade chalky paint.

Chalky paint works by adding a matte finish with white undertones to an item; you can opt for a simple white shade or choose from a variety of colors. Manasa Reddigari, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says the paint is made from a blend of calcium carbonate, talc, and pigments. While it is most commonly used on furniture, it is also versatile enough to be used on materials such as drywall, fabric, glass, and metal.

Just make sure you don't confuse chalky paint with chalkboard paint. The latter product is used to create a surface you can write or draw on with chalk.

One advantage to chalky paint is that it requires minimal preparation before it can be applied. Erin Gifford, writing for Realtor.com, says a quick cleaning with a soft cloth is usually enough.

However, you'll still want to follow some basic painting steps. Reddigari says these include placing newspapers or a drop cloth under the piece you're working on to guard against drips and splatters, removing items such as hinges or handles to make painting easier, and doing the project in an indoor location at room temperature.

A light sanding may help chalky paint to adhere better. Untreated wood should receive a coat of shellac before adding paint. This helps protect the color of the paint, since tannins in untreated wood can seep into the paint and alter its color.

The paint can itself should be turned upside-down and shaken before use. Katherine McGrath, writing for Architectural Digest, says you may want to add some water if the paint seems too thick.

There are several options for how chalky paint can be applied. Reddigari says it can be used with paintbrushes, rollers, or spray guns, although you'll likely need to thin out the paint to use the last method.

While chalky paint is latex-based, it is also distressed more easily than a traditional latex paint. Brett Martin, writing for Popular Mechanics, says traditional paint will simply tear away if distressed, while chalky paint will yield to a more natural worn appearance. Katie Holdefehr, writing for the home design site Apartment Therapy, says you can choose to apply a solid coat of paint, combine two coats of different colors to create an interesting undertone, or experiment with multiple coats and distressing methods.

One method for creating a more antique, vintage appearance is to sand the painted surface to expose some of the underlying wood in certain areas. McGrath says you can also put down two complementary colors as separate coats, then sand the top coat to reveal some of the bottom coat.

If you make a mistake when painting, you can easily repair it. Gifford says you simply need to sand down the paint if you apply it too heavily and add more paint if you distressed the piece a little too much.

You may want to experiment with color combinations before painting the piece itself. Martin says chalky paint also works well for adding custom finishes, such as stencils.

Once you're satisfied with the appearance of the paint job, use wax to seal the surface. Gifford says this wax helps protect the surface from moisture and scratches. The wax can also lend further texture to the piece, or add a glossy finish. McGrath recommends using two or three coats of wax.

The wax will take some time to cure, so be patient with it. Reddigari says you can start using the furniture as soon as the wax dries, which can be complete within half an hour. However, Annie Sloan says it may take up to three weeks for the wax to cure completely, and that you should be extra cautious with the piece during this period.

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