Chalk Paint vs. Chalkboard Paint

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Chalk paint side table

Two things that commonly get mixed up are chalk paint and chalkboard paint. What is the real difference, and how can these two styles of paints be used to your advantage? Both of these paints achieve unique finishes that allow your personal style to come to life. We’ve laid it all out for you in detail to help tackle your next DIY chalk or chalkboard paint project. Find out what you can achieve with these two amazing, but different types of paint.


Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a specific type of paint that can help create an antique to vintage-modern look for furniture. It gets its name because of the matte chalk-like finish. You can achieve a one-of-a-kind look by using wax or glazes over the chalk paint. Chalk paint can be applied over most existing surfaces, and many surfaces don’t need to be sanded! Perfect for refreshing old and new wooden furniture, cast stone, concrete, and even metal surfaces to create one-of-a-kind accent pieces. This easy step-by-step process will have old furniture looking shabby-chic in no time.

paint cans and brushes


How to apply chalk paint

1. Surface preparation

Remove loose or chipped paint with sandpaper. Sanding is not required but for best results lightly sand down glossy surfaces. Clean with soap and water, and let dry.

2. Priming

Priming is also not required for most surfaces, but if you’re working with bare wood or treated wood, priming will help block tannin bleeds. Wait 2 hours after priming to apply paint.

3. Application

Stir paint thoroughly. Do not shake the can, and do not thin it down. Avoid painting in direct sunlight, and always paint when the humidity is below 85%. Use a high-quality, synthetic brush. Using a nap roller is not recommended for chalk paint.

Woman Sanding a chair


4. Dry & Re-Coat Times

Paint usually takes 2-4 hours to dry completely and will need more time when it is colder. It is dry to the touch in about 30 minutes and can be re-coated after 4 hours.

5. Antiquing/Distressing

To achieve an antiqued look, apply a wax or glaze over the base paint and wipe away.

If you choose to distress, lightly sand the surface with a fine to medium grit sandpaper, or use a sanding sponge. Take off as much or as little paint as you want to achieve your desired look.

 6. Clean-up

Most chalkboard paints are latex, meaning they are water based, so soap and water is all you need for cleaning up. Make sure brushes are rinsed out and discard empty containers.


Chalkboard Paint

Chalkboard paint is used for creating writable surfaces, aka chalkboards. Chalkboards are great for do it yourself projects. Turn old tabletops into writeable surfaces for a child’s room, or use it on an old buffet, great for parties and labeling dishes. Chalkboard paint is now customizable and comes in many colors.

Chalkboard paint and roller

How to apply chalkboard paint   

1. Surface preparation

Remove loose or chipped paint with sandpaper. Sand down glossy surfaces. Clean with soap and water and let dry.

 2. Priming

Priming is recommended for bare wood and metal. You can paint 2 hours after you prime. Priming the surface with latex primer allows for superior adhesion, and best results.

3. Application

Mix paint thoroughly. Thinning is not required, but if you live in hot, dry regions, you may thin with water. Use only up to 2 oz per quart. To achieve a smooth finish, use a good quality, synthetic brush, either 1/4” to 3/8" nap roller, or a foam roller.

Painted Dresser


4. Dry & Re-Coat Times

Chalkboard paint usually takes 2-4 hours to dry completely. It is dry to the touch in about 30 minutes. Paint will take longer to dry if the humidity is above 50%. Re-coat the surface after 4 hours.

5. Clean up

Most chalkboard paints are latex, meaning they are water based, so soap and water is all you need for cleaning up. Make sure brushes and rollers are rinsed out and discard empty containers.

6. Conditioning 

Chalkboard paint needs to be conditioned to allow proper erasability. After 3 days of drying, take a piece of chalk and rub the entire surface down and then erase. Chalkboards can be cleaned after 7 days. If you clean the surface, make sure to recondition afterwards.


Choosing the right kind of paint is everything, and with this helpful guide you now know the difference between chalk paint and chalkboard paint. You’re now ready for your next DIY project! Check out your local Do it Best store or doitbest.com to find a full offering of Paint & Painting supplies.