It’s All About the Paint {Really}

paint copyWhat is chalk paint made of?

Curiosity always gets me in trouble. When a question comes up, that piques my interest, I just have to find the answers, especially when they aren’t obvious and are hard to find on google. As I started to wonder about the properties of various chalk paint recipes, my curiosity about paint itself came up. So what then is chalk paint?  How is it different than regular paint?

To answer these questions, I guess the place to start is to discuss paint itself. Many brand name ‘chalk paints’, including Annie Sloan, are very protective of their formulas and don’t list ingredients, so it’s hard to tell exactly what is in their paint. Whatever their formulations may be, basic paint is essentially comprised of four components: pigments, binder, liquid, and additives. How companies combine these components is what gives  paint its character and distinction. So let’s look at the components that make up latex paint:

Pigments – provide colour and coverage power

  • Prime Pigments

White – Titanium dioxide (TiO2)

    • predominate white pigment that provides exceptional whiteness by scattering light
    • provides whiteness and ‘hiding’ in flat or glossy paint
    • requires extender to ensure proper spacing of particles to avoid crowding and loss of hiding
    • has more chalking tendency in exterior paints than most colour and extender pigments.

Colour pigments

    • provide colour by selective absorption of light
    • compounded into liquid dispersions called colourants
    • added at point of sale to tint bases
    • added to white paints designed for tinting
    • used in factory as dry powders and in liquid colourant form to make prepackaged colour paints
  • Extender pigments
    • provide bulk at relatively low cost, but with much less hiding than TiO2 and can impact other properties
    • combination of using different percentages of primary and extender pigments determines the price of the paint and the ability of certain paint properties

extender paints copy

** calcining -heated to drive off water and create air-particle interfaces


  • resinous material that binds the pigment and provides adhesion, integrity and toughness to the dry paint film
  • as the wet paint is put on the wall, the binders control how the paint dries and/or cures
  • as the water part of the paint evaporates, the binder forms a solid film on the top layer of the paint

Affects all properties of the coating:

  1. Adhesion – i.e resistance to blistering, cracking and peeling
  2. Resistance – i.e scrubbing, chalking and fading
  3. Application – i.e. flow, leveling and film build, and gloss development


    • 100 percent acrylic
        • provides better overall adhesion on a wider variety of surfaces
        • very durable, especially when applied to fresh masonry surfaces
        • resists the effects of alkaline surfaces
        • offers better stain protection, greater water resistance, and greater resistance to cracking and blistering
        • preferred for outdoor application, but used indoors as well
        • more expensive than vinyl acrylics
    • Vinyl acrylic (PVA – polyvinyl acetate=glue)
        • polyvinyl acetate is a thermoplastic polymer commonly used in glues, paint, and several industrial adhesives.
        • tends to be quite flexible and has a strong binding capability, which is one of the main reasons it’s so popular in products like glue and paint
        • helps to form a tough coating and a supportive film.
        • Used to primarily reduce cost
    • Styrenated acrylic
        • used for enhanced water resistance, gloss development and cost reduction


  • the liquid in latex paint is water
  • provides the desired consistency to make it possible to apply the pigment and binder to the surface being painted.


  •  additives are anything else that is added to the paint to add properties like mildew resistance, defoaming, leveling, and flow

As you can see, paint may have the four components of pigments, binders, liquid and additives in common, but the formulations can vary depending on how the paint is going to be used. It is easy to see how paint usage and application would change the component ratios. For example, an exterior paint would require more water proofing properties to defend against rain and snow, vs a living room paint that needs no such protection.

That brings me to “chalk” paint. What makes this paint so special? While researching paint ingredients, there is a common denominator: Calcium carbonate (chalk) already seems to be a common ingredient in latex paint as an extender. It essentially maximizes the paint pigments so you don’t need as much to get the desired colour and fills up the volume in the paint so you don’t need to use as much (resin) binder. So when making DIY chalk paint, it makes sense to start with a basic latex paint. What you end up with depends on which chalk paint additive you add to the paint.

DIY Chalk Paint Additives

Plaster of Paris – 2CaSO4·H2O

Many people complain that when they use Plaster of Paris to make their chalk paint, it starts to dry up and harden and needs water to moisten it again. If you check out what Plaster of Paris is, you will learn that it is a quick setting gypsum plaster that is a fine powder consisting of calcium sulfate hemihydrate that hardens when moistened and allowed to dry. It is commonly used to precast and hold parts of ornamental plasterwork placed on ceilings and cornices as well as being used in medical facilities to make plaster casts to immobilize broken bones. It stands to reason then why it hardens when mixed with water and wet paint.

Baking Soda – NaHCO3

Baking Soda, aka sodium hydrogen bicarbonate, is a chemical salt that is composed of sodium and bicarbonate ions that form a white solid that is crystalline, but often comes as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste and has been found to have many good uses from food to medicinal applications. I can’t explain how it came to be added to paint, but it does leave a grainy texture that some painters like to work with.

Non-Sanded Grout

Lots of people like to use non-sanded grout as their chalk paint additive. This grout is a mixture of Portland cement, powdered pigments and water. Portland cement hardens when it reacts with water and is mostly made out of calcium silicates, aluminum and iron-containing clinker phases, and other compounds. It is also caustic, so it can cause chemical burns. Since this is grout and is supposed to harden, it is no wonder that it also hardens when it is mixed in water-based paint.

Calcium Carbonate – CaCO3

Calcium carbonate is mined as limestone, chalk, and marble. It is the most widely used mineral in the paper, plastics, paints and coatings industries both as a filler – and due to its special white color – as a coating pigment. It is also sold as “whiting powder”, “lime powder”,  and  “marble dust”. Since calcium carbonate is already an ingredient in paint (as discussed above) and is actually “chalk”, it only makes sense to add more to latex paint to increase the ‘”chalky” effect of the paint. This is my personal favourite additive! My go-to recipe can be found here.

Other Additives Worth Looking At



Zinc Oxide

Diatomaceous Earth

So in conclusion, whichever chalk paint you end up using, it all comes down to personal preference.  For me, painting is one of my many hobbies that gives me pleasure as I experiment with different techniques and recipes  to rehabilitate tired furniture.   I hope to start sharing my projects soon (still organizing photos).  Happy painting!

These are some of the sources I stumbled upon in my quest to answer:  What is in chalk paint?


Binder: The ‘Glue” That Holds Paint Together

The Ingredients of Paint and Their Impact on Paint Properties

Liquid and Additives

How Color is Affected by the Ingredients of Paint

Interior Paint, Exterior Paint, Architectural Paints



The Best DIY Chalk Paint Recipe {Truly!}

Ever since I starting painting my furniture projects with my favourite chalk paint recipe, I’ve gotten more and more addicted to searching for furniture pieces that have great potential to being beautiful again. Most of the time, they are right under my nose…My family have been the beneficiaries of this addiction!

The wonderful thing about painting with chalk paint is that there is no right or wrong way to use this paint. You develop your own techniques as you go along for the effect you want. I happen to like a smoother look and prefer to use a polyurethane finish to give my projects added protection, particularly since they are used in high traffic areas.  I haven’t had the occasion to try waxing yet, but once I find the right piece of furniture, I will definitely try it, but until then…….

Below are some of the chalk paint recipes I have collected and tried. Everyone has their own preference and people who have used these recipes and shared them, reported good results.  Again, I encourage people to develop their own preferences for the effect they want and try these for themselves….and let me know how it worked out!

chalk paint recipes

My favourite recipe has got to be using calcium carbonate. I mix ¼ cup calcium carbonate together with 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Then I slowly add the mixture into 1 cup of flat latex paint (no primer) and stir until smooth.  If you have a bigger project, just double the recipe. Easy peezy!!

This recipe has never failed me. Never mix the powder directly into the paint or you will get calcium lumps. This paint doesn’t get hard so you don’t have to worry about adding more water while you are working with it, nor do you have to worry about it hardening if you have left-overs and want to store it for another project. This paint goes on smooth and is easy to work with, whether you want to distress or not.

In upcoming posts, I will be talking about the components of paint, finishes and share some of my projects. Stay tuned……….


The Best DIY Chalk Paint Ever {REALLY!}

chalk paint choices copy

The biggest craze to hit the DIY market has got to be chalk paint. What’s not to love? There is virtually no prep required, it’s easy to work with and is relatively cheap…….if you make your own. However, when you first think of chalk paint or google “chalk paint”, ‘Annie Sloan’ always comes up. It seems to be the standard that all other chalk paints need to live up to or are compared to. There is only one problem with this paint though, that I will get to in a moment.


Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® is the brand name for a unique water-based decorative paint. It is a non-toxic paint that is lead-free, EG-free, virtually odour-free and has very low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Developed by Annie Sloan specifically for furniture, it can be applied to most surfaces and very rarely requires any priming or sanding before painting. You can use it on walls, floors, wood, concrete, metal, matt plastic, earthenware, brick, stone and more – inside or outside. You can even use it to paint upholstery and dye fabric.

I had heard so much about this miracle paint that I drove to one of the stores in our area that carries it to buy some for a project I was working on. The store also carried samples of furniture that were painted with this paint and I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. The furniture looked nice enough, but didn’t have that wow factor to completely convince me to buy the paint, particularly since the price was over $40 a quart. The pieces I saw were waxed, which was something I wasn’t going to do because the pieces I was working on were going to be in a living room and well used, so they would require a more durable finish. However, the lure of no priming or prepping that came with chalk paint were too attractive for me to let that go.

I’ve talked to some people who have used Annie Sloan chalk paint and have had good results with it, but to me, the cost was too high for what you get, so I looked around for an alternative solution. There are other companies that make chalk paint or paint with a chalky finish, but were still pricey. I did try the DecoArt paint, but the texture and finish wasn’t what I was looking for, so I set out to try my hand at a DIY formula figuring that I had nothing to loose.

After some trial and error, I found my go-to homemade chalk paint. I absolutely love it to paint furniture. It’s smooth, easy to work with, doesn’t harden and most of all it is cost effective. I’ve read lots of articles and blog posts on rehabilitating old furniture and am very fussy in what I put in my house because there is only so much room for my favourite pieces. Redoing tired furniture only seems to make sense to me from an affordability point of view. I will be sharing my projects in upcoming posts and hope you will be inspired to get on the furniture rehabilitation band wagon. It’s one heck of a ride!

In my next post, I will share my recipe and how I use it.  Here is a photo of a fireplace mantelpiece that I am in the process of finishing. I’m very pleased with how it turned out and will share how I did it in an upcoming post.


Dreary day when I took the photo:(  Will post an update when totally completed to show the full effect!