Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Mystery of Chalk Paint Revealed

Hello Everyone!

I'm really excited about a discovery I recently made. Ever since I read about this amazing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint my mind has been in overdrive trying to figure out what it is. You see, I have an art background, and I knew that there had to be a product already out there and readily available.  Well, I finally figured it out with a little digging and searching through the web.  It is very simply Gesso. What is Gesso you ask- it is an very old  product made out of powdered chalk, glue and water, used to prime canvases prior to painting with oil or tempera paint. You can also use it as paint, as long as you "wax " over it to protect the finish. The reason that you don't have to prime before you paint with it, is that it is, in essence a primer.  Primer is just glue.  This contains glue.  And what makes it Chalk Paint?- Chalk.  Pretty simple when you think about it. 

Annie Sloan Chalk paint
  How did I make this discovery you ask?  Well, one day I was going through some of my fav blogs and came across one where the author paints furniture with Gesso- the ready- made kind that you buy at Art and Craft stores.  This type is a synthetic product made of acrylic, but still very similar to original Gesso. I thought it looked strangely like the Chalk paint, but I couldn't be sure, so I decided to Google Gesso.

To my absolute amazement, the very first web site I came across refers to Gesso as "Chalk " paint.  It even gives you some very simple recipes for making your own, and you will be "shocked "at how inexpensive and easy it is to make.  There are 2 different types listed- original Gesso made from Animal glue , and an imitation version made out of Chalk powder, white glue- or PVA glue ( and I mean that really cheap Elmers glue) and water.  You can even add pigment to it if you want to colour it.  This is the one you will want for painting your furniture, and I will add the link so everyone can see for themselves what I saw.  It even lists one of  Annie Sloan's books as their resource for the recipe.  I really can't believe it and am still dizzy from this discovery.  Anyway, here is the link to the website, and happy experimenting with your own inexpensive "Chalk" paint.

Here is a snippet of the article just so you all know that I am "serious", and not just "delusional".

Now I realize some of you won't want to go to the bother of making your own, and kudos to Annie Sloan for coming up with a way of making  money from a very inexpensive product that has been around for centuries, but I for one will not be paying the outrageous price now that I know what it is.  I am going to make my own, and experiment - you see there are very many different methods and ways of making Gesso.  I take it as a challenge. 

Until next time.  Au Revoir.

This is an update to this post:  Late last night I decided to give making this a try.  I just couldn't wait.  Now the only things I had were reguar chalk sticks ( the kind you use to write on blackboards) and Weldbond white glue. Since it was only an experiment, I decided to make a small quantity.  I ground up the chalk with a mortar and pestal until it was very fine, added an equal amount of glue, and water and stirred.  I didn't get the chalk as finely ground as I would have liked, but that's okay because for the real thing I will buy chalk powder from Home Depot.  Then I colored it a pretty blue with a small amount of water color paint.  It was a little runny, so I added more chalk and glue and painted it onto a scrap piece of board.  I let it dry over night, and this morning I tried sanding it.

My sample board with homemade chalk paint- after sanding and waxing.

 Turns out the Weldbond is just too hard to use as the glue in this mix, but it looks really good.  I was able to sand it with a palm sander, but it was too rigid to sand by hand, so I will use regular Elmer's white glue in the actual product.  I  didn't have any paste wax, so I rubbed  the surface with an old white candle and buffed it with a cloth.  It looks great.  Now I know I can go out and buy all the right ingredients and make this paint really easily for my next furniture project.  I just knew that with a little investigating I would figure this out.  Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!


  1. Oh wow, thank you so much for posting this. I've been thinking about this paint for weeks now, wondering how I could my hands on some-I can't find it anywhere near where I live. I was just sitting here this moment thinking about it again, and voila, I look to the side of my blog and what should I see, but your latest post. Thanks a million x

  2. Wow you are quite the sleuth! Kudos to you. I would love for you to show this off at my Wickedly Crafty Saturdays!

  3. Hi - very good investigative work! Ti me the paint looked like limewash when you add water to it. So - I thought it might have some lime in it. And I had thought of gesso - but I thought that that would be too simple. But - you're right. It's much cheaper to make your own...but it takes longer! Adding the pigments might be a little tough because you have to mix it dry *and since I'm very visual when I mix paints - I'd have to establish a strict ratio!! Which I am terrible at keeping track of!).

    I guess that simple off white should be easy. I will give it a go.

    Thanks for your info!


    PS - Any of your followers in Australia? They would be glad to see this, since they have a hard time finding it!

  4. Love your determination! I've been a little obsessed with this whole chalk paint thing for the past few weeks. I'm way too cheap-- I mean frugal-- to pay $40/quart for paint, so I searched the web to try to figure it out. I saw those same recipes for Gesso, but if you want an easier version, try mixing latex paint with Plaster of Paris. You can still add water and use it as a wash. Mine stuck without sanding or priming, but definitely needed wax afterward!

  5. I know this post is ages old... have you found out that writing chalk often has synthetics added? That may have contributed to your lumpiness issue.

    You want to use 'whiting' which is used for marking lawns and for some other purposes. Ultra smooth calcium carbonate, pre-slaked, and cheaper than plaster of paris anyway. I have practically done my entire household's furniture collection with it. If you are doing it on a piece that receives wear, like a bed, or chairs, skip the wax and go straight for a water based polyurethane finish in SATIN. It must be satin, to replicate the look of the wax. The poly finish can be tinted with acrylic artists paints if you want the coloured or antiquing wax looks.

  6. Thank you so much for this information! :) I have a question please, you said you will buy chalk powder from Home Depot; could you tell me the exact name of the product, as I tried to find that but nobody there could even seem to know what I am asking for:) you do not mean plaster of Paris?

  7. hi i'm giddy with excitement!!!! i have one question can i use latex paint or artist acrylic paint tubes instead of pigment? thanks for the great article


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