painting with chalk paint

Refinish thrift store treasures with plaster paint

*update 2015: I now prefer adding calcium carbonate to plaster of paris. approx 2 T mixed with water till smooth per every cup of paint. I sell bags at new shop Riveted. New post coming soon)

Though not new, this technique is currently sweeping the internet. Popping up all over Pinterest* (my new favorite time-killer source of inspiration) there are a number of different recipes described. All purport to not require prep work, and assure a velvety, durable finish. This sounds like the paint for me!
In the past, repainting furniture with latex paint could mean peeling layers or little annoying plastic like balls of paint while sanding. This technique mixes latex paint with plaster of paris (or depending on recipe, baking soda or grout!) which provides “tooth.” Distressing the paint job by sanding off corners and texture to reveal wood or another color underneath is easy…no peeling! Add age with dark furniture wax. Want to keep the smooth look? Just wax and you will see a lovely soft shine and add durability. The wax finish is really durable. Frankly, I prefer it to polyurethane. If wax gets old and thin, just add more, no need to refinish the whole thing.
Start with a piece of furniture you want to revamp, making sure all joints are tight and not wobbly. Re-glue them if needed, and let dry.

I know I said no prep, but if there is anything icky on the wood, now is the time to scrape it or wash it off. If your piece is too new, and you want a real antique look, seriously just hit is with a length of chain or poke some little holes in it. Little dents will give the sandpaper and dark wax something to hit and miss later. (This reminds me of the time my husband pointed out a bump on his wrist and my mother told him to hit it with a book. He thought she was out to get him, until he mentioned the bump to his doctor, who also told him to hit it with a book. But I digress…)
Have a general idea of what you want your finished piece to look like, but be open to happy accidents and new discoveries. A “mistake” may turn out to look really cool! This is the art, and a lot of the fun, in re-doing pieces for your home. Enjoy the process!

You will need:
• Piece of furniture, kitchen cabinets, candelabra, pretty much anything you want to paint. (Just to test the paint’s adhesion, I painted a metal bowl…it stuck so well I had to use sandpaper to get the excess off the edge!)
• Drop cloth
• Paint in any color. Water based latex wall paint works great. You can probably get away with semi-gloss paint as well. Use your leftover house paint.
• Plaster of Paris
• Decent but not fancy paint brush for paint
• Cheap paint brush is useful for applying wax
• Finishing wax. I tried Briwax and Minwax brands. Briwax contained more solvent and was “juicier” and buffed to a shinier finish. Minwax had a drier feel. I diluted it a little with Liquid Satin wax from Watco with no adverse effect.
• Rags (old undershirts are perfect and free!)
• Sandpaper or sanding sponge
• Silver leaf, silver pen, chalk, paper for optional decorative details
• Containers for mixing

1. Use a 1 to 3 ratio of plaster to paint. A little paint goes a long way, since the plaster adds covering ability you may be able to go with just one coat. I mixed about 1/3 cup of plaster with just enough water to incorporate the plaster powder. It looked a bit like pancake batter. (If you like the container you mixed the plaster in, clean it now. Preferable NOT down your drain. Plaster will harden up fast!)
2. Add the plaster/water mix to about 1 cup of paint. I used a canning jar with a lid, so I could shake and stir it up.
3. Know the plaster paint will thicken as it sits.
4. Paint!
5. I flipped my table over and did the legs from underside first. I might not ever do a second coat this way, but upside down helps me find those nooks and crannies that may show later when the piece is right side up.
6. No need to worry about getting paint super smooth or even. If you feel like it might be too thin, add a little plaster or let some water evaporate.
7. If you want a 2nd color to peek out under the main color, make your first coat a contrasting or subtle color. I just wanted to see bits of wood…
8. Let paint dry to touch
9. Add more paint if needed.
10. Let dry
11. This is the stage where I added silver leaf to the feet of my table. (A metal leaf tutorial)
12. I also added the wording on top of the table at this point.
a. Print out words you like in a font that suits your project
b. Rub the back of the paper with chalk
c. Tape the paper to your project lightly
d. Trace around the edge of the letters to transfer the word
e. Fill in with paint pen
13. Now wax! Use clear wax first…it fills in the “pores” of the paint, and softens the color slightly. Using the clear before the dark wax prevents excessive staining.
a. Working in small areas one at a time, use a rag or cheap brush rub clear wax into the paint, and immediately wipe off excess


b. Waxing first makes the sanding dust a little heavier and cleaner
c. If you did lettering with a paint pen, be careful! The solvents in the wax can take off the paint pen. I liked the distressed look I achieved, but you may want to go slowly to see what happens.
14. If you like a more modern look, you can stop here. For distressing, keep going…
15. Sand off areas where wear would naturally occur. Edges, seats, feet. Reveal a little or a lot of the wood or undercoat. If you take off too much, you can add more paint.
16. Next you add age to the piece with dark wax. Work some dark wax into the crevices and immediately wipe off. Get too much on? A little clear wax will help remove the excess. Keep at it till you like the results.

17. Let the wax dry according to the instructions and then buff to a shine.
18. Online resources tell us that the wax will cure over the next month, so be a little gentle with it at first.


Added bonus —want to write on your piece like a chalkboard? Simply don’t wax it, and prep the surface with a wipe of chalk, and then a wipe off. This is great for a coffee table in the family room or a dresser in the kid’s rooms. Simply label where the “shirts” and “pants” go and let the kids put their own clothes away, leaving you more time to check out Pinterest!


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