Chalk Paint vs. Regular Paint: What’s the Difference?

Chalk Paint® vs. Regular Paint: What’s the Difference?

So, let’s say you decided to upcycle an old piece of furniture that desperately needs a breath of new life. The process may initially seem simple: get some paint and brushes and go ahead, right?  

It looks easy until you face the great selection of paints in the store—latex, mineral, and Chalk Paint®; while considering VOC levels, primer, and sanding machines. And now you are faced with more choices than you originally expected, and all this for just a tiny piece of furniture you want to DIY. 

If you have ever tried to look up what paint you should use online, you have probably discovered many different opinions: some love Chalk Paint®, while others prefer not to use it and opt for regular paint. But is there really only one type of paint that can suit all your needs, or are various types suitable for their specific tasks? Well, it’s time to find that out.

This article will help you see the main differences between regular and Chalk Paint®. We will focus on the pros and cons of each, taking into account price, durability, time required, safety, and their distinct features.

What Is Chalk Paint®?

The main difference between types of paint and what primarily affects their performance is their ingredients. The main components of Chalk Paint® include water, calcium carbonate, and color pigment. 

It received its name due to its powdery, almost chalk-like texture when dry. People commonly use Chalk Paint® for furniture upcycling, but it can also be helpful in many more renovation projects.

What is Regular Paint?

A person painting a wall with Latex Paint.

When people say regular paint, they most likely refer to oil, alkyd, latex, or acrylic paint. These are the easiest ones to find in the store and typically get used in home projects. The main difference between these paints is the solvent, which is oil in oil paints, water in latex and acrylic paints, and resin in alkyd paints. 

Each of them has their unique properties that determine which one is best to use for different home projects: 

  • Oil Paints: People often use them in high-moisture areas due to their water-resistant features. 
  • Alkyd Paints: Painters recommend them for exterior use due to the strong, toxic fumes they emit even after fully drying. 
  • Latex Paints: Commonly used on ceilings and walls. 
  • Acrylic Paints: People use them instead of oil-based paints indoors in humid areas. 

To properly assess the battle of Chalk Paint® vs. Regular Paint, this article will use latex paint to represent regular paint. Why? Because it’s the only paint that can even slightly compare to Chalk Paint® in terms of function. Latex paint is one of the most accessible paints to find in any hardware store, and it’s most likely one you’ve encountered before when planning a painting project. 

Why Is Chalk Paint® So Great?

Many different containers with chalk paint in it.

It’s simple: Chalk Paint®’s primary purpose is to make the life of DIYers easier. It’s excellent for those who don’t want to think about which paint is best for which surface and then have to deal with countless paint products to figure it out. 

With Chalk Paint®, you don’t have to worry about long sanding and surface prep before painting. It’s essentially your one-stop solution for any home decor project.

You may be wondering, who developed this wonder paint? That would be Annie Sloan in 1990, and even though multiple brands have tried to create their own chalk-style paint since then, her paint remains the best in the industry. Among other brands, you can find Rust-Oleum chalked paint, Country Chic chalk style paint, Shabby Chic chalk-based paint, or even very budget options such as Waverly Chalk Paint®. 

Key Differences Between Chalk Paint® and Regular Paint

Let’s look at some distinct features you want to consider when choosing between chalk and regular paint.


Two pieces of paper next to each other. One reads Value and the other reads Price.

Price is always an important factor in any home project people undertake. 

Chalk Paint® is not the most affordable option upfront. You can opt for budget brands, but you’ll run the risk of purchasing poor-quality paint, which can cause unwanted results. 

In most cases, 1 liter(33.8 oz) of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® will cover approximately 140 square feet, and 1 Sample Pot 120ml (4.06 oz) will cover 14-16 square feet. Consider that most surfaces will need two coats of paint for full coverage and, in specific cases, may require more depending on factors such as their previous color.

As for regular paint, most times, 1 gallon of latex paint will cover nearly 400 square feet and may need two coats, depending on the surface type. 

Application & Prep Work

A person busy preparing a furniture piece to repaint it.

Chalk Paint® is highly versatile. It works on wood, metal, laminate, and concrete indoors, outdoors, and beyond. The main feature that stands behind such rapid growth in popularity is the effortless prep and application of Chalk Paint®. 

Even though some people prefer to quickly go over the surface with sandpaper to give more roughness for the paint to stick better, most high-end Chalk Paint® brands don’t require any prep at all. Chalk Paint® is porous in its consistency and designed to grip onto any surface better than most paints do. So, the only thing you need to do in preparation is to wipe away any dirt.

On the other hand, regular paint takes more prep work, which also depends on the surface type. An essential step with latex paint is priming the surface before applying the first coat. You’ll also need to sand the surface thoroughly, especially if it previously had an oil-based paint. This adds more time to your project compared to using Chalk Paint®.


A person repainting a furniture piece.

Chalk Paint® only comes in a matte finish due to its components that create a chalky look when dry, thus the name it received. However, if the matte finish isn’t what you desire for your project, you still have some options. If you want a shiny finish, you can use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® Lacquer, which gives the paint a light sheen.

Regular paint comes in various finishes, such as high gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and matte. They are chosen based on the desired look and the level of durability needed for different areas of the home. In this aspect, regular paint does give you a greater variety of choices.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)

A painter wearing a mask to prevent health issues.

People often try to avoid harmful home products that can cause health issues for their families. That is why it’s essential to consider the level of VOCs in products you purchase, including paint. 

Simply put, Volatile Organic Compounds are chemicals released into the air that are dangerous when inhaled. The higher the concentration of these compounds, the higher the risk of health issues when exposed to them. That’s why paint companies require users to wear a respirator and to air out the space after painting thoroughly.

Most water-based paints have low levels of VOCs, compared to oil or solvent-based paints. Matte finish paints generally have low VOC if they contain less than 50 g/l, while satin or semi-gloss finish paints should contain less than 100 g/l of VOC to have a label of low VOC levels.  

Professional Chalk Paint® is known to have the lowest levels of VOCs and, thus, is almost odorless. For example, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® contains about 2.2 g/l. 

Benefits and Drawbacks

A table and chair set that was painted with Chalk Paint.

Now that you understand the key differences between these paint types, it’s time to discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

Benefits of Chalk Paint®

  • You need little to no prep work for good adhesion during application.
  • It is effortless to clean the brushes with warm water or, at most, soapy water.
  • The application is simple, and you don’t need to worry about making even brush strokes.
  • It mixes easily, allowing you to achieve the desired tone and experiment with ombre looks.
  • Chalk Paint® is perfect for creating distressed furniture looks.
  • It takes less time to dry between coats. Depending on the climate, it is safe to apply the second coat within 1-3 hours when the paint is touch dry.
  • It is safe for people and the environment.

Drawbacks of Chalk Paint®

  • It is more expensive than regular paint (around $45 per liter for high-end brands).
  • It requires a sealing coat, mainly wax, but other options, such as lacquer, are available too.
  • It has a more extended curing period (the time when paint reaches its full hardness) than regular paint. Depending on the brand, it can take 2-3 weeks, during which you have to be more careful with the painted surface.
  • It has a matte finish and, even with lacquer, can only get a slight sheen. Not for those looking for an ultra-glossy look.
  • It is primarily available online and can be hard to find in stores. 

Pros of Regular Paint

  • Relatively affordable pricing ($15-50 per gallon).
  • Available in most hardware stores.
  • In some cases, regular paint is considered better performing in humid conditions, like bathroom and kitchen, compared to Chalk Paint®. However, this doesn’t mean Chalk Paint® isn’t still great at it.

Cons of Regular Paint

  • It contains higher levels of VOCs than Chalk Paint®.
  • It takes longer to dry between coats.
  • It requires a primer and a longer prep time.
  • It has weaker adhesion if used without proper prep of the surface.
  • It is harder to mix colors or create unique ombre looks.
  • It takes more effort to distress, and you run the risk of damaging it in the process.

Common Misconceptions

A blackboard that reads Facts and Myths. There's a check mark next to Facts and a cross next to Myth.

As you navigate the choices between Chalk Paint® and regular paint, you might stumble upon some generalizations or myths that can muddy the waters. These misconceptions can make your decision-making process unnecessarily complex. 

This section will aim to debunk some of these common myths, helping you make a more informed choice for your next painting project.

1. Paint Always Performs As It Says In The Instructions

It is important to remember that there are always exceptions to general rules. For example, most Chalk Paint® brands say you don’t need to sand or prime the surface before applying the paint. 

However, there are cases when the furniture piece you are using is made out of bleed-through untreated wood or oil stains from previous oil paint show up after the first coat. To avoid unpleasant surprises on your finished piece, even high-end brands recommend checking how the first coat looks once dry. 

This will allow you to see whether there are any concerns about how the paint looks when applied. If there are any visible stains, using a clear shellac or stain blocker on top should protect from further bleed-through stains after the second coat of paint.

2. You Cannot Use Chalk Paint® For Outdoor Furniture Or Humid Areas

Did you know you can use Chalk Paint® on virtually any surface in your home and even for outside projects? There is a more precise approach for areas where you know the paint will be exposed to harsh wear and tear. 

For example, you can use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® outdoors to give a fresh look to outdoor fences. In this case, you want to use Chalk Paint® lacquer to seal the paint well, unlike wax for indoor furniture projects.

3. Paints Of The Same Type Have Identical Results

This is a common misconception when trying to reduce the cost of the painting project. No matter the type of paint, whether Chalk Paint® or regular paint, the quality differs among brands and even within different lines of the same brand. 

Don’t be tricked by the appealing price of the chalk-style paints in the mass market that promise the same quality as much more advanced brands. 

Always evaluate your painting project. If you are painting, for example, a small decorative piece, then you might get by with cheap paint. But if you want to upcycle a dining room table that experiences daily wear and tear, opt for more quality paint brands and save yourself the stress of repainting more often than needed.

What’s Your Next Step?

Now that you have gone through the differences between chalk and regular paint, choosing the right type for your next home project should be easier. Overall, whether you are a lover of DIYs or you are new to any furniture upcycling projects, Chalk Paint® is always an easy start for those who want to create unique pieces to display in their home. 

On the other hand, regular paint may be a better fit if you’re looking to save some money while taking on a big painting project, such as repainting walls and ceilings in the house. As for furniture or decor painting tasks, Chalk Paint® remains the frontrunner compared to regular paint.

If you are interested in decorating and creating a unique look that would express your style in the home, The Owl Box is here to help. We are a boutique based in Tracy, California, that sells unique home decor items and aims to inspire you to create your own masterpieces. Visit our website to shop for Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® and Iron Orchid design products, such as moulds, paint inlays, decor transfers, and more.

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