How to Save Money on Chalk Paint!

Painting furniture? On a budget? I’ll share with you my top tips for how to save money on chalk paint, plus favorite brands and hints for chalk painting success!

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Open cans of chalk paint with the words, "learn how to save money on chalk paint"

It’s happened to nearly all of us who have entered the world of chalk painting. Especially, chalk painting furniture.

You painstakingly choose a color, purchase just the right brush, agonize over the right top coat to use. Then, spend hours carefully painting, distressing, and waxing a refurbished furniture piece.

Only to realize that something somewhere went desperately wrong. Whether it’s bleed-through, a bad color choice, or a top coat gone awry, it happens. Chalk paint is fun to use, but it can be a tad unpredictable.

Here’s why I think chalk paint is unpredictable. It’s generally painted over old furniture. Furniture that in some cases may be almost 100 years old and finished/painted with unknown products.

Painting used furniture is always a bit of a gamble. You could paint a half a dozen pieces successfully, only to discover on your next piece that the old finish is bleeding through with no sign of stopping and suddenly you just want to throw down the brush, throw away the furniture, and never speak of chalk paint again. Oh, just me?

And then there’s the huge variety of products, brands, colors, top coats, and advice to follow when you start painting. There’s plenty to experiment with and learn along the way, that is for sure!

So, here’s my point. I love the fancy boutique paints. They are pretty, fun to use, and usually come in adorable little cans. But, if you’re on a budget, there ARE other options!

How to Save Money on Chalk Paint

If you’re getting started with chalk paint, you don’t have to buy the most expensive product to get great results. Not to mention, purchasing a lower-cost paint makes it easier to experiment and test new techniques without the pressures of pricey materials.

So let’s chat about how to save some money on chalk paint!

#1 Go with a Copycat Brand

Like I talk about in my post about all the chalk paint hype, Annie Sloan is actually the originator (and trademark holder) of Chalk Paint. That’s why other matte finish “chalky” paints from other brands often call their paints “chalk style” or “chalk finish” paint.

Now, I do love the original Annie Sloan paints. They are high-quality and very low VOC. But, I also know that the paints can be expensive.

A can of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

The nearly $40 per can (plus all the wax and supplies) can be a bit cost-prohibitive. This is especially true if you need to purchase multiple cans and colors for your home.

Often, when someone is hoping to achieve a chalk paint finish, what they are looking for is a paint with a matte finish that is easily distressed and usually requires a top coat to seal. And while I do think some prep before painting is always best, I know that “no-prep” paint is another big reason that people are drawn to chalk paint.

So, let’s talk about some other matte-finish no-prep chalky options!

Rust-Oleum Chalked

Rust-Oleum Chalked is an excellent paint that I use over and over again (see my pink chair flip and my French country dresser) along with their Matte Clear top coat. It’s about $20 a quart, but can be less if you shop smart and check various retailers before purchasing.

A can of Rust-Oleum chalked paint in Linen White.

Find Rust-Oleum Chalked at Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart and more.

Behr Decorative Chalk Paint

I have to mention Behr Decorative Chalk Paint as well. At about $20 a can, the range of colors you can try is enormous, and if you head into Home Depot I hear they will even tint a can for you (I have yet to try this myself so I will update you when I do!). That alone is hugely valuable and the paint still costs less than the premium varieties.

KILZ Chalk Style Paint

Also check out KILZ Chalk Style Paint. I used the Blue Juniper color on my IKEA Play Kitchen Hack and later used more of the paint (mixed with white) for my pantry door update.

Now, all that chat about different brands brings me to my next suggestion:

#2 Price Check!

I’ve noticed that especially with Rust-Oleum Chalked, it pays to do a quick price check. Online, prices even vary between colors.

I’ve found that Walmart and Fleet Farm generally (though not always) have the lowest prices on the Chalked line and Ace Hardware for instance tends to be on the higher side.

Another tip along these lines is to choose a retailer that offers free shipping. The chalk style paint line from Joanna Gaines at Target is a little pricier per can, but Target also offers free shipping over $35, so that perk can help save some $$.

#3 Shop the Craft Store

Need just a smidge of chalk paint? For small projects, like this Christmas window ornament or these washi tape ornaments, I didn’t need much paint at all. A small container of FolkArt Chalk Style paint was perfect and the brand comes in a variety of colors.

Note: I would suggest sticking with the higher quality home décor chalk style paints sold in quarts for larger projects/furniture.

#4 Mix Up Leftovers for New Inspiration

It’s easy to let a leftover can of paint go to waste. Mix and match from your chalk paint stash and create a fresh new color. I suggest starting small and doing some test runs if you are mixing between brands.

An open can of KILZ Chalk Style Paint in Blue Juniper.

I wanted a more subtle blue for my pantry door update so I grabbed some of my leftover KILZ Chalk Paint, and mixed up a custom soft blue for the project.

#5 Don’t Paint from the Can

A quick way to waste a can of chalk paint is to accidentally contaminate the can. This can happen with sanding dust, debris from painting outdoors, or just about anything. Simply pour some paint into a smaller container to paint from and keep the original container fresh.

#6 Water It Down

Now, watering down chalk paint isn’t going to save tons of paint. But it does help a bit. And in the case of the ultra-thick Annie Sloan paint, it helps make the painting process a little faster too.

No need to go crazy with this. I just add a touch of water. And always do this in a separate container.

I usually add some paint (1/2 cup or so) to a cup and then add water in very small increments (like 1/2 a teaspoon or so) and stir in-between additions until I have a consistency that I like.

#7 Know that Chalk Paint Can Expire

I actually did have a can of Annie Sloan paint go bad. It had been open for a few years, so I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to use it…but upon opening, I definitely was NOT able to use it. It smelled terrible and was unusable.

I think because the Annie Sloan paint is made with different ingredients to be so low VOC that maybe it doesn’t last quite as long as more traditionally mixed paints?

The moral of the story is, once you open that can, plan to use it. Don’t panic of course, but add a date to the top of the can, store it indoors, and try to use it in a year or two.

#8 Trade with a Friend

If you realize after finishing your latest furniture flip that you only used a portion of a can of chalk paint, see if a friend wants to trade. You might be able to snag a fresh color you need for a new project and you can save yourself from buying a brand-new can.

#9 Avoid Costly Mistakes

I could get really detailed here, but I figured I would just note a few areas to be aware of and feel free to leave a comment if you have questions.

Here’s some examples of chalk painting mistakes to avoid:

  1. Not using a stain-blocking primer and later realizing you need one. Hint: if the furniture’s original finish is bleeding through, more chalk paint won’t solve the problem. You’ll need a good primer on that piece first.
  2. Applying chalk paint to raw wood (whoops! been there). Again, in these cases, apply a primer first.
  3. Choosing a top coat that isn’t right for the job is another problem. Know that wax, while popular, is actually a delicate top coat and doesn’t tend to hold up well with lots of use or under moisture (i.e. in a bathroom or with cold glasses set on top).
  4. Not allowing the paint to dry completely. This can create all kinds of issues, so read the can and follow the dry time guidelines!
  5. Wasting paint on furniture you don’t love. Starting with a good piece of furniture is important.

How to Save Money On Chalk Paint – Got More Ideas?

If you have any more ideas for how to save money on chalk paint, I’d love to hear them! Drop a note in the comments and let’s chat!

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    1. Hi Lorinda! I haven’t tried making my own yet, but it does seem like a good budget-friendly option. Great tip!