Latex Paint vs. Chalk Paint: Which One is Right for Your Next DIY Project?

Bob Thomas


As a qualified painter and decorator, I've worked with various types of paints and finishes over the years.

Two popular options for DIY enthusiasts are latex paint and chalk paint, each with its unique properties and applications.

In this article, we'll explore the differences between latex paint and chalk paint, discussing their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision for your next project.

Quick Summary

When deciding between latex paint and chalk paint for your DIY project, consider these key differences: 1) Latex paint is water-based, versatile, and durable, while chalk paint is mineral-based, provides a matte finish, and requires less preparation; 2) Chalk paint is ideal for furniture and home decor projects, while latex paint is better suited for walls and large surfaces; 3) Chalk paint typically requires wax or a topcoat for protection, while latex paint is self-sealing. Ultimately, the choice depends on your project goals and personal preferences.

Latex Paint: Versatile and Durable

Latex paint is a water-based paint that is known for its versatility, durability, and ease of application.

Some benefits of using latex paint include:

  • Quick drying time
  • Low odor
  • Easy clean-up with soap and water
  • Long-lasting finish
  • Resistance to fading, chipping, and peeling

However, latex paint requires proper surface preparation, such as cleaning, sanding, and priming, to ensure a smooth and even finish.

Chalk Paint: Perfect for Furniture Makeovers

Chalk paint, on the other hand, is a mineral-based paint that provides a matte, chalky finish.

It is popular for furniture makeovers and home decor projects due to its unique characteristics:

  • Minimal surface preparation needed
  • Adheres well to various surfaces
  • Easy to distress for a vintage or antique look
  • Available in a wide range of colors

Despite its advantages, chalk paint usually requires a wax or topcoat for protection, as it can be susceptible to water damage and staining.

Pro Tip: Experiment with different techniques, such as dry brushing or color layering, to create unique finishes with chalk paint.

Comparing Application and Coverage

When it comes to application and coverage, there are some notable differences between latex and chalk paint:

  • Latex paint can be applied using a brush, roller, or sprayer, while chalk paint is typically applied with a brush.
  • Chalk paint often requires fewer coats than latex paint, but the coverage per gallon is usually lower due to its thicker consistency.
  • Both paints can be easily sanded to achieve a smooth finish, but latex paint may require a finer grit sandpaper.

Choosing the Right Paint for Your Project

Ultimately, the choice between latex paint and chalk paint depends on your project goals and personal preferences.

Consider the following factors when making your decision:

  • Surface: Chalk paint is ideal for furniture, cabinets, and decorative items, while latex paint is better suited for walls, ceilings, and large surfaces.
  • Finish: If you prefer a matte, vintage look, choose chalk paint. If you need a more durable, washable finish, opt for latex paint.
  • Preparation: If you want to minimize prep work, chalk paint may be the better choice. However, keep in mind that proper preparation is essential for a long-lasting finish with latex paint.

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. Can I mix latex paint and chalk paint together?

  A: While it's technically possible to mix latex paint and chalk paint, it's not recommended due to their different compositions and properties.

Mixing the two can result in an unpredictable finish and may compromise the durability and adhesion of the paint.

Q. Are latex paint and chalk paint safe for children's furniture and toys?

  A: Both latex paint and chalk paint are generally safe for children's furniture and toys when used according to the manufacturer's guidelines.

Look for paints labeled as non-toxic and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) to ensure the safety of the painted items.

Q. Can I paint over existing paint with latex paint or chalk paint?

  A: Yes, you can paint over existing paint with both latex and chalk paint.

However, it's essential to properly prepare the surface by cleaning and lightly sanding it to ensure proper adhesion.

When painting over oil-based paint, additional steps like applying a bonding primer may be necessary.

Q. How long do latex paint and chalk paint take to cure?

  A: Latex paint takes approximately 2-4 weeks to cure fully, while chalk paint takes around 3-4 weeks.

During the curing process, the paint becomes more resistant to damage and achieves its maximum hardness.

It's essential to be gentle with the painted surface during this time and avoid any heavy use or cleaning.

Q. How do I store leftover latex paint and chalk paint?

  A: Store leftover latex paint and chalk paint in airtight containers, away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.

Make sure to seal the containers tightly and keep them in a cool, dry place.

Proper storage can extend the shelf life of your paint, allowing you to use it for touch-ups or future projects.

Q. Can I use latex paint or chalk paint on outdoor furniture?

  A: While latex paint is generally suitable for outdoor use, it's crucial to choose a paint specifically designed for exterior applications.

Exterior latex paint is formulated to withstand weather conditions and resist fading, chipping, and peeling.

Chalk paint, on the other hand, is not recommended for outdoor use unless it's sealed with an appropriate topcoat or clear varnish designed for exterior surfaces.

Even then, the durability of chalk paint outdoors may be limited compared to exterior latex paint.

Q. How do I clean surfaces painted with latex paint or chalk paint?

  A: For latex-painted surfaces, use a soft sponge or cloth with mild soap and water to clean dirt and stains.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning tools, as they can damage the paint.

For chalk-painted surfaces, clean gently with a damp cloth. If the surface is sealed with wax or a topcoat, you may be able to use mild soap and water for cleaning.

However, it's essential to follow the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and maintenance to prevent damage to the finish.


Both latex paint and chalk paint have their unique advantages, so the best choice for your project depends on your desired outcome and the surfaces you're working with.

By understanding the differences between these two popular paint options, you can confidently select the right paint for your next DIY project and create a beautiful, lasting result.

Suggested Products:  

  1. Latex Paint: Valspar Signature Interior Latex Paint & Primer - This high-quality, acrylic-latex paint offers excellent coverage, durability, and is easy to clean. It is suitable for various surfaces, including furniture, and provides a smooth, long-lasting finish.
  1. Chalk Paint: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint - Renowned for its versatility and ease of use, this water-based paint requires minimal surface preparation and can be applied to most surfaces without priming or sanding. It provides a beautiful matte finish and can be easily distressed for a vintage look.
  1. Paint Brush for Latex Paint: Wooster Brush Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush - Designed for latex paints, this angled brush allows precise control and ensures a smooth, even finish. Its short, flexible handle provides added comfort and maneuverability during painting tasks.
  1. Paint Brush for Chalk Paint: Brossum Large 2-in-1 Round Chalk and Wax Brush - Specifically designed for chalk paint application, this round brush is made with natural bristles and provides a smooth, streak-free finish. It is also suitable for applying wax to seal and protect painted surfaces.
  1. Clear Wax for Chalk Paint: Minwax Paste Finishing Wax - This clear, paste wax is perfect for sealing and protecting chalk-painted surfaces. It enhances the natural texture and provides a durable, water-resistant finish, making it ideal for furniture and other painted items.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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