I have tried homemade chalk paint and really like it! More on that shortly, but first a bit about name brand chalk paints...
I have tried CeCe Caldwell's Chalk/Clay paint and was surprised - it looked SO thin going on but as it dried, the color really came through (it looked really streaky when it was wet, but much more even once it dried). I use Minwax Finishing Wax and was quite disappointed in the finished look when I used this wax over CeCe's chalk paint. She does have her own finishing wax (and aging wax) but it is currently out of my budget, so I don't know if that would yield better results. My results ended up accentuating the brush strokes and the finished color varied depending on the amount of wax applied to different areas. I don't know how best to describe it, but I didn't like the results.
I have not tried Anne Sloan's Chalk Paint (yet). Both, Anne Sloan and CeCe Caldwell, are WAY out of my price range! I have seen great results with both, but the price is so high I won’t be getting more anytime soon to try again (I might buy the finishing wax first, so I can try that with homemade chalk paint).
I have painted several pieces with homemade chalk paint. If you get flat latex (not enamel - for sure not exterior enamel) paint and mix it with non-sanded grout it works pretty well actually (I have heard people who use plaster of paris really like the results, too). I am still experimenting with the best paint choices (brands, etc.) The chalk paint gives the piece a VERY flat finish. If you wax or varnish the piece it doesn't look too dull when finished.
Here is a chair that I finished tonight (I started it a few days ago and completed the project tonight):
The 'before' photo
Here are Larry, Mo, and Curly in the painting process
This was last night - before sanding and waxing
Here is the finished chair - sanded, distressed,
and waxed. I think it turned out great!
I think this chair turned out GREAT! I used a non sanded grout (4-5 tablespoons) mixed with water (3-4 teaspoons) to make a loose paste. Then I mixed that slurry with about 3 cups of flat latex paint. I did not do ANY prep work (I did dust the chair off, I suppose that counts as prep -LOL) - but I wanted to see if it would work to paint without prepping. The chalk paint mixture thickens as I paint, but not too thick - it almost looked like a grainy yogurt consistency.
The paint dries quickly (bonus), so I am usually able to add another coat within one hour of starting. I don't sand until the second coat is dry. Then the paint sanded so easily! The sanding resulted in a fine powder that I dusted off with a cloth – the finish on the chair was baby-butt smooth! That is the part that I love the most – easy to sand to a super smooth finish!
For these three chairs I used an inexpensive gallon of latex paint from Menards and non-sanded grout – I took the sander to them to see if the chalk paint would come off and it is staying put! However, if I am going to sand chalk paint, I need to do it outside or in the garage, so the fine powdery sanding dust doesn’t end up all over my house.
Chalk paint is so much easier and faster to use – I am very surprised and impressed. However, I did paint one other chair and got horrible results (but it turns out I was using and exterior enamel paint – which ended up peeling off the chair). That saga is posted my blog here (part 1), here (part 2), and here (part 3).
So, as far as prep – I would sand any dents, scratches, etc if you don’t want them on the finished product. But the paint seems to be holding up just fine on pieces I have not prepped at all!
Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.