Chalk Paint vs Acrylic Paint for Furniture

Painting furniture is a great way to breathe new life into it. It’s also an easy way to personalize your living space and to modernize old pieces. 

Your choice of paint can make a big difference in how your furniture turns out. Two extremely popular options for furniture painting are chalk paint and acrylic paint. These water-based mediums can look stunning on furniture when used with skill and care. But which one is the best for your home?

In this post, we’ll share a comprehensive comparison of chalk paint vs acrylic for furniture painting.


When choosing between chalk paint vs acrylic, consider durability, price, and appearance. Chalk paint can be more expensive and requires a top coat for durability. It has a lovely matte finish that’s appealing to many. 

In contrast, acrylic paint is generally cheaper, yet it tends to be more durable. Naturally, it’s a great choice for outdoor furniture. 

chalk paint vs acrylic paint chart


Chalk paint and acrylic paint are both water-based paints. That said, they’re generally less toxic than oil-based mediums. However, acrylic paint is often more toxic than chalk paint since it’s often higher in VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

Acrylic paint is primarily made of an acrylic polymer emulsion and pigments. And the VOCs in this paint are often found in its pigments and additives. While it is still mostly a non-toxic paint, it’s still important to take the proper safety precautions, especially if you have sensitive skin. Wear rubber gloves if possible while painting and be sure to paint in a well-ventilated area. 

In contrast, chalk paint is a low-odor, low-VOC medium composed of calcium carbonate, pigments, and water. Chalk paint’s composition is very similar to that of latex paint. The key differentiator is the calcium carbonate, which gives chalk paint its thick consistency. 

Note that paint composition varies from brand to brand, so always check the label when buying any paint for full details on its ingredients. 

Related: How to Use Chalkboard Paint on Furniture

Prep and application 

Both chalk paint and acrylic paint are known to adhere extremely well to most surfaces. That said, these solutions are great for practically all types of furniture. 

However, chalk paint and acrylic paint often require different amounts of prep. 

Sometimes, you can get away with using chalk paint without sanding and priming your wood furniture. This is possible if:

  • The wood surface doesn’t have any glossy finish 
  • The surface isn’t a darker wood like mahogany, or oak which are high in tannins 
  • Painting over chalk paint for touch-ups

On the other hand, it’s always best to sand and prime furniture when using acrylic paint for the best adhesion. After all, acrylic paint often doesn’t stick quite as well as chalk paint. 

In terms of application, both mediums are generally easy to use with a brush or roller. 

Chalk paint is certainly on the thicker side, so you may want to thin your chalk paint with a spritz of water here and there to prevent your brush from dragging. However, although it’s on the thicker side, you still need two coats to sufficiently cover the underlying surface. 

Because chalk paint has a matte finish, its great for covering imperfections and brush marks aren’t as prominent as they are with glossy paint. 

In contrast, acrylic paint is much thinner. For experienced painters, this shouldn’t be much of an issue, but for beginners, it can be slightly more difficult to control runny paints. It’s much easier for runny paints to drip off the brush and onto the ground. On the other hand, unlike chalk paint, you won’t need to worry about thinning the paint to prevent dragging. 

Related: Alkyd Paint: Everything You Need to Know


One of the biggest differentiators between chalk paint and acrylic paint is durability. 

Chalk paint on its own isn’t super durable. It can be scratched and rubbed off relatively easy. Without a top coat, a chalk paint finish can also be ruined if water spills on it. 

That said, it’s imperative to treat chalk-painted furniture with a top coat for additional protection. Without a top coat, in some cases, chalk paint can be scratched off with a fingernail, or washed off. Sealing the paint with wax or water-based polyurethanes is critical to make the furniture durable enough to use in high-traffic areas.

On the other hand, acrylic paint is hard and resilient once dried, and it doesn’t require a top coat. It’s naturally water-resistant and holds up to changing temperatures well. However, you can still put a topcoat on acrylic-painted furniture as extra protection.


Sheen is basically how shiny the finish of the paint is. And chalk paint is famous for its distinct sheen, a chalky matte finish. On the other hand, acrylic paint comes in various finishes.

The chalk paint sheen gives off a warm, rustic vibe and it tends to come in soft, muted colors. That said, it is often used for traditional furniture as opposed to modern furniture. 

Although chalk paint has a matte finish, you can make chalk paint look glossy or semi-glossy by using glossy topcoats like polyurethanes, polycrylics, lacquer, and epoxy resin.

On the other hand, acrylic is more flexible as you can buy it in a wide range of sheens. These include:

  • Matte: Best for those who prefer a flat, velvety finish
  • Satin: A slightly glossy sheen
  • Semi-gloss: Best for those who want a glossy sheen that isn’t overpoweringly shiny 
  • High Gloss: Best for those who prefer a bold, polished, and shiny look

Acrylic is the best option for furniture painting if you prefer a glossy look, as it is more cost-effective than making chalk paint glossy with a top coat. Chalk paint is best for achieving a shabby chic or farmhouse-inspired aesthetic.


Chalk paint is most often more expensive than acrylic paint.

Chalk paint is considered a specialty/niche paint, so it’s not as widely available as many other paints. However, the cost of chalk paint varies widely by brand. For instance, Anne Sloan’s paints are considerably more expensive than Rust Oleum’s Chalked Paint and other chalky matte paint brands.

Besides the paint price, it is also important to consider that chalk paint needs a topcoat for durability. This extra expense runs up the total painting cost if using this medium for furniture painting.

In contrast, acrylic paint-based paint tends to be much more affordable. After all, it’s not a specialty paint like chalk paint. Additionally, unlike chalk paint, a top coat isn’t required for acrylic paint, so you don’t necessarily have to spend money on polyurethane or polycrylic to protect your acrylic paint finish.  

Naturally, if you’re keen on saving some money, acrylic paint is an excellent alternative to chalk paint

What is acrylic chalk paint?

Acrylic chalk paint is a water-based medium composed of acrylic binders and pigments that dries in a chalky-matte finish. And because it looks similar chalk paint, it is also perfect for creating a warm, rustic finish. 

It can be applied to many surfaces, including wood, metal, paper, and glass. However, it is not as durable as normal acrylic paint. That said, without a top coat, it’s best used indoors and in low-traffic areas of your home.

Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint is an excellent acrylic chalk paint product to use if you’re interested in this type of paint. 



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