DIY Chalk Paint

I played around with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for the Backyard Mural and loved it. It is like painting with artist paint.

I built a few bedside tables for our guest room and it struck me that I would love to use chalk paint on them. Problem is, that I am a very impatient person, and when I get an idea in my head, I need to do it NOW. My closest stocklist for Annie Sloan paint is 2 hours away, and I don’t own a car…harrumph.

So I did the next best thing, and started googling. Hoping magically that in the last month a Toronto AS stocklist had opened up…no such luck. But then I found a bunch of recipes for DIY chalk paint.  I am a bit of a disbeliever, but thought I had nothing to loose, so I set out to try to make some chalk paint of my own. I picked up a $3 container of plaster of paris from the hardware store, eyeballed some into an old jar, added the same amount of water as plaster, gave it a stir and then added about 1.5 times as much latex wall paint. I played with the color mixing some turquoise and some blue that I had laying around. I gave it all a stir, then paint it on some scrap wood. IT LOOKED JUST LIKE CHALK PAINT. No, seriously. It went on the same way, covered the same way, and cleaned up the same way. I let it dry overnight thinking I would come back to it spontaneously combusting in the morning, or that it would all peel off or do something terrible. But… It did. just. fine.

Still looking at it rather speculatively, I put on a coat on my newly fabricated bedside tables, and it looked just like chalk paint. Again I waited for the other shoe to drop, only to put on a second coat, and distress it, and wax it and have it behave exactly the same way as the Annie Sloan chalk paint…

So here’s the game changer folks:


  • 1 part plaster of paris

  • 1 part hot water

  • 3 parts paint

Mix plaster & water together until all the plaster is incorporated. Add paint. Stir.

(I put my chalk paint in a mason jar and added a label.)


DIY Bedside Tables

I have been scoping around Craigslist and local antique stores for the last couple weeks trying to find some tables to turn into bedside tables for the guest room. We were using two (well worn) Ikea $10 Lack tables that we’ve had since the dawn of time, but they really needed to go. I searched and searched, but couldn’t find anything I loved. I didn’t have the budget to spend a couple hundred on new bedside tables, so I decided to make some. I headed over to The Design Confidential to look at some of their furniture plans. (They have some amazing DIY furniture plans!). I took a look through their end table/bedside table collections and spotted this plan. I instantly saw it and thought I could do a more Moroccan version of it.

The plan calls for the tables to be 18″ high, but that was a bit short for my application. I wanted to make them as tall as possible using one 4×8 sheet of lumber to make two square tables.  So I did some math and figured out that I could (just) get ten 19″ squares out of one sheet, so I headed to my local Home Depot and got a 5/8 sheet of MDF cut down to 19″ squares.

After getting my wood home I drew out a pattern for the table legs on a piece of scrap paper. I only did one side of the pattern (as its easier to just do one side, trace it onto your wood, and then flip it and trace the other side.)

Making the table pattern
Tracing the pattern onto the wood

After I traced my pattern, I cut it out of the MDF using my jig saw, sanded any rough bits, and then used that one as a pattern for the rest of my pieces. (for two tables you need a total of 8 leg/side pieces, whatever you do, don’t cut all 10 of your pieces into the leg pattern, you need tabletops too! duh!)

One table leg cut

Now follow the rest of the Design Confidential’s instructions here. Essentially you have to cut down the width of two of your table legs so that they overlap nicely. Then you stand it all up, and nail it all together. I found that using some masking tape to hold the legs together temporarily helped a lot. I just dont have enough hands to hold everything and nail it all!

Attaching table legs
The Table Assembled

After you’ve assembled everything, if you’re using MDF as your wood, I HIGHLY advise going and getting yourself some spackle. Sand all your edges so everything is nice and pretty, and then take that spackle and rub in into the mdf edges. HUH? MDF edges are rough and not as nice as the flat parts, so if you want everything to look perfect, you need to spackle those edges. Once they’re dry, sand them to a nice smooth finish, then get ready to paint. (yes I know it looks like utter crap before you’ve sanded, but just trust me.)

The rough edges of mdf covered in a thin layer of spackle

I painted the tables (inside and out) with a coat of dark grey Behr Premium Plus Ultra Paint + Primer I had laying around. Now if I hadn’t been using paint+primer, I would have put a coat of stand alone primer on first.

Tables painted a base coat of charcoal gray

After my paint dried, I mixed up a batch of DIY Chalk Paint (come back tomorrow for my DIY on this). I painted 2 coats of chalk paint in robins egg blue on the front and top of the tables. I left the inside of the legs the base colour so you got a bit more contrast with the blue.

Tables painted with two coats of chalk paint (leaving the insides of the legs the base color)

Then I sanded and slightly distressed using sandpaper and a damp cloth (to see more on my distressing chalk paint using a wet cloth check out this post). After I was happy with the distressing and smoothness of the finish, I gave it a coat of furniture wax and polished it.

Table Complete

**UPDATE** Check out this post on how to DIY your own chalk paint


1 – 4×8 sheet of 5/8″ MDF – Home Depot (cut into 19″ squares by HD’s cutting staff)
DAP Spackle: Home Hardware
Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint in Cracked Pepper – Home Depot
Chalk Paint – DIY

Tools Used:
Jig saw, sand paper, compressor & brad nailer, circular saw, paper & pencil, paint brush, wet rag

Difficulty Level (on a scale of 1-5):

Three out of five

Total Cost: $30 (already owned the spackle & paint)

Backyard Mural – How to Paint a “Faux” Ghost Sign

Sorry for the long post, I doubt many of you will ever want to paint a ghost sign of your own, but if I help one person, I will consider my life fulfilled.  Yeah sure…

There really is no info on how to do this on the web, and I did it all trial and error. So I am putting my wisdom blubbering nonsense into the world, and maybe somewhere I will inspire a DIY ghost sign.

Now lets get this party started. First up, I painted my cinderblock wall with a base color of dark grey exterior flat paint. Ideally I would have had a lovely brick wall, but instead I had an ugly beige cinder block wall, so I gotta deal with the hand I’ve been dealt. If you have a wonderful old brick wall, don’t paint a base color!

After my base had cured for a week(ish) I set out to project my design onto the wall. I used a digital projector and a design I laid out in Adobe Illustrator. I lucked out with this and was able to borrow a projector. However, if you are unable to. Check Craigslist for Artist Projectors. Like the Artograph Tracer Projector. Even new, it only retails for $100.

I projected the design onto the wall (at night), centered and leveled it, and got to tracing the outline with chalk. I used Crayola childrens sidewalk chalk in yellow, because that’s what the dollar store had. In hindsight, I would recommend regular white chalk, in the skinnier variety. My chalk came pre “sharpened” on one end, but quickly dulled and I was left with a large blunt blob of chalk to draw crisp lines with… so yeah, get the regular old chalk your school teacher used.

After you draw your outline, go to bed. It’s dark, and you cannot paint. No matter how excited you are to get started.

Then get yourself some Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I got mine from Canadian distributer Diamonds & Toads in St. Thomas Ontario. If you’re doing a small mural like me, just get a sample pot. That stuff goes a loooooong way. I have a quart, and maybe used a 1/4″ worth of paint from the can. Seriously. Also get yourself an artist paint brush to do the outlining of your design, and a wider brush for filling in. Now, this is NOT chalkboard paint, it’s a variety of paint all it’s own. It’s great for furniture, adheres to most surfaces without any sanding or removing of old material, and is even durable outdoors with no extra finishing. (really). Now if you were putting it on furniture you would probably want to wax or seal it, however its important for outdoor uses NOT to wax. Wax will hold in moisture and wreck your shit. So paint it and leave it alone to age gracefully.

Once you’ve got your supplies, outline and fill in your design with one coat of chalk paint. It wont be even, it wont be perfect, but that doesn’t matter, you’re going to be removing most of the paint anyways. Now this stuff dries fast, so work quick. Try not to leave big ridges or globs of paint, but make a smooth even layer. Chalk paint is weird. It’s more like a really thick watercolour paint than a latex or acrylic. It blends and moves like an artist paint. You can also thin it down with water, or thicken it by leaving the lid open (really). You also don’t have to worry that much about screwing anything up, as its supposed to look old. As I said, it dries fast. So clean your brushes pronto after finishing.

After an hour you can start to distress the paint. It took me about an hour to do my one coat of paint, so as soon as I finished painting I went back to the areas I started first, and got to distressing. If you were painting on wood, you would probably want to try sanding for distressing. However, being on a cement wall, that’s not the best or easiest way to do it.  Instead, you can use another technique; a rag and warm water. But wait, I said that chalk paint was durable outdoors, but how can that be if it can be removed with water?! The thing is, when you wipe the dry paint with a wet cloth, the paint doesn’t wash off. However, when you SCRUB the paint with the wet cloth, the paint RUBS off. It doesn’t dilute and smear, it just comes off the areas you scrubbed. Leaving the base colour paint below intact, and not smearing paint into other areas of your mural. Say what?! Really, that’s how it works, I promise. I have no idea why, it just does. So needless to say, that’s perfect for an old looking weathered signs on walls.  So start scrubbing! I thought I’d try a cleaning sponge, but it was too. well. spongey. A white clean heavy duty rag worked best. Now the thing is, when you distress chalk paint with water, it’s kinda like working with grout. Huh?! You know how when you are washing away excess grout, your sponge is constantly covered in grout sludge, and you have to repeatedly wash it to get all the film off the tiles? Distressing chalk paint with water is the same way. Your rag will leave excess paint hanging about. So just make sure you have a different clean rag or sponge and are always cleaning up after yourself, or you will have a wishy washy paint sludge over everything.

Now distressing chalk paint with a wet rag isn’t easy per se. It requires massive amounts of scrubbing. And scrubbing and more scrubbing. BUT it rubs off beautifully. It sticks better to rough surfaces, and rubs off easier on smooth ones, making the distressing rather easy. It looks natural because its exactly how paint would naturally fade/age.

So grab an unsuspecting lacky and scrub scrub scrub. Now if you scrubbed off too much, don’t worry you can always layer more paint back on. I did notice that the areas where I had a nice even coat of paint were easier to distress then the more dry brushed thin areas. So I actually wished I had a more solid layer of paint to begin with.

And that’s it. After you finish distressing and cleaning up after yourself, it’s done. No sealer, no nothing. It will be fine out in all weather and will age nicely.


Backyard Mural – Ghost Sign Reveal

My backyard ghost sign mural is finally done. (there will be a how-to tomorrow, so check back if you want to know how we did it)

So here is some background. We had a boring beige cinderblock wall at the back of our yard. It was boring to look at, and well BEIGE. I cant leave anything beige in my wake, so I set out to ramp it up some. After we found a $9 ‘Oops’ can of paint at Home Depot, and my Mom picked up some chalk paint for us, we set out to create a faux Ghost Sign. What’s a ghost sign? Those old faded sign’s and ads on the sides of buildings! We live in an old storefront, so we wanted something that looked old and cool. What design did we end up going with? Inspired by this image of bold graphic beautiful type, we decided to do a typographic approach to our house number.

So here it is. The before and afters!


Beige cinder block wall


Base colour of dark grey on the wall
Tracing the design onto the wall
The chalk outline
Paint on, ready for distressing


I would like it more distressed but my arms hurt…



Base Paint – Behr Premium Plus Ultra: Home Depot
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Bright White: Diamonds & Toads

Tools Used:
Paint brush, tray, roller, tape, rag, sponge, muscles

Difficulty Level (on a scale of 1-5):

Three out of five

Total Cost: $50

Backyard Mural Inspiration

Our house used to be a store. How cool is that?! We’ve been wanting to pay homage to that somehow when decorating the house. We have been on the hunt for an old grocery store sign for the kitchen (the storefront was originally built as a grocery store) and we want something barbershopy to reflect another one of the former businesses. (so if you come accross an old (cheap)barbers pole, let me know!)

Another aspect of old stores that I really love are ghost signs. Ghost signs are those old faded ads on the sides of buildings often advertising beer, liquor, cigarettes etc. I wish wish wish we had a ghost sign, but sadly we’re too close to our neighbors and have no walls that face the street. Sad face.


There is however a graffiti mural on the side of our garage that faces our neighbors yard. I love the idea of also having a mural on the side of the wall that faces our backyard. I don’t have any graffiti artist friends however and the painter friend I do have is incredibly busy and successful with his fine art career (go check out Martin Wittfooth’s work, it’s amazeballs.)

I also wanted something…well…cool. I didn’t want a sunflower and happy dancing children mural. I wanted something that I’d like to see hanging in my livingroom.

So… Now what? Stencil something? Design a mural on my own? Contact a community outreach program and see if they have any teens who want a canvas? Gah I have no idea. Then it struck me, a ghost sign! A great idea if I may say so myself. So I started researching and pinning.

But…wait…how do I make it look like it’s been there 50 years? I have NO idea. I could not find a faux ghost sign tutorial anywhere and had no idea where to start. It needed to be fairly durable (as it’s outside), but not look perfect and new. I contemplated using Elmer’s wood glue to try to do a crackle effect then sanding the paint. Or painting the mural then pressure washing the whole thing to try to wear off most of the paint. Or doing the design in chalk and then clear coating it, but really I was up a creek and had no idea where to start.

So the project sat for a few months until one day El Granto and I spied a can of dark grey flat exterior Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint in the ‘oops’ shelf at home depot. Usually the oops shelf is full of colors such as baby puke and mustard. However this looked like a pretty warm dark gray and it was priced at $9 (regularly $50+). We tossed it in the cart and decided to give it a try on the garage.

Two days later I was reading Centsatonal Girl and she posted about chalk paint. Hrrm…chalk paint? Could that work for my old worn looking ghost sign? I dunno! So I sent an email to the chalk paint people  and my local retailer and awaited their response with baited breath. (No really, I sat there watching the computer like a 14 year old girl waiting for a boy to txt her.)

All I can say thus far… is my Mom is heading out Saturday to pick up a can of chalk paint for me, and I will be putting on a coat of our $9 oops paint on the garage wall this weekend. Wish me luck!