Monday, May 19, 2014

Misadventures in Chalk Painting - Troubleshooting Tips

After one of the most fantastically productive weekends I can remember (salvaged guest room side tables in place, new diy queen headboard, suitcase table done, and some new pretty butterfly art on the walls), I just experienced one of the most frustrating I've ever had.

My plan was simple:  fix up my two harp back chairs I have in the basement and make a dress.

The outcome of my weekend?  The dress is cut out with no hope of being put together anytime soon and one of my chairs is half done.  The sister chair is "done" but looks bad.  Like baaaaaaaaaad and will need to be redone.

What happened, pray tell?  I was SO EXCITED about the idea of chalk paint that the crafty peeps in the world have been buzzing about forever.  Paint with no prep that is great to use on salvaged furniture finds? I'm in.  I blogged all about it last weekend when it worked brilliantly on my suitcase table legs.  Due to the cost of boutique chalk paint, I was all about making my own by adding a little plaster of paris and water and the first time around, it worked.  This weekend, it did not work.

Every batch of chalk paint I made with different plaster of paris amounts (starting with the successful ratio of 3 parts paint, 2 parts plaster, 1 part water) started setting up almost immediately.  It was like painting with brownie batter.  I went through 3 different $3 paint samples and every time it completely screwed up.

It was so very, very frustrating.

After analyzing what I had done differently down to wearing socks last weekend and not this weekend, I realized when I had the DIY Chalk Paint success, it was pouring down rain.  The humidity must have made it possible for me to use the 3, 2, 1 ratio and even leave the paint for an hour or two while I grabbed lunch with my husband.  This weekend, if I even looked away, it started to get globbity gooky.

But, not willing to accept defeat, I forged on with my first chair and the result is just horrific.

The hope was that I could do the pair in a nice warm brown to match my already existing dining chairs.  That way I could use them at the table when we needed extra seating.  I mixed the paint with the plaster and almost immediately I was working with grimey paint sludge.  After the paint set up and I really couldn't use it anymore, I noticed these splotches coming through.  Almost like dark sun spots all over the surface of the chair.

Sheldon is also not amused.  Yeah, it's bad.  Even worse is that I thought "distressing" the splotches out would be a great idea!  Now it just looks like a mess.  The new seat is pretty, but that's about the only thing.


1.  My paint ratio was all kinds of off for the beautiful, blue sky, breezy, 70 degree day.  A 7.5 oz paint sample should have 2.5tbsp of Plaster of Paris and 2tbsp of water to start.  If you live in the tropics, you can probably use more plaster!  But the Virginia recipe is much less.

2.  After it got globby, I finally decided to add water and stir.  That worked!  So keep a cup of cold water nearby and when it starts to get funky, just add some water slowly and stir your little heart out.

3.  The splotches on my first chair are from an earlier attempt to save the piece without painting.  I applied some oil to see if it would help with the scratches and really bad parts.  I'm thinking I didn't clean it nearly well enough before I started painting and that is why I have those dark spots.  The fix for this will be to try to clean it down with mineral spirits and paint again.  We'll see if it works.

4.  (added on 7/15/14 as I am constantly learning MORE tricks!)  You're going to mix your chalk paint in a different it a cup or jar or whatever.  So while you're painting, get a rag good and wet and lay it over the open container.  This helps lock moisture in and keeps the paint nice and smooth.

My Sunday night fit of "GRRRRR, I have accomplished nothing" resulted in breaking out the paint again at 7pm and praying for a miracle.  Guess what, it was a miracle:

Much, much better.  The color is Valspar's Woodlawn Snow (yep, Historic Pres collection and it is a really, really pretty off white).  It's not waxed yet, nor have I covered the seat, but I finally got the paint part right after much annoyance, trial & error.

Here's a close up of how this chalk paint business should look:

Flaws?  Yes.  Apparently some finishes from the 30s and 40s wind up making a weird pink reaction on your piece.  Luckily, mine were all in spots that will be hidden by the seat.  I've read that if this happens, you stop and spray down the spot with some non toxic clear sealant, wait for it to dry, then paint over it again.  That will keep it from discoloring your piece

I finished her off a few weekends later!  The fabric choice is exciting...a bright and colorful ikat from

And the dress?  Lisette Round Trip Dress.  It's cut out, but will probably be another few weeks before I get it done.

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