Chalk paint vs. acrylic paint (handy chart included)

Painting is an essential part of any decorative piece. We can achieve any look we want if we choose the right paint. Both chalk paint and acrylic paint can be used for decorative purposes. But they are different in many aspects.

Chalk paint and acrylic paint mainly differ in composition and finishing. Chalk paint has calcium carbonate, giving the vintage or shabby chic finishing. Acrylic paint has an acrylic polymer as a binder and generally has a shiny finish. Chalk paint is generally expensive compared to acrylic paint.

Both of these paints need some work to make them durable. Also, they have different curing times which preserves the paint.

I have written a whole article comparing all the water-based paints to acrylic paint. You can find a detailed comparison of each water-based paint and acrylic paint including a nice summary with a handy chart.

What are the differences between chalk paint and acrylic paint?

Below, I have put down a handy chart, so that you can easily compare the differences between the two paints. You will find the paint for your need easily.

CharacteristicChalk paintAcrylic paint
CompositionA mixture of water, calcium carbonate, or plaster of Paris and paintEmulsion of acrylic polymer, pigments, and additives
UsesUsed for decorative purposes, usually on furnitureUsed for visual arts and decorative purposes Can be used on any surface
FinishingGives a chalky, shabby chic, vintage lookGives a matte or gloss finishing
PreparationClean the surface and sand, and apply the primer (not necessary but better if done) Clean the surface and sand, and apply the primer
CoverageTwo coats needed to cover the surfaceTwo coats needed to cover the surface
SealingNeed to seal with a topcoat (wax, polyacrylic, or lacquer)Topcoat is optional (polyacrylic or polyurethane ), but better if applied
Drying time1 – 2 hours2 hours
Average price/ oz1.86 $/ oz1.50 $/ oz
Comparison of chalk and acrylic paint


Chalk paint is composed of calcium carbonate or plater of pairs, paint, and water. It was invented by Annie Sloan in 1990. After its invention, it was largely commercialized. You can make chalk paint at home also. The recipe requires mixing 1 cup of paint, 1/3 cup of plaster of Paris, and 1/3 cup of cool water. However, store-brought chalk paint will give you the best results.

Acrylic paint is composed of acrylic polymer, pigments, and other additives. Acrylic paint is usually water-based and water-soluble. The pigments are emulsified in acrylic polymer, additives, and water. The acrylic polymer acts as a binder and holds everything together.

There are acrylic-based paints that are used for crafts and furniture. These are not the same as the acrylic paint used on the canvases in visual arts. However, all acrylic paints have the same properties. They have a soft sheen after drying and are water-resistant.


Painting on wood

Chalk paint is used for furniture or crafts and not on canvases. They are used for decorative purposes. Acrylic paint has versatile uses. They can be painted on canvases, furniture, or any crafts. They can be used for visual arts or decorative purposes.


Chalk paint gives a vintage, rustic, shabby chic finishing to furniture or crafts. Acrylic paints can have a versatile finish. They can be bought in matte finishing or gloss finishing. But it does not have the chalky, rustic finish of chalk paint. However, you can get close to the chalky finishing by sanding the acrylic paint surface.

If you are interested to know more about acrylic house paint and its pros and cons read my following article: Pros and cons of acrylic house paint (and how to choose)


Chalk paint does not require you to prepare the surface, such as sanding or applying a primer before painting. However, for durability, it is better to clean the surface with water and soap first and sand the surface. Then apply the primer. Afterward, apply the chalk paint. Follow the same preparation steps when applying acrylic paint. These are necessary to adhere acrylic paint to the surface.

Drying time

The drying time is almost the same for acrylic and chalk paint. They take around 1-2 hours to dry. Allow a curing period after drying the paints.


Both chalk and acrylic paint have better coverage. It only takes 2 coats to get full coverage, with or without a primer. Wait for 1 – 2 hours before you apply the second coat. Additionally, if you use latex paint, you will have to apply 3 coats of it. This can change according to the brand you are using.


Chalk paint needs to be sealed because it is water-soluble and can be peeled off. Chalk paint can be sealed with wax, lacquer, or polyacrylic. If you apply wax, you may need to reapply it from time to time. But if you apply polyacrylic or lacquer, it will not be a problem. Acrylic paint also needs to be sealed. Use polyacrylic or polyurethane to seal the acrylic painting pieces.

Always make sure you let the chalk painting cure for about 7 days and acrylic paint about 21 days before applying the top protective coat. Only then it has fully hardened the paint and ready to apply the top coat. Let the top coats cure for another 2 weeks before using the furniture.


Both chalk paint and acrylic paint hold very well against wear and tear. they perform well in scratch tests and are highly durable after their curing period. However, you need to make sure to do all the prep work. Cleaning the surface with water and soap, scuff sanding, applying the primer, and also the topcoat. This way your painting will hold against distress and preserve well.


The price of chalk paint is higher than acrylic paint. However, you can find brands in the same price range of acrylic paint. Following I have included brands of acrylic and chalk paint that I recommend and their prices per oz.

Chalk paint brands

Acrylic paint brands

  • One Hour Enamel Paint- 1.59 USD/ oz
  • Inglenook Fusion Mineral Paint- 1.42 USD/ oz


Chalk paint is a great choice if you want to achieve a rustic, vintage look. If not it is better to choose acrylic paint since it is less expensive than acrylic paint. Preparation work and using a top coat to seal are important when using both paints.


Can you use chalk paint instead of acrylic paint?

Chalk paint can be used instead of acrylic paint. Chalk paint generally gives you a matte, vintage, shabby chic finish. When a protective topcoat is applied to the finished product, it can be used both indoors and outdoors. However chalk paint is water-soluble even after drying, unlike acrylic paint.

What is special about chalk paint?

Chalk paint is invented by Annie Sloan in 1990. It is known for the chalky, vintage, rustic look given to the decorated piece that is harder to achieve with other paints. Chalk paint is available in limited colors and is generally pricier than regular latex paint. Chalk paintings need to be sealed.

Is chalk paint better than regular paint?

Latex or regular paint is better than chalk paint because chalk paint is more expensive than latex paint and needs to be sealed with a topcoat. The vintage and rustic look of chalk paint can be achieved by sanding the latex-painted surface. DIY chalk paint is another good option.

About Dilini

Dilini Tharaka is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to answering painting questions and providing helpful resources.Painting has always been Dilini's hobby. She has created dozens of paintings that she is proud of. She loves to share her painting experience with you.