Chalk Paint vs Latex Paint (Which One You Need?)

Two of the most widely-used water-based paints are chalk and latex. But what’s the difference between both paints?

Chalk paint on one hand is made from water, colorants, and plasters. The plasters like gypsum give the paint coating improved adhesion. This is why you usually don’t need to prime before applying chalk paint.

Latex paint on the other hand is made from water, colorants, and rubber also known as latex. The latex gives the paint coating improved flexibility. Making the paint withstand heat and moisture better.

But that’s not all. There is more to know about latex and chalk paint especially if you are thinking of using either. So let’s dig in. First, let’s check out chalk paint.

What is Chalk Paint and What Is It Used For?

What is chalk paint?

Chalk paint is a relatively new paint designed by Annie Sloan. Chalk paint is gotten by adding colorants, water, binder, and plasters. The paint formula gives the finish different characteristics.

First, chalk paint dries super fast. Since the paint is water-based, it’s meant to dry fast but then chalk has plasters in the paint coating that not only makes the paint dry faster but better too. Common plasters used in chalk paint include Plaster of Paris and Gypsum.

The plasters give the chalk paint very good adhesion which makes chalk paint a self-priming paint. This means that chalk paint doesn’t need a primer coating. Though a primer coating will guarantee smooth results, the chalk paint doesn’t need it for bonding. Chalk paint will adhere to virtually any type of material without a primer.

The district feature of chalk paint is its finish. Chalk paint has a dry matte finish that is unmatched. The dry finish is also commonly distressed or scuffed to look aged or vintage. So if you want to paint an old piece of furniture, distressed chalk paint will be perfect.

However, chalk paints do have flaws. The paint given its simple formula isn’t weather-resistant. So the finish is usually waxed and wax is expensive. Also, chalk paint can dry a bit too quickly making it difficult to achieve even results. Now, let’s check out the latex paint.

What is Latex Paint?

What is Latex Paint?

Latex paint is an older paint with tons of manufacturing brands. This means latex paints may have slight differences in paint formula. But, the main components of every latex paint include colorants or paint pigments, resins, limestone, and synthetic latex. The paint formula gives the finish different features.

First, latex paint is durable. Even without a clear sealant, the finish will do well on several surfaces. The main reason for this is the latex compounds in the paint coating. Since the paint is flexible due to the synthetic latex, it means that latex paint can contract or expand based on temperature changes.

The elasticity also means the latex finish can survive under mild UV penetration. So latex paints can be used on your window frames. Latex paint has a very colorful finish. This makes the paint ideal for indoor and decorative uses.

However, latex paint has a flaw. The paint is more likely to reveal brush marks. So how good is latex paint when compared to chalk paint? Let’s find out.

Latex Paint vs Chalk Paint: Head to Head

Here is a chart to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both types of paint:

 Latex PaintChalk Paint
AdditivesSynthetic LatexPlasters
The finishSmooth and colorfulDry and chalky
Weather resistanceGoodPoor

Now, let’s go into detail. Let’s start with…

The Paint Formula

The paint formula means the ingredients in the paints.

Both paints have a very similar paint formula. The only difference are the additives in the paint coating. Chalk paint includes plasters while latex paint includes synthetic latex.


Flexibility refers to the elasticity of the paint coating. Latex paint is more flexible than chalk paint. This is because of the synthetic latex in the paint.

The paint particles in the latex paint can move (contract and expand) based on temperature and moisture.

Chalk paint however is not elastic or flexible. Chalk paint is more rigid than latex paint. So the paint can’t move on the surface. How does this affect the paint’s durability?


Durability refers to how long the paints will last.

Latex paint is more durable and this is because the paint can adapt or move based on changes in the environment. If it gets too hot, latex paint can expand without discoloring or fading.

If the weather gets too cold, latex paint can contract to prevent moisture (or humidity) from settling in the finish. You should know that there is a degree of change that latex paint can withstand.

Chalk paint on the other hand is less durable since the paint is rigid. Asides from the rigidity, chalk paint lacks additives or chemicals to make the paint coating stronger.

So chalk paint is more prone to cracking or peeling off. This is why chalk paint isn’t common in high-traffic areas.

You should know that both paints will benefit from a coat or two of paint sealant. For latex paints, use a clear sealant like water-based polyurethane. For chalk paints, use wax.

Paint Bonding

Paint bonding refers to how well the paint sticks to the material.

In terms of paint bonding or adhesion, this is a tie between both paints. Both latex paint and chalk paint stick to surfaces properly.

However, if you are looking at bonding diversity, there is a big difference. Chalk paint sticks better to virtually any type of surface or material. This makes chalk paint universal.

Latex paint on the other hand is a bit picky when it comes to surfaces to adhere to. For instance, latex paints don’t do well on gloss or oil stains.

Paint Cost

Chalk paint costs more than latex paint. However, chalk finishes tend to be even more pricey than latex finishes.

As explained earlier, chalk paint isn’t very durable so it’s a common practice to seal chalk paint with wax. And, wax is more expensive than regular sealants. This kicks up the overall cost of the chalk finish.

Latex paint however doesn’t usually need a sealant except on outdoor surfaces or heavily used material. Since you don’t need a sealant, you only need to buy the paint.

The Finish

What type of finish do you get?

Latex paints produce a silky and colorful finish. The finish is usually smooth and it’s rare to feel paint dust or grain.

Chalk paint however has a different type of finish. Chalk paint is usually matte and flat with a chalky feel. The surface doesn’t feel glossy or smooth.

Instead, it feels dry. It’s a common practice to distress chalk finish. This is why most people get chalk paint. To get that old and vintage appearance.

After the chalk paint has dried, the paint will be scuffed lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to make the finish look faded or aged. You can’t and shouldn’t sand or distress latex paint. You’ll end up scarring the paint surface.


This means how well do the paints cope when exposed to the weather?

Latex paint is more weather-resistant when compared to chalk paint. Again, this is because of the synthetic latex in the paint coating. The latex makes it possible for the paint to shrink or expand based on heat and UV exposure. It also makes it possible for the latex paint to withstand a degree of moisture in humid conditions.

Chalk paint however can’t do any of these things. The finish is not weather-resistant so it can’t withstand moisture or heat very well. White chalk paint is rumored to turn brown or yellow from over-exposure to UV rays.

You should know that if you intend to use either of these paints for weather-resistant qualities, you would need to use a weather-resistant sealant. I suggest exterior oil-based polyurethane. Though latex paint is more weather-resistant, it shouldn’t be used alone on exterior or outdoor surface.

Should I Buy Latex or Chalk Paint?

The answer to this question ultimately depends on your needs and taste. But here is a quick way to discover which of the two paints you need.

How Much Is Your Budget?

Chalk paint is more expensive and will also require wax for good durability. This adds to the overall cost. Latex paint however is cheaper and doesn’t need a sealant indoors.

What Kind Of Finish Do You Want?

A dry or matte finish will require chalk paint. Latex paint has a more smooth surface. Also, latex paint is more durable.

Interior or Exterior Use?

The flexibility of latex paint makes it cope better than chalk paint outdoors but it’s not advised to use latex paint on exterior surface. Though the paint will work better than chalk outdoors, it won’t last very long either.

Your Experience?

Though both paints are easy to apply, applying chalk paint is easier and less likely to reveal brush marks. Also, chalk paint can be distressed in case of a mistake which means it’s more ideal for beginners.

Latex finish however will reveal brush marks and can’t ben sanded to cover mistakes.

Final Words

Overall, chalk paint and latex paint are good choices. So I know how difficult choosing one can be but I hope the composition above has made that decision easier. Remember, use chalk for decor and light use. Latex paint is the more durable option.

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