Favorite Paints and Finishes

I sometimes get asked what kind of paint, or what finish should be used on a certain project, I’m not an expert but, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite options.  I’ll refer you to other websites for actual painting instructions, no need to reinvent all of the wheels ;0)

Chalk Paint

It seems like you can’t walk into a place that sells paint anymore without seeing a new brand of chalk paint for sell.  I tried Rust-oleum’s version while in England along with their wax on a kitchen table from Ikea and wasn’t that impressed, so haven’t tried any of the others.  For the most part, I’ll be sticking to what I know works, which is Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint.

I love that you can spray it if you want, it sands like a dream when you want to distress something, or just smooth it out, and seems to stay put and hold up to my kids abuse.   Sometimes I wax my furniture, especially if I want to use dark wax, or sometime I use Varathane’s Crystal Clear acrylic urethane pictured later in this post.


I go through a lot of Clear Wax, but still have more than half in my original tin of dark wax.

The Purple Painted Lady has a wealth of information about using Chalk Paint under her
“Tips for Chalk Paint Tab”. There are also video tutorials and an amazing photo gallery on her site….and if you are so inspired, you can buy your paint right from her ;0)  I was so grateful for all the work she put into teaching that I did just that and bought my first tins of paint, wax and brushes from her.

Homemade Chalk Paint

There are several places you can buy add-ins for latex paint….I’ve never tried them because I didn’t want to pay for them, so I’ve always used calcium carbonate for my DIY chalk paint.  You can buy it from places like Natural Grocers in the vitamin and supplement section, or the last time I was out, I ordered Pacoso’s stuff from Amazon and put it in an olive jar and taped the label to the front.

Recipe’s vary a little, but they all start with flat paint.  I happen to like Behr’s Paint and Primer in One….the cheapest one, the more expensive paint does not distress as easily.  It’s also nice that you can get the sample sized jars at Home Depot


  • 2 or 4 TBS Calcium Carbonate
  • 1 or 2 TBS water – mixed together first
  • Add to 1 cup of flat latex paint

Mix this really, really good or you can have white streaks showing up where you least want them.  Adding the calcium carbonate makes the paint a bit like cement, it’s more porous easier to sand, which is plus if you plan on distressing your project.  It can be sprayed, but your spray gun is going to be harder to clean after using this.  Cement factor, primer is also harder to clean out of your gun than regular paint.

I used this on my kitchen cabinets, doors only not the cupboards themselves, because I wanted to choose my own colors and didn’t need a whole lot of some of them.

Milk Paint

I’ve tried several different brands of milk paint so far and they don’t all behave exactly the same.  Miss Mustard Seed’s and The Real Milk Paint Co.’s behave quite similarly, Sweet Pickin’s is different.  It has a gelling agent in it that makes it harder to store the paint, it also chips differently than the other two.   Miss Mustard Seed’s website and The Real Milk Paint Company both have great resources of how to use milk paint and ideas for projects.

I wanted to do a chippy finish on my Library Closet Door and ended up using both Sweet Pickins and Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paints on it.  I did this finish over chalk paint, in order to get a chippy finish you need to first seal the chalk paint with something, otherwise the paints bond together without chipping.  I used Hemp Oil between layers on this project.


Hemp oil for sealing chalk and milk paint. 

The hemp oil needs to dry for a couple of hours after application before you can move on to your next coat.  I’ve found I need a blow dryer to get Miss Mustard Seed’s and The Real Milk Paint Company’s paint to chip as much as I wanted it to.

When I was doing samples I found that the hemp oil made Sweet Pickins paint chip too much, and that it chipped just the right amount without a layer of hemp oil between coats.

Milk paint can be a little scary trying out, after all you’re probably using it to get a chippy finish….and that means that you want your paint to behave exactly how you’ve trained yourself to get your other paint not to behave while using it.  At the same time it’s fun because it’s unpredictable ;0)

Pure Tung Oil

We did rustic maple floors in the library and master bedroom.  I used maple because it’s hard, relatively cheap and you get lots of color variation when you buy the rustic and wormy varieties….but the rest of the maple is blonde, you know,  like a gym floor.  And if you use the wrong finish, it’s yellow like a gym floor.  Not my favorite.

I knew I wanted to use tung oil to finish it, but I was wondering if I could stain it or somehow darken it so the light parts of the wood wouldn’t be quite so white.  And happy day!!  I found “The Real Milk Paint Co.”  and they carry Dark Tung Oil, just what I wanted!  It contains a natural resin that adds the dark color to the tung oil.  You just layer on as many dark layers as you want, then finish your layers with their pure tung oil.   This is a really great tutorial on how to finish a hard wood floor with tung oil from their website.

An added bonus is they use a citrus solvent, so instead of your house smelling like paint fumes while the oil dries, it smells like orange oil, another bonus.

Benefits of using Tung Oil include:

  • The ability to refinish easily,
  • Natural
  • It looks messy, and takes a while because you need lots of layers in a short amount of time, but is easy to apply
  • When using Dark Tung oil, you layer it on until you’re happy with the color, then switch to regular tung oil to finish up.
  • It’s next to impossible to get streak marks of dark in your finish since it is penetrating the wood and you wipe off excess.

The only major drawback is curing time :30 days.  It’s really not as bad as it seems though.  Keeping off it for the first few days is the most critical, we stayed off our floors for a week, then I covered them with wax paper followed with heavy brown paper for the remaining time.

Clear Finishes

My favorite clear finish is Varathane’s acrylic polyurethane, and I like to spray it on best for really thin layers.  It’s what I top-coated my Kitchen Cabinet’s with as well as numerous other projects like dressers and other pieces of furniture I didn’t want to wax for whatever reason.

I couldn’t find any Varathane locally the day I was finishing my library door so I let the paint man talk me into Benjamin Moore’s acrylic polyurethane and I don’t like it as much.  It’s a little thicker coming out of the can, and even though it says “low lustre” I would still call it a glossy finish.  Which is fine if that’s what you want, I like satin because it hides more fingerprints.

General Finishes makes a really good water based stain.  Just be aware that you need to “raise the grain” bIMG_9192efore applying the stain, or your stain will “raise the grain” and you’ll have to sand and possibly touch up.

You raise the grain by going over your project with a wet wash cloth, then sanding the raised grain down.

Oil based finishes don’t present this problem, the oil doesn’t raise the grain….it just stinks ;0).

With many things, there is a trade-off, a little more of a pain to put on, or dealing with paint fumes.

General Finishes also makes a really great Gel Stain and wipe-on clear coat that are easy to use and give you great results.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten something obvious, feel free to ask questions in the comments!  And don’t forget to hit the follow button to receive email updates.  You can also follow me on Facebook by liking my page “Girl with a Hand Plane”. 

2 thoughts on “Favorite Paints and Finishes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s