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Can you layer chalk paint colors?

Chalk paint has become an incredibly popular choice for DIY furniture makeovers and home decor projects. The matte, velvety finish and ability to apply without prep work makes chalk paint a convenient and easy way to update tired, outdated pieces. One of the great things about chalk paint is that you can layer different colors to create unique, dimensional effects.

What is chalk paint?

Chalk paint is a water-based paint formulated with calcium carbonate, which gives it its signature matte finish. It goes on smoothly and adheres well to a variety of surfaces, from wood to metal to ceramics and more. Unlike traditional paints, chalk paint typically does not require sanding or priming prior to application. The paint is also fast-drying and provides good coverage.

Annie Sloan is credited with pioneering chalk paint in the 1990s and helping popularize the decorative painting technique of “color washing” using the paint. Since then, many companies have developed their own brands and lines of chalk paint in a wide range of colors.

Benefits of layering chalk paint colors

There are several advantages to layering different colors of chalk paint on a project:

  • Adds dimension – The layering technique creates added visual depth and interest compared to a single color.
  • Versatile effects – Depending on the colors chosen and application method, you can achieve anything from a distressed, timeworn look to a smooth ombre gradient using layers.
  • Uses less paint – Layering allows you to use less paint overall and stretch your paint further across more projects.
  • Easy to modify – Don’t like the results after applying one layer? Simply add another layer in a different color until you achieve the desired look.
  • Highlights detailing – Layeringcan help accentuate carved details, grooves and recesses on furniture and decor pieces.

The transparency of chalk paint makes it the perfect medium for layering. Colors will blend smoothly into each other, creating nuanced, blended effects.

How to layer chalk paint

When layering chalk paint colors, there are a few techniques you can use:

Wash technique

Dilute the first color using water or chalk paint softener/extender. Apply a thin, translucent wash of this color all over the surface. Let dry completely. Follow with 1-2 full strength layers of a second color. The wash acts like a tinted primer to gently influence the second color.

Dry brushing

Apply the base color and let dry. Use a dry brush to lightly sweep small amounts of a second color over the surface. Focus on edges, crevices and raised areas for subtle definition. Build up the intensity gradually for a mottled effect.


Apply the first color and let dry. Use a sponge or rag to dab and blend the second color on top. Twist and vary the pressure for organic variation. Sponging works best for ombre gradients versus stark color blocks.

Color blocking

Paint distinct sections of the surface in alternating colors, such as painting the cabinet doors one color and the cabinet frames another. Let each layer dry thoroughly before moving on. Masking tape helps create crisp edges between color blocks.

Best practices for layering

Follow these tips when layering multiple coats of chalk paint:

  • Always let layers dry fully – This prevents colors from becoming muddy.
  • Brush paint on in thin coats – Thick paint is more likely to peel and flake if layered.
  • Sand lightly between coats – This helps layers adhere well.
  • Work from light to dark colors – Begin later layers with darker hues for proper coverage.
  • Seal when finished – Apply a top coat like wax or polyurethane for durability and protection.
  • Test on a sample board – Check that color combinations and techniques work before tackling the actual project.

Popular color layering combinations

Complementary or contrasting colors typically work best for layering chalk paint. Here are some stylish color combinations to inspire your projects:

Base Color Layer Color
Navy Robin’s egg blue
Charcoal Yellow
Pink Seafoam green
Black White
Dark teal Light aqua

However, don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with unexpected color pairings. The transparency of chalk paint makes even bold color combinations look softened and subdued.

Achieving popular layered chalk paint finishes

Layering chalk paint colors is an easy way to achieve many popular decorative finishes:


A lighter base coat topped with a darker color and then sanded or physically distressed creates a timeworn, vintage look.


Applying a crackle medium over a base color before topping with a second chalk paint shade results in an aged cracked effect as the layers interact.


Use stencils to build up designs and patterns in alternating colors. Apply the base coat first, then layer on each additional color.


Coat with a deep base color like navy blue, then apply gold leaf accents on top for a punched-up gilded look.

Faux marble

Blend whites, grays, blacks and neutrals using a sponge or brush for an elegant faux marble finish.

Protecting layered chalk paint

Since layered chalk paint involves multiple coats of paint, it’s especially important to properly seal and protect the finish. Polyurethane or a wax top coat will help keep the colors vibrant and prevent excessive wear over time. Be sure to apply sealer evenly across the entire surface to avoid an uneven sheen.

Maintaining layered chalk paint

With proper prep and sealing, layered chalk paint can be quite durable. However, the finish may require occasional maintenance to keep it looking its best:

  • Dust regularly using a soft cloth.
  • Clean spills immediately to prevent staining.
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing hard on the surface.
  • Reapply protective top coats as needed to restore sheen.
  • Touch up paint chips or damage promptly.

With care, your customized layered chalk paint finish can last for many years of enjoyment.


Layering different colored chalk paints is an easy technique to create unique, textured finishes with depth and dimension. Complementary colors typically work best, but don’t be afraid to get creative and test bolder combinations. Allow plenty of drying time between coats, apply a protective top sealer, and care for the finish properly. With limitless color pairings and application methods, chalk paint opens up endless possibilities to customize furniture and home decor.