I’m excited to share my DIY matte finish plaster paint recipe, it’s taken a lot of experimenting to get it right. There are several ways to make this type of paint, and certainly some great brands out there as well. This is the way I do it, and I find it covers well and stands up to the wear it gets in our house.

I wasn’t looking for a hutch when I found this piece of a kid’s desk for $5 in a thrift store in Seattle. Two kind young men wrangled it into my van and I managed to get it home in two pieces. There was a large corner piece sticking out where it presumably attached to more desk, so I cut that off. It’s still sitting in my garage somewhere because I have a wood hoarding problem.

Why Paint Solid Wood?

I don’t normally paint real wood furniture, I usually just clean it up and wax over it (see my vintage dining room chairs). This piece, though, had a paneling back and a cork board, and I’d have to replace all of that to stain it. (I still may go back and put a full wood back on it and remove that top trim one day.)

Why Plaster Paint? Is It Chalk Paint?

I decided to paint it using DIY plaster paint which is my go to when I want a soft finish but don’t want to spend a lot of money. I don’t call it chalk paint because it isn’t and because I have absolute respect for Annie Sloan’s trademark and products. If I’m painting something for a client or a piece that is well made and expensive, I go with Annie Sloan or Wise Owl, never DIY paint because I want a flawless flat finish. For this project, though, my DIY plaster paint works fine and with Minwax over it, it’s durable enough for the wild ones at my house. (I don’t have an affiliation with Minwax, I just really like it.)

Tips for Using Plaster Paint

  • This paint is thick, but you still need to do thin layers if you want maximum adhesion. Thin it with water as needed, because the plaster will become thicker if you’re moving slowly.
  • You will need to add glazing medium or similar if you want to be able to blend this paint, it dries super fast. If you want to do something artistic and need blendable paint, I highly recommend Wise Owl paints or Annie Sloan chalk paints thinned with water.
  • Don’t store the mixture, it doesn’t keep well. Only mix as much as you’ll be using within a couple of hours, and if you go past an hour you’ll need to thin it.
  • You may see occasional pieces of drying plaster falling from your brush or surface – it’s ok, just wipe them away.
  • If you work with it more than a half hour or so, you will want to wash out your brush and stir the paint well.

Wax Vs. Polyurethane

I don’t typically polyurethane when I use this paint. I know that’s a contentious subject but I love the way wax softens the color and finishes the piece and for that, I’m willing to rewax every year or so if needed. I sacrifice some durability, yes, but not as much as I thought I would. The Minwax does a fantastic job.

**See the safety note below before using plaster of Paris**

To make the paint, I thoroughly mix 2 tbs. plaster of Paris with 1 tbs. cold water (I know it’s counterintuitive, but don’t use hot water). Thoroughly = no lumps, so if you need more water, add 1 teaspoon at a time. I stir the mixture completely into a Valspar (my preference, their latex satin works for me) sample pot. I can’t say this will work in other types of paint because I don’t use it in gloss or flat.

I use plastic forks and disposable bowls or glass jars for this process. I know people who use old blenders and old mixers, just make sure you mark it all “not for food” and never use it for food again.

I only make 8 ounces at a time no matter how much I need. It works best when it is fresh. It thins and cleans up with water. It’s pretty forgiving overall and the coverage is amazing. I occasionally store it but it’s hit or miss and doesn’t keep great, so make what you need.

A Safety Note

Regarding Plaster of Paris – I’m not making a recommendation to you to use it, and if you do, you work with it at your own risk. I am simply telling you what works for me, I can’t advise you about your own personal safety. I use a mask and gloves when working with it, when painting with it, and when sanding something painted with it. The particles are small and as it mixes it causes an exothermic reaction so I don’t breathe it and I don’t put my hands in it. I found this MSDS helpful, and the package contains warnings, as well. I read and heed them and you should, too.

The Process

I cleaned the desk then sanded the pieces lightly with fine grit paper. To clean, I use a bottle of water and a tiny bit (a couple of drops) of Dawn on already-finished wood. I just dampen a cloth and scrub, then come again with a clean cloth to remove it all and dry. I don’t use vinegar, I find it raises the grain (so if you’re looking for that it’s great but if not, not so much).

I brushed on the Valspar “Tornado Watch” plaster-mixed paint full strength with a cheap Harbor Freight chip brush then it dry (in our climate it was about half an hour). I repeated for a second coat.

For the last coat, I mixed paint with white latex to get a lighter color I liked. I brushed that on very lightly with a dry chip brush then immediately wiped it back with a dry cloth, leaving it mostly in the detail work. If any place got too dark or light, I adjusted with paint and wiping until I liked the look.

I like having a cozy home for my ever-growing collection of white dishes, and I think it’s a perfect excuse to buy more.

I’d love to see pictures of furniture you’ve upcycled or refinished, it’s one of my favorite things and one I wish I had more time for.

Coming soon, our we’re remodeling a KZ Spree RV and I will put this plaster paint to the ultimate test when I use it to paint bright white over the vinyl RV walls. I hope you’re able to use and enjoy it on a project soon.

If you want to see where I get a lot of my DIY inspiration, check out my DIY Pinterest board. I’ve been working on it for years so it’s got a LOT of great stuff.

Happy painting!

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