Can I Use Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is a popular choice when giving your furniture or home decor a unique and personalized touch. Known for its matte finish and versatility, chalk paint can transform any piece into a work of art. But what about protecting that beautiful finish? That’s where polycrylic comes in. This water-based sealant, also known as a protective finish, is often used to preserve the look of chalk paint, enhancing its durability and resistance to wear and tear.

So, can you use polycrylic over chalk paint? The answer is a resounding yes! The hard clear finish of polycrylic is the perfect way to protect and preserve the beautiful, matte look of chalk paint. This article delves into the specifics of using polycrylic over chalk paint, providing a comprehensive guide filled with handy tips and advice.

What is Polycrylic?

Polycrylic is a clear coating that serves as a protective finish for various types of paint, including chalk paint. It’s a water-based sealant, meaning it’s easy to clean up after use and has a lower odor than its oil-based counterparts.

One of the key benefits of polycrylic is its durability. It forms a hard, protective layer over the painted surface, protecting it from scratches, spills, and the effects of aging. This makes it an excellent choice for pieces that see a lot of use, such as kitchen tables or children’s furniture.

Another advantage of polycrylic is its versatility. It can be used over various paint types and colors, and it dries clear so that it won’t alter the color of your paint. Plus, it’s available in several finishes, including matte, satin, and gloss, allowing you to choose the level of sheen that best suits your project.

What is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is a decorative paint known for its chalky, matte finish. It’s a favorite among DIY enthusiasts and professional furniture restorers, thanks to its ease of use and the unique look it can give furniture and home decor items.

One of the defining characteristics of chalk paint is its versatility. It can be used on various surfaces, including wood, metal, and fabric, without priming or sanding. This makes it a great choice for upcycling projects where you want to give a new lease of life to an old piece of furniture.

Chalk paint also offers a lot of creative freedom. It can be layered, distressed, and waxed to create various effects, from a rustic, aged look to a more modern, clean finish. And because it’s water-based, it’s easy to clean up and has a low odor.

Why Use Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint?

With its matte finish and rich pigmentation, chalk paint can create stunning effects on furniture and home decor. However, like any paint, it can wear and tear over time. This is where polycrylic comes in. Applying a layer of polycrylic over chalk paint can offer several benefits.

Firstly, polycrylic enhances the durability of chalk paint. It forms a hard, protective layer that shields the paint from scratches, spills, and other potential damage. This is particularly beneficial for high-traffic pieces like kitchen tables or chairs, where durability is key.

Secondly, polycrylic is water-resistant. This means it can protect your chalk paint finish from moisture damage, which is especially useful in humid climates or for pieces that might be exposed to spills.

Lastly, polycrylic can help your chalk paint finish last longer. Over time, chalk paint can fade or discolor due to exposure to sunlight and other environmental factors. A layer of polycrylic can help prevent this, keeping your finish looking fresh and vibrant for longer.

How to Apply Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint

Applying polycrylic over chalk paint is a straightforward process, but it does require some preparation. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Materials Needed:

  • Polycrylic
  • A high-quality synthetic brush or foam brush
  • A clean, lint-free cloth
  • Sandpaper (220 grit)

Step 1: Preparation
Before you start, make sure your chalk paint finish is completely dry. If you’ve recently painted your piece, it’s best to wait at least 24 hours before applying polycrylic.

Step 2: Sanding
Lightly sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper. This will help the polycrylic adhere better. After sanding, wipe down the piece with a clean, lint-free cloth to remove dust.

Step 3: Applying Polycrylic
Dip your brush into the polycrylic, then apply it to the surface in long, even strokes. Try to avoid over-brushing, as this can cause bubbles.

Step 4: Drying
Allow the polycrylic to dry. Drying times can vary depending on the brand, so check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 5: Additional Coats
Applying at least two coats of polycrylic is recommended for the best protection. After the first coat has dried, lightly sand the surface, wipe away the dust, and apply a second coat.

How Long to Wait Before Applying Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint

Patience is key when it comes to applying polycrylic over chalk paint. One of the most common mistakes is rushing the process and not allowing the chalk paint to dry fully before applying the polycrylic. This can lead to a streaky finish and may even cause the chalk paint to smear or smudge.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to wait at least 24 hours after applying chalk paint before you apply polycrylic. This allows the chalk paint to fully dry and adhere to the surface, ensuring a smoother application of the polycrylic.

However, remember that drying times can vary based on factors like the thickness of your paint layer, the humidity in your area, and the specific brand of chalk paint you’re using. It’s always better to wait a little longer to ensure the paint is completely dry when in doubt.

How Many Coats of Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint

When applying polycrylic over chalk paint, more is often better. Applying multiple coats of polycrylic can provide a stronger, more durable finish that can better resist scratches and wear.

Typically, two to three coats of polycrylic are recommended. Each layer enhances the protective barrier on the chalk paint, ensuring your piece is well-protected and the finish lasts longer.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Apply the first coat of polycrylic using the method described earlier. Remember to use long, even strokes and avoid over-brushing.

Step 2: Allow the first coat to dry completely. This usually takes a few hours, but checking the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific drying time is best.

Step 3: Lightly sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper once the first coat is dry. This helps the next coat adhere better. Wipe away any dust with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Step 4: Apply the second coat of polycrylic. If desired, repeat the process for a third coat.

Common Mistakes When Applying Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint

While applying polycrylic over chalk paint is a relatively straightforward process, a few common mistakes can impact the final result. Here are some to watch out for:

1. Not Letting the Chalk Paint Dry Long Enough: Let your chalk paint dry completely before applying polycrylic. If the paint is still wet, the polycrylic may not adhere properly, leading to a streaky or smudged finish.

2. Applying Polycrylic Too Thickly: Polycrylic should be applied in thin, even coats. Applying it too thickly can lead to a cloudy or uneven finish. It can also increase the drying time and make the finish less durable.

3. Not Allowing Enough Drying Time Between Coats: Each coat of polycrylic needs to dry fully before the next one is applied. The coats can blend if you don’t wait long enough, resulting in a less effective protective barrier.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure a smooth and successful application of polycrylic over your chalk paint.

How to Care for Your Polycrylic-Sealed Chalk Paint

Once you’ve sealed your chalk paint with polycrylic, a little care can go a long way in maintaining the finish and extending its lifespan. Here are some tips:

1. Cleaning: A soft, damp cloth should do the trick for everyday cleaning. Avoid harsh or abrasive cleaners, which can scratch or damage the finish. A mild soap solution can be used to tackle a tougher stain.

2. Avoiding Damage: While polycrylic provides a durable finish, protecting your piece from potential damage is still a good idea. Use coasters under drinks to prevent water rings, and place felt pads under objects that might scratch the surface.

3. Regular Maintenance: The polycrylic finish may show signs of wear over time. If this happens, you can lightly sand the surface and apply a fresh coat of polycrylic to restore its shine and protection.

Alternatives to Polycrylic for Sealing Chalk Paint

While polycrylic is a popular choice for sealing chalk paint due to its durability and ease of use, it’s not the only option out there. You might consider alternatives like wax or oil-based polyurethane, depending on your specific needs and the look you’re going for. Let’s explore these options:

1. Wax: Wax is a common choice for sealing chalk paint, especially for a more vintage or distressed look. It’s easy to apply and can add a beautiful sheen to your piece. However, it’s worth noting that wax isn’t as durable as polycrylic or polyurethane. It may need to be reapplied over time, especially on high-traffic pieces. Wax also requires more care, as harsh cleaners can strip the wax finish.

2. Oil-Based Polyurethane: Oil-based polyurethane is another alternative to polycrylic. It’s incredibly durable and provides a strong protective finish, making it a good choice for pieces that see a lot of use. However, oil-based polyurethane tends to yellow over time, which can alter the color of your paint. It also has a stronger odor than polycrylic and requires a longer drying.

FAQs About Using Polycrylic Over Chalk Paint

When using polycrylic over chalk paint, a few questions often come up. Let’s address some of the most common ones:

Is it safe to use polycrylic indoors?

Yes, polycrylic is safe to use indoors. It’s water-based, meaning it has a lower odor than oil-based finishes and doesn’t release harmful fumes.

How much does polycrylic cost?

The cost of polycrylic can vary depending on the brand and the size of the can. However, it’s generally an affordable option for sealing chalk paint.

Can I buy polycrylic at any home improvement store?

Yes, polycrylic is widely available and can be found at most home improvement stores and online.

Can I use a roller to apply polycrylic?

While a roller is possible, a high-quality synthetic or foam brush is usually recommended for polycrylic application. This helps to avoid bubbles and achieve a smoother finish.


Using polycrylic over chalk paint can be a game-changer for your DIY projects. Not only does it enhance the durability of your chalk paint finish, but it also provides a protective barrier against wear and tear. Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a beginner just starting, don’t be afraid to try polycrylic.

Remember, the key to a successful application is patience and preparation. Allow your chalk paint to dry fully before applying the polycrylic; apply it in thin, even coats, and give each coat enough time to dry before applying the next one.