Dead Flat Matte

by Tina Manzer
photos courtesy Fleur Paint

Lately, artists are loving the “chalk paint” look: super opaque and smooth with rich color and a dead-flat-matte finish [see related article on page 29]. And, thanks to its excellent coverage, superb adhesion and easy cleanup, it’s also appealing from a practical standpoint.

Creating permanent art with a chalky substance is not new – calcium carbonate can be found in cave drawings from the Stone Age and in 11th- and 12th-century wall paintings in India. During the Renaissance, Italian painters used natural ingredients like chalk, lime, clay, and even mud and dirt, to create paint. The fresco-secco wall-painting technique of that time – mixing pigments with an organic binder and then applying it to dry plaster – gave artists a more chalky look, but in the end proved less durable than the traditional wet-plaster method.

In 1946, Luigi and Adele Dallamano founded Colorificio Centrale SpA in the province of Brescia, Italy. Their factory specialized in making paints used for restoring historic buildings damaged during World War II. The recipe for that paint is at the core of Fleur Chalky Look Paint, a Colorificio Centrale brand that produces a finish that’s exceptionally matte with a low 2 percent maximum sheen. It’s a favorite today among designers in Italy and 29 other countries. “We were very impressed by the elegant colours from the traditional Italian company,” says the website of U.K. stockist Colour & Paint. “Their designers are very receptive to the different insights coming from the Italian market, and are able to identify trends arising from the fields of fashion, architecture and interior design.”

The company is still family owned in Italy, and produces Fleur liquid paints in both a Chalky Look and Eggshell finish in 64 colors, as well as spray paints in 24 colors. Fleur Paint has been an Art Materials World exhibitor for the past three years.

“The key is the mineral content,” explains Francesco Noci, Fleur’s export manager. “The minerals capture the light and they diffuse it on the surface before refracting it. Artists enjoy using it for different purposes, from paintings and backgrounds for paintings to decoration and even handwriting. It’s very versatile and can be used on any material, including canvas, wooden furniture and metal lamps.

Artists who paint on bigger surfaces appreciate Fleur because it’s easy to use,” he adds. “It has excellent brushability and great adhesion.”

Last summer, the Fleur folks traveled to the U.S. to conduct workshops and promote its paint to AM retailers and their customers. This winter, they returned to conduct in-store demos, “from the West Coast to the East Coast, in the North and the South, and even in Alaska,” says Noci. “Artists talked about the paint’s aesthetic qualities and refined color range. We believe they buy it initially because they are attracted to the beauty of the colors, and then continue to buy it because it’s so easy to use.”

“Fleur paint appeals to our customers who are DIY interior designers,” explains Jennifer Keller, manager of art instruction at University Art store, Sacramento. “In fact, we have a demo coming up where each student will bring in a small piece of furniture to paint. But Fleur can also be used as a fine art material. Its extremely matte finish works well as an undercoat for mixed-media artists, for instance, and those who want to paint or add elements over something glossy.”

Up until 2013, the term “chalk paint” was used generically to describe matte paints with additives like plaster of paris, clay and chalk. Then Annie Sloan, who had been producing the wildly popular Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for 23 years, decided to protect her brand and trademarked the name.

Sloan, England’s “queen of paint” is credited with developing chalk paint for home décor. A fine artist by training, Sloan turned to decorative work in the mid-1970s – her Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques is considered the industry’s bible. She created Chalk Paint when she was unable to find a good paint for the murals she was making, and started Annie Sloan Interiors Ltd. in 1990. Ten years later, Sloan set up a storefront in Oxford where she showcases the paint and offers courses on how to use it. Today, her paint is available in 50 countries. By sharing her tips and techniques, Sloan became an evangelist for the entire chalk-paint look, and other
companies – including Krylon, Valspar and Deco Art – developed their own successful formulas for DIYers. 

Fleur Paint is distributed by Foremost European Paints Inc. in Brooklyn. For more information, email

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