{Milk Paint 101} – Part 1


Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

Ok, finally back to go do a little 411 on Milk Paint for ya.  I gotten a lot of questions via email, comments and on Facebook when i announced that i was introducing my own Milk Paint line.  I decided to break the post down into 3 parts to make it easier and make this feel less like a big college essay that i need to write – ugghhh.  So today i will go over what is milk paint, prep and the painting.    Part 2 will be about distressing, top coats, waxing, glazing and the extra bond agent.  Part 3 will be where i answer the questions ive been asked.

I feel like each part about Milk Paint could be talked about for days!  But we will break it down into these 3 basic posts and can always come back and do more in depth posts on each topic later.

By the way, how cute is my new paint label?!  I love it so much and think it fits me perfectly :)  My friend Liz did an awesome job, you can visit her etsy shop here and website here.


What is milk paint anyways?

– Basically, milk paint is made up of milk protein, lime and then natural pigments from the earth to color the paint.  True milk paint comes in a powder form and must be mixed with water.  There are a lot of imitations out there – if its pre mixed then its NOT a true milk paint and wont give you the same results!

– Milk Paint is 100% VOC free and is truly a green paint.  It can be used on anything from walls to furniture, metal, glass, concrete, masonry and bare wood.

The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co has been producing and selling milk paint since 1974 and is the oldest manufacturer of true milk paint.   The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co will be the manufacturer of  Sweet Pickins Milk Paint!

You can read a lot more info and faq’s about Milk Paint here.

Getting started – Prep

Honestly, the thing that i love the most about Milk Paint is that there is very little prep.  This is a huge change from  using latex or lacquer that i normally spray.  Although, every piece is different so sometimes i do a little prep before hand (like when i am painting something super shiny), but for the most part i skip this time consuming step and just get right to painting.  The best way to learn is trial and error and you will have to learn what works for you as well as what does and doesnt work on the pieces that you are about to paint.

The hardest thing that some people have with milk paint is that it almost never paints the same on one piece as it does on another.  Milk Paint is VERY unpredictable and will not turn out the same on every project.  You have to experiment, you cant be afraid to mess up.


Im going to use this trunk i just finished up as an example…obviously when i work i get extremely thirsty ;)

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

The trunk was in good shape and was already clean.  If it was really dirty (such as food spills), i clean those beforehand because they can bleed through the paint and of course keep the paint from sticking in those areas.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

This trunk was pretty shiny with the old clear coat and i knew if i just painted right over it, the paint would probably just flake off.  This is what i have learned from experience.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

I decided to give it a light sand with my sander just to knock off the shine.  I did not try and smooth out nicks and bumps because those just add to the character and will work to my benefit with the final steps in finishing.   I seriously probably only spent 2 minutes on the entire chest to give it a light sand, i put hardly any effort into this step – dont go crazy trying to get it perfect.   Obviously if your piece is in really bad shape and has chipped wood and splinters everywhere you will want to take care of that, but in this case we are dealing with a piece in good shape.   I used a 100 grit sanding paper to give the trunk a little “tooth” so that the paint would stick.

After sanding make sure and clean off any dust.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

Remember – with Milk Paint there is no need for primer.  But, if your surface that you are going to paint is really shiny or has been painted before you may want to add the Extra Bond to the 1st coat only.  This products promotes adhesion (we will talk more about this in the next post).

Next we are going to mix our paint.  Now – sometimes i do this beforehand so it can sit for a bit before using it.  The paint tends to thicken as it sits so sometimes more water has be added.  Also, some of the colors will get a little frothy on top and i like to let those “rest” for a bit before using it.  Se post here on mixing.

Each time i go to Lowes, i buy a few of these plastic cups for mixing the paint in.  They are perfect because they have lids to store the unused paint and they have a big opening to get the paint brush into.

Milk paint comes in a powder form and has to be mixed with water.  Once you mix the paint it will spoil, just like milk.  But the powder will last indefinitely (keep opened packets stored in an airtight container).  If you need to store mixed paint, put a lid on your container and store it in the fridge – it may last but sometimes will gel and harden overnight, each color is a little different.  If you must try and store it, then put a small amount of water on the top and don’t mix it in and that may work.  You can also try and putting some plastic wrap right down on top of the paint so that air doesn’t get to it.  It’s not recommended to store paint, so only mix what you will need right before painting.

I find the best way to mix the paint is with warm-hot water.  It seems the best temp for getting rid of the lumps and getting the paint smooth.  I also find it best to put the water in the cup 1st and then add powder to that.  Add a little water and mix with a paint stick.  Add less water than you think because you can always add more.  If you add to much water and its runny then you need to add more powder.

You can also mix the paint with a blender to get it super smooth and make sure you dont have any lumps – just make sure the blender is used for milk paint only!  You could also use a paint paddle hooked up to the drill.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

How much paint to use?  This also comes with practice and getting to know the product.  The paint comes in a bag with 6 oz powder and it makes ones pint.  One pint of paint doesnt seem like a lot, but it covers a ton.  I just painted a huge hutch with 2 coats and it only took 2 bags of paint.

For this trunk i would say that i used about a half cup of powder.  And i painted most of it with 2 coats, 3 in some areas.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

Just paint now as you would paint regularly.  Just use a good quality brush.

Sometimes, its not until i start the actual painting that i find out that my paint is too thick.  If its hard to paint and your brush tends to stick or drag, then your paint is too thick.  Just add a little water.

You also dont want your paint too thin.  In this case it wont cover well and you will just get a lot of runs.  Again, this takes practice getting it the right consistency.  I have found that different colors require a different amount of water.

The 1st coat of paint probably wont look to great and will look really streaky.  Dont panic.  In most cases i have to do 2 coats of paint, sometimes 3 but other times i can get away with just one.  It just depends on the color that you are using, the look you are going for and the color of your piece to begin with.

You can sand between coats but i normally skip that step.  Why bother myself with extra work?!  ;)

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

The above pic is after one coat.  Depending on the temperature and how thick your paint is is how long the paint will take to dry.  Milk Paint dries really fast and i am usually able to recoat after about a half an hour.  Sometimes though if you recoat to fast, that 1st layer of paint will start to lift and give it a different texture (but that can also work to your advantage, more on that another time).

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

Above pic is after 2 coats of paint, the 2nd coat made a huge difference.  If your looking for more of a clean painted surface keep recoating until you get it.    Its hard to tell, but milk paint dries really flat and chalky.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

What i love most about milk paint is the way that it distresses, its unlike any other paint out there.   Seriously this is what makes me so in love with this paint.  You never know what its going to do and how its going to turn out – thats for sure part of the fun of it.

You can see in the above pics that the paint has naturally crackled on its own.  I love that the whole thing didnt crackle, just bits here and there.  You can do things to make it crackle and products that you can use to help in this effect, but a lot of times it will just do it on its own.  But again, you never know when this is going to happen, its just a happy little surprise :)

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

Above pic also shows what frequently happens with milk paint.  See how a lot of the paint in that one area as started to flake off?  It will do this as its drying.  This is by far my most favorite part of Milk Paint and the look that it gives to furniture!  If you like chippy furniture, this is the paint that you need!  Again – you never know where or when its going to chip, it just does.  There are things that you can do to control the chipping if thats not the look that you like or are going for on that that piece, we will talk about that later.  Or there are things that you can do to make sure you get a chippy look – again, we will talk about that later.

Sweet Pickins Milk Paint 101

The last thing that i wanted to mention for this part of this Milk Paint Series is that the paint is probably not going to look that great even after your 2nd or 3rd coats.  You can see that there are clumps and a few runs on the trunk.  Dont worry about these when you are painting, its just part of milk paint.  The final steps are what are going to make your piece look awesome.  These clumps and yuckies will easy come off when you get to the final steps of finishing, which we will get to in the next post!


Have questions?

Its not too late to ask your questions about Milk Paint!  I will go over all of them the best i can on Part 3 of this series on Milk Paint!