milk paint in black

8 reasons to try milk paint today

Sarah Stahl
Sarah Stahl
Passion for transforming tired, old furniture into bold works of art. Sharing my learning with you.

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If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I love to experiment and challenge myself to try new products.  Each project I take on should incorporate a new learning for me.  This includes the paints which I use.   I originally started using Chalk Paint and switched to All-in-one paints as my main go to products.  However, I have a secret to share.  I adore Milk Paint! 

Now I can hear the pin drop in the room.  Milk paint?  It’s true!   Whenever the right piece comes along, I reach for this ancient  paint with a smile. 

milk paint in black

A paint as old as time

old fashion milk paint

While milk paint is not the first paint ever made;  it is thousands of year’s old.  Currently the oldest paint with milk protein is dated to 49,000 years ago. Now I would like to see if all-in-one- paint would last that long!

Think about that.  We have found paint, still vibrant in colour, thousands of year’s later.  

 In addition to being one of the original paints, it’s all-natural.  So natural that you could make it yourself at home with easy to source ingredients. Which means that this paint, when made in the way of the “old recipe” is non-toxic and has no VOC.   This makes it a great choice for homes with children and pets. 

And for the icing on the cake, being non-toxic means that it is also a paint that isn’t harmful to our environment.

So why the bad reputation?

I personally believe there are a number of reasons why milk paint isn’t as wildly used as other paints.

Firstly; it comes in powdered form.  It therefore requires an additional step that isn’t required with your all-in-one paints.  You will need to mix this paint yourself with water at a 1 to 1 ratio. I personally mix my  paint in a jar with a lid.  I place the lid on tightly and shake a few times.  Once I am sure that there are no lumps left, it’s ready to use. My only tip here is to wear gloves when mixing.  I find that the pigmentation in it, can stain skin.

Secondly; milk paint is best known for the chippy style. This is an extreme distressed style where large portions of the milk paint will flake off the item being painted.  For those wanting a smooth, perfect finish, the idea of large sections of your paint chipping will be a total turn off.  however, this is a very unfair rep that milk paint as earned in the past few years due to the chippy trend. With the right amount of prep work, it is very easy to create a smooth as silk finish with milk paint.

Thirdly; you will need to apply some type of finish to milk paint which is another step not required with all-in-one paints.  I personally love to finish this paint with oils, hemp oil being my favourite.

table refinished with milk paint
close up of milk paint chipping

Bonding Agent and Milk Paint - Match made in heaven

Milk paint adheres and bonds to a porous surface. That means it needs to be added to a dull surface or bare wood. Any wax or shiny finish can affect the paint’s bonding ability to wood.  This is actually how the chippy look is achieved. 

I have wanted to create a chippy look in the past and I failed.  The item in question I had cleaned and sanded lightly.  I only wanted to achieve a little chipping and was terrified that it would chip far to much.  Well, it ended up being too much prep work and the paint bonded well.  It bonded so well that I had to distress the piece to create the look I had hoped for. 

If you want more guarantee that milk paint won’t chip.  You can add bonding agent to the milk paint and it will then adhere to even shiny surfaces. 

Bonding agents are readily available via most  companies selling milk paint.  I have used ultra grip from Fusion Mineral paint in the past and I was very happy with the result.  To add the bonding agent, it’s a ratio of 1:1 again.  This time 1-part mixed milk paint (powder and water) to 1-part bonding agent.  Remember though, the bonding agent will affect the non-toxicity of the product.

milk paint from fusion


Milk paint requires finishing.  However, it is this step that gives it the silky-smooth look that it’s famous for.  

When you apply milk paint and it dries you will notice that it tends to dry a few shades lighter and chalkier then when you applied it wet.  This can be disappointing initially if you are searching for a dark, rich colour.  This is where the finish becomes important.

My favourite way to finish off milk paint is with hemp oil.  It’s as easy as wiping or brushing it on, waiting 30 minutes and wiping off any residue.  I normally follow this process twice to achieve the effect I am looking for. 

I have also used wax, salves, and varnishes to finish milk paint with various degrees of success.  Check out all the results of the milk paint challenge.


bar cart refinished with milk paint
close up on a bar cart refinished with milk paint

You had me at Milk Paint

I personally believe everyone should try milk paint at least once.  It has so many positive points that makes it a star among paints. 

  1. Non-toxic and eco-friendly.
  2. Because it comes in powder form, it stores indefinitely and is less intolerant to cold. 
  3. Despite being more watery then other paints it dries completely brush stroke free.
  4. Fast Drying,  between 15 to 30 minutes for each coat to dry.  You can repaint immediately when it is dry. 
  5. Adding a finish like Hemp oil produces a deep colour and silky smooth finish.
  6. Bonding Agent can element potential chipping
  7. Prep is minimal and no prep is needed it you want to achieve a chippy, aged look.
  8. Countless brands have milk paint….This means countless colours to choose from.

I would love to hear of your milk paint experiences and if you have any reasons to add to this list.  And before you go, I know you are thinking, but what about milk paint and tape design….. well stay tuned!

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