Getting started with milk paint - Part 1

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

So here's the deal. I have nothing fancy or beautiful to share with you today, but I can offer you some practical advise on getting started with milk paint. I have used milk paint on a variety of surfaces and this is Part 1 of the series. 

I know the first time I used milk paint, I felt a little intimidated by it. If you are feeling that way, I would suggest you start off with a smaller project like this step stool or wood box. Once you discover how easy it is, I believe you will be unstoppable! I know I am.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section and I would be more than happy to answer them. 

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

painting on raw wood

image 1

This step stool is raw wood. It has never been painted and does not have any finishing products on it (wax, varnish, etc.)

Ensure your piece is clean before starting. I wiped this stool with a damp cloth because it was a little dusty. If a surface is really dirty, I clean it with TSP.

image 2 

Milk paint comes in a power form and is mixed with water. Warm tap water is best. You mix equal parts powder to water (approximately). To paint this step steel stool and small wood box I used 5 tablespoons of paint and 5 tablespoons of water for the first coat of paint. I would suggest you add the powder portion first and then slowly add the water. It is easier (and more economical) to add more water if needed rather than add more paint if your mixture is too thin. I used Sweet Pickins milk paint in curry for these two pieces.

image 3 

I would best describe the paint thickness you are going for is thick milk. After you paint a small area you will know if the consistency seems right. If it is not, add more paint or water. If you are using the paint as a wash, you will want the paint more watery. Your paint will not mix perfectly like latex paint, so don't sweat small floating chunks, they are normal.

There is no need to use primer before painting with milk paint. Just paint on your first coat of paint. I use a brush but you can also use a paint roller. 

image 4 

The stool after one coat of paint. Amazing coverage for the first coat, don't you think? You will find that the paint adheres extremely well to raw wood and is very durable. In some cases you may even decide that one coat is enough and call it a day. 

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

image 5 

Once your first coat has dried, it is recommended that you lightly sand your piece before you paint your second coat.  I used a medium/fine grit sanding block here, but on a larger piece you can use an electric sander with a fine grit (220 grit) sandpaper. Do I sand in between coats? Sometimes, but not all the time. Depends on the piece. A small simple step stool like this one, not likely. But a beautiful piece of painted furniture, ya sure, I might.

Once you have sanded, it is important to wipe off any dust with an old rag. On larger pieces I use a shop vac and then do a quick wipe with a rag. 

You will notice after you sand, the paint will appear dull. Don't panic, that is normal!

image 6 

Apply a second coat of paint. Anything I have painted, so far, has not required a third coat, but in some cases you may require one. I mixed up a new batch of paint for the second coat - about  4 tablespoons of paint and 4 tablespoons of water. I mixed up a little less paint for the 2nd batch because the first coat on the step stool looked pretty decent.

images 7 & 8

Sand your piece again and remove the paint dust with an old rag.

Short break ...


Okay, I am back. I had some vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. About 1 part ice cream to 3 parts chocolate sauce. I love love love chocolate. 

The next few images show how to age your piece (if that is the look you want). Then we will continue finishing both pieces in image 13.

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

painting over a varnished wood piece - this technique is commonly used on varnished wood furniture

image 9

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of this wood box before I painted it, but it was wood with a glossy varnished finish. Before I started painting, I gave the box a quick sanding so the paint would adhere better. 

I wanted an aged and "chippy" look, so I did not use Extra Bond mixed with the paint, as I did not want the paint to adhere to the entire box. I simply painted on two coats of milk paint and I did not bother sanding in between coats. 

If I did not want to achieve and aged and "chippy" look, I would have added Extra Bond to the first coat of paint and it would have adhered well to the entire surface. Extra bond is used on slick surfaces to help the paint adhere better (surfaces like glass, metal and previously painted surfaces).

image 10

As the paint was drying, I could see that is was starting to flake off in some areas. Yah! The "chippy" look with zero effort. My kind of paint! Milk paint is commonly used to achieve this highly desired "chippy" look. This effect can be unpredictable, so you just have to go with it. The paint has a mind of it's own. 

I then gave the box a light sanding with a sanding block. 

image 11

Use an old rag to remove any dust. (This picture shows a tack cloth but I have since been told if you use a tack cloth it could cause the paint to not adhere properly - so using an old rag works best).

image 12

I wanted to give the box an aged look, so I glazed it with Sherwin Williams Van Dyke brown glaze. I simply painted on the glaze using a disposable foam brush and then used a soft lint-free rag to rub off the excess. Instant aging! It doesn't get easier than this. There are many glazes available on the market that are suitable to use.

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

image 13

And now for the best part - the final step that brings it all together. Waxing! I love Daddy Van's wax. I opened the jar, enjoyed the amazing scent and used a waxing brush to spread on the wax. Instant beauty! I waited about 15 minutes and wiped the box and stool with a soft, lint-free cloth. I applied a 2nd coat of wax, waited about 15 minutes and again wiped with a cloth. If you don't have a waxing brush you can use a soft lint-free cloth to apply the wax.

Daddy Van's is an all natural beeswax furniture polish that has a very soft, matte finish to it. It gives the appearance of a hand rubbed finish. Many solvent based waxes have a high shine look to them and to me, are a far less desirable look.

Using a wax or other topcoat on your piece will help protect the surface from moisture and dirt. There are multiple products on the market that you can use to topcoat your paint. Wax and tung oil are my favourites thus far, but you can also use varnish, etc. 

In some cases you may choose not to topcoat your piece. Totally up to you, but keep in mind that top coating will help protect it. 


the short and sweet of it - two very different looks with minimal effort 

The step stool - raw wood - wiped off dust with damp cloth, two coats of paint, lightly sanded, wiped with a rag to remove dust and waxed. Nothing more, nothing less. I chose not to distress or age it in any way for this tutorial, although I could have easily created an aged look with sandpaper and/or glaze.

The wood box - previously top coated with varnish - lightly sanded, dust removed with an old rag, two coats of paint, sanded, dust removed with an old rag, glazed and waxed. The "chippy" look was achieved with zero effort as the paint did not adhere to all areas of the box. 

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

products I used for painting - available at My Painted Door shop

2" ChalkPro paint brush

Sweet Pickins milk paint in curry

medium/fine grit sanding block

ChalkPro wax brush - medium size

Daddy Van's furniture polish

old rag (for wiping off paint dust)

soft lint-free rag (for wiping down wax)

additional products I used for aging the wood box

1" disposable foam brush

Sherwin Williams Van Dyke brown glaze (not available at the shop)


random stuff about milk paint

Milk paint dries in 20-30 minutes.

Mixed milk paint will spoil just like milk will. Store your mixed paint in a covered container in the fridge. It will last up to two weeks.

Milk paint powder lasts indefinitely.

If you run out of paint simply mix up a little more. Remember that a little paint goes a long way.

You can easily create custom colours by mixing milk paint colours together. 

I have no idea how or why, but when you paint with a brush you never see the brush strokes once you have applied all the necessary coats of paint. 

I have tried several types of bowls and glass jars to mix my paint in and I found that little stainless steel bowls worked wonderfully. They are easy to clean and are reusable. It picked mine up at a discount store for about $1 each. Perfect!

I found using a stainless steel spoon worked best for mixing the paint. I tried using a whisk and although it mixed the paint well, it was an pain to clean. I know people that use a blender, but I am not that interested in cleaning that either. 

I paint with ChalkPro brushes and they are excellent. They are much thicker than your normal chip brushes, so they hold more paint. They seem to be softer than a normal paint brush and work well getting into any embossed or raised areas of a piece. The first time you use your brush you may lose a few bristles, but no big deal. Pick them off and carry on. After you use the brush once or twice, any loose bristles will have fallen out and you will be good to go. 

I wax with ChalkPro waxing brushes and they rock. They are really soft, thick and are bevelled which makes it easy to apply wax to every nook and cranny.


a few more samples

Below are some raw wood pieces I painted to showcase the colours. Some pieces were sanded to achieve an aged look and some were not. Because the wood is raw, you will not get the magical "chippy" effect and you will have to distress the piece using sandpaper. The pieces could easily have been glazed for an even more aged look. It is important to note that glazing or other antiquing mediums can change the colour of the paint.

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)
Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

The pieces below were all painted over a previously top coated surface (such as varnish). I lightly sanded them before painting. The milk paint worked it's magic and chipped by itself! 

Milk paint tutorial from My Painted Door (.com)

Part 2 of my tutorial will be posted soon. I have a few more tips and techniques to share for painting on other types of surfaces.

Happy painting!

Posted on January 26, 2014 and filed under milk paint.