DIY: How to paint furniture with milk paint

We paint about a piece of furniture a day at the shop, so we like to mix it up. Today was “painting stuff with milk paint” day, so I decided it might be fun to share the steps with you.

Milk paint is thousands of years old. There is evidence that it was used in ancient Egypt and the colors remain nearly as vibrant as the day they were applied. When applied to a porous surface, it bonds incredibly well and soaks into the grain. Milk paint is non-toxic and typically all-natural with zero VOC’s.

Here I’ve pulled out an old dresser that’s just begging for a beautiful ebony patina.

Painting a dresser with milk paint

The “before” pic

Some folks like to mix their milk paint powder with a fork, whisk, or mixer. Me, I’m lazy, so I just pour the powder into a canning jar and shake it up. Then I can see to measure it and close it up when I’m done with a project or just want to take a break. Typically it’s 1 part warm water to 1 part milk paint powder. The milk paint we carry is all natural, containing no preservatives, so you’ll want to mix it fresh for your project and use it within a day.

How to use milk paint

How to use milk paint

Shake it!

Here I’m using Pitch Black by Old Fashioned Milk Paint. You can go a couple of ways with milk paint. If you are into that whole “Let’s just see what it does” vibe, then paint right onto the old surface. It’ll chip and flake in the most beautiful random ways. But ya gotta be zen about it. It is what it is. Just let the flake flake, man.

Let the awesomely random peeling begin.

Let the awesomely random peeling begin.

How to use milk paint

Here you can see where it’s starting to dry. Milk paint dries very flat.

You don’t have to go the flakey-chippy route when using milk paint. Just mix in a bonding agent (like Extra Bond) and it’ll adhere without sanding or priming. This option is great for mid-century pieces and control freaks.

How to use milk paint

Adding bonding agent to milk paint keeps it from chipping. Great for modern pieces.

An example of milk paint on an MCM piece. No distressing or flaking. (It's still a tad wet in this pic and hasn't been waxed yet. I'm impatient.)

An example of milk paint on an MCM piece. No distressing or flaking. (It’s still a tad wet in this pic and hasn’t been waxed yet. I’m impatient.)

Once the paint is dry, I take a putty knife, razor, or whatever’s handy and run it over the surface to get rid of any flaking paint. Other great tools for distressing include old keys, a wet rag, pocket knife, and of course sandpaper. (I totally should have said “of coarse, sandpaper” but I thought you’d think I couldn’t spell.)

How to use milk paint

Painting, flaking, and scraping done. Ready to wax.

For a protective finish today I used Daddy Van’s Lavender Beeswax furniture polish. It’s kind of like a little aromatherapy treatment while you work. It’s a soft furniture wax, not hard like paste wax (so it spreads easily), and smells delightful.

Daddy Van's Furniture Polish

There are lots of options for a protective finish once your piece is dry. I love Annie Sloan Soft Wax (made to pair with her Chalk Paint®, but it works great with other paints, too) as well as tung oil, hemp oil, and Miss Mustard Seed’s furniture wax (made by Clapham’s). That’s good stuff. It’s beautiful on dry wood and all sorts of other surfaces that need a refreshing moisture treatment.

How to use milk paint

The final result. A coat of wax brings out the beautiful character of milk paint.

How to use milk paint

Detail of the aged patina look that milk paint creates. The bubbled texture is a result of the old varnish, not from the paint.

Once the solvents in the wax evaporate, give the piece a good buffing with a soft, lint-free cloth and you’re good to go!

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below. Don’t feel shy! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll get one from an expert I respect.