DIY Milk Paint Guide for Beginners

On the last post having to do with my attempt at trying milk paint for the first time, this is where we left off:

As expected, milk paint is unlike anything I’ve used before, but so far it looks like it’s coming along ok.  I’m putting another coat or two on it Monday, a finish, and then the knobs, and that’ll be it!  Crossing fingers for no problems!

I went into this project optimistically, as most of us do when we’re rarin’ to go on something new and exciting.  There had been many hours reading the Miss Mustard Seed (MMS) blog, watching her videos, watching other videos from people who had used it and their blogs…I felt prepared!  But boy oh boy, I was in for a learning curve…

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First, why milk paint?

There is quite a lot of history to milk paint – some of the earliest examples of its use are found in cave paintings from thousands of years ago.  The paint is made of all naturally-found ingredients, such as clay, lime, and earth pigments, which makes it free of toxins and harmful chemicals (VOC-free) and biodegradable.  If it’s winter, I can still paint with it inside the house with closed windows and be just fine.  As we still can find it on cave walls and Egyptian boats, it’s very durable and great for both exterior and interior uses.

Better still, it requires NO PREP to be done to the furniture or surface you intend to paint – no priming, sanding, dusting…nada (one allowance to this rule: if the the furniture you’re painting has had an oil-based paint or finish previously painted on it, you will need to prep. Milk paint is water-based, and oil and water do not mix. Click here for what to do to test a piece for oil paint before starting.)

It also dries very quickly – usually 30-60 minutes between coats, and it’s a very forgiving paint, hiding even your brush strokes.

Milk paint is different in that it usually comes in a powdered form.  You spoon out the amount you need (something you can only take the guesswork out by doing lots of furniture), add water and mix it until it becomes smooth.

 

miss mustard seed's milk paint

 

miss mustard seed's milk paint tutorial artissimo blue

Yet, like mixing specialty drinks, there is an art and a science behind mixing milk paint.  I would say this is the hardest and most important step of the process, and as a newb, also the most perplexing.  But more on that in a bit.

First, a few more “before’s”:

 

Though they say that there’s no need to even sand the wood before painting, the buffet was semi glossy and I wanted to be extra sure no paint would chip.  There were also some places that needed some wood filler where some old fixtures and screws had been, so I just went at it with a sponge sander.

 

wood filler

I made up a mix of Miss Mustard Seed’s Artissimo Blue and added the bonding agent that prevents the paint from chipping (I will have to try it without the bonding someday tho, as there are some beautiful looks you can get).  Soon I was happily painting away.

After the first coat of paint had been applied and allowed to dry overnight, I examined the buffet the next day and felt that I seemed to be doing a-ok; the paint was a little on the thin side with coverage on the wood, but from what I had seen and read on the MMS Blog about the subject, I was expecting it to be that way and to need two coats.  Better yet, the bonding agent seemed to have done its job as I saw no flaking.

I gave myself some pats on the back for being a fantastic newbie at this milk paint stuff, and got to work on mixing the 2nd coat.  This is where it all went downhill…

I applied the second coat and everything looked normal.  Yet when I came back an hour later after it had dried to check on it, what do I see but speckles all through the paint!

They didn’t seem to be air bubbles, as the paint was still smooth to the touch.  Not knowing what else to do, I sanded it all down to the first coat (and some areas frustratingly became thinner than the first coat) and re-tried it with a new brush.

Later I came back to check on it, and same thing!

So I sanded it all again (I got quite a workout with my arms on this project!) and tried with a whole new batch of paint mix.  Even before it dried one could tell that I had still had a problem.

Frustrated, I took a few days after this to recharge and rethink my approach, researching to find what I was doing wrong.  Finally, after lots of dead ends, I came across this blog entry from Makely Home that showed various coats of milk paint in a goldilocks fashion, from too thinly mixed to too thick, and then just right.  From what I could tell, I had been mixing the paint too thinly.  Breakthrough!

Whipping up another new batch, I set to work.  However, as I painted I worried that I had perhaps made it a little too thick this time around…

…but it ended up working out so much better!

miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue

 

miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue
dontcha just love all the layers of color the paint gives?!
miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue

 

miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue

After a very light sanding in some places I added MMS hemp seed oil as a natural finish and sealant, which magically changes the matte dusky light blue to this lustrous dark blue you see below.  It’s amazing to see the immediate transformation in the color as you rub the oil in. (you can also use different kinds of furniture wax to get other “looks” to the milk paint color)

miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue
darker area is where the oil has been worked into the wood – look at that color already!
miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue
Above: left side without hemp oil, right side is with
miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue
bottom drawer with hemp oil, top without
miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue

I used a brush for the oil, though in the future I’d recommend getting a round bristle brush, as most of the motions are in a circular direction as you work it into the wood.  I didn’t use a cloth because when I tried it, it got lint all over the wood.  Talk about scary.  Thankfully after the oil dried/cured (best to let it dry overnight) I was able to brush it off.

Now, all said, this is not to scare you all away from milk paint.  No way!  It’s fantastic stuff once you get a feel for it.  But it’s something that you’ll have to learn only thru experience, and that takes time and mistakes along the way (though hopefully you can learn somewhat from mine!).  But hey, we learn best through failure!

miss mustard seed's milk paint artissimo blue

As you can see in the “after” pic (see more pix here), my stubbornness perseverance and work paid off!  It’s beautiful, and I love how phenomenal of a transformation it is!  In retrospect, the milk paint is rather forgiving once you get the right thickness, and I really love that the product is made of all-natural ingredients.  I want to continue to try out other milk paint colors on more pieces and get a real feel for the stuff until I feel I can consistently use it well.


ALSO, recently I discovered General Finishes that makes pre-mixed milk paint (and have great colors!). I’ve been using them for multiple projects and LOVE that I get all the benefits of milk paint + no mixing involved! [see a review I did on using GF’s paint here]. Highly recommend them!

Hope this helped take the mystery out of the process of milk paint for y’all!  Show me your creations if you decide to take on a project of your own!  As is always the case, I welcome any questions you may have, so ask away in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond!

P.S. If you liked this post, check out my other furniture painting guides like How To Prep Furniture for Painting, the ease (and my love) of pre-mixed milk paint from General Finishes, and how to get the “Gold-Dipped” Look for your piece!



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5 Comments

  1. Hi Draven,
    I found you by looking up diy milk paint. Actually, I tried to make the stuff myself using skim milk, lemon juice, and acrylic paint. Would have worked great but I kind of goofed. (And feel like such a dummy!) I disposed of the curdle and put the acrylic paint in the liquid-y part. Duh. I think it would have worked great if I hadn't been confused on that critical step. Remaking the mixture and will try it again tomorrow. Hopefully will post it on http://www.thewritesteph.com next week. Fingers crossed!

    -Stephanie

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