I have done several projects with milk paint now and promised to tell you a bit more about whether or not I liked working with it. So here it is: my milk paint review post where I share my set of tips, tricks and answer some questions.
Now this is not a “how to use milk paint post”, I think Miss Mustard Seed herself does a great job at explaining that to everybody. I wouldn’t dream to think I could add something to those working with milk paint tutorials, she is the professional after all.
I can however add some insights and tips from one amateur to the other. Because that is what I am: strictly amateur, and maybe you are too and you might like to have the ‘stumbling fools perspective‘ on that whole milk paint issue.
So what is the deal with this milk paint. First of all, it is a rather strange paint.
It is a powder…,
you mix it with water to a clumpy consistency…..
and by mixing I mean stirring it for many minutes, stirring, stirring, stirring…..
it often doesn’t cover your piece very well at first….
and then it will flake…
and then you have to finish it all off with wax or oil….
I know! Doesn’t sound very appealing does it.
But look at those gorgeous colors it comes in:
There are even more milk paint colors available now, like coral and a dark gray.
And you can give a rather average, run of the mill armoire a new look and make it as beautiful.
So that is what I decided: I was going to use milk paint to cover my colonial hutch.
And we all now how that turned out!
I am still so very happy that I did it. I love the end result, and my old hutch now looks even better than I ever dreamed off.
But the process to getting her that way? Hmm it wasn’t a total pleasure.
Now let me start with a big disclaimer here. As I said I am a strict amateur in these things, and on top of that I have no patience and often go against my own better judgement.
So as I give you my tips and tricks remember “Do as I say, Not as I did!“.
Okay on to the milk paint and getting it ready for painting.
Milk paint comes in a sack not a can. It is powder after all: a very dry, almost always rather greyish powder.
You add water to it and then you stir. Now the above image looks beautiful, but in real life I would not recommend using vintage china or cutlery for this process.
I tried every which way for the mixing part of the process. I had a lot of hutch to paint so I had to do a lot of mixing.
In fact I found the whole mixing thing the most frustrating part of it all. I tried the way Marian does it in her video, mixing it with a paint stirrer. I tried mixing it in a jar and shaking it until it cried mercy. I tried those tiny milk foam stirrers. And any way I tried it, I always had too many clumps and too much paint settling at the bottom of my jar.
So after trying all of the above I caved and bought an electrical immersion blender and power- tooled my way to smooth paint. Such an improvement: fast, easy and smooth results.
Tip one: if you plan on painting anything bigger than a stool buy a cheap immersion blender and save yourself the trouble of mixing it by hand.
The paint will still be rather thin, and a little clumpy but easy to work with. As the paint is so thin it goes on super fast, even more so since you don’t have to do a lot of prep work (no sanding necessary). So if you are like me and you want instant gratification, this is your paint. You will have the first layer of paint on within minutes.
Except that when you are painting a dark piece in a light color, the covering might be less than desirable…..
Remember this embarrassing in between stage. You really have to see through it, to keep the faith. Which brings me to
Tip 2 Don’t despair too soon. Keep working at it, milk paint goes through many ugly stages before the ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan.
As I learned later, it is recommended to cover a dark colored wood, with a darker milk paint first before going all light colored on it. I didn’t know that, and just painted extra layers of light paint until I had proper coverage. I am not sure what the fastest (or cheapest) route is here.
And then there is the flaking….
With my project I expected some flaking, in fact I counted on it. I did not count on losing most of the paint altogether and having one layer end up in my vacuum cleaner.
My hutch is part old, repurposed wood and part new wood made to look old. On the newer parts like the doors and shelves the paint just flew off. Of course I had done them all in one go, factory style (remember the painting goes super fast), so I had painted it all already before I noticed this flaking problem.
Which brings me to what I always had planned on doing, but in the end skipped out of sheer impatience.
Tip 3: if at all possible try the paint out on a inconspicuous spot like the bottom of a shelf or the back of a drawer.
If you are an amateur like me and you have never worked with milk paint before, do a little test run. Don’t be me and get your first experience by painting the biggest piece of furniture in your home. Milk paint is fickle and unpredictable. Every thing is solvable but you have to get a baring of what you are dealing with before you know if you have a problem that needs a solution.
I ended up removing most of that flaky paint and repainting a first layer with paint mixed with bonding agent. That did the trick.
One layer goes on really fast, so keep adding layers until you like the end result. I think my hutch took at least five layers until I was happy with the coverage. The vintage door took three. Which means:
Tip 4: make sure you have enough paint to finish the project. A little bit goes a long way, but you might need more layers than planned.
Most of the delay in my painting came from having to get more paint (not once but twice!) and the dealer wasn’t exactly next door. Milk paint is not cheap, so don’t vastly overbuy, but don’t be too thrifty either. The good news is that, as long as in powdered form the paint will hold indefinitely so it won’t dry up on you or go bad. (I think that with all the flaking, my hutch took three bags to paint it inside and out to my liking).
If your milk paint flakes as desired it gets a naturally distressed look all by itself. If you have to use bonding agent, you will have to do the distressing yourself. But that is super fast too and really easy to make it look good. The grey color that you see coming trough is actually a result of the flaking. There where parts where the paint had totally flaked off and some where some of it stuck. When I distressed the difference became nicely visible. So that is not grey paint, that is the dark wood showing through a thin layer of paint.
Tip 5: have a light hand in distressing. The paint distresses easily and you don’t want to overdo it (unless that is the look you are going for, than by all means go!).
And then there is the waxing. …
I liked this part. The wax went on really fast and easy. I used a pair of old cotton socks to rub it on and rub it in. All the time chanting ‘wax in, wax out’. I did not become a master Karate player, but my hutch and my door became super silky and soft and not a bit sticky.
I struggled with the unpredictability and the unfamiliarity. Milk paint really is not like any other paint. Even with so many painting hours under my belt, I was a total novice when it came to milk paint. I might not have loved the process, but I am totally in love with the end result.
My final conclusion in this milk paint review is:
What I love about milk paint:
It goes on so quick, you will have your project painted in no time.
It is totally odorless and you can paint really big hutches right in the middle of your living room and not be bothered by it one bit.
The clean up is stress free. Brushes rinse out and spots and smears are easily cleaned away with wather.
The finish is so beautifully smooth and silky and yet not shiny or plasticky.
I adore the color. My hutch for instance goes from looking bright white, to dark grey and everything in between depending on the light. That color is just alive and nothing like I have ever seen before.
So knowing all that I will definitely be using milk paint again. Even if the ‘French colonial style’ that it is most known for doesn’t really go well in our home. It won’t be my first choice on modern furniture, but anything that needs ‘a little country’ will most likely be getting a milk paint treatment.
I hope I have answered all of the questions and given you the confidence to go out and play with milk paint.
I will… (again, soon).
PS All images from Miss Mustard Seed blog are used with permission. Just so you know 🙂
Marianne Songbird is the founder of Songbird, where she hopes to inspire everyone to create a home they love, one DIY project at a time. She shares anything from craft ideas to home decor inspiration and from DIY projects to decorating hacks. Originally from the Netherlands Marianne and her husband Lex are currently renovating a 250-year-old farmhouse in Germany.