• Chalk Paint or Milk Paint? What’s the Difference?

    Posted on January 22, 2013 by Christine in Painting.
    
    

    I love the different looks you can get from using milk paint and chalk paint. But first let me apologize. I’ve been missing in action developing some apps to make decorating easier and fun for everyone who loves to decorate. If you have some favorite decorating apps I would love to hear about them. Just email me at christine@decoratedlife.com. If you’re part of our email list you know I love finding new ways of doing things – simply and inexpensively. If you’re not receiving our emails, you can join here. It’s free and you receive the e-book Interior Decorating Secrets as a thank you, full of great photos with 42 secrets that are low cost, high impact to get you on your way.

    chalk paint

    Now back to business, let’s talk about milk paint and chalk paint. I’ve written about both milk paint and chalk paint but everyone keeps asking ‘what is the difference’? These pointers should help you decide which one is the right paint for you.

    Did You Know Milk Paint and Chalk Paint are Different?

    That’s right. Some of the paint finishes might look the same but milk paint and chalk paint are completely different kinds of paints.  Milk paint has been used for centuries, in fact, it’s easy to find old milk paint recipes. It’s natural and eco-friendly.  Chalk paint can be non-toxic or toxic depending on the supplier, so make sure you read the tin before buying.

    Both paints give amazing paint finishes; chalk paint finishes are a little consistent, whereas milk paint can be less predictable. There’s a lovely comparison of the two paints as sister’s from the same family; different in their own ways. Read it here at Me & Mrs Jones Painted Finishes. Now, let’s look at some of the differences between the two famous paints.

    chalk paint

    Milk Paint Powder

    Milk paints are found in powder form. That makes milk paint, and the small brown paper bags they come in, super easy to carry. Creating them is easy too – just add water and stir.  It also means you can control the about of milk paint you want to create and the intensity or color.

    Like MilkPaint.com specialists say, ‘Milk paint is quick, easy and forgiving.’

    milk paint

    It results in a rich, lustrous and complex finish that improves with time.’ Here are the main characteristics of milk paint.

    1. It can be applied in a few hours.
    2. It’s very easy to use which is great if you are new to painting.
    3. It’s hard wearing.
    4. While it doesn’t chip like normal paint it can be scratched.
    5. Milk paint needs a bonding agent if you don’t want to an antique or distressed look. Without a bonding agent, it self distresses over time. If you decide you want to add a bonding agent, add it to your milk paint before you start painting. This saves time.
    6. The paint effect creates subtle differences in tone and color.
    7. You can mix powders to create new colors.
    8. Milk paint looks better as it ages. It ages beautifully, looking more polished with different levels of sheen.
    9. There are no fumes during use, and is safe enough to go down the kitchen sink.
    10. Milk paint is water based.  It soaks into the wood unlike regular paint that forms a coat on the surface.
    11. For the best effect, use thinner, not thicker coats.
    12. It doesn’t require sanding your furniture which literally saves hours.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sand if there are rough surfaces but it’s a great start if your piece is half way decent. This really depends on the kind of effect you want but sanding is optional. See Miss Mustard Seed for more on this.
    13. Milk paint bonds well to fresh, raw wood or to itself.
    14. You can apply it with a brush, roller or sprayer. If you use a sprayer strain the milk paint; a few times.
    15. The first coat of paint seals, the second coat covers. Some people like one coat, others prefer two or three, especially if they are layering colors. My suggestion is to allow the first coat to dry completely, then apply the second coat.
    16. Milk paint can be unpredictable when it comes to distressing. You can get some amazing looks if you’re happy to experiment.
    17. Manufacturers recommend a one-to-one mix. Most people mix and shake it in a clean, wide mouthed jar which makes it easy to dip the brush. Shaking creates a paint full of air. Allow it to sit for an hour to allow the solids to settle.
    18. Stir before you start painting and regularly while you paint.  When mixing use hot water (preferably filtered). This helps to dissolve any clumps, and gives you more paint and a more accurate color. Stir for a few minutes until you get a consistent liquid. Don’t panic about any clumps as they don’t show up when the paint dries.
    19. Some like to use a blender to get a frothy milk paint while others like Cameo Bliss say its best to mix by hand.
    20. It’s best not to buy large quantities of milk paint powder because over time is absorbs moisture from the air and can lose its ability to bond with wood. Unused milk paint should be sealed and kept in a dry area.
    21. Mixed milk paint also goes bad so use it on the day it is mixed or leave it overnight in the refrigerator and use the following day. Get more storage advice at The Old Lucketts Store.
    22. Hemp oil is a great top coat for milk paint. You can also use a wax or poly topcoat. Top coats are optional but they protect paint from moisture and wear and best for furniture used regularly. Oil gives your piece a darker, rich color and luster and protects it from spills.
    23. Milk paint is non-toxic. It doesn’t contain lead or any other nasties. See Real Milk Paint for differences and toxicity levels of paints.

    milk paint

    There are great tutorials all over Youtube as well as at www.missmustardseed.com or www.perfectlyimperfectblog.com if you want to learn more. But read on for a few tricks of the trade.

    Milk Paint Mixtures and Secrets

    Chair makers and painters like applying multiple coats of different colors such as Lexington green as the base, followed by barn red and topped off with pitch black to create a subtle tortoiseshell appearance. This may sound like a strange trio but wear and tear creates a close imitation of an old paint loved by antique collectors (and me). Imagine the different looks you can create.

    The amount of water you add changes the effect and your end results. If you thin your milk paint with one and a half parts water to one part paint and you’ve created a color wash. Add more water and it becomes a color stain which you can wipe off with a rag. This works well with red milk paint thinned right down.

    milk paint

    To get a smooth finish, strain the paint using a strainer or old pantyhose. Unstrained milk paint will leave a grainy finish. You can also spray your furniture with water before you begin painting to see if there is any glue or oil that needs to be removed and that could stop the milk paint from bonding with your piece.

    Recipes to make your own milk paint can be found at Martha Stewart, Real Milk Paint, Esprit Cabane and a cheat’s version using acrylic paint from Craft Apple.

    It is often said that milk paint has a mind of it’s own – which means it looks and sticks differently on each piece. This can be worrying for some but for most people that is part of its charm. 

    What is Chalk Paint?

    Now let’s look at chalk paint, starting with a Annie Sloan chalk paint tutorial.

    1. Chalk paint sticks easily, which means it doesn’t need a primer, so you can leave out this step. This often depends on the chalk paint manufacturer, so you may want to test it first.
    2. Chalk paint is versatile; from distressed paint, crackled paint to limewash looks. (That said, if you want the ‘chippy’ look, milk paint is better.)
    3. It doesn’t need wax or a varnish coat which makes it super easy to apply but consider it if you want to protect your piece. A thin coat of wax makes it look modern.
    4. You can mix it to create custom chalk paint colors. There is a growing selection on the market such as Annie Sloan, or Websters Chalk Paint to choose from.
    5. You can apply chalk paint with a brush, roller or sprayer.
    6. Chalk paint distresses well. You can distress before or after you wax. Chalk paint comes off in a fine powder if sanded. Just sand back to get the look you want for a soft, distressed finish.
    7. It’s the calcium in the paint that give it a chalky finish.

    chalk paint

    Recipes to make your own chalk paint can be found at InMyOwnStyle, Elizabeth & Co and LilyfieldLife. These are simple and inexpensive recipes, the cheapest is $4.00 from Elizabeth & Co. You simple use latex (acrylic) paint mixed with either grout, plaster of Paris and powdered calcium carbonate. So, even on a budget there’s no excuse for not getting your hands on chalk paint. Here’s a review on home made chalk paint versus Annie Sloan paint from Liz Marie Blog. It’s a good read if you are weighing up your options. Got to Annie Sloan for Annie Sloan chalk paint tutorials. She has a lot of them and they are quite detailed.

    chalk paint

    The subject is inexhaustible but I hope this answers some general questions. You can see more examples of milk paint and chalk paint on my Pinterest Board here. If you like this post, why not join up for our Newsletter which begins with the free e-book Interior Design Secrets which includes 42 simple and fast design ideas and a great place to start.

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4 Responsesso far.

  1. Thank you for a great blog post that is totally chocked full of great tips and information.

    I’m actively searching for what to use on the surface of milk paint (besides MMM Hemp Oil, only because I live rurally and this requires a 45 min. drive each way to purchase.)

    Suggestions appreciated!!

    LOTS of chalk painted furniture examples on my blog and Facebook. Enjoy!

    Donna Allgaier-Lamberti / White Oak Studio Designs / SW Michigan
    Hand-Painted Vintage Furniture Transformations
    Blog: http://smallhouseunderabigsky.wordpress.com
    Facebook: donnaallgaierlamberti@facebook.com (To see a portfolio of painted pieces for sale)

  2. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. says:

    Thanks for such a comprehensive article Christine! And what a nice surprise to see a link back to my blog – Elizabeth & Co. I love experimenting with all kinds of paint. Each one has it’s own unique qualities and allows you to create a truly custom look. … Thanks again, I always enjoy the time I spend here!

    • Christine says:

      Thanks Sharon! You know I love visiting Elizabeth and Co too and see what you great gals are up to.

  3. Jodi says:

    ACK~ Well, they look almost the same! I was planning on doing chalk paint on my kitchen cabinets (which are only 5 years old, but stained a very dark color, which makes my kitchen very dark). I was planning on using AS, but now I think I’ll get a low/no VOC paint and make my own chalk paint. :) Thanks for the info!

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