Milk paint vs. chalk paint which is better for furniture? If you are new to furniture painting, the differences between milk and chalk paint may not be obvious. Therefore, it can be difficult to decide which to use! This post explains the similarities and differences of milk paint vs. chalk paint. In addition, I will explain why I believe milk paint is the best paint for vintage furniture!
Chalk Paint vs. Milk Paint Video
Check out my video here, where I explain the main details of this post including a side by side comparison on milk paint and chalk paint in action.
Similarities between milk and chalk paint
Milk and chalk paints are both a little to no prep furniture paint. Therefore, they can be to a piece without sanding or little prep work. They don’t even require the use of a primer! This means even the busiest of people can completely transform a piece in an afternoon with just paint and a brush.
Both types of paints give a true matte finish. In addition, milk and chalk paints distress easily, unlike latex paint. Both types of paint can be distressed using a dry sanding method (i.e., sanding with sand paper around the edges). Conversely, they can also be distressed using a wet distressing method (i.e., using water to remove paint around the edges) since they are both water soluble. Distressing can bring out the piece’s details, as well as, giving it a more authentic aged look.
Milk and chalk paint can both be sprayed using a spray gun or a paint sprayer. However, since milk and chalk paint have different consistencies, they will have a different process to spraying. Spraying paint is a great way to save time and apply even coverage using less paint. Paint spraying is also the easiest way to paint furniture with lots of spindles, such as a chair.
Sealing for durability
Chalk and milk paint are porous paints. Therefore, the paint is not protected from dirt, oil, or water until it has been sealed. Many different types of sealers can be used over chalk and milk paint. Some of the most popular types of sealers are:
- oil wax
- hemp oil
The type of sealer you choose just depends on the durability needed for the particular piece and your personal preference in application. Any sealer that can be used with chalk paint is also able to be used with milk paint. Personally, I prefer using a matte polycrylic product because it does not yellow over time, provides extreme durability, and is easy and quick to apply.
All about chalk paint
Chalk paint is probably the most popular paint to use on furniture and decor. In fact, I am sure most of you reading this post have tried chalk paint at least once. Chalk paint was developed by Annie Sloan in the 90’s. Over the years, it became extremely popular and lots of other brands of created their own versions of chalk paint. Now, you can find chalk paint at almost every craft and big box store.
Chalk paint comes already mixed up. It is a thicker paint which allows you to create a very textured finish. This maybe a downside if you do not prefer the look of brush marks. However since it is a thick paint, chalk painted pieces will generally need fewer coats of paint. Lastly, chalk paint is a great option if you are looking to create a sleek modern finish. This is because the color is uniform throughout, and does not chip naturally. If you are looking to create a farmhouse or aged look, be careful to not overly distress a chalk painted piece. If over done, distressing a chalk painted can look unnatural.
Pros and cons of chalk paint
|Pros of chalk paint||cons of chalk paint|
|comes ready mixed||difficult to avoid brushstrokes|
|readily available||hard to achieve authentic aged look|
|generally need less coats||one dimensional color|
|no bonding agent needed|
Brands I use and love
All of about milk paint
Milk paint has been used for thousands of years. In fact, lots of antique pieces with original paint have been painted with milk paint. Milk paint is unlike any other paint you have probably ever used! And if you haven’t tried it yet, I hope this post encourages you to give it a try. You need to see for yourself just how awesome it is.
Authentic milk paint comes in a powder form and actually made with milk casein (where its name came). The powder is made of different colored pigments, which gives a piece of furniture a beautiful multi-dimensional color. Once mixed, milk paint is a thinner consistency. Since the paint is thinner it will seep into porous surfaces (like raw wood) very well and become extremely durable. This is similar to staining wood. In fact, milk paint is the most ideal paint to use on raw wood. In addition, you can be more messy with milk paint since drips and brushstrokes can easily be sanded out. To achieve a truly buttery smooth finish on a finished piece, sand the entire piece down with 220 grit sand paper. This will make all brushstrokes virtually disappear and the piece will feel super soft and smooth.
Mixing milk paint
When your ready to starting painting, just mix equal parts powder and water to create the paint. The paint will gel up after being mixed for a few hours and will be un-usable. To avoid this, only mix up a small amount of paint at a time. Mixing up your own paint might seem intimidating, but if you can mix up hot chocolate – you can totally mix milk paint. You can read my complete beginner’s guide to using milk paint here.
Achieving the chippy look
The magic of milk paint is really in its ability to create an authentic time-worn look. Milk paint has the ability to naturally chip off in certain areas due to the fact that it does not contain the same additives of modern paints. Milk paint is more likely to chip off in areas with a pre-existing finish, such as polyurethane. Whereas, raw wood painted with milk paint is not going to chip whatsoever. However, it is important to keep in mind milk paint can be unpredictable. It may not chip exactly as much or exactly where you expected. This is all part of the charm!
Adding a bonding agent
If your piece is extremely shiny (meaning it has a strong sealer finish) or you are not wanting a chippy finish, you should add a bonding agent to the first coat of paint. This will help the paint adhere well to the piece. The boding agent should only go on the first coat of paint. It is best to refer to the product as to how much bond to add to your paint. However, I am a firm believer that there is truly no “furniture painting rules”, so often I do not follow this product recommendations. For example, If I am painting a shiny piece but still want a slightly chippy finish, I will just add a splash of bond to my paint, rather than the full recommended amount. When your brand new to using milk paint, if can be difficult to decide whether or not to add bond, therefore, I have created a free downloadable flowchart here to help you decide.
Pros and cons of milk paint
|Pros of milk paint||cons of milk paint|
|multi-dimensional color||must be mixed in small batches|
|buttery smooth finish when sanded||bonding agent may be needed|
|can create an authentic aged look||may need more coats for opacity|
|extremely durable||not as widely sold in stores|
Brands I use and love
Verdict: milk paint vs. chalk paint for furniture
Which is better: milk paint vs. chalk paint? The short answer is it depends. Both milk and chalk paint are excellent paints for furniture. Which paint you select is really dependent on the finish your are trying to achieve. If you are want a sleek modern finish that is picture perfect, then chalk paint is the best option. However if you are painting a vintage or antique piece, I really recommend trying milk paint. I love milk paint for its ability to create an authentic time-worn finish that is rich and multi-dimensional. Additionally, I love how buttery smooth pieces with milk paint can get. This is not to say that you cannot create an aged look with chalk paint. However, the way that chalk paint and milk paint distress is very different. I find that chalk paint is easy to over distress and does not look as natural. Overtime, I have discovered that I prefer the look of milk paint for my vintage and antique furniture. Although, I still use chalk paint all the time for small home decor items.
Frequently asked questions
Do you have to sand before using milk paint?
Deciding whether to sand your piece before painting with milk paint, depends on how shiny your piece is. If you piece is shiny enough for you to see your reflection, a light sand over the entire piece will certainly help the paint from all chipping off. When your sanding piece, keep in mind this should not take more than 5-10 minutes. The objective here is not to sand to bare wood. Rather, it is just to scuff the piece up enough for paint to adhere well.
Can I use milk paint over stained wood?
Milk paint can absolutely be painted over stained pieces. However, keep in mind if the piece has a pre-existing finish, the sealer can act a resist for the milk paint. This is more likely to cause it to chip. If you are wanting a chippy finish then this just what you want! If not, you may want to consider lightly sanding the entire piece prior to painting or use a bonding agent in the first coat. For most furniture, either sanding or using bonding in the first coat is sufficient. However, if the piece is extremely shiny you may to considering doing a light sanding and using bond in the first coat.
What surfaces can I use milk paint on?
Milk paint works great on more than just furniture. You can use it to paint metal (milk paint loves metal!), cabinetry, glass, other porous surfaces, and even walls.