DIY Network

Milk-Paint Finish

Milk painting can give unfinished furniture a distinctive antique look, a method of finishing that was popular a century ago.

More in Painting

paint surface of piece with coat of milk paint

Step 1: Determine if Milk Paint is Suitable for your Project

During the early and mid-1800s, furniture was often painted with paint made from a combination of milk, lime and natural pigments. Today powdered milk-paint formulas, available in a variety of colors, may be used to create an attractive and durable finish. Milk paint is a good choice for less expensive woods such as pine and fir that aren't prized for their grain patterns.

Step 2: Measure Water and Powdered Milk

Once you've selected a color, measure equal amounts of powder and warm water in separate containers. Add the powder to the water, and stir until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. For a thinner paint, add more water. Mix thoroughly for about 3 minutes, then let the paint stand for about 15 minutes

get the milk paint mixed and ready to use

Courtesy of James Calloway

Step 3: Remove Dust from Furniture

Wipe the wood with a damp cloth to remove any dust and dampen the wood (Image 1). Seal any knots with fast-drying shellac (Image 2).

Step 4: Paint the Surface

Use a foam or synthetic-bristle brush to paint the entire surface with a first coat of milk paint. For a thin coat--almost like a stain--add more water to the mixture. For a thicker coat, or for stenciling, add more powder.

Let the paint dry for about 2 hours, then buff it with a synthetic sanding pad. If you wish, apply a second coat.

Step 5: Distress the Furniture

Once the piece has been painted, it can be carefully distressed with a sanding pad to remove paint from areas that would be worn on a true antique--for example, around the feet or along the front edges.

Step 6: Apply a Water-Based Finish

Once you're done distressing the finish, you may want to protect the milk paint by applying a clear water-based finish with a foam brush. This will help bring out the color of the milk paint.

water based finish will bring out color of paint

Courtesy of James Calloway

Was this project helpful?

Don't forget: Read comments and leave your own

Advertisement

COMMENT ON THIS PROJECT

    

Sign in

All fields are required.

E-mail Address:

Password:

Remember me on this computer

Signing in

Please enter your email address and we will send your password

E-mail Address

Your password has been sent and should arrive in your mailbox very soon.

Not a member?

Sign up with DIY Network to share tips with other do-it-yourselfers and comment and ask questions on projects.

It's free and easy.