How to Milk Paint Furniture

Are you wondering how to transform your old furniture into something new and beautiful? Look no further than milk paint! This all-natural, non-toxic paint creates a unique and charming finish on any piece of furniture.

Milk painting furniture is an age-old technique that has been revived by DIY enthusiasts and those longing for a touch of rustic charm in their decor. This natural paint, made from simple ingredients including milk protein (casein), lime, and natural pigments, offers a distinctive matte finish that can add character and vibrancy to any piece of furniture.

How to Milk Paint Furniture

Milk paint can provide a unique, environmentally friendly, and historically rich finish, whether you’re looking to breathe new life into a worn-out piece or aiming for a specific aesthetic. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps on how to milk paint furniture, ensuring you achieve a beautiful, lasting finish.

What are the Benefits of Milk Paint?

First and foremost, milk paint is environmentally friendly. Its all-natural ingredients make it a safe and non-toxic option for those looking to avoid harsh chemicals in their home. Additionally, milk paint has a unique finish that allows the natural beauty of the wood grain to show through, giving a rustic and authentic appearance.

Milk paint also offers versatility in its application. It can be used on a variety of surfaces, including wood, metal, and even fabric. This makes it a great option for adding character to not just furniture, but also walls or textiles.

One of the most significant benefits of milk paint is its ability to create an aged or distressed look. By using different techniques, such as sanding or layering colors, you can achieve a vintage or antique appearance on your furniture.

What Will You Need?

Before you get started, make sure you have all the necessary materials. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Milk paint powder or pre-mixed milk paint
  • Water
  • Stir stick
  • Paintbrushes (natural bristle brushes work best)
  • Sandpaper or sanding block
  • Wax or hemp oil for sealing (optional)

Once you have all your materials ready, it’s time to start milk painting!

10 Easy Steps on How to Milk Paint Furniture

Step 1: Prep Your Furniture

Prep Your Furniture Properly

Before painting, it’s essential to prep your furniture properly. This includes cleaning off any dirt or grime and sanding down the surface for better paint adhesion. If imperfections or dents exist, now is the time to fill them in with wood filler. Additionally, remove any hardware or knobs that you don’t want to paint over.

Step 2: Mix Your Milk Paint

Mix the milk paint powder in a container according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The ratio typically falls around 1 part water to 1 part milk paint powder, but this can vary. Stir the mixture thoroughly until you reach a smooth consistency resembling pancake batter.

Ensure there are no lumps to achieve an even application on your furniture. If you’re using pre-mixed milk paint, give it a good shake or stir before use. Allow the mixed paint to thicken slightly for about 10 minutes, making it easier to apply.

Step 3: Test the Color

Before committing to painting the entire piece, it’s a good idea to test the milk paint on a small, inconspicuous area. This allows you to see how the paint covers and dries and whether the color matches your expectations.

Milk paint can sometimes dry to a different shade than when wet, so this step ensures you’ll be happy with the final look. Allow the test patch to dry completely, adjusting your color mixture if necessary.

Step 4: Apply the First Coat

Cover the Entire Surface

Start applying the milk paint to your furniture using a natural bristle brush, working in the direction of the wood grain for the best finish. Milk paint tends to be thinner than traditional paints, so don’t be surprised if the first coat looks patchy or translucent.

This is normal and part of the process to achieve that unique milk paint look. Ensure your strokes are even and cover the entire surface. Allow the first coat to dry completely, which usually takes about 1 to 2 hours, depending on humidity and temperature.

Step 5: Sand Between Coats

Once the first coat is dry, lightly sand the surface of your furniture using a fine-grit sandpaper or sanding block. This step is crucial for creating a smooth base for the subsequent coat, removing any grain raised by the paint, and helping to achieve a more uniform finish.

Focus on sanding gently to avoid removing too much paint, especially around edges and details where you want to retain the character. Wipe away any dust with a clean, dry cloth before proceeding to the next coat.

Step 6: Apply the Second Coat

Milk Paint's Properties Allow Easy Layering

After sanding and cleaning the surface, apply the second coat of milk paint, following the same method as the first coat. The second layer will help fill in any patchiness and provide a more solid color coverage.

Milk paint’s properties allow easy layering, so this coat should adhere well and enhance the finish. Remember to keep your brush strokes even and to follow the wood grain. Allow ample drying time again, up to 2 hours, to ensure the paint is completely set before moving on to any additional steps.

Step 7: Assess and Apply Additional Coats if Necessary

After the second coat has dried, assess your furniture’s coverage and color saturation. If the finish meets your expectations and you’re satisfied with the appearance, you can move on to sealing the paint. However, if you desire a more opaque look or still areas seem uneven, consider applying a third coat.

Repeat the process of applying the milk paint, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before deciding if additional layers are needed. Remember, milk paint dries to a naturally uneven finish, which contributes to its character and charm, so perfection isn’t the goal.

Process of Applying the Milk Paint

Step 8: Distress the Edges (Optional)

For those seeking a more vintage or antique look, distressing the furniture after painting can add character and age. Using a piece of medium-grit sandpaper or a sanding block, gently rub along the edges, corners, and any raised details where natural wear would occur.

Be deliberate and sparing with this technique to avoid overly distressing the piece. This step should be done with care to create a naturally worn effect that complements the rustic charm of milk paint. Once satisfied with the level of distressing, wipe the furniture down with a clean cloth to remove any dust.

Step 9: Seal the Paint

Sealing your milk-painted furniture is essential for protecting the paint and enhancing its durability. You can choose between a variety of sealants, such as furniture wax, hemp oil, or clear polyurethane, depending on the desired finish. Apply your chosen sealant according to the product’s instructions using a clean brush or cloth.

Be sure to cover the entire surface evenly, paying extra attention to areas of high use to ensure maximum protection. Allow the sealant to dry completely, which may take up to 24 hours or more, depending on the product used. This step will lock in the milk paint’s color and protect your furniture from wear and tear.

Step 10: Reattach Hardware or Add New Pieces

Now that your furniture has been painted, distressed (if desired), and sealed, the final step is to reinstall the original hardware or add new knobs and pulls to complete the transformation.

This is the moment where your furniture’s new look comes together, blending the charm of milk paint with functional hardware. If you’re adding new hardware, consider the style and finish that will complement your piece’s color and design. Carefully measure and mark the placement for any new holes, ensuring alignment for a professional look.

By following these simple steps, you can achieve a beautiful and authentic milk paint finish on your furniture.

A Beautiful and Authentic Milk Paint Finish

5 Additional Tips and Tricks

  1. Test Your Color First: Before committing to painting your entire piece of furniture, apply the milk paint to a small, inconspicuous area. Milk paint can sometimes look different once applied and dried, so this will help ensure you’re pleased with the final color.
  2. Use a Bonding Agent for Non-Porous Surfaces: If you’re working with a surface that’s non-porous or previously finished with a different kind of paint, adding a bonding agent to your milk paint can aid in adhesion, ensuring a more durable finish.
  3. Sanding Is Key for a Smooth Finish: Gently sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper after the first coat dries. This helps achieve a smoother finish and promotes better adhesion of subsequent coats.
  4. Layer Colors for a Unique Look: Milk paint is perfect for creating a distressed or antique look. By applying multiple layers of different colors and then sanding down certain areas, you can create a piece with unique character and depth.
  5. Finish with a Sealer: Always finish your milk painted furniture with a sealer, such as beeswax or a milk paint specific topcoat. This protects the paint from wear and tear and adds to the longevity of your newly revitalized piece.

With these additional tips and tricks, you can take your milk painting skills to the next level. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors, techniques, and finishes to create one-of-a-kind furniture pieces that reflect your personal style.

5 Things You Should Avoid

Applying the Paint Thickly
  1. Skipping Surface Preparation: Remember to consider the importance of prepping the furniture surface before applying milk paint. Neglecting to clean, sand, or remove old finishes can result in poor paint adhesion and a lackluster finish.
  2. Ignoring the Mixing Ratio: Milk paint is a powder that requires mixing with water. Ignoring the recommended mixing ratio can lead to issues like clumping or uneven color. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.
  3. Applying Thick Coats: It might be tempting to try and cover the piece with as few coats as possible by applying the paint thickly. However, milk paint works best when applied in thin, even coats. Thick coats can lead to drips, uneven drying, and a less durable finish.
  4. Using Low-Quality Brushes: The quality of your brush can significantly affect the finish of your painted furniture. Low-quality brushes may shed bristles or not spread the paint smoothly, leaving streaks. Invest in high-quality brushes for a smooth, professional-looking finish.
  5. Rushing the Drying Process: Patience is key when working with milk paint. Rushing the drying process by using heaters or fans can cause the paint to crack or chip. Always allow ample time for each coat to dry naturally for the best results.

By following these tips and avoiding common mistakes, you can achieve professional-looking results with milk paint. Remember to have fun and enjoy the process of transforming old furniture into unique, personalized pieces for your home.

5 Different Applications for Milk Paint

  1. Wall Treatments: Beyond furniture, milk paint can be used to create rich, matte wall finishes. Its natural ingredients make it a safe choice for children’s rooms or eco-friendly projects.
  2. Cabinetry Makeover: Give your kitchen or bathroom cabinets a fresh, new look with milk paint. Its adhesive qualities work well on wood, allowing you to create a vintage or modern aesthetic depending on the chosen color and finish.
  3. Garden Decor: Milk paint is not just for indoor projects; when sealed properly, it can withstand outdoor conditions, making it perfect for revitalizing garden pots, benches, or birdhouses.
  4. Flooring Upgrade: Consider using milk paint on wooden floors for a truly unique floor treatment. Proper sealing can create a durable and attractive surface that stands out from the usual stains and varnishes.
  5. Artistic Endeavors: Artists and crafters can utilize milk paint in their work because of its vibrant pigments and versatility. Whether on canvas, wood, or fabric, milk paint can give creative projects a distinctive look.

Exploring these diverse applications can further expand the creative possibilities of milk paint. Its natural composition, combined with a wide range of uses, makes it a versatile choice for both DIY enthusiasts and professional designers.

Milk Paint Can Give Creative Projects

Does Milk Paint Need a Primer?

Milk paint does not necessarily require a primer, as it has natural adhesive properties that allow it to adhere well to most surfaces. However, if you are working with a particularly slick or non-porous surface, using a bonding agent or milk paint-specific primer can help improve adhesion and ensure a more durable finish.

Additionally, priming can also help create a smoother base for the milk paint to adhere to, resulting in a smoother and more professional-looking finish.

Ultimately, whether or not you need to use a primer with milk paint depends on the surface you are working with and your desired end result. It’s always best to do a test patch beforehand to see how the milk paint adheres before committing to painting an entire piece of furniture.

Is Milk Paint Waterproof?

Milk paint is water-resistant but only partially waterproof. If sealed properly with a topcoat or wax, it can withstand moisture to a certain extent. However, prolonged exposure to water or harsh weather conditions can cause the paint to chip or peel.

To make milk paint more water-resistant, you can add an extra layer of sealer or wax and make sure to apply it evenly and thoroughly. Maintaining the seal by regularly reapplying a topcoat or wax as needed is also essential.

Overall, while milk paint might not be entirely waterproof, it is still a durable and versatile choice for various furniture and decor projects.

Why Does Milk Paint Crack?

One common issue that some people experience with milk paint is cracking. This can happen for a few reasons, including:

  • Inconsistent Mixing: If the milk paint powder and water are mixed adequately, this can result in consistency in the paint’s texture and cause it to crack as it dries.
  • Too Thin Coats: As mentioned earlier, applying thin coats is essential for achieving a smooth and durable finish. However, if the coats are too thin, they may not bond properly and can crack as they dry.
  • Improper Sealing: Failing to seal milk paint properly can also lead to cracking. The topcoat or wax serves as a protective layer that helps prevent moisture from seeping into the paint and causing it to crack.

To avoid cracking, make sure you mix the paint thoroughly, apply thin but even coats, and seal your project properly. If necessary, you can also lightly sand between coats for better adhesion. With proper application and sealing techniques, milk paint should not crack and will provide a beautiful and long-lasting finish for your furniture or decor projects. 


Milk paint offers a unique, eco-friendly way to rejuvenate furniture with a distinctive, matte finish that is hard to replicate with any other paint. While it might seem challenging at first, understanding the proper preparation, application, and sealing techniques can ensure professional-looking, durable, and aesthetically pleasing results.

Milk paint can transform ordinary furniture into remarkable pieces of art by recognizing and avoiding common mistakes, such as inadequate surface preparation or rushing the drying process, and exploring its diverse applications, from wall treatments to garden decor. Remember, the key to flawless milk paint finishes lies in patience, practice, and creativity.

Hopefully, the article on how to milk paint furniture has inspired you to start your own project and discover the endless possibilities of this natural, versatile medium. Happy painting!

Photo of author

Adrian Green

Adrian is a woodworking hobbyist and has loved Woodworking since he was 10 years old. Back then in childhood, his father used to have a furniture shop. He used to help his dad and learned a lot from him about how to fix woodworking furniture, basic carpentry knowledge and also about how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others.

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