What is Milk Paint and How to Use it on Furniture (Paint It Monday)..

How to use milk paint to create beautiful finishes for furniture revamps {The Creativity Exchange}


I hope you guys had a wonderful weekend!

Last week, I mentioned that I had the amazing opportunity while attending the Haven Conference in Atlanta to take an advanced painting class with two of the best decorative furniture painters out there; Marian Parsons (aka “Miss Mustard Seed“) and Shaunna West (from the blog Perfectly Imperfect):


Painting with Miss Mustard Seed and Shaunna West {The Creativity Exchange)Shaunna West (left), me and Marian Parsons (aka Miss Mustard Seed) (right)

If you happen to follow along with me on my DIY Paint Treatment Board on Pinterest, you’ve probably noticed that many of the paint treatments/techniques that I have pinned are either from Marian or Shaunna.   These two ladies seriously know everything there is to know about paint treatments and they’re especially masters when it comes to layering and working with each paint product to create amazing finishes for furniture transformations.

I learned so much with these ladies that it’s really hard for me to recap everything in one post.  So I thought today I would focus on one thing- what is milk paint and how to use it for furniture finishes. I will work in some of Marian and Shaunna’s other amazing paint tips and techniques on later posts.  So much great stuff coming!!

More than any paint technique or product, I have been really looking forward to learning more about Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint.  I have been hearing a lot about it lately but know very little about it and have never experimented with it before.  How awesome that my introduction to it was straight from Miss Mustard Seed herself!  For those of you who don’t know, Marian created her own line of milk paint called Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint and she is known for her amazing milk paint finishes:



So let me just start with the basics and show you first what the finish looks like on a few of Miss Mustard Seed’s own pieces that she finished using her milk paint products in various colors that she offers:


miss mustard seed milk paint finish


Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in “Shutter Gray“:

Miss Mustard Seed Shutter Gray

Miss Mustard Seed paint in “Flow Blue“:

Miss Mustad Seed Milk Paint Flow Blue


Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in “Artissimo“:



I think a lot of people think that milk paint and chalk paint are the same thing but they are two very different types of paint with completely different finishes.  Of course, you can distress milk paint and make it look like a chalky/shabby type finish but now that I have worked with both paints, I can see the significant differences between the two types of paint.  I never realized that I could create a more modern finish with milk paint like a weathered or Restoration Hardware look.

When you paint milk paint to raw wood (no primer needed), to me, the only way I can describe it is that it looks more ink or wood stain.  Here are some of my paint samples that I painted in our class to show you what I mean:

I used Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in “Typewriter”.  Notice how semi-watery and highly pigmented the paint is:

What is milk paint and how to use it on furniture (The Creativity Exchange)

Look at how intense and vibrant that color is!

Below you can see how “typewriter” dried (in about 15 minutes) and how it has a very stain look when it dries. Actually, if you’ve ever color washed with paint (added water to paint), it has that same feel except the milk paint has an extremely amazing and vibrant pigmentation, if that makes sense. It looks absolutely nothing like chalk paint or any kind of paint for that matter when it dries. It’s very unique.

The top color of milk paint that I painted over the dried Typewriter it is called “Grain Sack”:


What is milk paint {The Creativity Exchange}


When you’re painting with milk paint, it feels like a thinned out paint and you do not need as much paint.  The best part of all, there are no brush strokes visible (music to my ears)!  Ok, so get this.., when milk paint dries, you can wet a cloth and rub to lightly remove a little paint and distress the finish (not when it’s wet but dry! how cool is that!)

Here is “Grain Sack” painted over dried “Typewriter”:

What is milk paint


after it dried, all I had to do was use a slightly damp cloth and just gently wipe to lift a little of the top grain sack and lightly distress:


what is milk paint and how to use it



You have far more control by being able to lightly wipe with water then having to distress with steel wool or sand paper with other paints such as chalk paint.  You can’t use this wet wipe technique with any other type paints after they have dried.  Because of this, the distressing is more controlled and it’s more subtle and blended.  With sand paper or steel wool, you not only lift the top areas of the top coat but you also quickly get down to the wood. With this technique, the distressing can be more subtle and you are more in control of the finish:



what is milk paint and how to create a driftwood finish with it (The Creativity Exchange)


Can you believe that?

I loved the finish above but I wanted to experiment some more so I dipped my rag back into the “Typewriter” black milk paint and just swiped on around my piece and this is the finish that I ended up with.  I think it’s a beautiful weathered or driftwood look:


what is milk paint and how to use it


what is milk paint and how to use it on furniture for a driftwood finish



Can’t you just see this finish on a dresser or table?  So imagine this finish with other color combinations.  I was blown away with the amount of control that I had (yikes, how many times have I said that now?).  I didn’t have to distress by sanding and I think that the finish looks more natural than trying to achieve this look with layering and sanding. The paint isn’t thick like other paints and doesn’t sit on top of the wood in layers but rather it penetrates the wood.  Also, while it may look a little chalky in the image, it is not.  It really looks far more natural and sort of dyed more than anything.

So with milk paint, you need to protect or seal your finish by buffing with wax.  Miss Mustard Seed also offers a wax as well but she said any kind of wax would work too.  She also offers tinted waxes that can add an antique look or a dark look as well, so you can distress and protect with one wax.

Ironically, Miss Mustard Seed shared an image on her blog of the similar driftwood finish that I did where she is showing the look of this finish with her antiquing wax (on the left side) and her white wax (on the right side):


miss mustard seed wax-Left side is the antiquing wax and right side is her white wax


By the way, milk paint comes in powder form and you mix it with water to create the milk paint.  Marian said that you add just enough water that it should be somewhere in between normal paint thickness and pure liquid (I would say the consistency of puree). Because it’s paint, you tend to want to add a small amount of water and keep it thick but Marian said that it needs to be a lot thinner but not too watery.  Also, it needs to be stirred for at least 3 minutes or more:


what is milk paint and how to use it on furniture


One last thing… There are also all kinds of tricks to getting crackled or unqiue patchy chippy looks with milk paint by using resistance such as vaseline or hemp oil.  Marian goes into details of using resistance or “trickery” in this great post here.

I love this stuff and can’t wait to order it in all of the colors and experiment more but this time on some old pieces of furniture.  After my lessons, I think milk paint is the perfect place to start if you’ve always wanted to paint furniture but not sure where to get started. You have so much control with this paint and technique!  This is easier to work with than anything I have ever tried and think of it like a super highly pigmented stain.

I would love to know if you have ever worked with milk paint before.  What are your thoughts about the finish?  For more details and tutorials for working with milk paint, Miss Mustard Seed’s blog is full of all kinds of information, inspiration and tricks.

Thanks for hanging out with me today!





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18 Responses to What is Milk Paint and How to Use it on Furniture (Paint It Monday)..

  1. Megan says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I have to admit a few weeks ago I tried MMS’s milk paint and was not so sure about it. I did not really feel as if I was getting the right consistency, so my furniture find has been sitting there waiting for me to figure something out with it. Maybe I’ll give it another go.
    Megan recently posted..Big Sister KitMy Profile

    • Cyndy says:

      Yes Megan, Marian really spent a lot of time talking about how important it is to stir the paint for a long time (more than 3 minutes). She showed us the ideal consistency and it was watery but not too watery if that makes sense. The only way I can describe it is like pancake batter for thin pancakes (lol). Yes, keep playing with it and try layering and then wiping after it dries.

      Thanks girl for stopping by and I hope all is well!
      Cyndy recently posted..DIY Monogrammed Mousepad Using Free Monogram Printables…My Profile

    • Rebekah says:

      I love MMS paints and wax. I own all the colors and use it often. It is my favorite paint to use and I love how it just turns out how it wants, not always how I plan. Great post and thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing Cyndy. I have yet to experiment with milk paint or chalk paint. I love all of the finishes you showed. I cannot believe the variety that can be achieved with it. I will have to look into it more. I have always been nervous about painting furniture, even though I love the look.
    Elizabeth@themustardceiling recently posted..Client Project: Paint Colors for Lafayette FlatsMy Profile

  3. Erin says:

    I love this explanation on milk paint. I have never used it before, and wondered what it was like. Now I feel like I want to try it out for sure!
    Erin recently posted..Covering that color!My Profile

  4. Melissa prince says:

    I love the look! I’m a little concerned about maintaining the finish. Do you need to continually apply the wax or is it a one time job? Is polyurethane ever used for pieces in high use areas?

    • Cyndy says:

      From my understanding, once you rub and buff in the wax, it is permanently protected. The wax hardens like a shell. I think if you’re going to do a table top, you could go over it with a matte polyurethane for extra measure.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Deb says:

    Yes, recently finished an old chest that I really didn’t know what to do with. My son tweaked it a bit with his woodworking skills, and it now houses a TV and has storage underneath. What a fabulous way to save an oak chest that no longer had a look that fit into our decor. I wanted the chippy, old, rustic look and with the milk paint I got it. I was a little hesitant at first because I had never worked with anything like it before, but after a few color changes (I never can make up my mind!) it is perfect! I’m glad I made the changes as they now show through in different areas and you can see different shades here and there adding to that old rustic look I desired. They really are kind of fun to play with!!

  6. Pam says:

    I really like your sample. It turned out exactly like driftwood! You talk about doing this on bare wood. How would you prep an old piece that was either previously painted or stained? How would the color turn out then?

  7. Paige says:

    We were at the same table in that class! Haha. It was so cool hearing tips from a person who actually developed the paint. That said, I’m still intimidated by it, haha.

  8. Marti says:

    I love love love MMS Paints!! That’s about all I use anymore. I’ve used every color except the 3 new ones that just came out and I hope to have them next week. Very awesome paint. From what I’ve seen reading all these great blogs is you either love it or hate it.

  9. Becky says:

    Thanks so much for the info on using milk paint. One question: did you use the Stick With Me liquid additive when doing the sample above? I would like to paint an old table top and then wipe off some of the paint to get back down to the stain on the table in some areas but not necessarily have it chip off? I am looking for a more subtle effect so I am worried about whether it will get too chippy if I don’t use the additive.

  10. Pingback: Favorite Trends for Revamping Furniture with Paint {Paint It Monday}

  11. Des says:

    Hi Cyndy, I like the look of this technique. I am making an A frame shelf cabinet for my daughter and think this would be just the look she wants. Would this paint technique be sufficiently robust for this, or will it just wear off? It seems so easy to rub it off. I am not familiar with this waxing to which you refer. How do I do that, and what wax do I use? Cheers,

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