If you want to add a farmhouse vibe to new or existing furnishings or bring to life a vintage makeover to an older piece of furniture that needs a top coat of paint, you may be experiencing a mental milk paint vs chalk paint battle as you weigh your options. The truth is, both milk paint and chalk paint offer a great alternative to regular paints. But since they imbue a similar distressed look, most people don’t even know there’s a difference or what sets them apart from each other. So, to set the record straight here’s what you need to know about milk paint, chalk paint, and the differences between the two — and why milk paint is almost certainly the better option for your DIY projects.


When human beings first began experimenting with cave art and adding color to their artifacts thousands of years ago, they did so with a type of milk paint, which was one of the first paints humans ever created. Today, paint products like those made by The Real Milk Paint Company use a combination of casein (a protein found in milk), limestone, and natural plant fillers with pigments.


Chalk Paint is a relatively new product that was developed by a woman named Annie Sloan in the late twentieth century. It has a matte finish that’s designed to replicate the look of chalk, and this comes from the calcium carbonate content in the paint. Although the name Chalk Paint refers to a specific and proprietary blend created by Ms. Sloan titled Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, there are also other mixtures out there that call themselves chalk paint because they’re created by adding chalk or plaster of Paris to existing paints, typically acrylic.


Both chalk paint and milk paintwork on a similar array of surfaces, though they typically have different applications. For instance, chalk paint is generally used for coating furniture projects, such as handmade chairs or up-cycled sideboards. Milk paints such as Real Milk Paint, however, look great not only on furniture like chalk paint but also walls, flooring, kitchen cabinets, doors, and wooden instruments. With that in mind, suitable materials for coverage by both milk paints and chalk paints include:

  • Wood
  • Metal (rusty metal works especially well)
  • Plastic with Ultra Bond additive
  • Glass with Ultra Bond additive
  • Drywall and plaster
  • Brick and concrete


For all their similarities in suitable surfaces, milk paint and chalk paint have very different modes of preparation. Chalk paints come already mixed, so you only have to shake them up a bit before use to remix the formulation. But true milk paints come in a fine powder format, so you have to mix them with water before you can apply them to your paint project.

Additionally, you have to wait for milk paints to settle a bit before use unless you pair them with our Anti Foaming Agent. Be aware that unused portions of milk paints made with milk protein that you mix may spoil after a few days. Real Milk Paint from The Real Milk Paint Co., however, boasts an exclusive formulation that remains stable for up to two weeks after mixing.


One of the greatest things about chalk paints and milk paints alike is that neither of them requires priming or sanding prep work before applying the first coat of paint. This can cut hours off your projects when compared with the work that goes into the use of regular types of paints, even if you choose to sandpaper surfaces before applying Real Milk Paint  for better adhesion. You can apply both with brushes, rollers or sprayers, and both offer quick, easy coverage to further speed up project completion times.

Since milk paints are quite forgiving and mix and match well with chalk and other milk paints alike, the use of media such as Real Milk Paint gives you the freedom to create custom palettes to personalize your home decor. Even though you don’t have to sand surfaces before using other paint, sanding painted layers before applying a second coat ensures excellent adhesion and can help you achieve a chalky finish that flatters farmhouse and shabby chic furnishings. Overall, milk paint is easy to use for a variety of different faux painting techniques so you can achieve the chippy look that matches your decor.


When it comes to your final results, chalk and milk paints again have lots of similarities and differences. For example, projects covered with chalk paints retain a matte chalk finish that doesn’t show brush strokes, whereas milk paint also imbues a matte finish yet works well for creating brushstroke effects. Likewise, with some sanding and burnishing, you can manually create different distressed and antiquing effects by using chalk paint; however, milk paints naturally distress over time without assistance while providing just as consistent a finish as chalk paints.


When deciding whether to use chalk or milk paints, keep in mind both are more environmentally friendly than most paints and offer safe use indoors and out. Both have water-based formulations, with nontoxic ingredients. Milk paint formulations typically use simple ingredients, including lime, milk protein, and pigments. Likewise, most brands of chalk paints contain calcium carbonate, acrylic binders, and pigment, though some use harsher ingredients in their proprietary formulations.

Both chalk and milk paints have only a faint odor, so neither medium overwhelms you while you work. Additionally, milk paints such as Real Milk Paint contain no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Chalk paints, however, typically contain a low amount of VOCs. Though most chalk paint proves environmentally friendly, on the whole, due to VOC content and the potential for harsh ingredients, milk paints offer a more eco-friendly choice for those wanting a completely green painting option.

Milk Paint and Chalk Paint are both safe to use in interior and exterior settings because they are both:

  • Water-based
  • Non-toxic
  • More environmentally friendly than other paints
  • Odorless or have only a faint aroma

Chalk Paint does contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds, but milk paint is free of VOC’s making Real Milk Paint a completely green choice.


In the durability department, milk paints beat chalk paints hands down. Even without finishing waxes, creams, or glazes, milk paints such as Real Milk Paint are incredibly hard-wearing and retain paint color for years down the road. When you do use finishing products on items you coat with Real Milk Paint, you can extend durability even further. But to attain any sort of resilience with chalk paints, you need to apply several coats of wax — sometimes even up to four!


Both milk paint and Chalk Paint can be applied to a wide variety of surfaces, including wood, drywall, and metal. They’re both ideal for creating aged and distressed finishes on furniture, walls, and other projects. Milk paint, unlike Chalk Paint, comes in a powder form and must be mixed prior to use. And because it’s made with milk protein, unused milk paint may spoil after a few days, though the exclusive formula used in Real Milk Paint allows it to remain stable for up to two weeks.

Milk paint can be used to create a brushstroke effect when desired, but Chalk Paint dries to a uniform heavy smooth finish. When you’re using Chalk Paint, you don’t have to sand your surface before painting. With milk paint, sanding isn’t strictly required but will give a surface more tooth for the paint to stick better. Neither Chalk Paint nor milk paint requires a primer before application.


Milk Paint is incredibly durable, but Chalk Paint requires several coats of wax—sometimes as many as four—in order to achieve any resilience. Milk paint, on the other hand, can be made even more durable with a finishing coat of something like Real Milk Paint Tung oil, but even without this paint finish it will still withstand the test of time, and won’t fade. In fact, milk paint is known for its ability to last for hundreds of years.

In the end, Milk Paint and Chalk Paint are both safe to use, environmentally responsible and will provide freedom in terms of the unique and antique effects you can create. While Milk Paint would be the strongest environmental choice due to the fact any leftover paint can be used to fertilize your garden or plants. They also both have an incredible richness of color, but milk paint lends itself to a greater definition that Chalk Paint can lack because of the heavy finish film.


At the end of the day, both chalk and milk paints provide elegant solutions for decorative needs, though milk paints work on a wider range of items than their chalk counterparts. And though chalk paints don’t require the preparation times of milk paints, they do require more work during the finishing process to achieve a look that lasts. In terms of how they look, both work well when you want rustic results, though milk paints retain brushstrokes for more flexibility in creative effects. Environmentally friendly ingredients make both paints safe to use indoors, but low amounts of VOCs in chalk paint formulations make milk paints the green option. With all these factors in mind, it’s safe to say that milk paints like Real Milk Paint often prove the best choice for most decorative and restoration projects.