Chalk Paint vs Milk Paint - Server cabinet with chalk paintWhen you’re deciding on what types of paints may work best on your home decor or furniture projects, it’s easy to get confused by all the paint products on the market. Though classic latex paint options and newer mediums like mineral paint have their uses, in most cases, home improvement enthusiasts prefer more forgiving paint products like milk paint or chalk paint, especially for DIY projects such as refinishing vintage furniture.

Read on to explore the differences and similarities between these two durable paint products.

Chalk Paint vs Milk Paint Formulations

Whereas milk paint made from milk protein casein, limestone and natural fillers has ancient origins, chalk paint is a relatively new medium created by Annie Sloan in the late 20th century. Other differences in formulations include how these mediums arrive.

Most milk paint, including products by the Real Milk Paint Co., comes in a fine powder form, allowing you to mix up just what you need for the task at hand. You can opt for a thicker paint or a thin one based on your project. Chalk paints like Annie Sloan chalk paint mix come premixed in liquid form, and as such, you must take care to keep them from drying out between uses.

In terms of formulations, milk paint wins hands down for those looking for an eco-friendly decorating alternative. All-natural, nontoxic ingredients plus a formulation with no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) also ensure milk paint colors are safe for use in homes with kids and pets.

While some chalk paint may also boast natural, nontoxic ingredients like calcium carbonate, you should always read labels carefully to be sure your own chalk paint has low to no VOCs. Additionally, chalk paints come premixed, which may be more convenient for some DIY enthusiasts, but costs typically run higher than those for milk paints.

both milk paint and chalk paint is good for furniture but milk paint is better for distressed look

Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint Suitability

Both milk paint and chalk paint work well for adding a farmhouse or country-style look to a select piece of furniture. But if you want to distress your home decor project, milk paint wins the milk paint vs chalk paint debate. Milk paint-covered surfaces crack, chip and flake without a top coat, making it quick and easy to achieve a distressed look.

If you don’t want a distressed finish, however, chalk paint might be more in line with your DIY project. Chalk paints offer a smooth finish that doesn’t highlight brushstrokes, making chalk paint a great choice for painting furniture that requires a matte finish. Also, since chalk paints come premixed, they usually have a more consistent flow and coverage, ensuring they work well for most home decor.

In terms of surfaces suitable for painting with these mediums, they come out pretty much even in the milk paint vs chalk paint debate. Both paint products adhere well to wood, metal, concrete, plastic, glass and drywall, among other decorative surfaces you may wish to give a makeover.

liquid base milk paint can suit more projects than chalk paint

Chalk Paint vs Milk Paint Application

Neither chalk paint nor milk paint requires priming or sanding for application, which can save a considerable amount of time whether you’re working on home improvement projects or refinishing vintage furniture.

You can, however, give surfaces a once-over with some fine-grit sandpaper before applying both if you want to add tooth that helps you achieve excellent adhesion, especially on tricky surfaces like melamine and laminate. Chalk paint and milk paint also go on well with paintbrushes, foam rollers and brushes, and even paint sprayers, though milk paint is typically easier to spray since you can customize its consistency.

Before application, simply mix milk paint at a 1:1 ratio with water. Keep in mind that you can mix this formulation with special additives to boost its performance. Anti-Foaming Agent lets you use the milk paint you mix immediately rather than waiting for the foam to die down, while Ultra Bond Adhesion Promoter is a bonding agent that helps your mixture bond easily with any number of surfaces. If you wish to use a piece of furniture outside, simply add Outdoor Additive to your milk paint mixture to help the color withstand the elements and inclement weather.

In terms of application, other differences between chalk paint and milk paint exist. For example, when adding color to raw wood for the first time with milk paint, you may need to apply the first coat of paint, then add a couple more because raw wood is typically thirsty. Because chalk paint is basically acrylic paint mixed with plaster of Paris or calcium carbonate, though, it doesn’t soak into raw wood as easily as milk paint.

When you’re working on furniture paint projects that need an antique look, either chalk paint or milk paint may suit your purposes, depending on whether you want a distressed finish or a smooth yet chalky finish.

Mustard seed milk paint made from milk protein casein

Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint Colors

While both paint products offer benefits and drawbacks, milk paint wins the milk paint vs chalk paint debate when it comes to customizing colors. Because, unlike chalk paint, milk paint powder is highly customizable, When you want painted furniture with a special look, milk paint colors allow pigment mixing to create a personalized palette.

When using chalk paint, however, what you see is what you get. These paints come in a range of premixed colors and the chalk paint recipe mostly doesn’t play well together when you want customized home decor or furniture paint.

milk paint color range

Chalk Paint vs Milk Paint Finishing

Finishing home decor and home improvement projects painted with chalk paint and milk paint has some major differences, though both need a sealer for completion. For example, a coat of light or dark wood wax or finishing oil like hemp oil or tung oil on top of milk paint conveys exceptional durability. Chalk paint, however, may require waxing on several coats to achieve the kind of staying power you desire on a piece of furniture you plan on using a lot.

Additionally, milk paints enable further finishing options for distressing and antiquing when you don’t want to spend hours learning from tutorials. For instance, pairing milk paints with Chippy Paste takes the stress out of chipping techniques, while Natural Crackle Paint Finish imbues an attractive antique look without all the prep work required with other methods. Tinted finishing wax products from the Real Milk Paint Co. also aid you in adding a patina of age to your home decor and furniture projects.

general finish with milk paint

Milk Paint as Clear Winner

Whether you’re considering using chalk paint or milk paint for your DIY projects, keep in mind the final result you desire and the amount of time you wish to put into the job. While both milk paint and chalk paint have a similar finished matte look on painted furniture and home decor, milk paint wins the milk paint vs chalk paint debate when you want an eco-friendly medium that requires little prep work or finishing to get exactly the final results you want.