How to Use Milk Paint


Real Milk Paint ® comes in powder form. The recommended ratio is one part powder to one part water; this will make a mix that is about as thick as pancake batter. It does take some time to thicken, about twenty minutes. Stir occasionally while it is thickening. Mixing milk paint the night before will also make a smoother paint. Some of the color may resist mixing with the water or get a little foamy. You can help this situation by adding Anti- Foam which will help make a smoother paint. Just a few drops per pint is all you need. To create a more textured or antique look, keep the paint a little frothy and don’t add the Anti-Foam. Milk paint is an emulsion so it readily accepts other ingredients.

If you find the mix is too thick just add more water till it flows off the brush easily. You may also find when doing a second coat that thinning the paint will help it spread easier. The most common mistake I see is with the paint being too thick a consistency. Do not be afraid to thin the paint a bit more after it is mixed initially.

Instructional Video: “How to Shake Your Can to Mix”

Real Milk Paint ® should run off the brush in a stream with out breaking but not as thin as water. If the paint is applied in a thick consistency it will have a greater tendency to crack.

In the shop when we are mixing small amounts we use a small table top milk shake mixer. Inexpensive new one’s are available for about $20.00. We have had ours over two years and use it almost daily without a problem. Fill a one-pint jar half way with powdered milk paint and water. Insert jar over propeller till it touches bottom of jar and turn on the milk shake mixer. After the paint is mixed just pull the jar off the propeller as it spins clean.

If you want to make a thin transparent stain, you can thin the milk paint even more. Add two-part water to one-part Real Milk Paint will make a nice wash coat for the interior of cupboard.

If you are mixing gallons I suggest mixing in a five-gallon bucket. Also you may want to purchase a paint paddle that attaches to your electric drill. I use a ½ “shaft paint paddle with a big ½” chuck drill in the shop. When painting with large batches of paint remember to stir occasionally as you use the paint. This will help keep it uniform and from settling.


Raw wood should be clean of grease and oil. Sand with any grit up to 220. Sanding too fine will only burnish the surface and make it harder for the milk paint to stick. The first coat of milk paint will likely soak in and raise the grain of the wood. After the paint is dry sand lightly with 220 to 320 grit sandpaper. Steel wool will not cut the raised fibers and will leave broken up piece of steel wool in the crevices. Remove dust with a tack cloth or compressed air. You are ready for the second coat. The paint may need to be thinned a bit to spread well. You will usually get much more coverage with the second coat then the first. Milk paint tends not to flow out like latex paints. This means it will have a brushy look. It also tends to be a bit streaky creating a variegated surface. Also different types of applicators will create different effects. A roller will leave different marks than a brush or a sponge. For an old world look use a Natural Bristle Brush. For a smoother more uniform look use a Sponge Brush. It is best to experiment with the different applicators and application methods before painting the entire project.


The effects that can be created with Milk Paint are almost unlimited.

To create layers and wear, Real Milk Paint ® is very forgiving and easy to use. If you want to stain the wood first, I recommend Anline dye stains, alcohol soluble or water-soluble. These stains will not interfere with adhesion as other oil base stains.

After staining, paint the first coat. Before the paint is fully dry, take a rough cloth and dampen with water and wipe through the areas you want wood to show. Have a bucket of water near by to rinse your cloth. I don’t usually recommend using sandpaper to create wear, it is too hard to control and will not provide a faded in and out look that a damp cloth will provide. Allow first coat to dry and then lightly scuff sand if you find it too rough.

Dust off surface, apply second coat, and allow to dry. Now the project is ready for the third and contrasting color of paint. Apply paint in the same manner as previous costs, being mindful of the wear areas that are raw wood. Paint up around the raw wood. Do not worry if you get some on the wood. You can use the damp cloth to quickly wear it away. The contrasting paint layer will not mix with the previous layers. Now, take a damp cloth and wipe the paint back to the previous color. You have about an hour of working time, so there is no need to rush. You will find however as the paint dries it does get tougher to remove with the damp cloth. If you allow it to completely dry, the only way to remove it would be with sand paper or milk paint remover.

When dry, a finish can be applied if so desired such as Pure Tung Oil. Thin one to one with Citrus Solvent. Apply with brush and allow to penetrate. Two coats would be sufficient on most surfaces. Allow to dry for a couple of days before hard use.

Have fun! Go out there and experiment – the paint won’t hurt ya!

Dwayne Siever
The Real Milk Paint Co.