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Chalk & Milk Paint; The differences explained

Anybody who knows me knows how passionate I am about transforming vintage furniture into special pieces using various finishes. I am sure all of you are now asking yourselves "What is the difference between chalk and milk paint?". Here's a summary that I've put together about these two products and when I'd choose one over the other to create various finishes. Grab yourself a cuppa and enjoy!

What is Milk Paint?


Milk Paint has been around for centuries, dating back to when ancient Egyptians once used it in cave paintings. True Milk Paint is a water-based paint that comes in powder form. It contains five 100% natural ingredients; milk powder (casein), chalk, clay, limestone and natural colour pigments. I know you're most likely intimidated at the thought of mixing your own paint, but rest assured if you can mix a cup of hot chocolate you can mix milk paint! It's that easy! All you simply do is mix equal parts powder to warm water to create a consistency similar to pouring cream. When dry it gives a lovely matte finish and is famous for giving that authentic aged appeal by its ability to chip like no other form of paint can achieve.

What is Chalk Paint?


Chalk Paint is made from old recipes. Chalk Paint is a water-based paint that traditionally comes in premixed form using 100% natural ingredients containing chalk, clay, natural colour pigments and premium bonding agents. Chalk Paint is a smooth, slightly thicker paint similar to a custard like consistency. When dried it gives a lovely velvety, smooth matte finish with the ability to be easily distressed to achieve a timeworn look. Chalk Paint contains an inbuilt premium bonding agent that allows it to adhere to most surfaces with very little preparation involved, which is typically a characteristic it is famous for. When used in conjunction with other speciality finishes, it can achieve some stunning results.

Let's talk about Prep Work involved....


The premium bonding agents that Chalk Paint contains allows it to adhere to porous surfaces such as raw unfinished timber and old previously coated furniture, and non-porous surfaces such as metal, plastic and glass without the use of primers and little prep involved. Generally a good clean with a degreaser is sufficient, however those slick/glossy surfaces, I’d still recommended a scuff sand to create "tooth" for the paint to adhere to. My favourite saying is "your paint finish is only as good as the time you put into prep". Take the time to prep your piece properly, Remember a light scuff sand only, there is no need to sand back to bare timber.

Milk Paint adheres best to porous surfaces; it LOVES raw timber! It has the same prep work as chalk paint for porous surfaces; clean and if necessary scuff sand. Milk Paint doesn't contain the binders found in other paints that make it grip and adhere to slick/glossy or non-porous surfaces, and therefore naturally chips and flakes off randomly creating an authentic chippy look. For these surfaces, additional steps can be taken to ensure the milk paint adheres in a manner you wish it to. For the adventurous and creative type like me, I embrace this and "go with it" willing to risk the amount of chippiness that is achieved (is that even a word?). For those wanting some level of control over the amount of chippiness, simply scuff sand where you want adhesion to occur, and avoid sanding where you want chipping to occur. If you’re wanting solid coverage with little to no chipping, you can add a product called bonding agent. By adding bonding agent into you milk paint mixture prior to painting, you are essentially providing your mix with an inbuilt primer and creating superior bonding properties. At this point, theres no turning back. If you change your mind after you’ve painted, and you decide you want to distress or make your piece chip, you will have a hard time doing this. You will have to work twice as hard to sand it and get it to chip. This stuff is powerful when it comes to bonding!

Milk Paint & Chalk Paint finishes and when I'd choose one over the other.


Both Milk Paint & Chalk Paint dry to a lovely matte finish, however both products produce different finishes and there are times when I'd choose one over the other and vice versa.

Milk Paint when watered down and applied to raw timber creates the perfect stain as it soaks into the pores of the timber grain. Milk Paint as stated earlier is famous for its chippy look, so if you love the "perfectly imperfect" rustic chippy look then this product is made for it. When milk paint dries, and no bonding agent is applied it will chip off randomly creating an authentic aged appeal. It can then be sanded smooth and sealed. Milk Painted pieces with a chippy finish suit a rustic farmhouse style perfectly. If used with a bonding agent as a solid coverage it will suit just about any style.

Chalk Paint when used in conjunction with coloured waxes or glaze on carved ornate detail gives a stunning French Provincial appeal. Chalk Paint given its slightly thicker consistency can be used to create texture, or sanded smooth for a flawless finish. Chalk Paint can be easily distressed by deliberately wet or dry sanding over areas commonly prone to wear to imitate a timeworn appearance. Chalk Paint is perfect for a French Provincial, French Country or Hamptons Style.

Both products can be sealed with beeswax, hemp oil or polyacrilic sealers depending on the finish you wish to achieve and the purpose of the piece being sealed.

So there you have it, a complete summary of Chalk Paint and Milk Paint and when you might choose one over the other for your project. Happy Painting!!

xxMeg xx