Adventures in Milk Paint….Part 1

Let me tell you the little story of my adventure, success and failure in my first experience with milk paint.

So, I’d been itching to make over an old dresser I’ve had for about 10 years and I really, really wanted to get that gorgeous antiqued look that milk paint gives to furniture.  Who can resist that charming, comfortable look, right?  Plus, milk paint is non-toxic and super green.   Bonus!

I researched and shopped around online for a bit before deciding which approach I wanted to take.  See, you can buy faux milk paints that are actual paint-paint but still kind of give you a milk-painty look.  Or you can buy dry milk paint mixes; just add water and you’re ready to roll.  But, the method I chose was making my paint from scratch.  I looked at several different recipes and settled on the one over at Earth Pigments.  I gathered all my supplies and waited while my father-in-law took the dresser, fixed up one of the drawer pulls that was in bad shape, lightly sanded it and returned it to me.



Here she is, all ready for her makeover.



Assuming that it was roughed up enough to hold the milk paint, my mother-in-law and I started out on the milk paint adventure. We mixed it up and painted away.

If you decide to try milk paint, go into the project knowing that it will in no way behave like any other paint you’ve ever used.  This is a whole ‘nother animal.

This is what it looked like as it started to dry and gravity pulled it down.  I was a little nervous, but not discouraged.



After it dried some more (and my MIL had to head home for the day), my nerves settled and I was feeling good!  It was really starting to get the look I wanted.




Happy!  I was happy!  I was hoping for a little more cracking/peeling since I’d read how unpredictable, cracky, and fun milk paint was, but hey.  That’s cool.  Whatever.  I’m going with the flow.

I busied myself with laundry and what-have-you and when I came back, I discovered a little cracking and peeling!  Right on!



Came back a bit later and UH-OH.  Lots and lots of blisters and cracks.  I mean, you could just look at it wrong and chunks of paint would fall to the floor.  I started flaking off the loose pieces only to discover that my paint did not really want to say on.  Like I said, I was hoping for some of this, but not that much!



By this point, it was dinnertime, kid bedtime, etc, so I decided to let it sit overnight and see if any of it would be salvageable or if the whole thing was going to peel off.  At that point, the sides of the dresser looked great, 2 drawers were satisfactory and 2 were….not so good along.  The top of the dresser (pictured above) just really didn’t want to behave. Ack!

To bed I went.

Day 2.  Lots of peeling and flaking.  Still going with the flow and not feeling too discouraged, I sanded over the now-naked areas and mixed up a new batch of paint. By the way, in most milk paint recipes, you’ll find that it calls for dry pigments.  Since I couldn’t find them locally and had no patience to wait for some to ship, I used some artists’ acrylic paint to color mine.  It did a beautiful job.



My plan was to go back over the entire dresser, in hopes that the bare areas would hold the new coat(s) of paint well and just leave the dresser with a fun, uneven, blotchy finish.  Before I started on that, though, I grabbed my bedside table and decided since I had extra paint (it doesn’t keep and needs to be used quickly), I’d paint it for my friend Susan as a birthday/housewarming gift.

After seeing the blistering paint issues and realizing I didn’t have time to sand the table down, I gave it a quick coat of white no-sanding-required primer.  I brushed it on roughly letting the bristles of the brush leave their marks and letting some of the wood show through here and there.  I was in quite a hurry that day and didn’t photo-document the process, but after primer, 3 coats of thinned-out milk paint and a little stenciling, I was in love with this table!



I have to admit, it was pretty hard to give it away, but this table had Susan written all over it!



Back to the dresser!  I went back over the dresser 2-3 times with very thin milk paint.  I thinned it because I realized that the places it blistered and peeled so much the first time were the places where the first coat when on a little thicker.

Those thin coats dried in no time and despite the fact that the flaking was pretty extreme in some spots at this time, I shrugged and carried on.  In the back of my mind, I realized that it would likely have to be stripped and repainted but figured I’d at least stencil some of it and see how it behaved.  I really loved the colors and design at this point and thought I’d maaaaaybe be able to salvage my work.



Fun, right?  However, notice the flakes of paint on the cardboard underneath.  Things were taking a turn for the worse.  I was started to accept my defeat.  Kind of.  In one last attempt at saving the beast, I took it outside and clear-coated it in hopes that it might act as a glue and seal the remaining flakiness in.



Nope.  I gave it my all but in the end, my first attempt on the dresser was a failure.  The thing about it, though, is that I was smiling through it the whole time.  Despite the fact that I knew I had to start from scratch, I felt good about the experience and realize now what I can do on the second time around to achieve the look I’m going for.  I’m not giving up!  I’m excited to try again, in fact!

So, today she sits patiently waiting for my attention. Naked (mostly) and sanded more heavily and waiting to be made beautiful.  Again.


I’ll be back again soon with pictures of her standing tall and proud in milk-painty glory!



Adventures in Milk Paint....Part2
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  1. says

    It’s pretty cool that you get to take what you learned from the dresser project and apply it to… well, the dresser! The ‘finished’ look is so bad ass! Can’t wait to see it after round 2.

    oh, and that table is awesome. I saw you post a photo of it last week and had to make sure Chris saw it. Great great work!!

  2. Tabby Gilbreath says

    I have been hearing about milk paint. I can’t wait to try it. Not sure if this enters me in the drawing but I am hoping so.
    I have a bed room suit I want to refinish. I usually use Annie Sloan would love to try others. I love her product!
    You are awesome!:)

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