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Share to PinterestHow to Make Milk Paint

How to Make Milk Paint

  • Time2 hrs
  • Cost$10
  • DifficultyEasy
Share to PinterestHow to Make Milk Paint

These days, when you want to give your home an instant makeover or update an item of furniture, all you have to do is get in your car and drive to the nearest hardware store for a can or three of paint. But hundreds and thousands of years ago, design-minded individuals would whip up milk paint.

The recipe has changed over the years, but milk paint remains non-toxic, eco-friendly, and popular as ever.

What You'll Need


  • sieve
  • cheesecloth
  • bowls
  • spoons
  • cloth face mask


  • A quart of skim milk
  • 3 Tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar
  • Dry color pigment or artists' acrylic paint

Gather what you need

Share to PinterestWoman holding smartphone standing in store taking milk
Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Go shopping if necessary and assemble your supplies and tools. The ingredients included here make enough milk paint for a large piece of furniture, so multiply if you need more paint. There's more than one approach to making milk paint. Just remember you'll need to let the mixture sit overnight before you can use it!

If you have regular milk powder on hand, you can look into recipes with calcium hydroxide too.


Curdle the milk

Share to Pinterestperson pouring vinegar into pot of milk
miriam-doerr / Getty Images

First off, you'll need to curdle the milk. Mix it with your acid of choice—either the seedless juice of a lemon or three tablespoons of vinegar. Stir, cover, and leave to sit overnight at room temperature. Pop your sieve into the bowl and line the mesh with the cheesecloth in the morning.


Separate liquids and solids

Share to Pinterestdraining curdled milk into cheese cloth
Евгения Матвеец / Getty Images

The next morning, you're ready to strain your milk mixture. Pour the curdled milk through the cheesecloth, and the cloth will retain the curds. The whey will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Squeeze the cloth to get as much milk out as you can—it's what you're after for your project.


Add a pop of color

Share to Pinterestpigment powder

Put on your mask, and protect your eyes if they're sensitive. Now, mix your dry color pigment with the strained whey. The more pigment you add, the less translucent the finished product.

Stir until the pigment dissolves and there are no clumps. If you plan on using acrylic paint, you'll only need a drop for a light shade.


Let it dry but don't let it spoil

Share to PinterestYoung couple painting wicker armchair at home
Westend61 / Getty Images

Milk paint will begin to spoil a few hours after adding your pigment, so now's not the time to rest on your laurels. Ready your paintbrush or roller, and get cracking just as you would with regular paint. You can apply up to three layers of milk paint — allocate 30 minutes for each layer to dry.

The final layer needs at least four hours to completely dry.


Finishing touches

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Halfpoint / Getty Images

Milk paint is user-friendly, and touch-ups are indistinguishable from original brush strokes. Once your paint application is dry, you can gently sand it to distressed perfection and put on a layer of sealer.

Voilà! Your faux antique look is complete. Don't stress about the sour scent wafting up from your work of art. It will disappear within a couple of days.


What is milk paint?

If you're after a matte finish and a weathered aesthetic, milk paint is where it's at. It's durable and affordable, consisting mainly of the milk protein, casein, and crushed limestone, with chalk or clay as a filler to make the natural pigments more robust. There are no chemical preservatives, and true milk paint comes in a powdered form because liquid versions go bad quickly. Commercial milk paint can be mixed up to be quite thick for texture or thin if you want to add a wash of color. You can purchase various hues or fashion some fuss-free paint of your own.


How to use commercial milk paint

Store-bought milk paint is a convenient option. Mix milk paint powder and water in an even ratio using a whisk for a smooth consistency. Alternatively, use an immersion blender for a result that's devoid of lumps and bumps. Use warm water and if the milk paint thickens up too much, add a touch more.


Other milk paint benefits

Milk paint is versatile and great if you want to do an inexpensive home decor project with a quick turnaround time—it dries in half an hour compared to the entire day that oil-based paints require, and often you won't have to do any sanding or priming.

You can use it on numerous surfaces, from metal to walls and wood, and it goes deep into the material and won't budge after it settles. Plus, it's non-toxic!


Milk paint project ideas

DIY decor projects are fun and rewarding. Mix up some milk paint and start painting cabinets, birdhouses, accent walls, floors, terra cotta pots, mason jars, or low-cost flea market finds.

Get creative and use the milk paint for handmade gifts. Creating vintage vibes and the Farmhouse style is in vogue and doesn't have to break the bank.



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