Milk paint is one of the oldest forms of paint which was used in the pyramids and on tomb paintings of ancient Egypt. If you own an antique piece of furniture that is over a hundred years old and still has its original paint, it’s more than likely that it is milk paint. Milk paint was commonly used on colonial-era furniture and today people use it to give wooden furniture, pots or other textured surfaces an antique look.
Why is it Called Milk Paint?
Milk paint has its name because the base ingredient is the protein found in milk which is called casein. This acts as a binder for pigments just like oils do in oil-based paints and polymers in latex paints.
What is Milk Paint Made of?
Real milk paint is 100% natural and store-bought brands generally contain casein, limestone, chalk, oxide (natural pigments) and clay. It comes in a powdered form which is mixed with water to get your paint.
You can easily make your own milk paint with ingredients that you have in your kitchen or can find in a local store. Home-made milk paint commonly has lemon or lime in it, and can also be made with vinegar.
Suitable Surfaces for Milk Paint
Milk paint does not stick to latex or varnish so the surface that you want to paint must be absorbent and finish free. It works well on wood, terracotta and clay and you should do a test to see how it works on other surfaces before commencing. As it is translucent, it cannot be used for opaque wall coatings, but you can use it for wash techniques on plastered walls.
Why Use Milk Paint?
Milk paint has more personality than other paint and gives you a finish that looks authentically old. It is environmentally friendly making it ideal to use in your home and it is safe for children’s toys and furniture.
Here are a couple of different milk paint recipes that you can easily make yourself at home. Each will give you a different amount of paint.
If you don't want to make your own milk paint, check out our review of Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint.
Milk Paint Recipe with Lemon
This is a basic recipe will make enough paint to cover a dresser or other large piece of furniture.
What You Need
- Mix the milk with the lemon juice in a large bowl. To induce curdling, leave the bowl overnight at room temperature.
- Next morning, pour the mixture through the sieve lined with the cheesecloth. This will separate the liquid whey from the solid curds. Add the dry color pigment to the curd and mix until the color is spread evenly. It’s a good idea to wear a face mask while doing this.
Good to Know
- Milk paint will spoil quickly so try to use it straightaway or within a few hours of mixing.
- If you are put off by the sour smell, don’t worry as this will disappear once the paint dries.
Milk paint recipe with lime and vinegar
This recipe will give you around 1 ¾ quarts of paint which is enough to cover around 90-100 square feet of surface.
What You Need
- Put the room temperature milk in a large container and stir in the vinegar. The curdling process will start, and you should leave the mixture in a warm place overnight or up to two days. This will separate the solid curds from the liquid whey.
- Place the pigment powder in a container and mix with an equal amount of water. Work it into a paste so that all particles are wet.
- Put the lime into a container that is big enough to hold a few cups. Slowly pour 1 ½ cups of water into the lime and stir until you get a creamy paste. Be careful not to inhale the lime as you are doing this.
- Get your paint bucket ready. Line the colander with the cheesecloth and place in the sink. Pour the curds and whey in so the whey drains out and you are left with the curds. Rinse with cool water gently to remove any extra whey and vinegar.
- Pick up the corners of the cheesecloth and transfer the curds into the paint bucket. Break down any larger pieces then add the lime/water paste and mix well. You should notice the lumpy mixture turning into a creamy paint but if not, you can leave for 15 minutes to help break it down.
- Add the pigment paste. The ingredients will combine, and you may need to add some extra water depending on the consistency. It should be like a light cream.
- Strain the paint through some more cheesecloth and stir thoroughly. You are now ready to paint.
Good to Know
- Do not stir the mixture again after adding the vinegar to the milk so as to not disturb the separation process.
- Make sure to stir the milk paint often while you are painting so it doesn’t start to separate.
The first coat of milk paint will always seem thin. You can make a priming coat for extra absorbent surfaces by diluting some paint with 20-50% water.
use a Topcoat
As milk paint gives a matte, absorbent surface, you should apply a topcoat to protect it. You can use virtually any topcoat that you like but a protective one is recommended. While it is generally used indoors, you can use milk paint outdoors as long as you apply a suitable exterior topcoat.
Storing Milk Paint
It’s important to make only the amount that you need for each project to save wasting it as it will not last long in storage. If you do need to store some for a few days, make sure to cover or seal it well and put it in the fridge. When you are ready to use it, just add some water and give it a good stir.
I hope that these recipes help you in your quest to make your own milk paint. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, we always answer.