Mixing & Applying Milk Paint

Old Fashioned Milk Paint is usually mixed in equal parts paint powder to warm water, but can be made thinner for a colourwash or thicker for stencilling or art projects for example, by adjusting the amount of water added.

Water Quantities

Below is a guide to powder/water ratios for painting furniture. However only use the amount of powder needed for the project, as once mixed it will only last a few days or so if covered and put in the fridge (unused paint powder lasts indefinitely in an airtight container).

To make a pint of paint, start with 9 floz of water and a 1-Pint package of powder

To make a Quart of paint, start with 18 floz of water and a 1-Quart package of powder

To make a Gallon of paint, start with 72 floz of water and a 1-Gallon package of powder

Note: these amounts are approximate, and may vary with paint colour, but they are a good place to start. Do not add all of the recommended water until you can see the consistency being achieved. Milk paint is thinner than other paints, and for normal use ideally you are looking for a pancake batter constistancy. Milk paint is very forgiving, and if you do make it too thick or thin you can simply adjust by adding paint powder or water, even if you have already used some - the colour will not change. After a couple of uses you will find you can mix by eye. 

Start off with about 1/3 of the water in the bucket and gradually add paint powder, mixing thoroughly either by hand with a whisk or with a paint mixer, until dissolved. The paint may start off looking foamy and frothy, which is normal.

Keep alternating powder and water in small amounts, thoroughly mixing at each step and not allowing the mixture to get too thick or dry, until you get the desired volume and consistency. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bucket or container while mixing. The paint should now be very smooth and not foamy.

Leave to stand for 15 minutes. After this time give it a good stir and begin painting in even strokes along the grain. It dries fast, so work fairly quickly. Allow 30 minutes between coats. After the final coat, gently rub smooth with a very fine grade sanding block, which will even it out. 'Distress' the edges if desired by rubbing back with sandpaper and finish with you choice of varnish, wax or oil (see below):


Following the instructions above when painting on bare wood or any porous surface, will give you a beautiful solid finish. But milk paint is so versatile and can be used in different ways for difference effects.

Basically, there are three options when using milk paint. Firstly, if you paint it on a porous surface such as bare wood or plaster, for example if you’re making something from new but want to give it rich, heritage or colonial colours with a matt finish, then two or three coats of milk paint is the perfect choice for depth and character. Milk paint is the most durable paint you can find ~ it adheres to porous surfaces like no other, and the colour will never fade. Of course you can always ‘control’ distress it if you want, and put wax, oil or varnish over the top, but be aware that some finishes will give a sheen and may  change the colour slightly.

Secondly, if you want to achieve that same finish on a surface that has already been painted or varnished, you will need to sand it to remove surface sheen, and mix some Extra Bond (about half the volume of paint) with the first coat of milk paint to give it adherence.

But, if you want chippy finish, give it a light sanding then just slap it on and see what happens! It is totally unpredictable – you don’t know where it will chip and flake, but for many people that’s the joy in it. Just watch this video and see what I mean!  Here Ryann is using Sweet Pickins#’s Milk Paint, which is made by our own Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company. (Love the company she keeps too!)



Although the colour will never fade, it is recommended to protect from everyday scrapes and marks. The product you use will depend on the effect you wish to achieve and where the item is to be used. If you want protection on furniture without any sheen or colour change, use a matt acrylic varnish, which is milky at first but dries completely clear. For a more aged look you may wish to finish with a clear or 'antiquing' wax, oil or varnish, which will if course change the colour slightly and provide a sheen, so do test first if you are after a specific look. Our Daddy Van's Beeswax comes in clear and sweetly scented options (antiquing wax coming soon). For kitchen cabinetry and in high moisture areas, we recommend our Hope's 100% Tung Oil, a super tough finish on new wood which gives maximum protection against water and grease marks.