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Milk Paint vs. Chalk-type Paints (again)

The number one question people ask me when I tell them about my milk paint line is, “What’s the difference between milk paint and chalk-type paints?”
That’s a fair question!  It seems like boutique paint lines are flooding the market and it’s causing a lot of confusion.  Which one is best for your project?  Why would you choose one over the other?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?
First, let’s take a look at examples of pieces painted in milk paint…
MMS Milk Paint Boxwood dresser before and after -
Miss Mustard Seed-7257

Now, let’s look at examples of pieces that were painted in a chalk-type paint…

Now that you can see the looks that can be achieved with both of them, let’s talk about the similarities and differences.

What is milk paint and chalk-type paints?  

Milk Paint: Is a 100% natural paint that’s been around for hundreds of years.  It’s called milk paint, because one of the ingredients is casein, which is milk protein.  Our milk paint recipe is casein, limestone, chalk, clay and natural pigments.  That’s it.
Chalk-type paints:  Chalk-type paints are fairly new to the market, named  for their “chalky appearance” when dried.  They are similar to a matte acrylic paint and are known for sticking to just about anything without prep or primer.


What does the paint look like?

Milk Paint: Comes in a bag in powdered form and has to be mixed with water.  The texture tends to be thinner than modern paints.
Chalk-type paints:  Comes in traditional quart cans, premixed, in liquid form.  This paint tends to be on the thicker side.

milk paint vs chalk paint 1

Do you have to use primer?

Milk Paint: No, but you do have to add a Bonding Agent if you want the paint to grip to non-porous surfaces. I usually don’t use the Bonding Agent, since I like the “chippy look.”  The nice thing about the Bonding Agent is it’s not a separate primer.  It’s something you add to the paint, so it’s still one step, as if you were using a paint/primer combo.
Chalk-type paints: No. These paints are really grippy and primer isn’t necessary in most cases.

Do you have to sand before painting?

No for both paints, but it’s a good idea to do for both paints if the surface is really glossy or uneven.  I know sanding has gotten a bad reputation in recent years, but sanding a piece to give it “tooth” is totally different from stripping the finish off.  Prepping it should only take about 5-10 minutes for an average dresser.  It’s just about roughing it up.


Do you have to use wax or a topcoat?

Milk Paint: No, but I do in most cases. You can use either a Wax, Hemp Oil, Tung Oil, or poly topcoat to protect the paint from moisture and wear.
Chalk-type paint: No, but again, I would suggest it. The only time I wouldn’t use Wax is on a piece that won’t get a lot of wear and I don’t mind if the paint gets distressed naturally.

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Can the colors be mixed to make custom colors?

Yes, types of paint mix beautifully to create all kinds of yummy custom colors.

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How can you apply the paint?

Both paints can be applied with a brush, roller or sprayer.  If spraying, chalk-type paints need to be thinned and milk paint needs to be well mixed and strained.


Do the paints distress well?

Milk Paint: Milk paint is unpredictable in how it will distress. Sometimes it grips really well and just comes off in a fine powder. Other times the paint cracks and flakes away, creating this wonderful chippy look. You just have to go with it!
Chalk-type paints: Comes off in a fine powder when sanded before waxing. It’s easy to control the amount of wear and results in a soft, distressed finish.


Do I have to distress these paints?

No.  I think a lot of people love the way these paints distress, so that look is prevalent among these paint-types.

Why should I use chalk-type paint or milk paint instead of latex?

Latex has its place and won’t ever be removed from my paint shelf, but I definitely prefer these paints for furniture. Both of them are fun to work with and give pieces an authentic, old feel and they distress much better than latex.

Which paint do you like better?

This is really hard for me to answer, because I love, love love milk paint.  That’s why I have a milk paint line with my name on it.  I used it exclusively now and it’s not because I feel like I have to.

I’ll try to step back for a moment and be objective.  I think they are both great types of paint and there is room in a paint arsenal for both of them.  In fact, they can work really well together and I am a fan of experimenting, mixing and matching, so you can find the combination that suits you and your project the best.

I know this is not a comprehensive comparison, but I hope this answers some general questions about both types of paints.


I have written a lot about milk paint and you can scroll through tutorials, tips, makeovers and inspiration HERE.

If you’d like to purchase Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, you can find a list of shops and online stores that sell our products HERE.

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  1. hi marian. can tung oil be used instead of hemp oil over milk paint?

  2. Hi Marian. I hope i am not posting this question twice, i made a mistake in the first one in my URL. Can tung oil be used instead of hemp oil over milk paint? thx Elaine

  3. melissa says:

    I have been using ASCP after lots of research and find it very fun and satisfactory to work with but recently noticed that my daughters dresser that I painted and sanded to a smooth finish with more than 3 coats of paint and another 2 of wax, as well as my dining room chairs that received that same treatment, tend to chip right down to the original color way too easily when bumped wrong. examples; the edge of a drawer chipped easily when hit with kids plastic jewelry, by me and not really all that hard old white chair legs chip if slightly bumped with table leg right down to original black paint. Is this common? If not what might be causing mine to chip easily? All paint coats were allowed to dry a day or two and each wax coat over a week during the summer here in San Diego (warm), and were done last summer and recently have experienced the chipping.

  4. Diann says:

    What is the bonding agent you are talking about?

  5. Brenda says:

    Where can I purchase milk paint? Thank yoi

  6. katie hanchinamani says:

    Hi! I am just getting turned on to chalk paint, i haven’t used it yet. Would you reccomend either ASCP or MP to redo kitchen cabinets in a 20 year old builder grade home? I think they are oak, they are the yellowish wood. I am dying to do something!!! Please advise!! :) love your blog! thank you!!!

  7. Can someone please tell me the color of the last dresser pictured in this post, right above the comparison of MP vs. ASCP? I would love to try and mix MP to get that color! Thank you!

  8. I want your paint in my store! Please find my email, I want to be on your team…


  9. Christal Robinson says:

    I just finished an antique bed in the old white chalk paint. I am debating on top coating it because of the huge, curvy grooves on the bed posts. Im wondering if I can just poly it with water base poly. I have sanded and distressed the bed so it does have a smooth finish.

  10. Mary Dolan says:

    Can you give me advice?? I love both ASCP and MMMP…..I need to paint a knotty pine armoire which has dark knots. Which paint will best cover the knots? Thanks much!

  11. Brenda says:

    When painting a dresser, table or chairs do you paint the underside that is not seen, or leave it original? I have been painting the bottoms, but thought maybe this is a step everyone skips. I’m new to painting and distressing furniture, but I really love the look. Any words of advise would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Pearl says:

      I am in the resale business of painted furniture, and I always paint the bottoms, backs and inside the drawers if they are not in super clean condition…Women look inside everything and men look at the backs and bottoms.

  12. I had never heard of milk paint. I can’t wait to try it out! Thank you for sharing, you have an amazing home and talent!

  13. Thanks so much for the post…. I have never worked with either paint but want to try both very soon, as I have several pieces waiting to be redone.

    So here is my Q: I want to paint a 1980 stock oak vanity that is in a half-bath. It has a medium brown stain (neither super dark or light). Would love to see it painted black or as dark as possible. Would you recommend ASCP or MP?

    Thanks, Mary

  14. I haven’t tried either of these products but I think I may need to try them. Is it ok to use poly over these paints? I prefer poly over wax. at least on tops of pieces that will be used more often. Thanks! from:

  15. I just finished remodeling my ENTIRE kitchen using chalk paint! We updated the cabinets from old, dingy oak to a gorgeous antique white! Here are some pictures and plenty of tips we learned along the way:


  16. Thank you for this comparison. I would love to try both!

  17. kristina moreland says:

    i’m new to the whole non-latex paint thing, and i just want to thank you for this post. it could have gone in many directions, and when i googled and saw that the link was from your website, i almost didn’t read it because i thought, “well that will be biased.” shame on me! thank you so much for your informative, objective, and super helpful info!

  18. Thank you for your honest answers.

  19. Jmerch says:

    Such a good comparison, I learned a lot! Question, in the 11th picture down, the white and light teal buffet. Do you remember what color stain you used on top? As well as what colors the paint was? Thanks for you help! I love it!

  20. Wow, we’ve never heard of Milk Paint before, it sounds amazing. We’re stockist of ASCP in the UK and as far as I’m aware we don’t have Milk Paint here….yet! Your site/blog is lovely by the way.

  21. Sonya says:

    I’m thinking about painting a crib & can’t decide between milk paint or chalk paint. Would you recommend one for this project over the other?

  22. I’m going to try some milk paint because the colors and texture are so wonderful! Hi Miriam I found your blog while I was trying to find the difference between chalk and milk paint. I may have to try the wreath on the chalkboard, that is just so pretty! I’m glad you take a lot of pictures :)

  23. Sheryl Busenitz says:

    I just painted a piece of furniture w/ diy chalk paint. I mixed flat latex, water and plaster of paris. The first coat is very grainy and rough. Is that normal? It will take a lot of sanding. Not too thrilled about it at this point. Love your posts! Thanks for your help!

  24. Thanks for the clarification of the two products. I just painted a pine corner hutch with MMS Typewriter milk paint. It was so thin to start and I ended up using the whole bag (it thickens naturally – I wouldn’t have needed the whole bag)! I think its looking great, but I won’t be able to use the rest of the paint right away…how long will it keep? Can I freeze it?

  25. Alicea says:

    We want to do a chipped look on an olde Amish hutch that was my grandmothers….
    We want to paint it red and them do black milk paint over it so it can chip and you see the red where it chips. I haven’t seen you use the milk paint this way does that work or do you have to do it on the wood surface? Thanks for the help!

  26. Byron says:

    would you tell me what colors were used on the 4 drawer chest in milk paint that looked like a barn red? i have a project that that color would be perfect.

  27. Tomcat says:

    Could you please tell me what color combinations you used on the first picture (milk paint) in this post? I’d like to reproduce that combination for Dutch tool chest I’ll be finishing in a few weeks. Thanks.

  28. so inspirational


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