A Milk Paint Workshop with The Ironstone Nest

As I’m on vacation with my family, I will have a couple of guests share some of their expertise with you.  Laura from The Ironstone Nest accepted the invitation when I extended it and, when she turned in this blog post, I was blown away.  This is as close to a MMS Milk Paint workshop that you’ll get in a written blog post.  Even I learned things about my own paint line reading it and am excited to try some of her techniques.  So, without further delay, here’s Laura…

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Yes, I’m addressing the issue once again: what is the difference between milk paint and other paints on the market? There are a lot of answers to this question, but the answer I give most often to our customers is this: its versatility & its safety. Milk Paint can be used four ways depending on the ratio of water to paint: (1) as a tempera finish, (2) as a wash or stain, (3) as an all over self-priming paint, and (4) that old, chippy finish that milk paint is most popular for. But let’s not overlook the safety issue of this centuries old paint. Milk paint contains 5 ingredients and 5 ingredients only: lime, clay, chalk, casein (milk protein), and pigments. That’s it. No chemicals, no VOCs, nothing synthetic whatsoever.
Frankly, I could stop there and be done with my explanation because honestly, for the reasons above, milk paint has sold itself. But I wanted to take it one step further and show you the wonders of milk paint and why I’ve fallen so deeply in love with it.
I bought 5 wood boards from Michael’s for $2.99 a piece. I painted one in latex in a midnight blue color, one in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint color Country Grey, one I stained in Minwax Early American and the other two I left raw.

Before Milk Paint

I then began to mix my paint to show you the different types of finishes you can achieve with this very versatile paint.

1. Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Boxwood at a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part milk paint powder for the wash effect and all over stain.

2. Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint color Grain Sack, 1 part water to 1 part milk paint powder and in a separate glass mixed Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint color Kitchen Scale in the same ratio: 1 part water to 1 part milk paint powder to use to create the “chippy” look.

3. Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint color Mustard Seed Yellow, 1 part water to 1 part milk paint powder + 1 part bonding agent to create the all over latex paint look.

4. Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint color Linen, 1 part water to 5 parts milk paint powder to use as a plaster.

Milk Paint Mixing

Milk Paint Mixing 2

The other major difference between milk paint and other paints that I haven’t mentioned yet is the high water content. It is a very thin paint and it will be thin. That’s okay. Milk paint obtains its excellent coverage by applying 2 -3 thin coats as opposed to one very thick coat.

Milk Paint Mixing 3

Pay no attention to the chippy nail polish, m’kay?

I began with the stain and wash finish for you to see. I used 1 raw wood sample and the latex sample to demonstrate these techniques.

 

Milk Paint Wash and Stain

Milk Paint Stain Collage

Milk Paint as a Stain: Excellent coverage and beautiful wood grain showing through!

Milk Paint Wash 2

Milk Paint as a Wash: easy to apply, great effect, especially for a drift wood look!

Next I decided to do the all-over-hey-i-look-like-every-other-paint-on-the-market effect, by adding the bonding agent (1 part water:1 part milk paint powder:1 part bonding agent) to Miss Mustard Seed color in Mustard Seed Yellow.

 

Milk Paint Bonding Agent

 

Milk Paint as an All Over Self Priming Paint: Add the bonding agent and no sanding or priming is necessary!

 

We didn’t capture any action photos while painting this technique but I wanted to be sure to show you a close up of the milk paint drying.  A lot of folks stress out when they see the granules on the surface of their paint layer.  Keep in mind that this paint is made from the earth so it is unlike any man-made paint you’ve used before.  If you see this, lightly sand the layer of paint with a 220 grit sandpaper (and I mean barely touching) and you will have a very smooth finish.

 

Of course, then it was time to create the look that milk paint is best known for: that farmhouse, been painted a thousand times, chippy, flaky, old world finish. To create this look, I mixed Grain Sack (1 part water:1 part milk paint powder), then painted it on. Once that layer was dry, I used Miss Mustard Seed Hemp Oil and covered the entire piece by putting a little dab in the middle and spreading it with my hand. Yes my hand! It’s food grade oil so there’s nothing harmful about it whatsoever. I wiped the excess hemp oil off with a dry cloth and then once it was dry, I went over the piece with a coat of Kitchen Scale (1 part water:1 part milk paint powder). I then sanded it lightly to reveal a double layer, chippy look.

 

*Note: Please keep in mind that in most cases, if you simply mix your paint without the bonding agent and paint directly on a piece of furniture, it will chip and flake on its own. Adding the Hemp Oil is not a requirement to achieve the chippy look.

Chippy Milk Paint

 

Milk Paint as a Chippy Finish: The look like it’s been around for decades but without the harmful chemicals!

 

And last, but not least, is the plaster finish. What? I decided to try a little experiment and see what, exactly, the tempera finish was all about. I could be totally wrong in my interpretation, but my goal in sharing this technique with you is to inspire you and to get your creative wheels spinning. Are you ready?

 

I mixed Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint in Linen (1 part water:5 parts milk paint powder) until it became very thick and was mixed to the consistency of drywall mud and then applied it to the sample board painted in ASCP Country Grey by using a spoon and a stencil.

Note: After writing this post, I realized that I didn’t add the bonding agent to this treatment and I put it on a bit too thick.  If you’re replicating this technique, add the bonding agent to the mixture and don’t be too heavy handed when applying it.

Milk Paint as a Plaster

 

What I will say about this technique is that once the paint is mixed, use it right away. It will be much more smooth than the batch I ended up using for this demonstration. I waited too long and then attempted to reconstitute it and it was very lumpy. Also, I applied it to my stencil way too thick. I would suggest applying as thin of a layer as possible if you attempt to use this technique. I also recommend sealing your embossed milk paint projects with a few layers of polyurethane or water based polycrylic to adequately protect them.

 

Milk Paint as a Plaster: For embossing on furniture, mix it like drywall mud and you’re good to go!

Milk Paint Boards

 

So there you have it: milk paint used 5 ways! You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with this one bag of paint, don’t you? The possibilities are endless and when you combine what the paint can do with the other products in the Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint line, well then I could be here all day showing you all of the different combinations! And did you notice that I painted this all indoors? For a Midwesterner like myself, getting outside to paint is limited because of our harsh winters, but this environmentally friendly, NO VOC paint makes my painting season last much longer with the option of painting indoors.

 

And just for kicks I thought I’d share the china cabinet we use as a Milk Paint Display at The Ironstone Nest:

 

Milk Paint Display Cabinet

Here is the top part of the cabinet “Before”:

 

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Truth be told, I didn’t clean this piece. I didn’t even dust it. Now I normally don’t do that but I was in a hurry to get it finished before our grand opening, so I mixed Grain Sack (without bonding agent) and got right to painting. I then sealed the Grain Sack with a layer of hemp oil all over the entire cabinet. I waited 3 days and then went back over it with a coat of Shutter Gray (without bonding agent). Within an hour the magic started to happen, and the milk paint did what it so gloriously does: chipped and flaked all over.

 

Here’s how the cabinet looks close up:

 

Milk Paint Display Cabinet

 

It looks like it’s been around in a farmhouse for decades, doesn’t it?

 Are you getting the idea that I love this paint? Well, you would be absolutely right. I do. And I hope you do too!

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Laura is brilliant and if you’d like to learn more from her, you can follow her blog The Ironstone Nest.    If you live in Wisconsin, you can get all of the details of visiting Laura in person HERE.  If you’d like to buy MMS Milk Paint (and other things) online from Laura, you can HERE.


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Comments

  1. Do you think you would write a book all about your paint, color mixing, techniques and everything else about it?

  2. I love the look of this paint and have a farmhouse stool I would love to use it on to give it an old worn look. ….and unti now I had no idea you could use it like plaster!

  3. Wow! What a fantastic tutorial for MMS milk paint!!! I have ever used the product before, but have been planning to for a cabinet I have that i want to do in Artissmo blue. Now I feel like I have a great reference point for what it can do. Truth be told I didn’t really understand the water mixture, but this makes it seem easier:). Love following another Midwestern blogger! Thanks for introducing the Ironstone Nest here. I love following her blog & hope I can make it to a class soon.

  4. I love this tutorial! One of the best features of this post is that the reader can see what will happen if you do This and don’t do That, realizing that a lot of painting is trial and error and to keep working until you get it right. It’s not always perfect and your result will depend on so many variables such as surface, prime or no prime, layers, temperature, etc. What I am taking away from reading this is to dive in and get going on projects, because the more you paint, the better you get at it each time!!

  5. Sarah says:

    Wow what a great post, so excited to try some of these treatments. One of the things I love about MMS is the exposure she gives to other bloggers. I love that she continues to introduce talented people like yourself to us readers. Looking forward to following your blog!

  6. Great post, lots of information and so thorough.

    I do have one question regarding the “chipping and flaking”. Are actual pieces of paint falling off the piece onto the floor? Would this be safe on pieces in a home with small children and pets who tend to put things on their mouths? The paint itself is considered non-toxic? Does the chipping and flaking continue or is there a way to seal the final piece.
    Appreciate any guidance.
    Thanks Marian for having this guest blogger.

  7. Laura did an outstanding job here…I really learned a lot today. Looking forward to meeting her at the City Farmhouse Barn Show in Oct.

    Blessings,
    Linda

  8. Great Blog!!! I’ve only used milk paint 2 times and like it. But I didn’t realize all the things you could do!! So much painting so little time!!!LOL

  9. Emily says:

    I took a MMS Milk Paint class from Laura last Sunday and it was FABULOUS!!! I had never used the paint before and was so intrigued by reading about it on your blog that I just had to take the class. The Ironstone Nest is so inspiring and Laura is amazing!! The paint was very easy to use and did exactly what it said it does! :-) Thank you MMS & Laura for all your inspiration!!

  10. Diana W. says:

    Great post! Lots of good information. Will be posting this to my Pinterest ‘Painting Lady’ board for sure!

  11. You might remember me Marion. I’m ALWAYS asking for tutorials, archived or recorded classes, tutorials, help, tutorials. Today I am SO EXCITED!!
    THANK YOU THANK YOU for asking the right person to help you!

    Love and respect
    Beth

  12. Loved this blog post! After taking a Play Date Work Shop at the Iron Stone Nest, I too adore this milk paint! Thank you for the inspiration and knowledge!

  13. OH, GOSH, how could I do that! THANK YOU LAURA! MY GOSH THIS IS TREMENDOUS! DREAM OF MINE, I felt so lost!!

  14. I’d love to move in!!

  15. Thanks for the great tutorial, Laura!
    The milk paint as plaster option is really intriguing. I will have to try it sometime soon.

  16. Kathryn says:

    very wonderful. Great ideas. Use a spatula (paint spatula) or trowel to “scape” it across the stencil. You’ll be happier with the results. Kudos for your tutorial!

  17. Elaine says:

    I just finished my first piece using milk paint in Lucketts Green. I did two coats, no chipping or flaking and did not use the bonding agent. Did I do something wrong? Guess my next step will be sanding and then waxing? Thanks for the tutorial.

  18. This is such a fantastic post and beautiful explanation of how versatile this paint is. I can not wait to start selling it!!!!

  19. What about using milk paint for kitchen cabinets. The existing cabinets are varnished oak, and the sanding alone could take days. I’m not striving for a chippy look, but an imperfect, “original” look in my 120 year old Victorian. Will the milk paint hold up to daily use in a kitchen?

  20. Loretta says:

    I enjoyed this article very much! I have a piece that belonged to my great grandparents. Curved glass, the whole 9 yards. Somewhere along the way someone refinished it and sealed it with polyurethane, yuck! Would I need to remove that to get a nice milk paint finish with the bonding agent? I’d appreciate your advise. Thanks!

  21. Birgit says:

    What a GREAT JOB on the tutorial! This is the most comprehensive one I have seen. The only way to trump this one, would be to do a price comparison between each item/paint/stain. [NOT meant as criticism!]
    You motivated me so much, that I want to tackle a paint project right now! Way to go!

  22. Thanks so much for the tutorial! I love learning about all the ways you can use it.

  23. *applauds* Wow, Laura, that was an excellent tutorial! I learned something totally new that I didn’t know before, and that was mixing the paint in a low-water content ratio and creating a plaster! The decorative possibilities for that application are almost endless. Thank you for these tips, I am bookmarking this post.

    Best,

    Kimberly

  24. Dani & cats says:

    Hi Marian,

    Thank you so much for all the blogs around milk paint.

    I really love your blog(& bought your book which I love too !) I ordered the linen milk paint and two samples from ROBIN………

    After trying these paints out I , SORRY , SORRY to say that : it doesen`t work for me , to be honest I really dislike the paint ! First of all : the mixing process , it`s not like : get started right now- you have to mix the paint…. second : the smell : like hemp or marihuana ….
    third : the coverage of the paint , two coats or more , fourth : the paint rather chip (if) than crackle with the crackle medium.
    I`m interested into the white wax but not sure to give it a try…
    Just wanted to let you know hat maybe one or more customers having trouble with that kind of paint.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your honest opinion. Just like every product on the market, not everyone is going to love it. Some people love it and for others, it’s just not their thing and that’s okay. Milk Paint does have a learning curve and, because it is all natural, is so different from modern day paints that most people are used to.

      Just like every company, we want people to love our product, so let me know if you’d like to give milk paint another try, perhaps in another color. Or, if you’re totally done, I would be happy to send you a container of wax for you to try out. Thanks again!

  25. Thanks for the lesson Laura!!

  26. Lynn Fetting says:

    This was a fabulous guest post. I’ve been working with your milk paint and love it’s results, but this post added another level to things I wasn’t familiar with. As stated in a prior post, this paint may not be for everyone, but the ease in application and the different finishes that can be achieved with the MMS Milk Paint make it my go to paint for nearly every project! Thanks Marian!

  27. Absolutely loved this post on milk paint! It has such versatility and waiting to see what the paint will do on a piece of furniture is only half the fun! Looking forward to some beautiful weather this weekend so I can get back to painting some pieces! :)

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  29. Sally Farrell says:

    Yikes!! My yellow milk paint is chipping off like crazy!! I painted my dining room chairs this summer and a few look great, I love the distressed look. There are a few chairs that whenever someone walks by, more pieces fall off. What do I do?? I sanded each chair prior to painting despite being told I didn’t need to. I almost want to strip each one and start over.
    Thanks for your advice.

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      Sorry to hear you’re having some trouble! Milk paint shouldn’t keep chipping as you’re describing. You don’t need to strip it off, but I would suggest sanding off any paint that looks like it’s loose. If too much came off, sand it until it’s mostly smooth (so it doesn’t look chunk under a new coat of paint) and apply another coat of paint. When the chairs look the way you like, apply the finish…a coat of wax, hemp oil or you can use a polycrylic product like “Peel Stop” to make the chipping stop. You can even do that as a first step to stop the chipping if you like they way they look. If you need some more paint, just send me an e-mail and we’ll get you set up. :)

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