A Milk Paint Workshop with The Ironstone Nest

by | Aug 21, 2013 | Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint | 0 comments

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…


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”:




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!


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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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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