Milk Paint on Raw Wood

Marian ParsonsFurniture Makeovers, Hand Painted Furniture, Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint40 Comments

I know I’ve shown a lot of the chippy goodness that can be created with Milk Paint.  That’s just a look I love.  Paint that held on to a piece of furniture that has been well-used and well-loved for generations.  I love the character and uniqueness it gives to a piece.  Chippy pieces are striking to my decorating eye.

While all of that is true and that chippy, time-worn, authentically-aged look can be achieved with MMS Milk Paint, it’s not the best thing milk paint can do.



Milk Paint is at its very best over raw wood.  I’ve used a lot of different paints throughout my DIY career and I don’t know of another paint that is better over unfinished wood than milk paint.

Faux Mantle - Step 5 (640x480)

Milk Paint has been around for thousands of years and is recognized as one of the earliest known paints.  When you look at it from a historical perspective, it makes total sense.  At the time milk paint was invented, women weren’t getting crazy ideas from DIY blogs and Pinterest. hunting for the right thing on Craig’s List and then sweetly asking her husband to recruit a couple of guys and a truck to pick up the piece she’s longing for…knowing it will be perfect once she can paint it and put on some new knobs.  When milk paint was invented, a woman would look longingly at a tree and sweetly ask her husband to hack it down and make a hutch out of it.

It was raw wood.

Of course, milk paint has been modernized somewhat, but the basic ingredients are still the same.  It’s a paint that is thinner than modern paints and it’s highly pigmented.  It absorbs into raw wood more like a stain instead of sitting on top like other paints, but you get the opaque look of a paint.  You don’t need to use primer and you get amazingly rich color that soaks in and will be there permanently…well, for a really, really long time.  Just ask anyone who’s tried to strip a piece of antique furniture that was painted in milk paint.  I don’t know why anyone would want to do that, but I’ve heard that it’s not an easy task.

Most of the pieces I paint have an existing finish, so I just go with it.  I made this shelf for an HGTV project a while ago and it was the perfect time to use milk paint.  It was raw pine and I painted it in one coat of Tricycle MMS Milk Paint with one coat of MMS Furniture Wax on top.

Mantle - Beauty Shot 4 (479x640)

So, the next time you have raw wood to paint…whether it’s floor boards, cabinetry, a stripped piece of furniture, or a tree your husband hacked down and built you a hutch out of…give milk paint a try.

Mantle - Beauty Shot 5 (640x480)

Now, if the chippy look is what you’re going for, you’re not going to get that on raw wood unless you apply a “resist” first.

But that’s another post…

Milk Paint on Raw Wood

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40 Comments on “Milk Paint on Raw Wood”

  1. sigh… Its so nice to come to a place where you can see you aren’t crazy or at least you aren’t alone in your fantasies about paint and hot finds on craigslist

  2. Whoa! Beautiful.

    Marian, I think the furniture you lovingly redo is just gorgeous. I love me some Miss Mustard Seed. I can’t put my finger on why, but “chippy” is not my personal style for my home. I’m glad to see that your paint can also behave in this way, because I really do want to try it out! Maybe at Haven?! xo

  3. Does the fact that it is so permanent make it a bit risky for things that you may want to change later? Floorboards for example, or cabinets in your kitchen? I would be scared I may want a difference later and then not be able to strip it back? The shelf looks fantastic! Do you do all your own carpentry or do you “sweetly ask” your hubby?

    1. Ruth, that is most definitely a hazard. All of the trim in our 170 year old house was originally finished in milk paint and I can tell you it is impossible to remove without heavy-duty sanding that would ruin the wood.

      I love milk paint, but I’d think long and hard about using it on something that I might want natural at any point in the future. 🙂

    2. Yes, I wouldn’t paint something in milk paint on the raw wood if you want to take it back to the raw wood at some point. That would be quite a job. You can always paint over it, though, if you change your mind on the color/finish.

  4. Marion,

    In 1992, my husband and I as avid antique collectors purchased a beautiful pie safe that had 16 tin panels. It had been painted every color you can think of. It had been brown, white, red, yellow and who knows what other colors. These were the days you stripped everything and stained it. I left my husband with the stripping job and my Mother and I went on a day trip.That night when I got home my husband (he did not read the decorating magazines at the time) did not know about milk paint and how desirable it is on a piece so he was determined to strip it to the bare wood.

    He had gotten down to the last coat of paint, blue milk paint and could not get it to remove. This was the original coat of paint! He took his sander and sanded all the blue off except a view spots to show me what it looked like! I about died! It would have been perfect with the blue milk paint and worth much more to leave it blue! It is still pretty stained walnut, but live and learn! 🙂

  5. I love the chippy look! I want to do an old oak chair I purchased but I have seen where sometimes painting over a previously stained piece can chip to much and leave big areas of the stain showing. Would lightly sanding help it to chip smaller? Thanks!

  6. Marian,
    I love your milk paint and I use a lot of different paints out there. The pieces I paint with your paint sell the fastest! Quick question tho…instructions say to mix with warm water but I was told recently that cold water is actually much better for getting the lumps out. Can you clarify?

    1. That seems to be up for debate. The manufacturer suggests cold water, but I’ve always used warm/hot. Some of my retailers feel like it mixes better with warm, others cold. I think you have you find what method you like best.

  7. OK, That is so pretty. My sister had a home decor/seasonal store a few years back.I was lucky that I was able to decorate it and go to market in Atlanta.Well I can so see your look selling so well there.Because it has a unique look.Keep it up Marion.Well as long as you love doing it!!!!!!

  8. THANK YOU!!! I have been looking for this sort of simple description of milk paint for a couple years now! I am one of those people that has tried to strip milk paint from an antique piece of furniture… and trim… ok so it was like 30 years ago and I’ve learned A LOT since then, but it is impossible to strip, not only is it soaked into the wood, it doesn’t react the same as normal paint does to the stripper, it just sits there. Anyway, though, with all this ‘chippy’ paint furniture features, I thought that modern milk paint was different now, and kinda a disaster if it’s just chipping off like that… I’m looking forward to your resist lesson too. btw, that red shelf is darling! Little Bit

  9. Ahhhh…..thanks for the post. I know it isn’t for me specifically but I love that this post follows my quest for information on chalk paint for my soon to be installed New England White Pine floors. Can’t wait for the post about the ‘resist’ I would love to have worn looking areas, you know, like the middle of hallways and traffic paths from doorways through rooms, following the natural path feet would take over the years. I can’t wait to get started.

  10. P.S. I am going to do a milk paint stain, Sherwood Brown, and then MMS Linen milk paint followed by Hemp Oil. In my mind my floors are going to look like an old farmhouse wood floor and I am so excited.

  11. I’ve used your paint on raw wood and just love the look! Most of the pieces I do are antiques and I love the look those have after being painted with milk paint, but the raw pieces are my fav 😉 Thank you so much for the tutorials/info posts!

  12. I am so glad you posted this because I was wondering if the paint was better on raw wood! I def. need that red!! I have been ordering from Purple Painted Lady store…post to follow…and they were so pleasant and delightful!

  13. I love seeing all your projects with the milk paint. I am determined to try my hand at it soon. If you paint raw wood with the milk paint, can you come back later and paint over it with another milk paint if you wanted to change it up? I am assuming so since it covers other finishes so well.

  14. Marian, Can I use milk paint on a laminated surface? I have a dresser that I use to store linens in my family room and I would love to use your paint, but the top of the dresser is laminated. The rest of it is stained wood so I know I can use it there.

  15. Just came back to read more comments and realize that I typed ‘chalk paint’ instead of MILK PAINT in my above post. Just to be clear to achieve the old farmhouse floor look I am after I am going to use MMS Milk Paint. I’m so excited I can’t even type the right words. 🙂

  16. Marion,
    What a way to start the week! You have such a knack of taking the stress or maybe fear out of reaching for more with MMS Milk Paint. I bought your Milk Paint while visiting in Portland, Oregon. Then flew my new treasure home to Nebraska. Still somewhat reluctant to just dive in I watched your toutorials numerous times. Finally with your guidance I tackled my first project. Extremely pleased so far, and now “raw wood” temptation! What is a novice DYI to do but be tempted to try raw wood next. Thanks for your lite hearted blogs, toutorials, and the confidence you share with us!

  17. I have wanted to try milk paint forever, but had no idea how to use it. I do not understand why you put a wax finish over it after you painted it? And also, how did you achieve the look on the dresser if it soaks in, that piece is chippy? I am a fan of the chippy look too! Thanks for the tips and looking forward to more, you explain it so it is easy to understand! Also you are looking “HOT GIRL”, keep it up!!! I am so proud of you!

  18. I have a question about milk paint outside. I bought a couple of old door off of Craigslist to hang from an arbor to shield a not-so-attractive air conditioning unit. I’d never tried milk paint and was told it was fine for outside, but that I couldn’t use a finishing wax. I painted the doors, LOVED the paint, and hung them up. Several days later, it rained. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so this is not an uncommon thing. Anyway, the paint ran and bled. I’m hoping I can salvage the project and then I guess I need to add some type of protectant? Is that what you recommend?

  19. Shelley brings up one point about milk paint on raw wood. If you think you’ll ever want the piece natural in the future put a coat of shellac between the two or you will never get if off, It has tremendous powers of adhesion on raw wood, so just be aware. CTD

  20. I am a bit lost and looking for help. I have a piece of oak furniture that I took from my grandfather. I knew that I wanted to distress it and give it character. You think it would have some when I say it was my grandfathers, but not a bit. Before I even read any of these blogs or watched every video I could find, I sanded the piece of furniture – a lot of sanding. It had a light, yellow stain at the time and I hated it… but I guess I should have not done that. So… now I am lost as to my next step. I LOVE the milk paint (that light green xoxox) and want aged and distress… should I paint an under color and then milk paint?? Should I stain her dark and then paint?? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!!

  21. My husband and I are making our own farmhouse dining table with black walnut wood that we found in the basement of our almost 100 year old house. But we bought unfinished turned wood legs. And also painting our kitchen cabinets that have been sanded down to raw wood. Can you use MMS milk paint in a paint sprayer to make the projects go a little faster? Thank you for any help!

  22. I love you and your work, Marian. I bought some of your milk paint to paint an old commode that has been in my husband’s family for generations. It was originally mahogany, but most of it has been painted over with brown paint. Only the drawer fronts are original. My question is, can I paint directly over the old brown paint? I see how the paint works over raw wood, and stained, but I haven’t seen anyone mention using it over paint. Thank you, you are an inspiration!

  23. I am painting some raw wood cabinets in our basement right now. I put two coats of ironwood milk paint on and you can still see the grain. Is that how it should look with milk paint? If I paint a third coat, would you still see the grains? If I add more powder to the water, would the look be different?

  24. Hi Marion!
    I have a painting question for you. I would like to milk paint a raw wood, completely unfinished pine sofa table. I wondered how I could go about this as I would like it to be chippy. I planned to stain it dark first and then apply milk paint. Is applying the stain enough to allow it to get a chippy look? I don’t want to milk paint to act as a stain. How would you recommend I do this? Thanks so much – love your paint!
    Stacey of Embracing Change

  25. I have recently installed raw pine cab siding in my dining room walls and am considering a blend of Farmhouse White and Linen with perhaps 2 coats. My question is about whether or not to fill and seal the knot holes?
    Anyone out there with this same experience or any advice would be appreciated!

  26. Hi.
    I have a piece of raw wood. I want it to look chippy. Could you plz tell me where your post is on applying a resist to raw wood to get the chippy look?

    Thank you.

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