Milk Paint vs. Chalk-type Paints (again)

Marian ParsonsMiss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint, Painting & Refinishing, Popular, TutorialsLeave a Comment

MMS Milk Paint Boxwood dresser before and after -
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.

missmustardseed-48 (534x800)

Can the colors be mixed to make custom colors?

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

missmustardseed-35 (534x800)

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.

Milk Paint vs. Chalk-type Paints (again)

Related Posts

A huge announcement about Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint

Patio Makeover Reveal

live painting class | grazing cow painting

Edging & Painting the Concrete Patio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *