I decided it was time to update some of my “painting posts”, sharing the products and techniques I use now vs. a few year ago.  I was looking through some of the posts highlighted on my side bar and they are ancient!  It’s time for an update!  So, what better place to start than paint?

Here are the paints I use most, the pros & cons for each, and what I use them for.  Of course, I have my biases (who doesn’t?), but I am going to try my best to be impartial and honest.  I’m not going to link to or mention any specific products, so I can talk about the groups of paint generically.  I have a HUGE paint shelf that is filled with different brands and kinds of paints, because there is not one magic paint that does everything.

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MILK PAINT

(I’ll just put it out there for those who don’t know…I have a milk paint line.  So, of course I love milk paint, but it does have its limitations like every other paint. )

Pros:

  • It is all-natural, no VOCs and has existed for hundreds of years, so it’s time tested.
  • It is thin, so it is forgiving for sloppy painters and won’t get gloppy with multiple coats or layers.
  • It distresses in a very authentic way.
  • Because it doesn’t have the modern day additives that make paint adhere to smooth surfaces, it will resist certain finishes, creating an authentic “chippy” look.
  • It has a depth of color and beautiful color variations due to the way it’s pigmented.
  • It is the absolute best paint I know of for raw wood and porous surfaces, because it soaks in like a stain, but looks like a paint.  This means it will never chip or wear away.  There are pieces of furniture that are over 100 years old with the original milk paint still on them.  That is durability!
  • In powdered form, it has an indefinite shelf life, so this paint can be used once a decade and it will still be there waiting for you to use on your next project.

Cons:

  • It comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with water.  It may take some practice to get used to the consistency you want for your project.  The texture is so different from “modern” paints that it freaks some people out!  
  • When using it over an existing finish, it can be unpredictable.  Sometimes it will chip a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes not at all.  (I’ll cover more on how to control it in future posts.)
  • It does need some kind of protective topcoat (oil, poly, wax, polycrylic, etc.)

When I use it:

  • I LOVE milk paint for furniture and “antique” signs, but it can be used for cabinetry, walls, floors (it’s especially perfect for raw wood floors), fabric and more.  

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ACRYLIC PAINT

Pros:

  • It flows off a brush beautifully and has great “body.”  It’s just the right amount of thickness to give good coverage without getting gloppy.
  • It’s durable with or without a topcoat.
  • It can be used without primer.
  • It looks great rolled, sprayed or brushed and it distresses well.
  • It has no VOC’s and almost odorless.
  • It’s fast-drying.
  • It can be used outside.  I spilled some acrylic paint on my driveway three years ago and it’s still there…just as vibrant blue as ever!  My husband is thrilled.

Cons:

  • Most readily available acrylic paint is “craft paint”, which comes in tiny bottles.  Yes, I’m the crazy lady who buys an entire row of one color to use on a piece of furniture!  
  • Quality acrylic is on the pricey side.  I know the $.99/bottle makes it seem cheap, but if you make a gallon out of that, it’s expensive.

When I use it:

  • I use it mostly for decorative painting these days, but I also like it for furniture.  It does well on finished and raw wood, paint surfaces, metal, fabric and more.  

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CHALK & CHALK/CLAY PAINTS

Pros:

  • It will stick to almost anything without sanding, prep or primer.  
  • The paint is thick, so it gives good coverage and can be used to create interesting textures.
  • It’s low odor and fast drying.
  • It’s a hard-wearing, durable paint.
  • Can be used for exteriors (unwaxed.)
  • A little goes a long way.  One quart will paint a lot of furniture.
  • It looks good rolled, sprayed or brushed and it distresses well.

Cons:

  • Because it’s thick and “grippy”, it gets a little gloppy if you need to apply more than one coat.  
  • It’s expensive.  Again, it goes a long way, but it is a pricey paint.

When I use it:

  • These days, I mostly use it on furniture that has a really slick finish, but it’s great on a lot of surfaces…cabinets, painted surfaces, raw wood, metal, leather, laminate, fabric, and even counter tops.  I’ve also learned it makes a great primer for milk paint!  

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LATEX PAINT

Pros:

  • It’s readily available in any color imaginable.  
  • It’s relatively inexpensive, especially for small projects.  You can get a $5.00 test quart of quality latex and use it on several pieces of furniture.
  • It looks awesome when sprayed
  • It’s durable once it’s cured (about 30 days.)

Cons:

  •  You have to prep, sand and prime a piece before using latex.
  • It doesn’t distress very well, but sort of rolls/peals off.
  • It can be unforgiving with brush strokes and roller marks.  A high quality latex, good brush and skilled application can offset that, but it’s definitely not a paint you can be sloppy with.

When I use it:

  • Of course, I use it for my walls, trim and ceilings.  I used to use it on furniture, but I like other paints so much better that I haven’t for years.  I still wouldn’t discount it altogether, though.  I always used it with a high quality bonding primer (that I would tint to the color I’m painting) and spray the finish.

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OIL PAINT

Pros: 

  • It is very durable.  You can scrub it, bang it, scratch it and scrape it and it will hold up very well.  

Cons:

  • It’s stinky.  
  • It takes a long time to dry…several hours to days depending on the number of coats.
  • It has to be cleaned up with solvent, which is also stinky and not fun to work with.
  • Colors can yellow over time.

What I use it for:

  • I used it on my kitchen cabinets because of its durability and, despite the cons, I would use it again.  It’s also great for trim.  

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Remember, these are just my opinions and I’m sure others have different opinions about the same products.  I think that’s one of the exciting things about having so many options to choose from.  You can use what you like to create the look you want.   Don’t be afraid to branch out and try some new things.  Also, don’t be afraid to mix brands.  It’s okay to love one brand of primer, one brand of paint, another kind of topcoat.  Mix and match in a way that works for you.

The products you use are a part of what makes your look unique to you.  That uniqueness is what will make your work stand out from all of the other furniture painters out there.

So go…experiment…and enjoy the time spent working with these products to form opinions of your own.

1 Comment

  1. Denni

    I have a pair of large, solid wood (80” x 22”) each , old louvre doors that I’m hoping to distress, first adding 2 other colors , using the “vaseline method, sanding some area’s off of the gray-blueish topcoat, going down to the background colors, which is a deep, vintage red, & and a jade- turquoise color.
    I saw a chalk paint, colorless antiquing finish that I think it would look good, but I’m not sure if chalk-paint will work, well, (if at all), over non-chalk-based paint? The door’s already been sanded & primed it’s just waiting for paint now.

    Thanks for any help that you can provide!
    Denni

    Reply

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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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