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DIY Milk Paint -- Tips & Tricks?

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Forum topic by HorizontalMike posted 09-15-2013 12:13 AM 2277 views 7 times favorited 32 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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HorizontalMike

6942 posts in 1581 days


09-15-2013 12:13 AM

Topic tags/keywords: milk paint diy milk paint painted furniture diy milk paint finishing rustic shaker traditional

My last 4 projects have been finished in milk paint, some with multiple coats (paint history). The commercial stuff mixes up OK, but the DIY success rate has varied quite a bit. I’ll show some examples below, but first I want to say that I know that milk paint can be variable and consistently less than homogenous in color when spread. My interest is in trying to reach the smoothest mix with the fewest curd grains remaining. I try to blend well with the electric mixer, but not sure when to stop the mixer. One batch, a red not shown, ended up very smooth yet foamed up enough that a 16oz container would shrink by ~20% volume by the next morning after the air bubbles settled out.

QUESTIONS
What methods have you found to give you the best results?
The most consistent results?
Any Dos and/or Don’ts that are important?

My Examples…...
Ochre Yellow—
  • 1qt Fat Free milk at room temp,
  • added 1/2c 5% vinegar for 24hr
  • Strained through cheesecloth
  • Added 2oz Yellow Ochre + 1/4c Lime
  • Electric mixer
  • Results—Translucent Yellow Wash… Finished out very well
Turquoise Green
  • 1qt Fat Free milk at room temp,
  • added 1/2c 5% vinegar for 48hr
  • Strained through cheesecloth
  • Added 4oz Turquoise Green + 1/4c Lime
  • Electric mixer
  • Results—Opaque color with several white curds showing. Somewhat gritty, but smoother than the Tan mix.
Off White/Tan
  • 1/2gal Fat Free milk at COLD,
  • added 1c. 9% vinegar for 48hr
  • Strained through cheesecloth
  • Added 4oz Titanium White + 2oz Ochre Yellow + 1oz Burnt Umber
  • 1/2c Lime
  • Electric mixer
  • Results—Translucent color with several white curds showing. Very fine curds but almost sandy in texture. This batch produced only about 50% as much paint as called for. Kurd development was off, and am thinking I either spent too much time stirring vinegar into milk, and/or used too high of strength vinegar.
Dark Red
  • Real Milk Paint Co. “Red” plus added small amount of burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna
  • Just add water
  • plus added small amount of burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna
  • Results—Very smooth mix with NO identifiable white curds showing

UPDATE 10-15-2013
Cat puked up dry food on 6-Board Chest top. Found this after it had dried. Cleaned up with damp sponge and it removed the “commercial” Real Milk Paint Co. paint (red) while NOT harming the DIY milk paint (tan) below. Notice that the First layer of milk paint (the tan DIY milk paint) is intact and the curds are now showing but not flaked off.

I find this to be an important discovery because it tells me that this company’s commercial milk paint is made with powdered milk that HAS NOT be curdled prior to mixing with Lime to form the milk paint. The act of curdling the milk with vinegar makes for stronger binding curds, and thus a stronger and tougher paint that is more resistant the the environment. The Real Milk Paint Company product does NOT have that same level of toughness.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."


32 replies so far

View Tim's profile

Tim

1273 posts in 628 days


#1 posted 09-15-2013 02:55 AM

Are you rinsing the curds after the vinegar step? If not, the acid in the vinegar will interfere with the base from the lime, and your last one has almost twice as much acid as the first two. Here's a good article from Lost Art Press blog. I thought the lime reacted with the milk protein casein to make the paint, but if I’m reading him right, he says it’s just filler and borax is what helps. As he mentions, heating the milk makes the curds form a lot faster, same for when you make edible cheese. Is there a benefit to doing it cold?

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HorizontalMike

6942 posts in 1581 days


#2 posted 09-15-2013 01:37 PM

…Are you rinsing the curds after the vinegar step?...”

Yep, at least three cycles of rinse water through a cheesecloth, before squeezing out the last of the water.

It was a mistake using cold milk. I realized that as soon as I poured the vinegar into the milk, but too late by then. So far I have read many instructional articles that emphasize using “warm” or at least “room temperature” milk. I think I have/had some mental block about warming milk since I kept associating milk with food and not making paint.

BTW, cold milk made for tiny kurds, then again I am also wondering about the vinegar catalyst to initiate the curdling… too much?... too strong?... too much stirring?

Looking for those who have already worked out many of these issues. Or maybe hear about some horror stories too, if ya’ll can remember the details about making/doing the mix…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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joeyinsouthaustin

1257 posts in 739 days


#3 posted 09-15-2013 02:55 PM

No advice.. but I am watching!!

-- Who is John Galt?

View distrbd's profile

distrbd

1156 posts in 1113 days


#4 posted 09-15-2013 03:35 PM

Very much watching as well,never tried milk paint, though I have heard a lot about it lately.

-- Ken from Ontario

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HorizontalMike

6942 posts in 1581 days


#5 posted 09-15-2013 11:57 PM

Thanks for the interest in this folks. This is beginning to look like a lost art. No wonder all the “commercial” companies selling milk paint are trying to keep the best recipe and material list a secret! No one can be as smart as those folks from “hundreds of years ago”. Just trust us and buy our stuff. ;-)

From what I have figured out thus far, milk paint is basically the same or equivalent to covering with a calcite/concrete mixture, and is very hard. All of the pieces I have finished this way have rather bullet-proof coverings, much harder than the pine they are covering. Some look better than others, but all are very durable.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Don W's profile

Don W

15060 posts in 1234 days


#6 posted 09-16-2013 12:05 AM

favorited. Thanks for the information Mike.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View distrbd's profile

distrbd

1156 posts in 1113 days


#7 posted 09-16-2013 12:07 AM

LV sells them but the powder form is mixed with water,I always wanted to try and see if I could get a “vintage” look with milk paint.

http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=70940&cat=1,190,42942

http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=65208&cat=1,190,42942

-- Ken from Ontario

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

6942 posts in 1581 days


#8 posted 09-16-2013 12:41 AM

Thanks Ken.
I have seen/read about the links you have shared. My commercial product experience comes from “The Real Milk Paint” company, and it appears to be a powdered skim milk product, yet it works well. What I can say is that making your own, using either 2% or Fat Free milk will cut the final cost of the milk paint by at least 60% or more. That being said, there is a definite technique to making milk paint but it is NOT rocket science. It just takes a willingness to either make mistakes and throw those mistakes away, OR ”go with the flow” when mistakes in mixing/blending/kurdling occur and make adjustments in your expectations. I have a number of outside benches that are weathered and will readily accept less than perfect milk paint mixtures… ;-)

I think much of the “vintage” look one can get from milk paint is from using just the limited basic colors and to NOT use the more modern vibrant colors that are available. Just my 2-cents for the rustic goals that I find interesting. I am looking for a classic look, hopefully without the modern artsy flavor found in so many newer homes, if you know what I mean. NOT saying that is bad, just not what I am seeking…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View distrbd's profile

distrbd

1156 posts in 1113 days


#9 posted 09-16-2013 01:22 AM

I think much of the “vintage” look one can get from milk paint is from using just the limited basic colors and to NOT use the more modern vibrant colors that are available.

That makes a lot of sense Mike,I’m after the pale red or yellow and it seems I can achieve that with milk paint more than any other type.
Thanks for the tip.

-- Ken from Ontario

View cutworm's profile

cutworm

1065 posts in 1460 days


#10 posted 09-16-2013 01:45 AM

Just did this with milk paint. Sort of. My daughter wanted blue – green. So I got a bag of the blue powder milk paint and a can of what GF call milk paint in green and mixed them. Probably won’t do that again. But I guess it came out ok. Added a little white glaze at her request and then clear acrylic. In reading the MSDS the GF milk paint appears to be acrylic paint.

-- Steve - "Never Give Up"

View distrbd's profile

distrbd

1156 posts in 1113 days


#11 posted 09-16-2013 01:52 AM

Nice color you came up with on that cabinet.

-- Ken from Ontario

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

6942 posts in 1581 days


#12 posted 09-16-2013 01:24 PM

Cutworm, from their own website GF admits that their “milk” paint is actually 100% acrylic. I guess it is a GF marketing thing. I am sure it is good paint. It should be, at $25/qt. A quart of DIY milk paint w/pigment can be made for under $10, and maybe <$8. And from everything I have read/researched about real milk paint, is that it lasts nearly forever. After all, that is what is on the Pyramids in Egypt, and much older Quaker, Amish, and Shaker furniture. To me, it is fun to throw DIY paint into the WW-ing mix, kind of like adding hand tools… 8-)

BTW, here is what I use when making DIY milk paint:

  • 2% or Fat Free milk
  • Garden/Horticultural Hydrated Lime (bought mine at HD). Buy the smallest bag you can as it will still be more than a lifetime’s supply of lime.
  • Master’s Touch Acrylic Pigment/Paint from Hobby Lobby. About $4/120ml or $7/250ml tubes. Pick your colors, but make sure you by larger (500ml or so) of Titanium White for mixing lighter colors of your chosen paints. And a small tube of Black wouldn’t hurt as well.
  • Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna are brownish colors that are used to make darker glazes, though I have also darkened other colors when mixing as well. Glaze is a mixture of Turpentine, BLO, the two pigments mentioned, plus a 1/4—1/2 teaspoon of Japan Dyer (from HD again). NOTE—My mistake but I got away with it, was using these Acrylic pigments with the oil based mixers. The pigment likes to separate and requires some heavy mixing constantly, and on occasion you will pick up a chunk of pigment on your application rag and smear on the piece you are glazing. This flaw can be used to your advantage, but it would probably be better to pick up the Burnt Umber and Sienna in the oil-based variety (located right next to the acrylics at HL.

MY NEXT MOVE: Today I am going to express my very non-existent artistic ability and paint some old world emblems and ‘stuff on my new 6-board chest/bench (the ‘tan’ one above) using just the Acrylic paints listed above. Hoping to start with a simple version the old Shaker “Tree of Life”. We’ll see how that goes… After all that art ‘stuff, I am hoping to final coat with Amber Shellac.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile

joeyinsouthaustin

1257 posts in 739 days


#13 posted 09-16-2013 10:44 PM

Mike following this thread has been quite nice. I have been really pleased with the Mohawk brand of powdered pigments. I used them in my oak burn through veneer thread. These are not acrylic pigments and blend with a variety of things. They are ground Ultra fine. They are available online directly, in custom color blends, color matching, or in our area at Sherwin Williams. (very limited colors) I got mine a roosters and then met with the local and regional rep. Here is the PDS a LINK to the web site. Maybe this will help you get finer, less grainy results.

-- Who is John Galt?

View bold1's profile

bold1

107 posts in 514 days


#14 posted 09-16-2013 11:15 PM

I have a recipe that was my Great- Grandfather’s, but I’ve never tried it. For 100sq. ft. 1 qt. skimmed milk, 3 oz. lime, 3 oz. linseed or poppy oil, 1 1/2 lb. Whiting. Put lime into clean bucket add enough milk to slack the lime and add the oil a few drops at a time, stirring till all the oil is well mixed in. Add the rest of the milk and then the Whiting, sifting it into the mix a little at a time. Curded milk Can be used, but it can not be sour. Strain before using. This recipe calls for unslacked lime, like used in white coat plaster. Pigment replaces the Whiting for colors. If anyone tries this, let me know how it works.

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HorizontalMike

6942 posts in 1581 days


#15 posted 09-16-2013 11:42 PM

Thanks Joey. Haven’t used powdered pigments yet, just liquid acrylics. Biggest problems thus far, are the white milk kurds more so than the pigment not mixing. That said, I did notice at least some pigment granularity on my green cabinet, so powdered pigments may help with that at least. Looks like I really need to control my milk temp prior to kurdling. Plus, I am thinking that a warmer milk, less vinegar, and more kurdling time just might help some. That will be my next experiment.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

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