Chalk Paint or Milk Paint – Which One is the Right Paint for Your Project?


Furniture restoration enthusiasts like to stay away from regular paint. You can’t create an authentic shabby chic finish using a high gloss finish paint from your local DIY store, so if you have plans to give an old chest of drawers a makeover, now is a good time to start looking at the benefits of milk paint vs chalk paint. So what’s the difference?

Eco Friendly Paints
Modern paints are not always good for the environment. They are expensive, full of fumes, and difficult to dispose of when you have finished with the tin. It is a really bad idea to pour the remnants of a tin of gloss paint down the sink and cleaning fluids are just as toxic. Milk paint and chalk paint are a lot more eco-friendly.


Milk Paint
People have used milk paint for centuries. It’s easy to make: all you need is milk, lime and pigment. You can make any color you like – the only limiter is what pigment you have available. Milk paint can be made from scratch at home, or mixed using ready-made powder from Real Milk Paint.

If you want an authentic shabby chic distressed finish, milk paint is the best choice. You can create some really interesting finishes using milk paint, simply by layering different hues and colors. The end result is a beautiful finish that changes over time with natural wear and tear. You can also change the finish by adding more water to the mix, so experiment and see what amazing results you get. A milk paint finish can be rather unpredictable, so you never know what you’ll end up with – which is part of the fun!


Chalk Paint
Chalk paint can be bought ready-made, or made at home using a mixture of latex paint, calcium carbonate and water. Shop bought chalk paints tend to be rather expensive, so if you have a large area to paint, think seriously about mixing your own batch of paint.

Surfaces do not need to be primed or prepared first if you use chalk paint. As you would expect from the name, the finish is chalky once the paint has dried, so it is easy to sand down for a more distressed look. It can be applied with a brush or roller and then waxed or varnished to protect the piece.

A little bit of chalk paint goes a long way, so it’s ideal for large areas such as walls, kitchen cabinets, and even decking. As long as you seal the surface with wax, varnish or any other type of sealant, it will last for a long time. If you want to create a distressed finish, make sure you do this before you apply sealant.

Milk Paint vs. Chalk Paint
Both paint finishes are easy to make and use. You can create a wide range of looks with both milk paint and chalk paint, but if you don’t have time to prepare the surface, chalk paint has the edge.

Images via Getty Images

Mamasita Amber
Mama of three children and proud new mama of a standard poodle named Prince Miguel.

18 Responses to “Chalk Paint or Milk Paint – Which One is the Right Paint for Your Project?

  • How interesting! I had no idea milk paint existed, good to know! xo

  • I never knew that paint was bad for the environment but it does make sense. Milk paint is something I have not heard of either!

  • I have never heard of them! Will google to find out more! Thank you for the useful info

  • I have heard so many great things about milk paint, but have never used it – actually, after repainting every surface in our home when we bought it back in 2007, I decided I hated painting, and have done very little since then. A nice refinishing project might be the key 🙂

    Megan McCoig
    5 years ago

    I never knew so much about paint! Thanks for the tips and detailed post 🙂

  • This is intersting! I’ve never heard of either milk paint or chalk paint, maybe because I don’t really understand about the type of paint. This post is very informative.

  • This is so great! I love both paints but I always mix up when to use which haha!

    5 years ago

    Ooooo this is a first for me hearing about milk paint! Sounds pretty neat. Glad it’s not horrible like normal paint is!!!

  • I learned something new today. I actually put on hold many painting projects because I didn’t want to deal with modern paints, no matter how safe. Milk Paints sounds like a great alternative for me!

  • I’ve made my own chalk paint for a big hutch – I loved working with it … and it’s held up really well. It was funny walking into to Home Depot and asking for the calcium carbonate, they definitely thought I was crazy for wanting to mix it with paint. I bought Annie Sloan’s wax to go over the paint and I think that’s why it’s held up so well.

  • Until this post, I had never heard of milk paint or chalk paint before. Oh wow…milk paint actually contains milk in it – that is very interesting.

  • I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I had to restore a piece of furniture and paint it. This is great for us redecorating beginners.

  • I’ve been in the midst of redoing all my dressers in each bedroom in the home, including mine. Therefore, this post came at a perfect time!

  • I had no idea there was a difference between the two. I’ve been using the two terms interchangeably. Oops! Thanks for educating me.

    Robin Rue (@massholemommy)
    5 years ago

    I had no idea there was a difference. Thanks for the great info.

    Robin Rue (@massholemommy)
    5 years ago

    OH how interesting. I never realized there was a difference between the two 🙂

  • Oh I was just looking this up last weekend! I ended up using chalk paint because I was painting on glass.

  • Never heard of milk paint! That is so interesting. I love the look of chalk paint though so I will have to look into milk paint.

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