Milk paint vs chalk paint for kitchen cabinets [2023]

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Your choice of color for the kitchen cabinetry, antique furniture, or decorative accents can change the final look a lot. Let’s take a look at a seemingly simple choice: milk paint vs chalk paint for kitchen cabinets.

milk paint vs chalk paint for kitchen cabinets

Both chalk and milk paints can make your place look serene. However, several factors make the two of them stand apart. What’s the difference between milk paint and chalk paint. So, we’ve decided to shed some light to make it easier for your DIY projects.

Suitable Uses for Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

Are you confused about whether to choose chalk paint for your kitchen cabinets or not? Or worried if your cabinets, furniture, or antiques will embrace the real milk paint properly?

Let’s first make clear that both milk paint and chalk paint can adhere to various surfaces. They’ve got your back everywhere from cabinet doors and wood to metal lamps and vintage furniture.

However, the final look they present lets you firmly stick to your decision. It’s all about the depth, finish, and texture you want for your desired piece of furniture or wall.

No thumb rule exists when discussing the suitable applications of milk and chalk paints. But the nature of the surface in question and how you would like it to look once done will have an impact.

The Finished Appearance of Chalk and Milk Paints

To decide which is better, milk paint vs. chalk paint, their finished appearance also plays a role.

For a velvety smooth matte finish, chalk paint is more dominating. It is known as thick paint and helps achieve a perfect matte finish.

milk paint vs chalk paint for kitchen cabinets smooth

While milk paints are preferred for a chipped and distressed finish.

Comparing Preparation Methods

If we talk about the composition and preparation recipes of both paints, they do vary significantly. However, both are eco-friendly and non-toxic, having a wide range of applications.

Chalk Paint Characteristics

It gets its name from its innovator, Annie Sloan, Annie Sloan’s chalk paint because she proposed the recipe. Since 1990, Annie Sloan chalk paint has been made by mixing ingredients which include calcium carbonate, talc, and pigment.

Moreover, it’s a liquid base paint and comes in premixed form. So, it would help if you bought standard quart cans, which eliminates the mixing step.

Contrary to most milk paint, it’s also regarded as thicker paint. Its thick consistency imparts a smooth finish when applied to the surface.

Milk Paint Characteristics

Real milk paint contains all-natural ingredients and is free from volatile organic compounds, ideal for painting furniture. The critical components are milk protein casein, clay, limestone, and dry pigment.

It’s a water-based paint available in fine powder form, which you can prepare by adding water. You must take the required milk paint powder, pour water, and stir it to get the desired consistency.

When Should I Use Milk Paint or Chalk Paint?

Chalk paints having thicker consistency and smooth, matte appearance make an excellent choice for full-coverage areas. And they can be distressed before and after painting; making them more flexible to use.

Milk paints offer you more versatility by mixing powder pigments and creating various effects. You can thin out other dark hues, go for paint wash, or use it alone for an aged furniture appearance.

How Many Coats Do You Need to Apply for Milk and Chalk Paint?

Both milk and chalk paints dry faster than standard paints. However, the number of coats required depends on your finish type.

milk paint vs chalk paint for kitchen cabinets type

If a distressed finish appeals to you, then one coat of chalk paint will be enough. However, for milk paint, you must go for two coats as it’s quite thin, and the first coat acts more like a stain.

Chalk and Milk Paint Durability

Milk paint isn’t for you if you don’t want that chippy look. Though it’s pretty resilient, it tends to chip away when used without a bonding agent. Therefore, you shouldn’t use it in high traffic areas.

Its counterpart, chalk paint, has a smooth finish and doesn’t chip away easily if a protective wax coat is applied. Otherwise, it also needs regular touch-ups.

Milk Paint vs. Chalk Paint vs. Latex: What’s the Best Furniture Paint for Beginners?

While comparing these three paints, you’ll learn that milk and chalk paints have a slight edge above latex paint. Though latex paint was once trendy, it has now been replaced.

Though it offers durability, the latter isn’t the right thing when it comes to raw wood. While if we opt for general finishes, milk paint doesn’t contain milk protein but possesses self-sealing properties and is also durable. Similarly, chalk paints don’t need preparation work as regular latex does.

Should I Use Milk Paint or Chalk Paint for the Cabinets?

You can use either or both of them depending on the paint finish you want for your cabinetry. Each paint has its pros and cons.

Chalk paints demand timely touch-ups to stay in place; however, they’re less likely to chip than milk paint. If you can do it, then it’s a good option.

milk paint vs chalk paint for kitchen cabinets chip

But if you own antiques and vintage-style furniture pieces, or are inspired by their appearance, then milk paint will do the job.

What Do You Use Milk Paint For?

As you know, milk paint cracks, flakes, and self-distresses over time. It’s because of its availability in powder form, which, when you mix, often leads to a lumpy preparation.

Because of having unpredictable flow, milk paints are considered more suitable for painting antique furniture. Though it’s sometimes uncontrollable, it gives your furniture a perfectly distressed finish.

Unlike chalk paint, milk paints bear low consistency and make a perfect choice for paint wash. You can use them for thinning out other bright, opaque color painted furniture and walls.

Ease of Use and Dry Time of Milk Paint

Since it comes in powdered form, you can buy it per your need, mix it, and apply it. However, once mixed, you must use milk paint within a day. Or it can stay fresh for 5-7 days if kept in the refrigerator.

It would help if you didn’t store unused milk paint powder for too long, or it’ll spoil after absorbing moisture. Since the liquid form of milk paint is thin, it takes a couple of hours to dry a single coat.

How to Finish Milk Paint: Does Milk Paint Require a Topcoat?

You won’t need a paint finish for milk paints if you aren’t afraid of a chipped and chalky finish. However, a topcoat of wax or hemp oil is optional for added protection against moisture and regular wear and tear.

The Best Product for Sealing Milk Paint

Since milk paint isn’t oil-based, you need to coat it with oil for sealing. The best option available right now in the market is hemp oil. It’s best for sealing porous finished surfaces, making them safe for frequent contact with food and water.

milk paint vs chalk paint for kitchen cabinets hemp

Can you Use Milk Paint on Top of Chalk Paint?

Yes, you can. Using milk paint over chalk paint is great for adding layers and effects. Moreover, you can use both paints together to achieve a more contemporary look.

Chalk Paints

The charm of chalk paints lies in their chalky, matte appearance. You might have seen many painted furniture examples on Pinterest in solid chalk paint colors. Though they aren’t as versatile as mustard seed milk paint, you may consider mixing one chalk paint with another to create a unique texture.

Ease of Use and Dry Time of Chalk Paint

Though chalk paint dries faster, you need to give more time between the coats because of its thick consistency.

The recommended dry time between coats is 24 hours, and 1 hour for the clear coat.

How Much Does Chalk Paint Cost?

A quart of Annie Sloan chalk paint has an average price of $35. And if you want to deepen the color or create a distressed effect, you should also purchase dark wax and a wax brush. It’ll subsequently add up in your budget. Another way to cut your expenses is to make your chalk paint recipe.

How to Prepare Your Surfaces for Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

To your surprise, milk and chalk paints don’t require prep work before painting. It’s because of their excellent gripping ability on multiple surfaces that saves you time from priming and sanding them.

But that doesn’t mean to start painting any rough surface right away. If the surface isn’t smooth enough for applying brush strokes, you must go for a light sanding.

If you choose chalk paint, it grips fast and firm, so you don’t need to add a bonding agent to the chalk paint recipe.

However, in the case of powder form milk paint, you may consider using a bonding agent. It prevents the milk paint from chipping as it normally does and adds thicker paint consistency to improve adherence.

Milk Paint Technique: 5-Step Process

The application of milk paint consists of 5 simple steps.

Lightly sand

If the surface is uneven, sand it lightly to prepare for the first coat.

One coat of milk paint

Unlike regular paint, the first coat of milk paint soaks into the raw wood and acts as a seal.

One coat of milk paint

The second coat will then do the job of covering the entire surface.

One coat of clear coat

When done with the paint, apply one layer of clear coat.

One coat of clear coat

Then top it with an additional clear coat to improve durability.

Best Paint for Antique Furniture with a Distressed Look

People living in the countryside or having a farmhouse-style kitchen often own antique furniture and metallic accents. If you’re among them, you’d like to adorn your furniture with a distressed look.

Though chalk paint distresses, it’s less visible or attractive than most milk paint. Therefore, you must choose mustard seed milk paint for a perfect distressed finish.

What is the Best Paintbrush for a Smooth Surface?

Nylon brushes with soft bristles are generally considered safe for painting a smooth surface. Following the right painting technique, you can easily get a smooth, fine appearance with nylon brushes.


Whether using milk or chalk paint, remember that they don’t require sanding unless you have a rough surface that may affect the final look after painting. Both paints offer you unique benefits and slightly vary in their prices. Therefore, you must always choose how you want your furniture projects to be done and opt for your highest preference.

Ariel Path

With over three decades of experience in food manufacturing and kitchen design, I bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. My expertise spans across various aspects of the culinary world, from kitchen appliances to cooking techniques, food selection, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. My ultimate goal is to educate and inspire you in creating your dream kitchen, where functionality meets aesthetics. As a trusted source, I strive to provide valuable insights and guidance to make your kitchen remodel an enjoyable and successful experience. Together, let's transform your space into a culinary haven that reflects your unique style and meets your specific needs. See more details here.

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