So, I tried Milk Paint

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A while ago I tried chalk paint.  I couldn’t understand why everyone loved it so much.  Was it really that different from regular paint?  Would I put down my paint sprayer in favor of it?

Chalk Paint is a disaster... yellow bleed through, brush strokes, and ruined furniture.In short, no.  It’s awful and should only be used by those who really like that “DIY” I-painted-this-myself look.  Chalk paint touts that no primer is required, it’s easy to paint in a coat or two, and a little goes a long way.  I found none of that to be true, despite trying every technique I could find online and first-hand accounts from friends.  I found it to be a great deal more work than spraying (and I’m including sprayer set-up & clean-up here) for a result that can really only go “shabby chic” –– not my style at all.  I seriously can’t stand “distressed” furniture.  Please stop ruining furniture, people.  Basically, I should have used primer and serious hand-sanding sanding is needed between every coat.  I used a high-end chalk paint.  Gross.   I diluted it.  I used the right brushes.  I used a clear wax by the same brand.  It’s okay for the cheapo armoire that is my temporary coat closet.  We only wear coats for a few months in Texas.  White blends into the background in my house.

Thankfully, chalk paint is basically old news for Pinterest and blogs.  I hope it’s old news for otherwise beautiful furniture on Craigslist as well.  So.  Many.  Ruined.  Pieces.

Now, “Milk Paint” is all the rage, especially the not-technically-milk-paint milk paint by The General.  I’ve used their gel stain and liked it.  I thought I’d give it a try.  I watched their YouTube videos.  I read advice from other bloggers.  I got advice from the amazing store where I bought it from which usually gives great advice.  Their best advice would have been to not bother, but they suggested a foam brush (counter to most advice).  I drove my tiny $18 can of paint back from the far away store and tried it out.

Based on advice, I peeped the surface by light sanding and cleaning.  I used mineral spirits because that’s what I’m used to.  Don’y use 409, that’s for amateurs.  They recommend rubbing alcohol.  Keep it simple, stupid (remember that from science class?).  I was using a drawer from a desk I’m painting with a light-colored stain finish.  I put a thick coat on and let it dry.  It dried quickly.  The oil-based Zinsser primer I like to spray takes a couple hours, this took 30-45 min.  My trusty old sprayed primer would then be ready for a quickie sanding & cleaning and then a single coat oil-based enamel.  This looked like my 4 year old had painted it so I lightly sanded.  Then I put another coat on, this time diluted with water.  It dried even faster, in about 20 minutes.  The brush strokes were back, but not as bad.  So I sanded and painted a diluted coat again.  More brush strokes.  At this point, I would be spraying an oil-based enamel which takes almost no time at all, but a good 20-30 minutes of clean-up afterward and another 6-8 before top coat (usually while I sleep).

I lost count of coats.  And days,  Then decided that despite the nice, milky look to the paint, that I should have stuck to what I do best and just sprayed the darn thing.  I would have had the entire desk finished in the time I was spending sanding and re-painting one tiny drawer.  So I sanded one last time to get it ready for “real paint”.  This is where, for the first time, it actually looked nice.  If you’re into distressed furniture.  I am not.  But if I was, I could just slap a coat of water-based poly on it and be done.  After days of sanding, painting, and repeating.

The General Milk Paint... Is it worth it?  How is it different from chalk paint?  Is it easy to use?  Find out here.

On the bright side, I still have a ton of that teeny, tiny $18 can of paint left.  For what, I don’t know.  I really hate sanding.  Milk paint means sanding.

So, before I can actually show you the before and after of this project, I’ll be prepping this desk for a “real” paint job.  The way the pros do with a paint sprayer, mineral spirits, oil based primer, oil based enamel, and a clear poly top coat for durability.

Why do we keep trying to re-invent the wheel?  Your kitchen cabinets look great and stand up to abuse for a reason.  Learn to paint like a painter if you want a long-lasting, brushstroke-free, professional-looking finish.  Or stick to spray paint, if you spray a clear top coat on top, it won’t look like a spray paint job (want to see one of mine?).

Subscribe or follow me on Facebook (be sure you have notifications on) to see how I re-finish this desk like the high-end painters we use on our multi-million dollar homes.

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