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?
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.
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?).
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