Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adventures with Milk Paint

Back in December, I had the opportunity to hang out with Marian Parsons, aka Miss Mustard Seed. I highly recommend this, as she is a total delight. (Did I tell you guys that she came to see my booth at Luckett's? I was delirious with excitement!)

In between book signings, I got her talking about milk paint and how it was different than chalk paint.

 Thanks Janet, for letting me "borrow" your photo from here.

After our conversation, I was super curious to see what it did in person, so I bought some. One sample packet of Flow Blue (Prussian Blue), a packet of Kitchen Scale (Blue green), a packet of Ironstone (creamy white), and a bottle of the bonding agent, just for good measure.

Fast forward to March 2013. I was digging around the studio, looking for a solution to some finish based problem and remembered that I had never even tried my MMS milk paint. I found it and decided to go with the Flow Blue. I was super glad I had seen a demo on what to expect the texture to be at the book signing, because milk paint, when mixed, looks like you did something wrong.

This was what the demo looked like. 

from The Empty Nest

This is what mine looked like:

That is a combination of Flow Blue, Kitchen Scale, and I think I added just the smallest hint of Ironstone for good measure. It made a grainy, runny mix. But I knew what to expect, so I just went with it. I had already started chalk painting a wooden box with Pure White ASCP, so I decided that would be an excellent thing to start with. I slapped a coat of the milk paint on, and then blow dried it, simply because I was feeling impatient. 
Well joy of joys when the crackling and bucking and flaking started!

Well, that's the finished product at any rate. 

Here's a better picture of the kind of flaking I'm talking about:

There, you can see it better. The paint literally peels off by itself.

And the more "finished' an item is, the more the paint will flake and chip. And there is no way to know where your flaking and chipping will occur. You can hedge your bet by sanding a bit, but even then, things might still chip or buckle, ... or not.

 I purposely painted another wooden box I knew had been sealed, just so I could see how much peeling I got. Almost all of the paint peeled of in big flakes. It take about 1/2 hour to fully peel and buckle if you just leave it in the air. I used a paintbrush and gently rubbed off the flakes, then took stock of what I wanted to do. It was way too much peeling for the look I was going for, so I sanded with a 320 grit sand paper in a few spots where I wanted more adhesion and then added more paint. it peeled some more, but I was pretty happy with what adhered, so I stopped there.

The blue shadows are where the milk paint bonded. The green and red are ASCP chalk paint glazes I did in Antibes Green and Emperor's Silk after milk painting. Here's another angle:

You can see how much of the blue peeled off. I completely covered everything twice. What's left is what stuck. I was going for a very worn look, so that was fine with me.

The great thing about milk paint is that you can just keep layering it on until you get the look you want. The grit is part of the look. It gives a very primitive look, so if you love Shaker and American Primitive, you will adore what this product can do. And I was very pleased with the results I got from blow drying stuff. It seemed to encourage cracking and lumping. Which is what I wanted.

If you are looking for a super smooth finish, just know that you can get that, but you will need to use the bonding agent and be ready to sand and re-coat a few times. Wax also helps.

When I had each of these projects painted the way I wanted, I used a paste wax to seal them. I am pretty sure I used Annie Sloan wax, but I may have used a little of another brand I have. I think I also waxed the blue milk paint coat of the red box before I put on the chalk paint glazes. Then, after glazing, I clear waxed and dark waxed the whole thing again. The blue box and white frame were both clear waxed and dark waxed after milk painting.

I highly recommend dark waxing if you want the cracks and flaws of the paint to show through. it completely brings the piece to life.

So here's a summary of my experience dabbling in milk paint vs chalk paint:

1. Chalk paint sticks to almost anything. Milk paint needs quite a bit of tooth to stick. That is the point of both of them. They are total opposites in this regard. So if you are going for a really opaque look, or a painting on a slick surface and want good adhesion, go with chalk paint. If you want chipping and peeling and aging, go with milk paint. It gives a great rustic, aged finish.

2. Chalk paint and milk paint can be used to excellent effect as layers on each other. It doesn't matter which is first, it just depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I used chalk paint as a base layer under milk paint on the blue box and got no peeling, but plenty of cracking and buckling. I used chalk paint as a glaze over the milk paint and loved the way the lumps and peels showed through. If you wanted to do some decorative painting, but wanted a rustic base, you'd use milk paint for the base, the chalk paint for the design. It would be lovely. Miss Mustard seed does this often.

  Here's the piece she used to announce Kitchen Scale

3. Don't stress that your milk paint looks lumpy. MMS uses a hand blender to mix hers a little smoother. But just apply it. If it's too runny, add more powder until you are more comfortable with it, but think "water color" not "latex" in your thickness expectations. Here's her tutorial for mixing paint.

4. Wax is your friend with both milk paint and chalk paint. Just like it does with chalk paint, wax brightens the color and transforms milk paint. In that sense, milk paint and chalk paint are alike.

5. Both chalk paint and milk paint are very forgiving, so just relax. Find something you won't cry about not turning out to practice on. It's just a matter of experimenting until you get the feel for it. Start with a frame or a piece of wood or a small wooden box, or that 80's country plaque your mother snuck into your collage stuff because she was desperate to be rid of it. If you hate how it turns out, keep in mind, you can ALWAYS chalk paint over anything.

 Just for fun, here's a look at my all time favorite milk painted piece ever. It's the piece Miss Mustard Seed used to introduce the black color of her milk paint line, Typewriter. I saw it in person at her space in Lucketts  and didn't buy it. I am still amazed at the self control that took.

So there you go. My thoughts about milk paint. I was actually impressed with it once I started fiddling with it. And I didn't think I would be. So go give it a try and tell me what you think.

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