How to Refinish & Distress With Milk Paint

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Milk paint is a specific type of paint made from milk protein. In colonial times, settlers made the paint themselves, but today, it's available commercially, through many hardware and home improvement stores. Milk paint actually comes in a powder that you mix yourself with water, to make the consistency you want. Distressing a piece of furniture with milk paint involves using a different color of paint, as a base, underneath the milk paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Milk paint
  • Water
  • Plastic bucket
  • Wooden spoon
  • Scrap wood
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Paint roller
  • Paintbrush
  • Damp towel
  • Mix the powdered milk paint with water in a plastic bucket, following the manufacturer's directions and mixing with a wooden spoon. Test the color and consistency on a piece of scrap wood and add more water to make a lighter shade or more powder for a darker color.

  • Remove any stain or paint from the wood with medium-grit sandpaper. Rub the sandpaper over all areas of the wood, or use a handheld sander to make things easier. Wipe off any dust from the wood and then use fine-grit sandpaper, to remove any smaller pieces of paint still stuck on the wood.

  • Apply an even coating of regular paint to the piece, using a paint roller for a smoother coat. Let the paint dry and gently remove some of the paint with fine-grit sandpaper. Apply a second coat of paint to the piece and lightly sand it once the paint dries a second time.

  • Paint the piece with milk paint, using a paintbrush. The paintbrush gives the top layer a choppy and more distressed look than the paint roller does. Wipe off a small amount of paint with a damp towel, while the milk paint is still wet. Let the paint dry completely.

  • Cover the piece with another coat of milk paint. Wipe off a small amount of paint with a damp towel, focusing on the edges and sides, which should be more distressed because these areas receive more wear and tear. The paint you applied earlier shows through the milk paint, giving it a worn look.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a clear sealant on the piece, if you're worried about the paint wearing off.

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