Chalk Paint or Milk Paint? The differences | Maine Country Home

Chalk Paint vs. Milk Paint…what are the differences?

Our paint shelf is wide and varied. It’s a thrill to try a new product or a new technique, especially when you paint as much as we do! We usually end up using one of two decorative paints when we start a new project, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint or Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®. Both are extremely versatile and can achieve a multitude of looks and finishes. We get the question a lot, “What’s the difference?” Or, “Which one’s better for my project?” Let’s take a look at what’s similarities between before we delve into the differences.

Chalk Paint & Milk Paint similarities:

  • They’re both soft decorative paints that require a topcoat when used indoors. Each line has waxes or other topcoats specifically designed to work with the paint
  • You can get any look you want from distressed to modern, even stenciling
  • You can mix colors together to make new colors easily
  • Both are fume free and non-toxic, which means they’re safe to use inside
  • You can use either on outdoor projects and they’ll naturally weather over time. They used to use Milk Paint to paint barns years and years ago!

Now let’s get into what makes these lines different. Let’s start by showing pieces painted in Chalk Paint:


Highboy painted with a 50/50 mix of Napoleonic Blue and Graphite

Old Ochra Side Board

Sideboard painted with Old Ochre


Petite end table painted with Paris Grey.

And now here are some pieces done with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint:

Dresser painted in Artissimo and Ironstone

miss mustard seed chipping milk paint

Eulalie’s Sky with White Wax on this end table

milk paint on a dresser

Trophy with custom colors for the drawers and stenciling.

Did you spot one of the big differences already? If not that’s ok, we’re getting there! Now on to the differences between these two amazing products. Let’s start with an easy one:

What is Milk Paint and Chalk Paint?

Milk Paint is a 100% natural powder that’s been around for hundreds of years.  It’s called milk paint because one of the ingredients is casein, which is milk protein. To make the paint you simply mix with warm tap water to create the consistency you want.

mixing milk paint

Chalk Paint was created by Annie Sloan in Oxford England 25 years ago. She named it for the chalky appearance and texture the paint has when it dries.

Picture of Annie Sloan teaching a class

Prep work?

Milk Paint wants to absorb into the surface you’re working on, that’s how it adheres. On glossier/non-porous surfaces you’ll see the paint start to chip and flake off where it can’t adhere. This is what makes Milk Paint really unique and special, but also a bit unpredictable! You’re never quite sure where it will chip and where it won’t, but that’s half the fun of the shabby chic look! If you want your paint to stick to anything without any chipping you simply add Bonding Agent, and/or give your surface a quick sand.

Chipping Milk Paint

Chalk Paint sticks to anything straight out of the can! Metal, lacquered furniture, ceramic, upholstery, painted surfaces…you get the idea!

repainting vintage lamps

To really see the differences between the two we suggest trying each out, you may be surprised which one you like better! If you’ve never used decorative paints before why not stop by for a class or open studio time to get your feet wet?

Can’t make it in? You can also subscribe to our newsletter for in-depth tutorials on how to get your favorite looks. A new one is delivered to you each week! And we’re always available via phone or email to walk you through even your toughest project.

Now that you know the differences between these amazing paints, we’ll be showing you next how to mix up Milk Paint for your upcoming projects. Stay tuned!

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