Like chalk paint, milk paint is an age-old mineral paint formed of chalk, earthy pigments and the casein that gives it its name. It is a pure, ecological paint I’ve encountered here in Canada, and comes in powdered form. I decided to try it out on the shopkeeper’s cabinet that I’d modified to fit a nook in my studio.
Any paint lends itself to mixing to achieve just the right shade, but milk paint colour just begs to be played with, like the inks in the old lithography studios I used to print in. First I measured out 85 grams of Canadian Homestead House’s Algonquin.
Equal parts water went into the blender first, followed by the powder. I found it was critical to work quickly with a spatula to scrape down the sides. Be sure to blend it for at least five minutes. Shaking it in a jar doesn’t work so well, and pigments will appear grainy and mottled. Ask me how I know this. I do prefer doing things by hand whenever possible! Wash your blender and any tools thoroughly, immediately, as this paint dries quickly.
The same again of coal black. Being so simple in ingredients – so much so that I’ve heard that milk paint will go off! – I did think that the stuff wouldn’t smell like much. On the contrary, when mixed with water it smells out and out like any strapping, volatile can of paint. Once dry, there was hardly a whiff.
Blended, the black paint felt quite different from the brown, far thicker in texture, and asking for more water. Preparing milk paint feels more colour-theory-at-art-school than summer-job-as-student-painter. That alone has much to recommend it, if you’re an adventurous sort.
From there I began to mix the colour, adding a teaspoon of the black to darken and cool the brown, painting a swatch, letting it dry, mixing in another teaspoon, testing. If you plan to reproduce what you’re doing, for example to mix another batch as I needed to, it is a very clever practice to make notes of what you did.
The first, plain swatch of algonquin went on to (a hidden spot on) the cabinet smoothly and promptly crackled over the orange stain as it dried, so I knew I’d need to use the binder wherever I didn’t want chippy paint! The shade I wanted appeared at about 5 teaspoons of the coal black paint mix to the half-bag amount of algonquin paint. After mixing in roughly half the amount again of the binder, I got to work painting the shopkeeper’s cabinet. About that – soon. If you missed me wrestling this oversized buffet-and-hutch into my studio nook with the assistance of a saw, crowbar, and vinegar, you can see it over here.