Milk Paint

26 04 2010

Anyone ever heard of such a thing?!  Well, it happens to be an organic material that gives surfaces a distinctive color-washed finish.  As I am sure you have guessed, milk is the primary ingredient in the paint, acting as a binder for the pigments (same as latex or oil when you think of “standard” paint).  Having been used by the ancient Egyptians, it is mostly found in association with colonial-era furniture and by eco-friendly users today since it doesn’t give off any noxious vapors, also known as VOC’s.  It is used widely in furniture finishing because it has great saturated colors but easily finishes off with a translucent finish, which gives wooden furniture that beautiful antiqued look.  This technique is great for furniture but, don’t try to simply mix the milk with a color pigment and spread it out on the wall or you may be disappointed.

Here are the steps to get you started with mixing a batch (this would make enough to cover a bureau or other large furnishing):

1. Mix the juice of a lemon with 1 quart skim milk in a large bowl.  Leave the mixture overnight at room temperature to induce curdling.

2. Pour it through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to separate the solid curds from the liquid whey.  Add 4 tablespoons of dry color pigment (available at art-supply stores) to the curd; be sure to wear a mask, and stir until the pigment is evenly dispersed.  (Artists’ acrylic paint can also be used in place of powdered pigment.)

3. Add it one drop at a time, and stir constantly until you achieve the desired hue.  Whether pigment or acrylic based, milk paint will spoil quickly, so it should be applied withing a few hours of mixing.  Rest assured, its sour smell will disappear once the paint dries.  If you prefer, you can purchase milk paint rather than making your own.  Once source is Old Fashioned Milk Paint.

Here’s a great shot of some colors you can easily achieve if you try it.

I think this is a fantastic way to save a buck, a trip to the store and help the earth at the same time when you have a little project you are working on.  Anyone ever mixed their own paint?  I’d love to hear about it and even better, I’d LOVE to see your work!

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