Experiment 1: Painting a Metal Frame with Milk Paint

I started off my exploration of Milk Paint by painting the metal frame of a mirror and a wooden coffee table, the latter of which I’ll show you later this week. It’s a bit long, but I wanted to share all the details! You can use Milk Paint on anything… a mirror, photo frame, statue, furniture or anything else you have around the house that needs a fresh look. Can’t find anything? I suggest perusing your local goodwill or second-hand shop. Keep an open mind, you would be amazed at how easy it is to transform an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan!

My mirror really wasn’t an ugly duckling. It was dark, metal and perfectly nice.  I forgot to take a before photo, but the finish looked something like this…

My home is warm with darker finishes that include leather, stained wood, slate and gold tones, but I’ve been wanting to change things up a bit. I do love the decor, but have been slowly adding elements of creamy white. Enter the mirror.

I should clarify that although I say creamy white, I’ve found that most paint called creamy white is really too white – the Old Fashioned Milk Paint called Light Cream that I used is no exception; it’s really more white than creamy. I found I preferred something a bit darker after painting it. I highly suggest if possible, that you see actual samples of the paint before purchasing. Names are never an accurate way to choose paint.  Paper samples are misleading. As in this case, a sample on paper can look right, but after seeing it in use, it’s off. Paint will do that to you. It is evil like that. True samples are a good thing whenever possible. The good news here is you can always paint over a wrong color!

So here is what I learned about Old Fashioned Milk Paint


  • Unless you are painting unfinished wood, you will need to add a bonding agent to the first coat of paint which they sell separately.
  • Do NOT skip any detail of the preparation. You WILL regret it. Repeat… I PROMISE you will REGRET it!
  • Mix up only what you will use that day. Milk Paint does not last more than 24 hours. For short-term storage, keep in refrigerator within an air tight jar.
  • Keep a plastic knife handy to occasionally stir your mixture as you paint.
  • The paint is thin, but dries fast – less than an hour. Don’t apply coats too heavy
  • Buy an old sifter at a yard sale and run the paint powder through it before you add water. I found it’s an extra step that helps avoid lumps.
  • When straining the wet paint, gently use a spoon to help it go through the cheese cloth. Warning: use it gently or the cheese cloth will tear and you’ll have to start over again. Torn cheese cloth = unhappy you.
  • Save glass jars to hold the paint after mixing. The lids are handy if you need to store the paint in the refrigerator for a few hours.
  • Invest in a good brush. Cheap brushes will lose bristles and you will find them all over whatever you are painting. Save yourself the frustration.  Trust me on this.
  • Take a breath and don’t rush. Do this when you have the time to enjoy the process and complete the painting portion of the project.
  • Milk Paint tends to randomly flake, crackle, peel in places. Embrace it, it’s part of the beauty of the paint and one of the reasons people love it!


  • Good paint brush.
  • Plastic utensil for stirring
  • Jar with lid for paint
  • Bowl for mixing paint
  • Packet of paint (powder)
  • Bonding agent (if not painting unfinished wood)
  • Cheese cloth or pantyhose for straining mixed paint
  • Rubber band to hold cheese cloth around rim of jar
  • Measuring cup
  • Rags/paper towels for clean-up
  • Sifter (optional)
  • Whisk, fork or immersion blender for mixing


  1. Determine how much paint to mix. If adding bonding agent, just make enough for the first coat. I’d suggest starting with a half cup of paint powder. You don’t want to run out.
  2. Before you mix the powder with water, run it through a sifter. I didn’t read anywhere to do this, but it can’t hurt. Lumps are bad. A sifter helps prevent lumps.
  3. Mix the powder, water and bonding agent according to directions.
  4. Loosely place cheese cloth or pantyhose over the rim of your empty jar and secure it with a rubber band. Make sure the cheese is loose in the center (see photo below). It takes time for the paint to go through, you don’t want it to overflow.
  5. Slowly pour the mixture over the cheese cloth. Have a cup of coffee, do your nails, watch a movie… not really, but it takes a bit to drain. You can encourage it with the back of a spoon, but do so gently and carefully so you don’t tear the cheese cloth. A tear = start process over or you will have lumps. I learned this the hard way. Mine tore when I was doing an earlier project, I didn’t re-strain. I had lumps. Lots of lumps. I was not happy.
  6. Paint your first coat, making sure to stir paint as you go. Note: the paint will be very thing. Let first coat dry for an hour or possibly less.
  7. Apply second coat. Let dry
  8. Apply Third coat if necessary. Let dry
  9. Sand to distress if desired.
  10. Apply clear coat or wax if desired. In this case, it’s not necessary.

Below I have some photo’s I took along the way which may help, but first, here’s my initial thoughts on Milk Paint…

Trial and error was the theme for this experiment. I really wasn’t mentally prepared in the beginning for the labor intensive part of mixing the paint. I have to tell you that personally, I am not in love with this paint. It is a pain in the tush. The lure is the price and the finished product, but the in between is not really my cup of tea. Plus, once you add the cost of bonding agent if needed and factor in any wasted paint along with the value of your time, I’m not so sure it’s that it’s that less expensive.

I added quick tips at the beginning to help save you some of the aggravation I experienced. Don’t let me scare you off of Milk Paint, I think knowing what to expect is half the battle and you do get a wonderfully “aged-like” finish at the end. The paint on this mirror did not flake much, but I finished a coffee table at the same time and it flaked like crazy, but in a good way. I’ll share that project on another day.

In the end, It’s definitely not my go-to paint and honestly,  I’m not sure I’ll use it again. I know a lot of people really love it, including Miss Mustard Seed who really inspired me to start all this creative painting. She is coming out with her own line of Milk Paint and I’m looking forward to seeing a tutorial by her. I may give it one more shot. The verdict for now: Many people love it, me, not so much. I actually re-painted this same mirror with chalk paint. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow!

A couple of photo’s…

I used Old Fashioned Milk Paint

I sifted the paint before mixing with water to help avoid the lumps…

Sorry it’s a bit blurry! It’s hard to sift, pour, measure and take photos!

Next I added the water and the bonding agent. I originally mixed it all with a whisk…

but it was still so lumpy I pulled out one of these (I rarely use it, so I didn’t mind using it on the paint) which helped a little…

Then I secured cheese cloth to a jar and strained the mixture…

 At this point, I’m not going to lie, it was pretty aggravating. It drained pretty slow and there was lots to clean up. And let’s not forget, I had to do it all over again for the second coat minus the bonding agent. Ughh.

Once strained, I taped the mirror and put on the first coat. The paint itself is pretty thin…

The second coat covered it up pretty well. It possibly could have used  a third coat, but I stopped at two…

About an hour after the second coat I grabbed a sheet of sandpaper and roughed up the raised areas…

The end result was actually really nice. It was the process to get there that was a bit too much for me.

Of course, after I sat back and admired my work for a few days, I decided I really wasn’t happy with how white it looked. I painted it with chalk paint the next day! Stay tuned! xo Amy

UPDATE: Click here to the mirror re-painted with Chalk Paint!

2 thoughts on “Experiment 1: Painting a Metal Frame with Milk Paint

  1. Pingback: Experiment 2: Painting a Metal Frame with Chalk Paint « Dish on Design

  2. Pingback: Chalk Paint Update « Dish on Design

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