Chalk Paint vs Milk Paint (What’s The Difference?)

| Updated on
Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Chalk and milk paint have a dry matte finish that can be distressed. But, what’s the difference between these two paints?

The main difference is that milk is an old paint type that comes in powdered form and must be mixed with water to be used. While chalk paint is a new paint by Annie Sloan and comes in a thick liquid form. 

The thick nature of chalk paint gives it better surface coverage than milk paint. On the other hand, milk paint has a more organic formula. 

Milk Paint

What is Milk Paint?

Milk paint is used as a colorant for other paints. This means it’s used to add, change, or deepen the color shade of another paint. Since it comes in powdered form, it’s easy to mix it. For example, if you want to add color to a clear coat finish, you can use milk paint. 

Milk paint is made from milk protein, quark, and limestone which gives it the powdered form. The paint has no chemicals, additives, or preservatives in it. The simple paint formula means that it will stick to any surface and dry fast as well. You can also use it on slick surfaces too (glass or aluminum). 

Due to the simple and organic formula, milk paint isn’t durable. At best, it will last 5 years on indoor surfaces. For outdoor or high-traffic surfaces, it won’t last more than 1 year. But, you can seal it with a waterproof sealant to increase its durability. 

Chalk Paint

What is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is a water-based paint designed by Annie Sloan. The paint is made of colorants, a binder (Plaster or Paris), and water, so it doesn’t have protective additives. Unlike milk paint, chalk paint comes in a liquid form ready to use. 

It has a fast drying time because of its water-based nature and its solvent (water). Since water evaporates fast, the paint also dries fast. You can use it on indoor furniture, cabinets, shelves, and other similar indoor surfaces.

You shouldn’t use it on outdoor surfaces because the paint isn’t durable enough to withstand weather elements. If exposed to constant water, chalk paint will get washed off because it has low moisture-resistance qualities. 

Chalk paint has a thick flow that can be hard to control. But, you can thin it with water to make it easier to apply. 

Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint

Let’s compare both paints using the features of good paints to see which comes out on top.

Chalk PaintMilk Paint
Paint flowThickThe flow depends on how the paint was mixed
Paint applicationEasyAverage
CoverageGoodMultiple coats are needed
Paint formulaSyntheticOrganic

Paint Application

Chalk paint is more difficult to apply than milk paint. That’s because it has a thicker flow and thick paints are difficult to control. Since you must mix milk paint before use, you can control the flow thickness and decide how thick or light you want the flow to be. This makes the paint application easier. 

Paint Formula

Chalk paint has a synthetic formula, while milk paint has an organic formula. Chalk paint contains plasters (such as gypsum or plaster of Paris), iron oxide, and ocher, while milk paint contains milk protein, quark, and lime. 

Paint Cost

Chalk paint costs more than milk paint because it comes in large containers. It also comes in ready-to-use and liquid form, so the paint is measured in gallons. Milk paint comes in powder form, but if you mix it with water you get more than one gallon of paint. 

Paint Color

Both paints have vibrant colors, but milk paint comes with more options. Since it comes in a powdered form you can mix different colors to get a unique colored finish.

You can also mix chalk paint, but it’s harder because you can over-thin the paint. It also comes in liquid form so it’s harder to mix it with other paints. 

The Finish

Chalk paint has a smooth and dry matte finish, you can distress or wax it too. On the other hand, milk paint has a distressed chippy finish. 


Chalk paint is more durable than milk paints because its formula contains additives such as plasters that increase the durability of the paint. Milk paint isn’t known for its durability, the paint wears off if exposed to water or used outdoors. 

Using Milk Paint Instead of Chalk Paint

You should use milk paint in the following cases:

  1. If You Need Light Coats – Since you must mix milk paint before applying, you can control the flow thickness of the paint. You can add more water to the paint powder and the flow will be lighter. So, if you need lighter coats, use it.
  2. Add Color To Paint – You can use milk paint to add color to a clear coat sealant or paint. Mix it (in powdered form) with another paint to get a colored finish. You can also mix it with another colored paint to get a unique color shade.  
  3. Painting Small Items – If you are painting small decorative items such as framers, vases, or chairs, use milk paint. That’s because the paint is easy to apply and you can get a unique finish. However, you shouldn’t use it on high-traffic surfaces. 

Using Chalk Paint Instead of Milk Paint

You should use chalk paint in the following cases:

  1. Durable Finish – If you need a durable finish, use chalk paint because it has extra protective additives, such as plasters. 
  2. Painting Walls – If you are painting walls, use chalk paint because it offers more coverage and is more durable.
  3. Distressed Finish – Milk paint offers a distressed finish too, but you can’t control the final results. So, if you want a distressed finish, use chalk paint. That’s because you can choose where to create a distressed finish and where to have a smooth surface. 

Final Words

Chalk paint and milk paint are two great paints, but they have some differences. For instance, chalk paint is more durable, has better coverage, and is thicker, while milk paint has a simple formula (dries fast), is easier to apply, and gives a unique finish. 

Milk paint is designed for decorative low-traffic indoor surfaces. You can also mix both paints (milk and chalk paint) to get a unique finish. 

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

Leave a Comment