Chalk Paint vs Milk Paint (Are They The Same?)

Chalk paint and milk paint give a dry matte finish that can either be distressed or sealed. But what’s the difference between these paints?

Chalk paint is a relatively new paint by Annie Sloan. The paint comes in a thick liquid form. The thick nature of chalk paint means it has good coverage so you need fewer coats.

Milk paint on the other hand is a much older paint type dating as far back as the dark ages. Asides from being older, milk paint doesn’t come in liquid form like chalk paint. The paint is usually in powdered form and it has to be mixed with water to be used.

But, there are more differences between these two. Check them out below.

What Is Milk Paint Used For?

What is Milk Paint?

Milk paint is commonly used as a colorant for other paints. This means the paint is used to add color to or deepen the shade of another paint. Since milk paint comes in powdered form, it’s easy to mix it with other paints. For instance, if you’ll like to add color to a clear finish like water-based polyurethane, you can use milk paint.

Milk paint is usually 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 the paint will stick easily to any surface and dry fast as well.

This is why milk paint is used on virtually every type of surface including slick materials like glass and aluminum. Milk paint is common for painting ceilings, drywall, and decorative items like flower vases.

However, milk paint has a flaw. The paint due to its simple and organic paint formula is not durable. At best, milk paint will last 5 years. In high-traffic areas, milk paint can’t last up to a year. But you can seal the paint with a strong topcoat to improve its durability. Now, let’s check out what chalk paint is used for.

What Is Chalk Paint Used For?

What is Chalk Paint?

Chalk paint is a water-based paint designed by British artist, Annie Sloan. Chalk paint is commonly used for furniture work. Cabinets, drawers, shelves, dressers, and the likes are usually painted with chalk paint. The paint gives a bright dry and matte finish. The finish can be distressed or waxed depending on choice.

The paint is made from colorants, a binder (usually plaster of Paris), and water. Unlike milk paint, chalk paint comes ready to use since the paint is in liquid form. The paint has a very quick dry-time and great coverage too.

One coat of chalk paint gives more coverage than 2 coats of other types of paint. Chalk paint is also water-resistant. Though the finish isn’t waterproof, it can still withstand moisture and spills to a certain degree.

However, chalk paint has a flaw. The thick flow of the paint means it can be difficult to control. But you can thin the paint with 1/2 cup of water so it’s much easier to apply. So which of the two paints is better? To discover that, we’ll have to compare both paints.

Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint: Head to Head

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

For a quick read, here is a table that shows the differences between both paints.

Now, let’s go into detail.

Paint Application

Chalk paint is more difficult to apply than milk paint. This is because chalk paint is thicker and thick paints can be difficult to control.

Since you need to mix the milk paint before use, you can control the consistency and flow which means you can decide how thick or light your paint will be. This makes paint application easier.

Paint Formula

Chalk paint has a synthetic paint formula. Most of the ingredients in the paint are manufactured. Chalk paints contain plasters like gypsum and plaster of Paris, iron oxide, ocher, and the likes.

Milk paint on the other hand has an organic paint formula. The main ingredients in the paint are milk protein, quark. and lime.

Paint Cost

Chalk paints have a higher price tag than milk paints. This is because chalk paints come in larger containers.

Since chalk paint comes ready to use and in a liquid form, it comes in paint containers measuring gallons. A gallon of chalk paint costs about $20. Milk paint on the other hand is a bit cheaper because it comes in smaller containers.

Also, the quantity of paint that you’ll get from mixing an entire can of milk paint with water is usually more than a gallon of chalk paint.

Paint Color

Both paints have vibrant colors but you can easily mix different colors of milk paint to get the desired color.

Though chalk paints can also be mixed, it’s difficult to do so as you can easily over-thin the paint. Also, chalk paint comes ready to use and it’s not designed to be mixed with other paints. Milk paint on the other hand is in powdered form so it can be mixed with other paints easily.

The Finish

Chalk paint gives a smooth and dry matte finish. You can also decide to distress or wax the finish. The finish of milk paints is sometimes clumpy. The clumps usually develop in the paint while being mixed or stirred.


Chalk paints are more durable than milk paint. This is because chalk paint includes other additives like plasters in the paint coating. So the finish is stronger than milk paints.

Milk paints are not known for durability. The paint wears off under stress and if used outdoors, it doesn’t last up to a year.

So when should you use milk paint? Let’s find out.

When Should You Use Milk Paint Instead of Chalk?

You should use milk paint in the following cases:

When You Need Light Coats

Since you have to mix milk paint before applying it, you can easily mix the paint with enough water to make it as thin as possible. Chalk paint is thicker.

When You Want To Add Color To Paint

MIlk paint in its powdery form is a great colorant to tint other paints. To add color to dull paint, you can mix the paint with milk paint.

When You Are Working On Art

The possibility to make your own milk paint and even mix it with other paints easily makes it suitable for art and crafts. Also, milk paint dries very fast so you get to add as much coat or color as required.

When Painting Small Items

Items like furniture, frames, chairs, tables, and flower vases should be painted with milk paint. Milk paint given its less durable finish should not be used on walls or other large surfaces.

When Should You Use Chalk Paint Instead of Milk Paint?

You should use chalk paint in the following cases:

When You Need A Strong Finish

Since chalk paint is stronger than milk paint, it’s more suited to paint tasks where durability and strength are required.

When Painting Walls

Walls, floors, ceilings, and the likes can be painted with chalk paint. Since chalk paint has more coverage, it will easily cover large areas. Also, the chalk paint is more durable so it can handle the stress of being on a wall.

When You Want A Distressed Finish

Though both paints can be distressed, it’s easier to distress chalk paint since it gives a smooth and fine finish.

Distressing milk paint will take extra steps because there are usually lumps in the milk paint due to pigments that don’t dissolve while mixing the paint.

Final Words

Overall, chalk paint and milk paint are both great paints and it can be difficult to pick just one. But I hope this guide has made that decision easier. Remember, chalk paint is more durable so it should be used over stress areas.

Milk paint is more ideal for low-stress areas. You can also use both paints by mixing milk paint with chalk paint. You’ll get a brilliant finish if you mix both paints properly.

Leave a Comment