Since I've been working so much with milk paint in the new year, I thought I'd share some things I've learned in the form of Do's and Dont's. I am certainly not a milk paint pro just yet but for the novice, this should be helpful. If you've got anything else to add, please comment below! First off, there are two general styles of finish you can get with milk paint: 'chippy' (kind of an annoying name which reminds me a little of my least favorite word combo ever: shabby chic; I can't even say it) and a more traditional finish. I am not a chippy finish kind of lady (though I have experimented). I've seen some cool chippy finishes, but for the most part, no thanks. I mostly started using milk paint because it's truly an environmentally-friendly paint---made of milk and clay and natural pigments. Because of its super environmentally-friendliness, the colors are pretty limited when compared to what you'd find at a paint store. They all have a very early-American sort of muted feel. Does that make sense? Also, because it's made with milk and can spoil, it comes in powder form so you have to mix it yourself, which once you get the hang of it, is kind of nice (unless you're in a hurry). So far I've only used pitch black, oyster white (dresser below), salem red and one of the green colors (can't remember which). I was a little nervous about buying the black. I was afraid it wasn't a real black even though it was called 'pitch black'. I was definitely over-thinking it. This stuff is really black (see dresser above). It's great. I only have experience with the paint from the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. I considered purchasing some from Miss Mustard Seed but the Old Fashioned Milk Paint was cheaper. One nice thing about OFMP Co is that you can call them! They seem to be a very small company so if you're having trouble with anything, give them a call. They may not be able to help, but they'll try!
-Do mix with an immersion blender or blender if possible. This eliminates any chunky bits that don't get blended with a stirrer or paintbrush. Just be sure to clean your equipment right away when you're finished. Once it dries, it's hard to remove.
-Do use warm water to mix, especially if mixing by hand. Let sit for at least 15 minutes if mixing by hand. It also helps with getting the clumps out.
-Do mix in the suggested amount of extra-bond for a traditional, non-chippy finish. I read somewhere that a person had added the extra-bond and it still chipped but that hasn't happened to me yet.
-If you're mixing two+ colors, be sure to either mix enough for the whole piece or accurately measure the amounts you used of each. Otherwise you'll have variation in the coats, which may not be a problem for you depending on what you're going for. It might also be wise to experiment with small amounts first to make sure you don't waste a bunch of paint on a weird color you don't like.
-If the piece you're painting requires wood fill for cracks, etc., be sure to mix the fill with a small amount of either the powder or the liquid form of the paint. Milk paint is finicky and generally, if you don't do this, it will show through.
-Do sand with an electric sander before painting if the existing finish is slick. Some people will say you don't have to. Trust me, you do (I also don't understand saying that you don't have to sand anything you paint with Annie Sloan paint--that has backfired on me more than once). Try not to over-sand in certain areas. The unevenness created by over-sanding could also show up. Sand as evenly as possible.
-I suppose this is a matter of personal preference, but I like to keep my paint on the thin side. It goes on easier. If it feels too thin, let sit out for a while or add more powder.
-Do mix frequently. If you don't, when you get down to your last bit, it will have a lot of sediment which could result in a rough finish.
-Do lightly sand between coats if you want a smooth, even finish (don't do it after the last coat). If you'd like more dimension to your piece, wait and do this when you're done painting and sand the entire piece with fine sandpaper. You'll see unevenness / depth begin to show where there was once texture.
-Do store it in the refrigerator overnight once it's mixed. It will last a couple days but it definitely has a shelf life.
-Do seal with something. Since it's flat and finicky, you have to seal it. I would imagine it would stain very easily if you didn't do this. For a green, no-voc finish use tung oil or hemp oil (I've never actually used hemp oil). It is slow drying, also a bit finicky and time-consuming (to apply) but once you get the hang of it, it works great. It has a very hard finish. You can also use poly-acrylic (I use that on the white because I don't want it to yellow). It dries fast and is fairly easy to apply. You could also use wax. I've been using an enviro-friendly wax called Daddy Van's.
-Don't paint with a roller. You'll likely get air bubbles in the finish that will have to be sanded out. Just paint with a regular, high-quality paint brush.
-Don't paint it too soon after painting the first coat. Make sure it's completely dry. It dries slower than regular latex paint, so be prepared not to rush through it. Give it at least an hour to dry. If it's at all wet, you'll probably pull off the first coat. It's easy to tell whether it's wet. It is shiny when wet and very flat when dry.
-Don't expect a super smooth modern finish. You will likely be disappointed. I've said it a few times now but milk paint is finicky and it might be perfect sometimes (especially on a completely stripped finish) but often you'll see slight variation in the finish without any understanding of why.
-Don't add the extra-bond or sand if you're after the chippy look. And just because you didn't add it, there's still a chance it may not flake off and get chippy. You just never know with this stuff!
Lastly, if you're going to use milk paint on walls, test it out first! And don't just do one coat. Do at least two. I painted my daughter's room with it and after the second coat, it literally started pulling the plaster off the wall. It was so terrible. I was using the the Safe Paint version for walls too.