What is the Best Paint for Furniture Makeovers?
Walking into a quaint home décor boutique, I saw towering shelves filled with an array of furniture paint cans. I walked over and was mezmorized by the gorgeous colors and soft matte finish. But then I looked at the price…. Was I really going to pay $40 for a small container of paint???
Soon after Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint came the popularity of Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint and it’s amazing ability to give furniture pieces their own unique look and finish.
But what about our good old friend latex??? Is it the dinosaur that some claim? Do these newer paints really surpass it’s durability and easy of use?
All of these paints are good products – there is no denying that. But some are better than others in terms of coverage, durability, easy of use, finish, versatility and your budget!
Here we will define terms and test each product to decide once and for all which is the best furniture paint! Be sure to check out the video to see how they compare side by side.
This post is for you if you:
- Want clarity on the best furniture paint for your desired look
- Need a budget-friendly paint that doesn’t cost more than the piece you are refinishing
- Are looking for clear instructions on how to refinish a furniture piece
Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint vs Latex: What’s the Best Furniture Paint for Beginners?
You want a cute dresser for your bedroom without paying a lot so you check out Facebook Marketplace to find the PERFECT tall dresser with spindly legs that you would love to paint in a delicious light blue/gray.
But when you start to Google how to refinish it, you are inundated with claims about which furniture paint to use. The information is as clear as mud on which is best: milk paint vs chalk paint vs latex.
The information overload is enough to make a girl give up on the idea of hand painting her own unique furniture piece and head to target for something in white laminate.
There is nothing like the relaxing time spent personalizing your own one-of-a-kind furniture piece in the color of your choice! This guide will help you pick the right paint to make your project go smoothly!
The Best Paint for Redoing Furniture
Whether you are a beginner or have your own furniture painting business, this post will hopefully shed some light on the differences in these types of paints. I picked the brands that were leaders in their respective groups: Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Sherwin Williams ProClassic as a Latex Paint. All of these are GOOD paints but some perform better than others as you can see in the video.
(As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see my full disclosure HERE).
Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint
Milk Paint has been around for years going all the way back to colonial times as it’s ingredients were easily sourced and all-natural. Milk paint is comprised of limestone, clay, pigment, and the milk protein casein which is where milk paint gets it’s name. The milk protein also accounts for the earthy smell which disappears when the paint dries.
Miss Mustard’s Seed Milk Paint allows for a lot of creativity with furniture painting. For those who are more whimsical in their furniture pieces and love the distressed chippy look, Miss Mustard’s Seed Milk Paint will give you a vintage, time-worn feel.
Adhesion and Prep Work for Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint
As I mention in the video, Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint actually comes in a powdered form. You mix the powder to a smooth consistency with water. If you want a more traditional, consistent look, you want to add Miss Mustard Seed’s Bonding Agent to your powder and water mixture as the bonding agent helps the milk paint to adhere to surfaces.
Milk paint can be difficult to mix to find the right consistency. For that reason, if you are mixing a large amount of milk paint, it is best to use a blender just for milk paint. Also, you have to be careful to mix enough paint so you don’t run out for your project.
For best results, I recommend a light sanding on all furniture pieces. By sanding you are only roughing up the surface, not removing the paint. Here is a guide on sanding: How to Sand Furniture in 5 Minutes
If you are mixing in the bonding agent, you don’t need a primer.
Budget-Friendliness of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint
The amount of powder to make a quart of mixed milk paint is $23.00 and the bonding agent is $12.00. Milk paint costs about the same as chalk paint because it is thinner and doesn’t cover as much as chalk paint.
Coverage: Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint Coverage & Smoothness
For some, wondering how your furniture piece will turn out is exciting as this milk paint reacts to all pieces a little differently. Sometimes its difficult to know if the paint will slough off in a fine powder or in larger chips.
If you are like me and don’t like as much unpredictability in your furniture painting, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk paint might not be a good option for you. With that said, if you are more artistic and like using lots of layering and distressing, then Miss Mustard Milk Paint is ideal.
This gorgeous dresser from Denise at Salvaged Inspirations gives you an idea of the look you can achieve with Miss Mustard Seed’s milk Paint. Isn’t it stunning?!? You can read more about the process in her post here: Milk Painted Furniture | Crackle Makeover
On raw wood, milk paint acts like a stain, penetrating the pores in the surface. Because it soaks into the wood, it usually always takes at least two coats. Because it acts like a stain, it gives a unique finish to raw wood that cannot be replicated with any other paint.
If you are not into the chippy look, you will definitely want to add the bonding agent because without it you will lack control in getting a traditional finish. Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk paint does have more brush marks than chalk paint.
Durability of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint
If you mix in the bonding agent, you don’t need a top coat as long as the furniture piece won’t get a lot of wear and tear. If you are unsure, it’s best to add a top coat. If you don’t add in the bonding agent for a chippy look, you definitely need a top coat. For the best top coat for milk paint, check out my post here: The Best Clear Coats for Furniture
Ease of Use and Dry Time of Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint
Since milk paint comes in a powdered form, it has to be mixed each time a furniture piece is painted. It can stay fresh in the refrigerator for 5-7 days but after that time it will spoil.
Because milk paint is thin, it dries quickly so you need only 2 hours between coats.
How to Finish Milk Paint: Does Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint Require a Top Coat?
If your piece will only get very light use, you might be able to get away without a top coat. But in most cases, you will need a top coat. You can wax over milk paint but it’s cheaper and more inexpensive to use a clear coat.
The Best Product for Sealing Milk Paint
Most clear coats need a couple coats minimum but there is only about an hour of dry time in between. You can read about my favorite clear coat for milk paint here: Best Clear Coats for Furniture but I love General Finishes Flat Out Flat for sealing milk paint projects.
Most pieces painted with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint will need 2-3 coats for a consistent look. For a chippy finish, you may only need one coat depending on the look you are trying to achieve.
If you want a more consistent finish, you will need 4 hours for two coats to dry and another 1 hour between clear coats and 24 hours for a final dry time.
For a non-chippy, consistent finish with Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint, you dry time will be 29 hours from start to finish.
Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint Technique: A 5 Step Process
For a typical project, mix your powdered milk paint in a 1:1 ratio according to the directions on the back to determine how much you will need. If you don’t want a chippy look, you’ll need to mix in the Miss Mustard Seed Bonding Agent.
Sand lightly before starting your process if you don’t want a chippy look.
Sometimes you will need two to three coats depending on the color of your piece and the paint color. Brush it on and wait 2 hours between coats.
To provide durability, add two coats of a good clear coat. I like the following clear coat to provide a beautiful soft wax finish: Flat Out Flat Clear Coat
Lightly Sand + 1 Coat of Milk Paint + 1 Coat of Milk Paint + 1 Coat of Clear Coat + 1 Coat of Clear Coat = 5 Steps
You can red more different instructions here: Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint Tips and Techniques
Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint Colors
Miss Mustard Seed Milk paint comes in over 25 colors in a matte finish. You can see them all by clicking here: Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint Color Options
Where Can I Buy Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint?
My favorite place to buy Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint is a shop on Etsy called Rundown Rustics.
Click the links below to see their selection:
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Chalk Paint is a decorative furniture paint developed by Annie Sloan over 25 years ago. It is said to “require little preparation and can be used indoors or outside, on just about any surface. It can revitalise old furniture, walls, ceilings and floors with ease”. The results are fast and accessible.
Adhesion & Prep Work for Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Chalk Paint’s claim to fame is that you do not need a primer. It’s very sticky making it adhere easily to many surfaces better than traditional furniture paint. This is very appealing in the furniture painting business and especially for first-time furniture painters. Chalk Paint is comprised of calcium carbonate, talc and pigment.
As I mention in the video, the calcium carbonate is a powdery substance which makes the paint “sticky”. Another benefit of the powdery element of chalk paint is the fact that you have more control when distressing. When distressing, the paint comes off in a powder instead of peeling like latex paint.
You can see how you can achieve the distressed look easily with this rustic dining table from Repurpose and Upcycle’s post here: Rustic Beach Cottage Dining Room.
Unfortunately, the “stickiness” of chalk paint is not the same as durability. Ironically, the very substance that makes chalk paint adhere to surfaces also makes the paint surface very “soft”. In other words, chalk paint is not durable as it won’t hold up well to scratches and does a poor job of holding up to water.
As a general rule, I lightly sand and prime all furniture pieces because the potential cost and hassle of ruining a piece is just too high. To determine if your piece needs primer, do the primer test below. Any slick surface will need light sanding and primer no matter what paint you use.
How to Know if You Need to Primer Your Furniture Piece
What is primer? Think of primer as a sticky paint that works as a glue for your furniture paint to adhere. As Jennifer Allwood says, “primer sticks to things, and paint sticks to primer.”
Here’s a failproof way to know if you need a primer before chalk painting a furniture piece. Take a very small amount of chalk paint and paint small area in an inconspicuous spot on your furniture piece. Let it dry a couple hours. If the chalk paint easily scrapes off with your finger nail, you need to use a primer before painting. For my favorite primer, click here: Zinnser Bullseye Water-Based Primer
Budget-Friendliness of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint
A litre of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is $34.95 and the bristle brush is $22.70 with my local stockist. For the sake of comparison, we will compare the price of a quart. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is $36.93 a quart. If you use wax, it is $21.95 for a pot and a wax brush is $41.95. For an easier matte alternative to wax, I like: Flat Out Flat Clear Sealant
Coverage & Smoothness of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
I’ve been told that Annie Sloan’s brand of chalk paint has a thicker consistency than others which provides for better coverage.
Durability of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
As we mentioned above, the substance (calcium carbonate) that makes chalk paint stick well to surfaces actually makes it less durable. In fact, if you set a cold glass on a chalk-painted surface that is not sealed, the paint will reliquify, ruining the finish and perhaps anything that comes in contact with it.
For that reason, chalk paint must have a sealant of some kind as it will not hold up well without a top coat. Traditionally, chalk paint has always been waxed. Unfortunately wax is also expensive and there is a learning curve in buffing it correctly with a special brush. Fortunately, there are clear coats that are much more inexpensive and easier to apply that will mimic the matte surface and soft finish of wax. You can read about those here: Best Top Coats for Chalk Paint
Ease of Use and Dry Time of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
Most chalk painters recommend waiting 24 hours between coats. So, you are looking at 48 hours of dry time for two coats and a dry time of around 1 hour between the two clear coats and 24 hours after the last clear coat (or wax).
You are looking at 73 hours from start to finish using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on a typical project.
The paint dries quickly but a chalk painted piece is only cured after 30 days leaving them susceptable to damage during that time. At 30 days, they will reach maximum hardness and durability. So, a piece should only be used lightly for the first month. If you use wax, you will have to re-wax every 6 months.
Chalk Paint Technique: A 5 Step Process
To get started, tip the pot of chalk paint upside down and shake before use. Then open and stir it well. If the paint seems too thick just add a little water and stir. For the best results, they recommend using a paintbrush like the Chalk Paint Brushes to apply the paint. You can get more tips here: Annie Sloan Tips and Techniques
If you want good results, a light sanding is key. If you are taking more than 5 minutes to sand a piece of furniture, you are doing more than you need to: How to Sand Furniture in Less Than 5 Minutes. Remember, you are just roughing up the surface so your piece accepts the new paint to ensure a beautiful finish for years to come!
You will most likely need two coats of paint and then you will need to buff on a wax OR you can use a clear coat but most clear coats need a couple coats for maximum durability at minimum. So, in most cases you are looking at a 5 step process:
5 Minute Sanding +1 Coat of Paint + 1 Coat of Paint + 1 Coat of Clear Coat + 1 Coat of Clear Coat = 5 Steps*
*If you use wax, it is a 4 step process but applying wax will take more effort than applying 2 coats of clear coat. Also, if you apply wax you will have to rewax every 6 months as it is not a permanent protective finish. See this post: Why I Rarely Use Wax to Seal Furniture For me, wax is not a viable option for sealing paint.
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Colors
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint comes in over 40 colors that you can see here: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Color Options. You can also mix different colors to customize your own shade.
Where can I Buy Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint?
To find a Annie Sloan paint stockiest, you can go here: Find an Annie Sloan Stockist Near You.
The Best Chalk Paint Recipe
For a great recipe to make your own chalk paint and save money, my friend Kim at Salvaged Inspirations has got you covered! By making your own chalk paint, you can still get the benefits without the cost. Check out her post here: Homemade Chalky Paint Recipe with Video Tutorial
Latex Paint: Sherwin Williams ProClassic Waterbased Alkyd Enamel
People have been using latex paint on furniture for years. When I use the term latex paint, I am referring to water-based paints.
In the past, alkyd or oil-based paints always worked best on furniture and cabinets in terms of durability and smoothness, but oil based paints can often yellow over time and have strong paint fumes. In other words, oil based paints are highly toxic! Oh, and they are very flammable.
The latex paint sold in big box stores for walls is usually a latex acrylic. That means there are mostly acrylic resins used. I prefer these paints over chalk paint but paint that works well on a wall doesn’t always work best for furniture because people don’t walk on walls. Often latex paint for walls have a lot of fillers like calcium carbonate.
There are good acrylic paints made with less fillers for furniture but an even better option came on the market in 2010 when Sherwin Williams formed a Water-based Acrylic Aklyd.
Basically, it has the positives of oil-based paints (hardness, smoothness and coverage) and the positives of water-based paints (less VOC’s, faster dry time, easy clean-up). It basically mimics the gorgeous finish of oil-based paint but doesn’t have the fumes.
The fact that its water-based means easy clean up with soap and water. It dries extremely hard to the touch in only 24 hours or less. Also, since the surface is so durable it is easy to wipe down, resists scratching and chemicals.
Is there such a thing as a Sherwin Williams Furniture Paint?
There isn’t technically a Sherwin Williams furniture paint, but Proclassic is used for cabinets, trim and doors, which is very similar in form and function. A paint that is durable enough for wear and tear on cabinets is more than tough enough for furniture.
Adhesion and Prep Work for Sherwin Williams ProClassic
As with all surfaces, it requires sanding to scuff up the surface to accept paint. You do need to use a primer with this product to ensure it sticks to the surface of your furniture. For a primer, I like to use this option: Zinsser Water-Based Primer
Budget-Friendliness of Sherwin Williams ProClassic
Coverage & Smoothness of Sherwin Williams ProClassic
This paint levels out to hide brush marks and small surface irregularies, ensuring a smooth surface that acyrlic latex paints cannot match. You can basically get a sprayed-on finish with a brush or roller. I didn’t believe it until I saw the finish for myself! It also will not yellow over time as it is water-based.
Durability of Sherwin Williams ProClassic
ProClassic forms an extremely durable surface 7 hours from the time it’s painted because it actually makes an enamel coating over the surface of the furniture piece. It will not easily chip, scratch or dent.
Ease of Use and Dry Time of Sherwin Williams ProClassic
Traditional acrylic latex paints (like you use on walls) can be repainted in 2 hours but don’t reach full hardness until after a 30-day cure time. The long cure times leaves them susceptible to damage in that 30 days.
Performance paints like Sherwin Williams ProClassic have a different chemistry. Some take 24 hours to recoat but during that time, they reach maximum hardness with no long cure time! Fortunately, ProClassic only takes 4 hours before you can recoat! Also, it has a cure time of only 7 days.
For a piece of furniture that takes two coats of paint, it will take 1 hour for the primer to dry and 4 hours of recoat time and 7 hours of final dry time. A piece painted with ProClassic will only take 12 hours of dry time.
Latex Paint Technique for Furniture: A 4 Step Process
Lightly sand your furniture piece just to rough up the surface like I describe here. Then, wipe your furniture piece down with a moist rag to remove any dust. Then, paint on a layer of primer. (I like to use a tinted primer on darker pieces will save me the time of an extra coat of paint.) Wait about an hour for your primer to dry before your first coat of paint. Paint on your first coat of paint and then wait 4 hours before you recoat with your second coat. Wait 7 hours for the final coat to dry.
Lightly Sand + Primer + 1st Coat of Paint + 2nd Coat of Paint = 4 Steps
Color Options for Sherwin Williams ProClassic
Unlimited. Sherwin Williams has hundreds of shades of color to choose from in satin, semigloss and gloss. If you want a matte finish, you can use my matte clear coats I listed in this post: Best Clear Coats for a Soft, Matte Finish
Where to Buy Sherwin Williams ProClassic
You can purchase Sherwin Williams ProClassic at any Sherwin Williams store. You might have seen some Sherwin Williams products in Lowe’s but they do not carry ProClassic. Fortunately, there are 5,000 Sherwin Williams stores nationwide and you can click here to find one near you: Find a Sherwin Williams Near Me
Often times I will call ahead to place my order so they can have it ready. I tell them I want “1 quart of ProClassic in x color in a satin sheen”.
General Finishes Milk Paint
Wondering why I didn’t include General Finishes Milk Paint in the milk paint section of this review? That’s because it isn’t milk paint at all! However, I devoted to an entire post to show you how this paint compares to our other three paints and you can also see how I transformed an old desk into a gorgeous vanity in General Finishes Halcyon Blue by clicking here: General Finishes Milk Paint Review
The All-Around Best Furniture Paint: Latex Paint (Sherwin Williams ProClassic)
Sherwin Williams ProClassic Waterborne Alkyd Enamel exceeded our expectations in every category. For a beautiful sprayed on finish with a brush or roller, ProClassic is tough to beat.
In terms of adhesion, you do have to use a primer with ProClassic but fortunately you save a step in not having to apply a top coat or wax as the finish forms an extremely tough enamel in a matter of a few hours. It’s rare to find a product that provides not only a very durable finish that can hold up to scratches, scrapes and dents, but one that comes to full hardness in only 7 hours!
Although it has the performance characteristics of an oil-based furniture paint, Sherwin Williams ProClassic is waterborne meaning that it has very low VOC’s and easy soap and water clean up.
I’ve learned the hard way that there is no true economy in cheap paint. Buy the best-quality paint you can afford.But ironically, ProClassic was the cheapest of the options with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint coming in second.
Want to see how General Finishes Milk Paint compares against chalk paint, milk paint and latex? Click here: General Finishes Milk Paint Review
When it comes to painting furniture, I’ve learned several tricks the hard way. Hopefully my mistakes will save you some time and money the next time you paint a furniture. Click here: Must-Have Furniture Painting Tips
Miss Mustard Seed Milk paint vs Chalk Paint
When it comes to comparing Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint, it’s important to ask yourself what you want the final product to look like. If you want different layers for an old-time vintage feel with chippy accents, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint is the way to go.
Best Paint for Antique Furniture with a Distressed Look
If you need a good paint for antique furniture with controlled distressing, chalk paint is a good option. With chalk paint, you can sand to distresses in a fine powder unlike latex that can sometimes distress in pieces. You can also control where you want the paint to distress unlike Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint which can be unpredictable.
Best Paint for Unfinished Furniture
Milk Paint, Chalk Paint and Latex Paint all adhere really well on unfinished furniture. You might need to lighly sand the piece if it is really smooth but for an unfinished piece with no cleaning products on the surface, you will have no problem using all three paints without a primer.
Best Paint for Painted Furniture
For a previously painted piece, all three of these paints will work well but I strongly suggest lightly sanding. For best results, use a primer. I like to buy tinted primer so that it saves me a step of an extra coat of paint. The tinted primer gives great coverage and often removes a step by replacing a coat of paint. If you use milk paint, you want to add the bonding agent if you don’t want a chippy look.
For my project gallery of painted furniture pieces, click here:
The Best Paint for Furniture, YouTube Video
Here’s a video so you can see the comparison and some helpful tips for using these three paints.
FAQ’s: What’s the Best Way to Paint Furniture?
What is the best paint brush for a smooth surface?
When you want a smooth, flawless surface, I recommend the Zibra brush. Not only does it hold a lot of paint so you don’t have to keep dipping into your can but it also shows virtually no brush marks. You can check the current price here: Zibra Brush
Can you use milk paint for kitchen cabinets?
I suppose you can but I wouldn’t recommend it. Not only would it be cost prohibitive but you would definitely need to add the bonding agent and a good top coat to seal in the milk paint. It’s definitely doable if you have a certain look you want to achieve but if you want a consistent color, then latex is a better option for cabinets. The best milk paint for cabinets would actually be General Finishes Milk Paint which isn’t actually milk paint at all.
Should I use milk paint or chalk paint for cabinets?
I wouldn’t recommend using either because they aren’t meant for cabinets and would be extremely expensive. See the question above. ProClassic is actually made for cabinets, giving you a super durable finish with much less work and cost.
Can you use milk paint on top of chalk paint?
If you want a chippy, distressed finish with layers, you can brush milk paint on top of chalk paint and it will give you a vintage, old world look. If you don’t want a chippy look, you need to lightly sand the chalk painted surface and then use the Miss Mustard Seed Bonding Agent with the Milk Paint. You would do the same if you were applying milk paint over stain.
Picking the Right Furniture Paint: Related Posts
Final thoughts on Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint vs Latex
We have covered a lot of information on which is better: milk paint vs chalk paint vs latex. Whether you are new to furniture painting or a pro selling gorgeous pieces online, your time is valuable so pick the best paint for your project! You can’t go wrong with Sherwin Williams ProClassic for a perfectly smooth rock hard finish. Also try Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint if you like a more artistic, rustic feel to your furniture makeovers. Most importantly, pick the piece that works best for your tastes, time and budget!
I love to hear your thoughts and questions! Scroll down to leave a comment and I WILL reply! ❤️
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Quick Links to Information in this Post
- 1 What is the Best Paint for Furniture Makeovers?
- 2 Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint vs Latex: What’s the Best Furniture Paint for Beginners?
- 3 The Best Paint for Redoing Furniture
- 5 Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint
- 7 Annie Sloan Chalk Paint
- 8 How to Know if You Need to Primer Your Furniture Piece
- 9 Latex Paint: Sherwin Williams ProClassic Waterbased Alkyd Enamel
- 10 General Finishes Milk Paint
- 11 The All-Around Best Furniture Paint: Latex Paint (Sherwin Williams ProClassic)
- 12 Furniture Painting Tips to Save Time and Money
- 13 FAQ’s: What’s the Best Way to Paint Furniture?
- 14 Picking the Right Furniture Paint: Related Posts
- 15 Final thoughts on Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint vs Latex
- 16 Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint vs Latex: Reviews and Comparisons
Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint vs Latex: Reviews and Comparisons
Welcome to Renovated Faith, where I share about DIY projects, my faith and everything in between! When I’m not spending time with my family, you will find me redoing furniture in the garage or watering plants in my greenhouse. This blog is about transformation. Anyone can renovate a house but only God can transform our hearts!