Milk Paint Recipe

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Milk paint dates back to ancient Egypt and was used in the United

States during the Colonial period, typically for painting barns and furniture.


2 quarts (1.9 L) whole milk

1 cup (235 ml) vinegar

(optional) 4 tablespoons (52 gr) hydrated lime (found at gardening supply stores)

or borax (found in the laundry aisle or at art-supply stores)



1. Pour milk into a bowl and set aside to sour and curdle. To speed up the curdling process, add 1 cup (235 ml) vinegar to the milk and set aside overnight. Alternatively, you can place the milk and vinegar mix in a pot on the stove over low heat for about 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Scoop out curds with a spoon and place them in a strainer. If you curdled the milk with vinegar, you will need to rinse the vinegar off the curds.

3. Place curds in a clean bowl and slowly stir in lime or borax. Mix well to eliminate all lumps, adding water if the mixture is too thick. This is your milk-paint binder.

4. Using a separate container for each color, mix 1 part binder with 2 parts pigment. Use less pigment for transparent effects, more pigment for an opaque finish.


Use milk paint as you would an acrylic paint on most paintable surfaces, such as wood panels, paper, and canvas. The mixture will last for about a week if refrigerated, so be sure to make only what is needed.

Michel, Karen (2009-06-01). Green Guide for Artists: Nontoxic Recipes, Green Art Ideas, & Resources for the Eco-Conscious Artist (Kindle Locations 658-660). Quarry Books. Kindle Edition.


Each pigment will have a particular ratio of pigment powder to milk paint powder; therefore the ratios we provide are suggested starting points for testing. We highly recommend measuring by weight rather than volume – this is the most accurate method. (It is difficult to get a consistent color from batch to batch if measuring by volume.) A small gram kitchen or postal scale works well for weight measurements.

It is important to try out your test ratio to be sure you have not compromised the binding power of your milk paint due to over saturation. Too much pigment will result in over thickening of the paint or paint that “powders off” when dry.

Beginning Ratio By Weight

25% pigment to the weight of the dry milk paint powder. Water is then determined by volume: 1 part pigment/milk paint mix to 1 or 1+ parts water, (some pigments may absorb more water than others so some experimentation is necessary).

Beginning Ratio By Volume

1 part pigment(s)

9-10 parts paint powder

10-11 parts water

How Much Pigment to Buy


Approximate weight of pigment to add to one package of Old Fashioned Milk Paint Base:

Milk Paint Base            Pigment

1 Pint package   37 grams Natural or Ocher-based pigments, 25 grams Oxides

1 Quart package               74 grams Natural or Ocher-based pigments, 50 grams Oxides

1 Gallon package              295 grams Natural or Ocher-based pigments, 200 grams Oxides

Dry Mixing

Small amounts of paint powder and pigment powder can be mixed dry. Measure out proper ratios of pigment to paint powder in a container with a tight fitting lid that is large enough to allow for “shaking room”. Cover tightly with lid and shake the container vigorously for 1 or 2 minutes. This will disperse the paint particles within the powder to prevent spots of unmixed pigment in your paint.


Slaking (Wet Mixing)

For larger volumes of paint it is best to mix the pigment into the Milk Paint Base wet.* Known as “slaking”, you pre-wet the pigment(s) by mixing with an equal amount of water. Stir thoroughly into a homogenous paste, making sure all lumps are gone. Helpful tools are popsicle sticks, wood paint mixers, wire whisks and palette knives.

Then, thoroughly stir this mixture into your batch of prepared milk paint and allow it to rest and continue by mixing as instructed by the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Instructions. Follow the manufacturers instructions completely to ensure success.

* If you are using Titanium White to lighten your color, it is recommended that you use the slaking method to ensure complete dispersion.

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