How to transform old furniture with milk paint
Build | Fixing Furniture

How to Get Amazing Results with Milk Paint on a Dresser

Learn how to use milk paint to refinish furniture with this easy tutorial. This amazing before and after shows just how easy and beautiful milk paint turns out. 

This post is sponsored by The Real Milk Paint Company. All opinions are entirely my own. 

Ever since I painted an old nightstand with chalk paint, I was hooked on using alternatives to regular latex paint.

For me, chalk paint was one of the easiest ways to transform old furniture and the results were amazing.

Since I had such a great experience with chalk paint, I had been wanting to work with milk paint.

Yes, there is a difference between the two! Milk paint comes in powder form, so you mix it with water.

Milk paint is always non-toxic, which is a huge bonus.

So, our first milk paint project was giving an old dresser a makeover.

This dresser was given to us from my aunt and uncle and it easily dated back to the 1950s.

It was my uncle’s baby dresser in his nursery, and he was happy to give it a new home.

My goal was to bring some new life into this old piece by using milk paint.

Updating an old 1950s oak dresser with gray blue milk paint

Shortening the Dresser

The dresser was really tall, and I recently realized that you can run furniture through a tablesaw to shorten it!

So, I gave my husband the challenge of shortening the dresser, thinking it would make for a less bulky  and dated piece.

Below is the old dresser, in its original form.

Sanding the top of an old oak dresser before painting it with milk paint

My husband accepted my challenge and transformed the tall dresser into a shorter one using a jigsaw (for those details check out how to shorten a tall dresser).

I was so thrilled with how the four drawer dresser looked and couldn’t wait to start refinishing it with milk paint.

Shortening a dresser and then painting it with milk paint

For a sneak preview of how the dresser turned out, check out the picture below.

The milk paint completely transformed this old piece, and now I’m hooked on milk paint.

If you have an old piece of furniture that you’d like to redo, milk paint can completely make it over.

From choosing a paint to putting on new hardware, all the details are in this simple tutorial.

How to transform old furniture with milk paint

Why Choose Milk Paint

When researching milk paints to use on furniture, I came across the Real Milk Paint Company and loved how natural the paint was.

First, their paint is entirely environmentally-friendly.

There’s absolutely no VOCs in the Real Milk Paint, and it is completely non-toxic. It’s made from iron oxide pigment, milk casein, and lime.

You can literally discard the paint in your garden.

Crazy, right?!

Second, the finish is really beautiful too. It’s high-quality and turns out gorgeous.

Third, I personally loved mixing my own paint. If you want to mix colors, it’s very easy and fun to do!

Milk paint is also fast-drying and easily adheres to most surfaces.

Check out more of my tips on milk painting and other tips on painting old furniture.

Using milk paint in French gray to refinish an old dresser

After reading all the benefits of the Real Milk Paint Company’s paint, I knew it was the perfect choice for my next DIY furniture transformation project.

French Gray Milk Paint from The Real Milk Paint CompanyHow to Prepare Furniture for Painting

First, you want to clean your piece and remove any hardware.

Sometimes your piece of furniture might be old, and the hardware might be difficult to remove.

Ours was like this too, and we have a great tip in the a below section (How to Put New Knobs on a Dresser).

Do I have to sand my furniture when I use milk paint?

With milk paint, you need to be able to get the milk paint to stick to the surface of the furniture. So, you have two choices:

  1. You can either sand down your piece OR
  2. You can use a bonding agent in your milk paint.

If you use a bonding agent in your milk paint, you eliminate the need to sand.

If you don’t use a bonding agent, then you need to give it a light sanding.

So, it’s your choice.

If you do sand, always wear a high-quality dusk mask.

Sanding and refinishing an old oak dresser

For this old dresser, we did a little bit of both to prepare the furniture for milk paint.

We sanded down the top of the dresser to give it a fresh start, but we mixed the bonding agent in the paint for the rest of the dresser.

Bonding Agent Note

You only need to mix in the bonding agent with the first coat.

So, if you make another batch of paint for subsequent milk paint coats, you don’t need a bonding agent.

The Real Milk Paint Company has a product called Ultra Bond, which is really simple to just add into your mixed paint.

Then, you don’t have to sand your piece, which does save a lot of time.

Using ultra bond as a bonding agent when painting with milk paint

What materials do I need for milk painting furniture?

The following list of materials is what we used to transform this old dresser.

I highly recommend getting a new high-quality bristle brush when working with milk paint, but more on that later.

How to Mix Milk Paint

Milk paint comes in a powder form. Don’t let this scare you though because mixing the milk paint couldn’t be easier!

You definitely don’t need to be an artist or a even cook to be able to mix and measure your milk paint.

It’s a one-to-one ratio, so the measuring is simple.

And then you just shake, shake, shake.

Mixing milk paint from the Real Milk Paint Company in Lakeview Blue

How I Mixed the Paint Color for this Dresser

I was mixing the Real Milk Paint Company’s French Gray with just a little bit of their Lakeview Blue.

However, I LOVED the French Gray so much that I added very little of the Lakeview Blue in.

To start, I grabbed a quarter cup from the kitchen and a few plastic spoons. I also filled a red solo cup with water.

Out in the garage, I scooped out a quarter cup of the French Gray and dumped it in the paint can.

Then I scooped one spoonful of Lakeview Blue and added it in.

Then, I filled the quarter cup again with water and dumped this into the can.

I also added one spoonful of water (to balance out the blue) and added that to the mix too.

Milk Paint Mixing Tip

If you are going to mix colors, make sure to write down exactly what you mixed so that you can create the same color again.

How to mix milk paint powder in French Gray

I closed the paint can and started shaking it up. You’ll hear the marble that comes with the can bouncing around.

This helps to mix the paint up.

After giving it a really good shake, let it sit for 20 minutes. After that, if any clumps come to the surface, simply shake it up again.

That’s it! Easy, right?!

Testing Your Color

As tempted as you will be to start painting, it’s best to test your color first. You want to make sure the color dries the way you like it.

So, pick a small little area and give the color a little while to dry to make sure you like it.

The French Gray and Lakeview Blue mix that I conjured up was more powder blue than charcoal blue.

So, I decided that when I made another batch, that I would use a smaller amount of Lakeview Blue.

This was one of my favorite parts of painting with milk paint – you make your own color!

Of course, there are base colors to start with, and then you can add other colors in to achieve the look you want.

With regular latex paint, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a can of paint back because it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

With milk paint, you eliminate all that by making your own color.

How to Use Milk Paint on a Dresser

Okay, I simply cannot stress this enough, but you need to use a really, really good paintbrush with milk paint.

You might not want to go digging in your bucket of brushes and instead just buy a couple really nice ones.

You’ll thank yourself later when you love your refinished piece.

If you use a poor paintbrush, you’ll end up with lots of streaks and uneven surfaces.

But a smooth bristle brush will give your surface a really nice look.

Using a good bristle brush to milk paint an old dresser

How do you paint furniture with milk paint?

So, back to painting. Now that your paint is mixed and you’re happy with the color, it’s time to get started.

I would choose a small area to start in, so that you get used to the milk paint on a smaller surface.

Rather than jumping right into the top of the dresser, I started on a drawer.

Starting on a drawer gave me a smaller area to work on so that I could perfect my milk painting technique.

As you’re painting, keep your water cup near your paint can, because depending on how thick your mix is or what coat of paint you are working on, you might need to add some water.

Tricks to Painting with Milk Paint

Milk paint has a different consistency than regular paint and a different consistency than chalk paint. It’s not as smooth as either of those.

It can be watery, thick, or can even clump together.

Light Coats

The trick is you want to give your furniture light coats.

Don’t clump on thick layers of paint because milk paint doesn’t work this way. Paint will start to build up in places and start to crack. Light coats are key.

The milk paint might look streaky because you’ll see the wood coming through, but that’s okay. Another coat or two of milk paint will even it out.

Even Brushing

Another tip is that milk paint usually dries the way you are painting it on.

So, you want to make sure you are running your brush from one end of the piece to the other, so you don’t have brush strokes on your piece.

If you’re seeing brush strokes when you paint, you will see these when it dries.

So you definitely want to fix those brush strokes while you’re painting.

Adding Water

If you’re painting and the milk paint seems too thick and it isn’t spreading well, then dip the very, very edges of your brush into your water cup.

A little water goes a long way. Then attempt to spread the paint.

You also might do this with a second or third coat to help the paint spread better.

Now, if your paint becomes bubbly, you have too much water. Keep going over the bubbles with the brush, until they are completely gone.

Getting into a Rhythm

I think the best tip I could give you is to just work with the paint, and the more you work with it, the more you’ll find a good consistency and technique for you.

As you start painting, you’ll start to get into a rhythm and notice what works well for you.

How to Use Milk Paint on Furniture Video

In the below video, I show you my process for painting with milk paint, using a drawer as a test piece.

What do I paint first?

If you’re wondering what process I used to paint the old dresser, here is exactly what I did.

Test Spot

First, I did a test spot and let it dry. You can use a hair dryer to speed this up. Make sure you are happy with the color before you continue.

One Drawer

After painting a test spot with milk paint, I went on to paint a drawer that wasn’t too prominent. This enabled me to get comfortable with the paint before attempting a more seen surface like the top.

Remaining Drawers

I was happy with that, so I continued onto painting the rest of the drawers.

Top of the Dresser

After the drawers, I was comfortable with my consistency and I moved onto painting the top of the dresser.

It took me a little while to paint the top of the dresser with milk paint.

I started in small areas, like I mentioned above and continued to keep smoothing out the milk paint.

Rounded Dresser Top

I didn’t do the rounded sides of top quite yet because the milk paint dried so fast – that I was spending all the time getting the top to look perfect.

After I was pleased with the top, I moved onto the front of the dresser and the rounded sides.

For the rounded sides, I wanted to paint these with precision.

I needed to be careful not to get any paint on the dresser top – since I had already painted that and it had dried.

For the rounded sides of the dresser top, I used a small brush from my craft room.

techniques for refinishing old furniture with milk paint

Pictured below is the whole dresser after one coat of milk paint.

Small Color Change

It was a little more blue than I wanted.

So the next coat I mixed up, I used just a half spoonful of Lakeview Blue.

And, the third coat of milk paint, I used all French Gray.

The picture below is after the first coat – so the dresser was looking quite blue.

Using milk paint to paint an old dresser - furniture refinishing techniques

I continued on to paint two really good coats of milk paint on the entire dresser, and then a third light topcoat.

Letting the Milk Paint Dry

Milk paint dries super fast, so you can knock out a milk painting project in a short amount of time.

Paint a coat, head inside for a snack, and by the time you’re done that snack, you can probably do another coat.

That’s why milk painting is a great naptime project for mamas!

Painting an old dresser with French Gray milk paint

How to Apply Finish to Milk Paint

You’ll definitely want to apply a finish on milk paint to protect the paint you put on. Otherwise, dirt or water can disrupt its surface.

Applying the finish to the milk paint dresser couldn’t have been easier.

Once the milk paint furniture is dry, you can apply your finish.

We used the low sheen finishing cream from The Real Milk Paint Company.

I simply scooped a dollop out with a spoon and then used an old sock to rub it all over the dresser.

You use enough of it to cover your area. It was super easy.

The finishing cream is non-toxic – and doesn’t have any kind of smell. Only one coat was necessary too!

Milk Paint Finishing Tip

Some of the milk paint pigment might rub off on your cloth. This is normal.

If your piece of furniture is more than one color then you might want to use a separate cloth for each milk painted color you are applying the finish to.

How to Put New Knobs on the Dresser

Part of the upgrade that we were giving the dresser was new hardware.

I loveee adding new hardware to old pieces because it is an instant upgrade. It is such an easy way to update an old piece of furniture, as it can change the whole look (and time period) of the piece.

Prior to painting, when I removed the original hardware, I had a little trouble removing a few of the old knobs.

Tool Tip

Some of the screw heads started to strip with my screwdriver because of the age, so I used my impact driver to easily remove them with no damage.

In putting the new knobs on the dresser, I decided to use round knobs on the top small drawers and half moon shell knobs on the rest of the drawers.

This made the two smaller drawers the easiest to upgrade as it was just a matter of swapping the old knobs with the new ones.

Update old furniture by replacing the hardware - makes a big difference

Additional Drawer Holes

The larger drawers needed some additional holes drilled to accommodate the half moon shell drawer pulls. I used a ruler to line up the existing holes.

My husband helped me out with this since my kids’ naptimes had ended.

He drilled new holes parallel to the ruler, offset by 2.5″ from the old holes (the spacing required for the new handles).

How to add new knobs to old furniture

Excited to see the refinished dresser with the new hardware, I laughed when I saw that my husband installed all the half moon drawer pulls upside down haha! (see below).

He thought the half moon shell pulls were like little bowls 🙂

Gray blue dresser after being painted with milk paint - tips and tricks

After having a quick chuckle, I easily flipped the half moon drawer pulls.

It was just a quick fix to flip them, and voila! The refinished dresser was done.

Gray Blue dresser after being paint with milk paint with the sky in the background

I finished the piece just as the sun was setting and was anxious to move it inside. It didn’t need to be aired out at all because it had no smell whatsoever.

Using French gray milk paint on an old dresser to make it brand new again

Moving the Dresser In

Once inside, I quickly adorned it with some of my favorite decor, including the below picture of my late grandmother.

So fitting too because she was a DIYer back before the term ever existed. A flea market fanatic decades before all of the network shows.

Boy, she would have loved to have known about milk paint.

Overall, I was so thrilled with how the refinished dresser looked in our home. It was truly quite a makeover.

An amazing milk paint furniture makeover in French gray - milk paint before and after

I had plans to move this dresser upstairs and use it for extra clothing storage. However, I loved the way it looked downstairs.

It’s currently in a corner of my living room, holding gifts and gift wrap, and I couldn’t love it more.

Benefits of Milk Paint

If you are looking to transform an old piece of furniture or if you are just looking for a non-toxic, child-friendly, pet-friendly safe paint, definitely check out The Real Milk Paint Company. You’ll absolutely love it.

Milk paint offers tons of colors (and you can mix even more yourself).

The paint is easy to mix and work with.

You’ll love how fast it dries, how easily it adheres to surfaces, and the beautiful finish it gives.

Your painting projects and possibilities are endless, and most importantly, the paint is safe. What’s better than that?!

Milk paint before and after - an old oak dresser transformed into a modern gray blue dresser with silver knobs

Furniture redos are simple to do. With just paint, sometimes a light sanding, and new knobs, you can completely change an old item.

If you are checking out old pieces of furniture, check out yard sales, flea markets, Craig’s List, thrift stores, and of course, the curb 🙂

Yet, make sure that the furniture you choose to flip is a solid wood surface. You’ll be able to do more with it if it is a quality wood piece.

Also, make sure your piece is sturdy and doesn’t wobble. There’s nothing like getting home with a new chair or dresser only to find out it wobbles.

I hope this milk paint tutorial helps you with your furniture flip.

More Posts You’ll Love

  • Milk paint is absolutely gorgeous on raw wood! We used white milk paint on our mudroom makeover, and it couldn’t be more beautiful.
  • This tutorial gives you all the tips on how to use milk paint on raw wood. It’s even easier than using it over wooden or painted surfaces.
  • If you are looking for a simple DIY project, make your own hook rack. It’s super easy and you’ll get more storage.

51 Comments

  1. I saw this project in your Instagram feed and had to head over to your blog to take a look right away! My husband and I recently snagged an old cabinet with drawers for cheap from an estate sale and have been wanting to repaint it this spring. This is a perfect guide to reviving an old piece of furniture and I am excited to try out Milk Paint!

  2. Wow, the dresser looks great. I have never heard of milk paint but I am curious to try it on a sideboard I have that needs an update. #TriumphantTales

    1. Yes milk paint is wonderful!

    1. Thanks Tracy! The milk paint did a great job:)

  3. WOW that looks totally amazing. What an amazing change. #BloggerClubUK

    1. Thanks for your compliments Sonia!!

  4. So good! I had chalk painted our oak cabinets in the kitchen … I know! It was a huge task. After using TSP to clean, I thought no tanin would come through, but it did seep through, so we had spotting. I didn’t wax. Instead, I went to a local natural wood furniture place and talked to the guy. They sell milk paint (premixed) and he explained why it’s so much better. I’m waiting until summer to do this as I have to sand a lot and it will take so much time to do all the cabinets, but I’m looking forward to the outcome. I saved this post for the pointers. Found you in the link-up, by the way! Dresser looks lovely!!

    1. Thank you for your compliments. Yes kitchen cabinets are a huge task! I did our kitchen cabinets with gel stain a few years back and it was such a project. But I loved the outcome. I’m sure the milk paint will look fab on your cabinets. 🙂

  5. What a beautiful transformation! Love the way the colors layered together. Thanks so much for sharing at the #happynowlinkup!

    1. Thanks so much Leslie!:)

  6. Wow—it looks like a lot of work, but it turned out fantastic! #GraceAtHome

    1. Aww so happy to hear that Myriah!

  7. Stunning! It turned out so well! I’ve never heard of milk paint before but I think it’s definitely something I’ll have to look into! Thank you! From The Blogger’s Pitstop

    1. Thanks so much, Denise! Yes the milk paint was awesome:)

  8. I have a chest of drawers I would like to do this to. Super pretty color! #happynowlinkup

    1. Thanks Jen! Yes I love how it changes its look and feel:)

  9. Can we have it back now??! Just kidding about that. WOW, you picked such a great paint color and I love the new hardware! Aunt C

    1. Hahaha!! Thanks so much!! 🙂

  10. Jann Olson says:

    I love the color! I’ve only used milk paint one time, but I liked the results! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

    1. Thanks Jann! Yes me too:)

  11. Wow, it’s turned out fantastic, I love the colour! Thanks for joining us at #TriumphantTales, hope you’ll come back again on Tuesday!

  12. I’ve never even heard of milk paint! The dresser looks great.

    1. Thanks Vanessa! The milk paint was great to work with:)

  13. This dresser looks amazing, well done! I have actually not heard of milk paint before reading your post, looks like a great paint to work with! I’ll keep it in mind for my next DIY project! ?❤️

    1. Thanks so much! Yes definitely do:)

    1. Aww thanks Maria!! 🙂

  14. What fantastic results, I love using chalk paint but, I’d never heard of milk paint. Will definitely be giving it a try!
    #bigpinklink

    1. Thanks Naomi! Yes definitely do:)

  15. It looks great. I’ve never used milk paint before, but I’m loving how it looks. Thank you for sharing at The Really rafy Link Party. Pinned.

    1. Thanks Teresa! It worked out really well:)

  16. Wow what a great transformation, love the color……….and the hardware.
    We are wanting to paint our bedroom set…..so have been thinking about
    using chalk paint, is it the same as milk paint??
    Great job, it is a very pretty piece, and definitely looks better with the
    legs shorter too.
    Blessings, Nellie

    1. Thanks Nellie!! We couldn’t believe the transformation either. Milk paint is different than chalk paint. Milk paint comes in a powder that you mix with water. So you create your own colors. It’s environmentally friendly, non-toxic – completely natural. It’s a very safe choice:)

  17. You guys did a wonderful tutorial covering all the bases, the updated dresser came out fabulously, I adore the custom color mix you created so soft, I have to go check out the other post on shortening the legs! Thanks for sharing your project at #fridaysfurniturefix!

      1. Thanks Brenda! Looking forward to seeing it:)

    1. Thanks so much Brenda!! It was really fun to use:)

    1. So glad to have inspired you!:)

  18. I have used milk paint many times and just love the fluid look of the color you get on the furniture. Your piece looks fantastic.

    1. Thanks Mary! We really enjoyed working with milk paint too:)

  19. Thank you for sharing this love tutorial. You are one of this Sunday’s features at Dishing it and Digging it link party. Thank you for joining in.

    1. Thanks Vanessa! So excited for the feature:)

  20. Wow, that sounds so cool!I’ve never heard of milk paint. Non-toxic is such a bonus. The dresser looks great. Thanks for linking up to the #bigpinklink this week.

    1. Thanks Louise! Yes nontoxic and safe is always the best choice:)

  21. I absolutely love how you transformed that dresser! It looks fantastic. I painted our dining table last year using chalk pain but I’ve never heard of milk paint! Thanks for joining #DreamTeam

    1. Thank you so much, Becky! Yes milk paint has no chemicals! Such a plus!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *