Thursday, August 9, 2012

Part Three-Milk Paint vs Chalk Paint vs Latex

Part One-Milk paint
Part Two-Chalk paint
Part Three-Latex  

Latex, do I love thee?  Not just any latex though, as all are not equal. The wrong Latex can be a rubbery mess sometimes that doesn't adhere well or will scratch at the slightest scrape of a nail. But a good brand of latex applied properly can achieve anything!  While chalk paint or milk paint would help a piece achieve a certain look easier, all can still be created with latex.  You can distress it, glaze it, chip it, wax it, clear coat it, etc.

There is oil based or there is water based, and you can use either for furniture.  I like to use water based latex because it's odorless (almost) whereas oil based latex smells toxic immediately.  Water based latex washes off your skin and other surfaces easier, and it also dries much faster.  I have only had problems with it when I have bought a can of 'oops' paint (paint mixers mistakes, usually in a gallon size that sell for 7 bucks-beware of these!) or if I hadn't mixed and remixed it enough between uses. 

I have used a few different brands of latex and I will say that by far my favorite (I am NOT getting paid to say this, it's strictly my personal opinion) is the Behr brand sold at Home Depot.  Valspar isn't bad, but on occasion it's had more of the 'rubbery' feel to it and takes more paint to cover a piece at times (not to mention it took DAYS to get it out of my nose ;p sorry but it's the truth).  I have had both negative and positive outcomes with Glidden for the same reasons.  Martha Stewart's brand is really nice too, though I think it's being phased out in the stores?

No matter what brand you use, make sure you let latex dry completely before doing any other techniques with it.  It's a good idea to wait 24 hours if one to two coats were done, 48 hours if 3 coats were applied before you distress or seal it.  The reason being latex, by virtue of it's rubbery nature will shrink and expand depending on the climate until it's fully cured. In fact, latex takes a good month to cure completely, so if it's going to be a highly used piece of furniture (like a dining table or chair) let it sit in your garage or a low traffic area long as you can first. It doesn't have to be a month, but the longer the better for the finish to hold up.  Just my two cents.

Some other benefits of Latex are....

You can distress it easily;

Click on the pics to see better detail

Chair and table were both water based latex and distressed.

Example of the distressing on latex

Desk painted with interior latex and distressed with a fine sanding block.

You can wax it
This little table was painted with 'Creamy White' which is a dead-ringer for 'Old White' by Annie Sloan (you're welcome) by Behr and then sealed with a clear wax. I then added some age back to it by applying a dark wax onto the carvings and along the edges;
Before Dark Wax:
After Dark Wax:

You can give it a 'Chippy' look;
I used Glidden brand on this desk, then scraped the paint off.
I use butter knives, scrapers, whatever I have on hand.
This was a moderate chippy look-you can be much more aggressive with it and peel more back.

Glazing it is easy;

I don't always like to glaze with chalk paint as the dry 'stone' like texture of chalk paint can soak up too much to quickly.  You don't have that problem with latex though and can control the application of it.  I have glazed it with watered down stain, or a stain mixed with a glazing agent.  Both work great!

I used stain mixed with a glazing agent and wiped all over for a subtle yellowing affect.
This time, I applied stain directly with a brush and followed with a rag.

You can buy additives for latex to achieve different consistencies;

For example, if you are painting by hand with a brush and want to decrease your brush strokes as much as possible then buy some Floetrol. It won't alleviate them entirely but it does help!  Just follow the instructions.

Buy here or in store
You can also create something close to chalk paint which I discuss in detail here and here.  By adding either unsanded grout, calcium carbonate or plaster of paris, you can give your latex a more chalky consistency and matte finish.
Applied first coat of latex mixed with calcium carbonate

After, and I applied an all over glaze as well as dark wax to seal it.
Lastly, the cost and color options!  

Endless colors to choose from, I have an entire drawer filled with paint swatches that I open whenever I am in a bad mood ;)  They inspire me for some reason.  Both milk paint and chalk paint are limited in their color options however both can be mixed with their own colors to achieve different ones.

Latex comes in sample sizes for $3-$5, quarts for $12-$15 or gallons which range from $20's to mid $30's depending.  A gallon is more than you would probably ever even want of one would last you longer than it's shelf life.  One quart will paint 1-2 dressers or desks and a sample size will cover a vanity or console style table.  Pretty good bang for your buck!!

Well that's it for my series on the three types of paint.  Click on the links at the top of this post to see my advice and thoughts on working with Chalk paint and milk paint.
Thanks for reading!


  1. Again thanks for your tips. I will be using them in my designs:)

  2. Thank you so so so much for this article! Now I know what to do. PS do you know the color in Behr for Paris Grey from Annie Sloan line? deirdradoan At gmail dot com

  3. Thanks for all of the great advice!
    You've convinced me to stick with good ol latex...but im tempted to try milk paint-it looks fun!

  4. I loved reading your articles. I am currently having FUN with MMS and I love it for the "chippy" look. I have tried using latex in the past and the brush marks totally frustrate me. Any suggestions?? I have not yet tried Chalk paint.

    1. Brush marks are such a pain-I agree. I will add a tablespoon of water to a cup of latex to thin sometimes, this will help them smooth out as the paint dries. Also be sure to sand with fine sandpaper or a block before a second coat and the best quality brush is always going to reduce them.

  5. So, wait 24 hours to 48 before sanding to distress if using latex? I bought MMS and without the sealer it has chipped off in sheets! a mess. And the stores that carry it are quite a distance from me so its not worth it. Too expensive! Thanks for the tips. I think I will stick with latex. I made my own chalk paint with plaster of paris and it turned out pretty good.

  6. Yay! Thorough advice as I sit here, paintbrush in hand, STILL trying to decide whether to add plaster of Paris to my latex. Nope. A little elbow grease and a sanding block has never failed me. ;). Thanks!
    Amy D

  7. I'm so confused by all I've read on all the blogs about painting furniture-- I don't want a chippy or super-distressed look. I just want a nice smooth finish that isn't going to chip or peel off, can get some dimension (maybe with a glaze?) and isn't super-varnish-glossy. I'm a furniture painting novice with a varnished oak cabinet I was gifted with and have disliked for years. I want to paint the inside a different color than the outside, so the Annie Sloan paints are right out because of the price. All the reviews I've read of the milk paint and the chalk paint assume you're going for that "chippy" look, I'm having trouble finding one that doesn't. What do you suggest?

  8. Thank you for this! Can you explain how to get latex to look flat like chalk paint? :)

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