When to use chalk paint, fusion paint, and milk paint

Fusion Mineral Paint

There is an overwhelming variety of paint products available in the market today, making it challenging to understand the differences and determine when to use chalk paint, fusion paint, or milk paint. In this article, I will share my experiences with these three types of paints to help you make an informed decision for your next project.

The Joy of Painting Furniture

Renovating old furniture with paint is an affordable and effective way to transform the look of a space without breaking the bank. It’s a passion I developed years ago when I desired a high-end look but lacked the budget to match. Additionally, I wanted to be environmentally responsible by repurposing existing furniture rather than discarding and buying new decor. Little did I know that painting furniture would become so addictive. Once you run out of pieces to paint, you’ll find yourself enthusiastically scouring your neighbor’s garbage, browsing local buy and sell websites daily, and becoming a regular visitor at thrift shops.

Milk Paint: Timeless Beauty

Milk Paint

Milk paint has been used for centuries and is one of the oldest types of paint. It is made from milk protein, chalk, clay, natural pigments, and limestone and is available in powdered form. When applied to bare wood, milk paint seeps into the grain and forms a bond. The natural pigments create a vintage or antique look, which is highly sought-after in farmhouse decor, French decor, and rustic styles.


Various companies produce milk paint, but my personal favorite is Miss Mustard Seed (MMS) milk paint. Their website offers a wealth of inspiring photos, DIY projects, and tutorials. Homestead House is Canada’s only milk paint manufacturer, and they also produce a line of beautifully colored paints, including milk paint and Fusion mineral paint.


  • Comes in powdered form, allowing it to last for years as you only mix the amount needed for your project
  • Produces a beautifully aged finish
  • Self-leveling, resulting in a smooth final look
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Organic, biodegradable, and contains no VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • MMS milk paint offers 25 curated colors to choose from


  • Furniture preparation is crucial, especially for pieces with an existing finish, as milk paint may chip off without proper preparation
  • Achieving the right paint consistency takes practice
  • Sanding between coats may be necessary
  • Multiple coats may be required
  • A top coat might be needed for added protection

Furniture Preparation for Milk Paint

Milk paint adheres best to raw or old wood. For average furniture pieces, I recommend washing away dirt with a wet soapy cloth, allowing it to dry, lightly sanding with 220-grit sandpaper to roughen the surface, and wiping away any sawdust residue. Dish soap works well for cleaning, but if a greasy feel is present, trisodium phosphate (TSP) can be used. If the furniture has a varnish or glossy finish, additional prep work, such as using a bonding agent, is necessary to ensure paint adhesion.

Challenges in Mixing Milk Paint

Mixing milk paint can be challenging, especially for beginners. Achieving the proper consistency without lumps can be a struggle. Using a small whisk by hand might result in a lumpy mixture, but investing in a small battery-powered mixer can help alleviate this issue. Adding the right amount of water is also important. While the recommended amount might result in lumps, adding more water creates a watery paint that requires multiple coats for desired coverage. Generally, it takes about three coats to achieve the desired finish with milk paint. Despite these challenges, the unique finish obtained with milk paint is worth the effort.

Applying a Top Coat

Milk paint produces a matte finish. If you prefer a silky feel or plan to place mugs or glasses on the painted surface, applying a top coat is recommended. MMS Milk Paint offers a range of furniture finishes for added protection. Their “tough coat” is a non-yellowing water-based poly top coat that provides the highest level of protection. Wax options are also available and can be applied and buffed to achieve a smooth finish. Wax typically needs to be reapplied annually. Beeswax and hemp oil are alternative finish options. Personally, I adore the MMS Furniture Wax for all my painted furniture, regardless of whether I used milk paint or another type. Typically, I only wax the top surfaces, while leaving lower shelves, faces, and furniture legs unwaxed.

Chalk Paint: Timeless Elegance

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a relatively newer paint formulation created by Annie Sloan in 1990. It produces a chalky, aged look with a matte finish. Unlike regular latex paint, chalk paint contains gypsum or Plaster of Paris, which gives it unique properties. Annie Sloan developed chalk paint to provide style with ease of use, and it sparked the ongoing trend of furniture refinishing. Before painting with chalk paint, I recommend following my standard furniture prep method.


While several manufacturers produce chalk-type paints, Annie Sloan is considered the gold standard. Her line offers 42 beautiful colors that can be easily mixed to create other shades. It is also possible to create your own chalk paint by following Mountain Modern Life’s DIY recipe using regular latex paint.


  • Requires minimal prep work
  • Dries quickly, allowing multiple coats to be applied in one day
  • Produces a lovely matte finish that distresses beautifully
  • Doesn’t contain harsh chemicals or have a strong smell
  • Adheres to most surfaces
  • Comes in 42 amazing colors


  • Relatively expensive compared to other options
  • Dries quickly, making it more challenging to work with as brush strokes become more visible
  • Requires a top coat for added protection
  • Painted surface may wear away over time

Furniture Preparation for Chalk Paint

Chalk paint can be applied to almost any surface, including upholstery. For wooden furniture, I recommend washing with a wet soapy cloth, allowing it to dry, lightly sanding with 220-grit sandpaper, and wiping clean to ensure optimal paint adhesion.

Brush Strokes with Chalk Paint

I have painted several pieces with Annie Sloan chalk paint and have noticed some variation between batches. In some cases, the paint dried so quickly that I had to work swiftly to avoid a gummed-up finish. Brush strokes were more visible on these pieces. To address this issue, I either added a few drops of water to thin the paint or applied it with a foam roller before going over it with a brush to achieve a natural hand-brushed look. Using only a roller is not recommended since the texture it creates does not lend itself to achieving the desired vintage furniture look.

Don’t Skip the Top Coat

It is essential to note that chalk paint produces a porous and chalky finish, which requires a top coat for protection against beverage rings, food stains, and fingerprints. Unfinished surfaces may even pick up dye from clothing if accidentally brushed against. Over time, the paint may wear away, particularly on frequently used items like chairs. As mentioned earlier, I prefer using MMS milk paint top coats and waxes for all my furniture projects.

Fusion Mineral Paint: Durability and Ease

The newest entrant in the world of furniture paint is Fusion Mineral Paint. It is an environmentally friendly acrylic paint formulated to deliver a durable finish with a built-in top coat. Fusion paint requires minimal preparation and is self-leveling, making it incredibly easy to work with and ensuring a smooth, silky finish. I typically apply two coats of Fusion paint to achieve sufficient coverage.


Fusion is a trademarked product developed and manufactured in Canada by Homestead House.


  • Requires minimal prep work
  • Built-in top coat
  • Inexpensive
  • Excellent coverage (I painted my piano with just one $22 CAD pot)
  • Environmentally friendly and non-toxic
  • Self-leveling, offering exceptional control while painting
  • Extremely durable, waterproof, and stain-proof
  • Adheres well to most surfaces, including glossy ones
  • Has a shelf life of seven years in its original pot
  • Available in over 50 colors, including a metallics line


  • Does not produce the aged, porous finish desired by some
  • Smoother finish makes it harder for antiquing wax to settle into crevices

Furniture Preparation for Fusion Mineral Paint

Fusion mineral paint can be applied to any surface, although I recommend following my standard prep method of washing with a wet soapy cloth, lightly sanding with 220-grit sandpaper, and wiping clean. If you are painting a glossy surface, priming with Fusion’s Ultra Grip product is advisable. For instance, I used Ultra Grip on my piano to prevent chipping because I’m a piano teacher and wanted to ensure its longevity.

One Final Tip

Fusion mineral paint and water do not mix well, as combining them may result in a streaky finish. Therefore, I do not recommend adding water to thin the paint or create a wash. Additionally, ensure your brushes are completely dry from previous use and washing. Even a small amount of water left in the brush can ruin your paint finish.

So, When to Use Each Paint?

After years of experience, I find myself using Fusion mineral paint about 90% of the time. Its ease of use, self-leveling properties, built-in top coat, and affordability have won me over. I only turn to chalk paint when I need a specific color that is not available in the Fusion lineup. I rarely use milk paint these days due to the ease of working with Fusion, but I still appreciate the unique finish milk paint offers and would choose it if I wanted to achieve an aged or chippy look.

Painting Cabinets

A common question I receive is whether milk paint, chalk paint, or fusion paint can be used to paint kitchen cabinets. I recommend using paints specifically formulated for cabinets, such as Benjamin Moore Advance or C2 Cabinet and Trim Paint. These paints are self-leveling, resulting in a smooth finish, and cure to provide a hard, durable surface, essential for kitchen cabinets. However, Fusion mineral paint can be suitable for painting bathroom vanities.

I hope this article helped you determine when to use chalk paint, fusion paint, or milk paint for your next furniture project. If you have any questions or need further guidance based on my experiences with these paints, feel free to reach out.

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