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In the woods with a canvas painted in milk paint with blue indigo

10 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Own Natural Household ‘Milk Paint’ – Tackle Climate Change in Your Home

In the video you see our guerilla-style experiment on a village common and woods nearby. As well as using typical pigments including our favourite natural dyer's blue indigo, we took the opportunity to try blackberries, mole hill soil and bryony berries.

These looked great at the time, but do look at our blog as you will see these colours did change. So you will need to conduct your own experiments. The video is intended to give you a starting point.

https://youtu.be/ozc5ECa26dA
What is Milk Paint?

Milk Paint is non-toxic water based paint that you can make at home using just three ingredients: Make milk paint with milk, lemon juice and water, or simply buy ‘curd cheese’ or quark from a shop and start from there. DIY milk paint is biodegradeable, permanent, durable and non-polluting. Milk paints are the safest paints available and by using natural pigments (see our video) and a few other simple ingredients, you can make an interior paint of almost any colour, texture and finish.

Why is Conventional Paint Bad for the Environment and for Your Home?

Conventional paints contain pigment (the colour), carried by binders, solvents to help the paint application, and a dryer. Vinyl and acrylic paints include plastics compounds. You will rarely see all the ingredients listed on the tin. Some include formaldehyde, arsenic, thinners and foamers. They are harmful to both us and the environment.

What Can You Paint with Milk Paint?

Milk paint is typically used on porous surfaces such as: Walls, Furniture, Woodwork, Canvas, Paper, Glass, Masonry, Plaster.

Unlike oil or latex (emulsion) paints, you do not need to sand down the area or use a primer.

Use milk paint if you want a decorative finish with intense depth of colour and a low luster. Milk paint gives a mottled texture and is often used to achieve a “chippy” distressed look. When applied to a porous surface such as wood, milk paint sinks in and provides a breathable coating that will be resistant to chipping and peeling.
By adding some slaked lime or powdered chalk to the recipe you can improve the body of the paint and use it to paint over previously painted walls. Borax can also be added as a preservative giving the paint, if sealed and refrigerated, a shelf like for several weeks.

What Finish Does Milk Paint Give?

Milk paint generally has a matte finish (with a very slight sheen) and will show marks. Although it’s quite durable, it will be stained by many common kitchen substances, including oils. However, after the paint is dry, oil or our hemp oil soap can be rubbed in as a sealer. Once it sinks into a surface it is extremely difficult to remove, curing over time like concrete.

The milk paint 'pigment' experiments that we carried out in the woods.

How Do You Make Milk Paint?

Ingredients

  • Quark or curd cheese
  • Slaked lime
  • Powdered chalk
  • Borax (optional)
  • Pigment
  • Equipment
  • Bowl and spoon
  • Cheesecloth or metal sieve
  • Scales
  • Sponge or brush

Directions

  • Step 1. Buy curd cheese of quark, the basis of the milk paint. My 250g pot of quark cost just £1.50.
  • Step 2. To help the paint bond better with your surface, mix 30g calcium hydroxide (hydrated lime) with 35g of water and add this to the curds. Mix thoroughly. One way to do this is to force it through a metal sieve.
  • Step 3. To thicken the paint add 500-1500g of powdered chalk.
  • Step 4. Add pigments of your choice (see ideas below). Mix thoroughly, again using a sieve can help.

What Pigments Can You Use to Colour Milk Paint?

Mix natural dyes and earth pigments of your choice with the same quantity of water and combine with your milk paint. For some ideas we used the following pigments in our video and they gave the following colours:

Cassia powder = mossy green.
Green Clay = beige.
Moroccan henna = umbre (orangey brown.)
Rhassoul clay = mushroom.
Indian Indigo = mid green.
Dyers Blue Indigo = intense blue.
Blackberries = initially a woad blue, but it faded to a pale blue with greeny streaks!
Mole hill soil = mid brown and very textured!
Bryony berry juice = initially a pale pink, but it faded to a cream colour.

You can add any water based colouring agent such as food colours and other natural pigments.

Tips for Painting with Milk Paint

In our experiments, we found that a sea sponge helped with the mixing and we also used it for applying the paint instead of a typical nylon bristled paint brush. You can buy inexpensive ‘wonky sponges’ on our website. If you wash the sponge straight after use it can be used for other projects.

Stir your milk paint frequently as the chalk and lime rapidly settle and thicken at the bottom.

If you weigh your test batch of paint before and after and measure the size of your test surface, you will be able to calculate the coverage per square meter or foot. This will mean you can buy the right amount of ingredients and see your project through to the end.

Our conclusions.

Work up a test batch with your chosen pigments first and test paint your surface, allowing time to build up sufficient layers. Our blue dyers indigo proved to give a stable colour and the best coverage.

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