Milk Paint Recipe
Photography: JOHNNY MILLER
Source: Healthy Home 2008, Spring 2008
As the name suggests, milk is a principal ingredient in the material, acting as a binder for pigments the same way polymers do in latex paints and oils do in oil-based ones. People have been mixing milk paint for a long time; it has been found on artifacts dating to ancient Egypt, although it's perhaps most commonly associated with colonial-era furniture. The fact that the material doesn't give off noxious vapors (often called VOCs) accounts for its continued appeal within today's green building community. Craftspeople, meanwhile, value its saturated colors and translucent finish, which can be used to give wooden furniture, terra-cotta pots, and other textured surfaces an antique look.
You can't, however, simply mix milk with color pigment and spread it on the walls. The following recipe will yield enough paint to cover a bureau or other large furnishing.
1 quart skim milk
Dry color pigment or artists' acrylic paint
Mix the juice of a lemon with 1 quart of skim milk in a large bowl. Leave the mixture overnight at room temperature to induce curdling.
Pour it through a sieve lined with cheesecloth to separate the solid curds from the liquid whey. Add 4 tablespoons of dry color pigment (available at art-supply stores) to the curd; be sure to wear a mask, and stir until the pigment is evenly dispersed.
Artists' acrylic paint also can be used in place of powdered pigment. Add it one drop at a time, and stir constantly until you achieve the desired hue. Whether pigment- or acrylic-based, milk paint will spoil quickly, so it should be applied within a few hours of mixing. Rest assured, its sour smell will disappear once the paint dries. If you prefer, you can purchase milk paint rather than make it yourself.