Milk Paint

General Finishes Milk Paint is a premium interior/exterior mineral based paint named for its low-luster sheen, which mimics the look of old-world furniture paint. It is not a powdered, casein-based milk paint, but a premixed modern version that is so durable it does not require a topcoat unless you want to increase the sheen.

Need some Milk Paint inspiration? Visit the General Finishes Design Center or Pinterest Board for some great furniture painting ideas.

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General Finishes Antique White Milk Paint, Quart


Step 1: Preparation for Paint

Before applying paint, all raw wood projects require preparation sanding, and all existing finishes require prep cleaning and sanding. If you skip this critical step, your finish may fail.

Preparation for Raw Wood Projects
See our video: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood

  1. Sanding schedule: 120-grit sandpaper followed by 150-grit. Do not over-sand with fine-grit sandpapers; this will close and seal the wood grain, preventing ideal color absorption. Do not use steel wool with water-based finishes; the particles will get trapped in the finish and rust.
  2. Remove dust with a water-dampened rag or oil-free tack cloth. 
  3. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Preparation for Projects with an Existing Finish
For high-use areas with heavy grime build-up and oil from hands, give your project a deeper cleaning.
See our video: How to Prepare Existing Finishes

  1. Scuff clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours. Avoid cleaning with products containing phosphates (salt), which can linger in the substrate and produce a white haze. If your project requires a deeper cleaning, see Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes below.
  2. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  3. Remove dust with a non-sticky tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 
  4. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Power Prep Cleaning Highly Used Existing Finishes
See our video: How to Power Prep Existing High Use Finishes for Stain or Paint

  1. Scrub clean with a detergent, such as Spic and Span or Dawn, using a Scotch Brite pad.
  2. Rinse well with water.
  3. Scrub clean with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50:50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. Dry 1-2 hours.
  4. Sand lightly with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  5. Remove dust with a non-sticky tack cloth or a water-dampened rag. 
  6. Let dry completely before applying General Finishes product.

Alternative Cleaning Solutions For Existing Finishes (Not as aggressive or effective as denatured alcohol; requires rinsing.) 

  1. 50:50 mix of bleach and water 
  2. 50:50 mix of vinegar and water
  3. Mineral spirits can be used when working with water-based products, but only if the surface is thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry for 72 hours.


Step 2: Priming

A base coat of primer is not required when applying General Finishes Milk Paint. However, 2 coats of General Finishes Stain Blocker may be necessary for the following circumstances, especially when using WHITE OR LIGHT-COLORED PAINTS.

  1. Raw Wood Tannin Bleed-Through is unpredictable; yellowing can appear immediately or months later with seasonal temperature changes. Oak, pine, mahogany and douglas fir are particularly prone to bleed-through. 
  2. Knots in Wood contain rosin (sap) and are dense, making paint adhesion a challenge. Pine knots are especially difficult to cover with white or light paints. If you decide to paint over them, apply 3 coats of Stain Blocker over the areas with knots first; however, we cannot guarantee against rosin bleed-through. You are better off using a dark paint on pine.
  3. Existing Finish Bleed-Through may be caused previous stains or aniline dyes, surface contamination, and incompatibility between brands.
  4. Non-Wood Surfaces may be able to take paint if primed first. Primer may improve adhesion over laminate and prevent bleed-through from MDF. Metal requires a primer made specifically for metal.

NOTE: Do not tint or use Stain Blocker on projects that will be stored outdoors.

Priming Non-Wood Surfaces for Paint
Always test for adhesion on a hidden area of your project before getting started.

Metal: General Finishes Milk Paint is engineered for wood surfaces, but may adhere to metal, such as aluminum or steel, if a metal primer is applied first. 

  1. Clean surface well.
  2. Apply primer.
  3. Dry 48-72 hours before painting.

Laminate: Milk Paint MAY adhere to laminate with a bonding primer; however, we cannot guarantee it. You may increase your chances of success by abrading the surface.

  1. Prep: Deep clean, dry thoroughly, sand with 150- then 180-grit sandpaper and wipe off dust.
  2. Prime: Apply bonding primer, dry 12+ hours before painting.

MDF: Milk Paint can be applied directly to MDF, but the MDF may cast a brown color if not primed first. Two base coats of white-pigmented shellac-based stain-blocking primer, or Stain Blocker, may prevent bleed-through. Alternatively, one base coat of General Finishes Seagull Gray Milk Paint may block brown tone caused by MDF.

MDF is not as absorbent as natural wood. Let each coat of primer and paint dry at least 48 hours before recoating.

Fiberglass: Milk Paint can be applied directly over fiberglass without primer. We do not recommend applying other General Finishes products over fiberglass. Gel Stain may adhere to fiberglass, but it is not an exterior rated product. 

Although Stain Blocker is engineered to prevent the most persistent bleed-through when two coats are applied, General Finishes cannot guarantee prevention of bleed-through or yellowing on every project. Unknown factors and assiduous bleed-through can impact results. Stain Blocker is the strongest option we are aware of at this time and has performed extremely well in our tests.

Step 3: How To Apply General Finishes Milk Paint

General Finishes Milk Paint Application Steps

  1. Stir paint to reincorporate solids that have settled to the bottom of the can before and throughout the application process.
  2. If desired, thin paint with 10-15% distilled water or General Finishes Extender. Extender will improve flow and leveling and increase open time, which is helpful in dry climates.
  3. Apply 2-3 coats. More coats will be required when using colors with less "hide properties," such as bright reds, greens, yellows and whites.
    • Hand application: Apply using an acrylic bristle brush, foam brush, paint pad applicator or 3/8" nap microfiber roller such as Whizz or AllPro brand.
    • Spray application: See video tutorial on spraying Milk Paint. Before spraying, strain paint through a medium-mesh filter. HVLP: 1.8mm-2.0mm spray tip, medium air cap. Verify tip sizes with your equipment supplier. See our general guide for spray tip sizes. Keep your gun at a 90* angle, 6-8" from the surface. On large, flat areas, use wet, even patterns 6-8" wide. For narrow surfaces, reduce the fan pattern to 2-3" wide to reduce overspray. Overlap each pass 25% to conceal lines. Wear a full filter respirator (NIOSH/MSHA approved) and work in a ventilated space. Read here for more information on spraying techniques.
    • Face frames on cabinets: Milk Paint can be applied successfully to cabinet face frames, edges or drawer fronts with a brush, pad or small cabinet-specific roller such as Whizz or AllPro brand.
  4. Dry 2+ hours between coats and before topcoat in ideal conditions: 70*F/20*C; 50-70% humidity. Be sure to allow adequate dry time. You can tell if a water-based finish is dry if it forms a powder when lightly sanded with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper. If in doubt, wait longer. Rushing dry time can cause clouding/blush in topcoat due to moisture trapped between coats. Increase dry time if: 
    • Humidity is over 80%
    • 3+ coats are applied
    • Thick coats are applied
    • Applying over an existing sealed finish
    • Applying over products from other brands
    • Layering General Finishes water- and oil-based products:
      • Water over oil: Let oil-based products dry 72+hrs before applying water-based products
      • Oil over water: Let water-based products dry 24+hrs before applying oil-based products
    • To accelerate dry time in humid conditions, add General Finishes Accelerator and work in a space with good ventilation and air movement. If you decide to re-coat before the recommended time, test dryness. 
  5. Finish sand between coats with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper to improve smoothness and adhesion.
  6. Remove dust from finish sanding with a vacuum, oil-free tack cloth or clean, water-dampened rag before re-coating.
  7. Topcoat is not required on Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior-rated coating with high durability and superior water and chemical resistance. However, it has a low luster sheen. We highly recommend 2-3 coats of a topcoat provide a smoother surface that is easier to clean and boosts durability for high-use projects, such as tabletops and kitchen cabinets.

Cure Time
Water-based finishes cure and harden for full use after 21 days in ideal conditions. Avoid placing heavy objects on surfaces that have not completely cured. Treat gently, and do not clean with commercial products during the curing period.

Notes on Color

  • All white paints darken or yellow over time, but the change is more evident with bright whites, such as General Finishes Snow White Milk Paint. 
  • Some colors require additional coats for coverage due to their lower hide quality, e.g., reds, bright whites, yellows.

Step 4: Topcoat over Milk Paint

General Finishes Milk Paint does not require topcoat on low- to medium-wear surfaces. However, do seal high-use surfaces, such as kitchen cabinets or tabletops, with 3 coats of topcoat. Glossier sheens will boost durability and make the surface easier to clean.

General Finishes High Performance Topcoat and General Finishes Enduro Clear Poly dry crystal-clear and are great for high-use surfaces. General Finishes Flat Out Flat is our flattest topcoat, only suitable for projects that do not receive major wear.

Topcoating General Finishes Snow White Milk Paint
Clear, water-based finishes can react with wood substrates and previous finishes, causing the topcoat to yellow. This is most evident when using bright white paints. To avoid potential yellowing, use 3 coats of spray-only Enduro White Poly as a standalone finish. See our FAQ: How Do I Prevent Water Based Topcoat or Light Colored Paint from Yellowing?

Creative Finishing Techniques Using Milk Paint

Layering Colors & Distressing

  1. Test colors on the underside of your project to ensure it is what you want.
  2. Stir the paint. If it is too thick, add a small amount of water to thin, then stir again.
  3. Apply 2 coats of base color using an acrylic bristle brush, poly foam brush, paint pad applicator, or sprayer with an HVLP 1.8 or 2.0 needle.
  4. Dy 2-4 hours between coats. Buff each coat with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
  5. Apply 2 coats of top color. Dry 2-4 hours between coats, but no more than 4 hours; sanding is easier when the paint has had less time to tighten down. Buff each coat as before with a fine-grade (220-320) foam sanding pad or 400-grit sandpaper.
    TIP: If you want more of the underlying color exposed, seal the base color with a coat of General Finishes High Performance Topcoat before painting the top color. This allows for easier sanding without burning all the way through to bare wood.
  6. Using 120- to 150-grit sandpaper, sand through the top color to reveal the base color.

Chippy Farmhouse Technique



  1. Stain raw wood with Espresso Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Paint or dab Vaseline in random areas.
  3. Paint over Vaseline with Snow White Milk Paint. Let dry.
  4. Wipe back with a paper towel to reveal chipped areas (repeat with different colors for layered, aged effect).
  5. Seal with 3 coats of water based topcoat.

Creating Custom Colors

You can design your own custom glazes, stains, washes and varnishes with General Finishes intermixable water-based products. See tips and recipes below:

For the mixes listed below, General Finishes recommends the following two steps:

  1. Applying a base layer of High Performance Topcoat before applying your custom glaze.
  2. Protect all of these finishes with 2-3 coats of topcoat when you are finished.

Pastel Glaze/Whitewash:


Do not add more than 50% paint to the glaze or stain, or else there will be so much pigment it will be difficult to wipe away the finish.

Custom Glaze:


  • General Finishes Glaze Effects: Your choice of colors


Pitch Black Glaze Effects + Winter White Glaze Effects.

Experiment with proportions and colors.

Custom Stain Colors:



  1. 1 part Milk Paint + 1 part Pre-Stain Natural [50:50 mix] OR
  2. 1 part Milk Paint + 1 part Glaze Effects Clear Base [50:50 mix] OR
  3. 1 part Milk Paint +  2 parts Water Based Wood Stain Natural [1:2 mix]

Proportions are relative to the color you are reducing. Some colors may require 2 parts Clear Base to reduce strength, others may require 1.

Begin with a 50:50 mix, and add more Clear Base as needed.

Increase your color palette by mixing 2 or 3 Milk Paint colors together before adding the Clear Base.

Milk Paint & Glaze Effects Samples

Cleanup of Water Based Products

Application tools and materials containing water-based products can be cleaned with soap and water immediately after use.

Product Spills
Spills may be able to be removed from fabric and carpet if cleaned immediately with soap and water.

Storage of Water Based Products

Life of Product
Water-based products do not last forever, even when unopened. General Finishes products are best used within 1 year of the manufacture date listed on the bottom of the can. The life of the product may be extended with proper care and storage.

Gravity can cause some solids to settle on the bottom of the can and slight separation on the top. This is normal. If working with older paint, use paint mixing attachment on a drill. If the solids dissolve and clumps smooth out after mixing from the bottom, the product is in good condition for use.

Storage Tips
See video tutorial: Tips on Storing Leftover Finishes
Water-based finishes crystalize and form a skin due to evaporation when the air-tight seal on a can is broken at first use. The following best practices will increase the life of your product:

  1. Pry open sealed lids with a paint can opener by hooking under the lid's rolled edge. The use of a screwdriver can disfigure the rim and lid, impairing a complete seal. 
  2. Keep lid closed while working. Pour what you will use into a bowl, paper cup, or plate, and close can lid as you work.
  3. Clean the chime of the can thoroughly with a paper towel before closing to create a complete seal. Paint in the chime can be minimized by using a pouring lid, such as Fitsall. Avoid wiping used brushes on the lid.
  4. Pound the lid in place using a rubber mallet to avoid distorting the chime or lid. Dents in the lid from direct contact with a hammer can impair a complete seal. Alternatively, place a flat piece of wood over can lid and firmly pound shut.
  5. Store in moderate temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 50*F/10*C or above 80*F/26*C. Frozen and heat-damaged product cannot be revitalized. Temperature-controlled spaces, such as a basement, are ideal for storage. Do not store product in an attic, garage, in direct sunlight, or next to something warm like a water heater or furnace.
  6. Store can upside down to create a liquid seal, minimize evaporation and reduce the chance of crystallization. Decant remaining product from the can before stirring. 
  7. Decant leftovers to a smaller container when the finish is almost used up. Alternative storage containers for water-based products are plastic FIFO bottles or glass bottles. Do not fill metal-lidded containers completely to prevent them from rusting.

The following water-based product mixtures can be stored:

  1. Product thinned with up to 15% General Finishes Extender or General Finishes Accelerator can be stored, with the exception of thinned General Finishes Water Based Wood Stain.
  2. Mixtures involving colors & sheens within the same product line, such as:
    • High Performance Satin + High Performance Gloss
    • Snow White Milk Paint + Coastal Blue Milk Paint
    • Amber Dye Stain + Merlot Dye Stain

The following product mixtures should NOT be stored:

  • Any water based product with thinned tap water; water often contains bacteria that will adversely affect stored paint.
  • Topcoat + Stain or Paint
  • Milk Paint + Chalk Style Paint
  • Water Based Wood Stain + Dye Stain

Furniture Care and Maintenance

Cure First
You have just finished applying a fine furniture finish. Allow 21 days for the finish to cure before cleaning.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

  • Remove dust with a water-dampened cloth. Dust can build up over time and may scratch or dull finishes if not removed regularly. 
  • Remove fingerprints, cooking fumes and smoking residue with mild soap and water. These contaminants will not harm the finish, but they accumulate on surfaces and dull the original luster. 
  • As with all fine furniture finishes, avoid using furniture polish, cleaners or dusting sprays that contain silicone, alcohol, ammonia and anything acidic. Exception: We have successfully cleaned with Clorox wipes.
  • Clean up water, alcohol and food spills in a timely manner and use placemats & coasters to protect the finish.
  • Future finishes or touch-ups may not adhere properly or perform as desired over a contaminated surface. Some contaminants, such as silicone, seep through finish into the wood and often cannot be removed.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to direct sunlight, high temperatures or high humidity. These can damage furniture and finishes.

Warnings and Warranties

Limited Warranty
General Finishes products must be tested to your complete satisfaction before using, including compatibility with other manufacturers products. General Finishes will be responsible only for the cost of our products and will not be responsible for any costs such as labor, damage, or replacement costs.

Contamination and Compatibility
Our finishes are engineered as a system and are compatible with each other. General Finishes cannot guarantee an ideal refinish when applying our products on top of or combined with another company's products or over surfaces that have been in contact with waxes, polishes or sprays containing contaminants such as silicone. Test for adherence and aesthetics before beginning. 

Danger: Contents are COMBUSTIBLE. Keep away from heat and open flame. Application materials or other waste soaked with this product may spontaneously catch fire if improperly discarded. Immediately after use, place rags, steel wool or waste in a sealed, water-filled, metal container. Dispose of in accordance with local fire regulations.

CAUTION: Contains ALIPHATIC HYDROCARBONS. VAPOR HARMFUL. Use only with adequate ventilation. DELAYED EFFECTS FROM LONG-TERM OVEREXPOSURE. Contains solvents which can cause permanent brain and nervous system damage. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating & inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal.

If you scrape, sand, or remove old paint, you may release lead dust. LEAD IS TOXIC. EXPOSURE TO LEAD DUST CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS, SUCH AS BRAIN DAMAGE, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD ALSO AVOID EXPOSURE. Wear a NIOSH-approved respirator to control lead exposure. Clean up carefully with a HEPA vacuum and a wet mop. Before you start, find out how to protect yourself and your family by contacting the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD or log onto

Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye and skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.

FIRST AID: In case of eye contact, flush thoroughly with large amounts of water for 15 minutes and get medical attention. For skin contact, wash thoroughly with soap and water. In case of respiratory difficulty, provide fresh air and call physician. If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Get medical attention immediately. 

This product contains a chemical known to the State Of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Do not swallow; first aid: drink water to dilute product. May cause eye or skin irritation; first aid: flush eyes thoroughly with water.


Basic Features
Product Colors Snow White, Antique White, Linen, Millstone, Dark Chocolate, Seagull Gray, Driftwood, Queenstown Gray, Lamp Black, Buttermilk Yellow, Somerset Gold, Sunglow, Basil, Patina Green, Lime Green, Emerald, Coral Crush, Persimmon, Holiday Red, Brick Red, Tuscan Red, Persian Blue, Halcyon Blue, Klein Blue, Coastal Blue, Royal Purple
Base Type Water
Sheen Flat
Interior or Exterior Interior/Exterior
Type Acrylic Paint
Coats 2+ coats
Application Method Brush, Roll, Spray
Brushable Yes
Usable over existing finishes Yes
Sprayable Yes
Spray Tip Sizes HVLP 1.8mm-2.0mm
Dry Time
Dry Time - Touch 30+ min.
Dry Time - Recoat 2+ hr
Dry Time - Light Use 7-10 days
Dry Time - Cure 21 days
Can Sizes Pints, Quarts, Gallons, 5 Gallon pails
Can Size Exceptions

THE FOLLOWING COLORS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE IN GALLONS: Antique White, Basil, Coastal Blue, Dark Chocolate, Driftwood, Lamp Black, Linen, Millstone, Queenstown Gray, Seagull Gray, Snow White, Tuscan Red.


Coverage 110-125 sq. ft/quart, 450-500 sq. ft/gal
Technical Data
Viscosity Thick
Viscosity (cPs) 2000-3000
Weight Solids 54%
VOC <93 g/L
Durability (Highest, High, Medium, Low) High

Design Center



Milk Paint Colors

  • Buttermilk Yellow
  • Sun Glow


Milk Paint Frequently Asked Questions

Can GF Milk Paint be wet distressed?

General Finishes Milk Paint can not be wet distressed after it has dried. All paints are developed for different purposes. Standard latex paints are designed to cover walls, not objects under every day use. Exterior finishes are engineered to be flexible to withstand wide ranges of temperatures in outdoor conditions. GF Milk Paint is a durable commercial grade coating for interior and exterior applications. It is formulated for furniture, cabinets and millwork. General Finishes specifically selects resins to achieve this objective. Our Milk Paint can be easily distressed by hand or with a sander within the first 2-3 hours after application. The longer Milk Paint cures, the harder it is to sand. Each type of manufactured paint has a different look, feel and intended use. Some paints are smooth and hard, while others are textural. Choose your paint based on the look you want to achieve balanced with the way you intend to use your piece. 

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Can I use General Finishes Milk Paint over an existing finish that is chipping?

If your current finish is chipping, it is failing to adhere correctly. The adhesion problem could be caused by several reasons:

  1. Improper preparation: Cleaning an existing finish removes dirt, grime and many common contaminants such as oil from hands. Dirt, grime and oil prevent good ahesion causing the possiblility of chipping, peeling and flaking - all signs of a failed finish.
  2. Contaminants from dusting sprays that contain silicone will also impact the apperance and adherence of a finish - silicone is almost impossible to remove. Oil soaps and wax can also cause ahesion failures.
  3. The previous paint was a "chippy style" paint, such as an original casein based milk paint that does not contain the necessary resins for high durability

We would not recommend applying any of our products over a failing finish, because the underlying finish could continue to present adhesion problems. Your only recourse for a good result is to remove the current finish by stripping and sanding.

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Can I use General Finishes Milk Paint over an existing finish?

Yes. Be sure to prep clean and sand, and test a small area for adhesion.

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Can Milk Paint be applied to an existing Glossy surface?

Glossy surfaces have the most risk of poor adhesion.

  • FIRST: clean your project with a Scotch Brite pad and a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and alcohol. Do not use mineral spirits with a water based product. SECOND, sand with 150 or 180 grit. Sanding is critical to the success of every finishing project as it further cleans the surface and opens up the grain to improve the adhesion of the new paint or finish.
  • Then TEST your procedure on the inside of a door first, letting the paint cure for 14 days. Then test the finish by duplicating normal wear and tear: washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish bonds to the surface.
  • The cabinets may need to be de-glossed with a de-glosser solvent available at any paint store.

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Can Milk Paint be applied to raw MDF or masonite?



Apply Kilz or Bin 123 Primer first. MDF is not as absorbent as natural wood, so wait 2 days in between coats and before applying top coat. MDF also tends to cast a brown color. If you are using a white paint, apply a coat of SeaGull Grey first to counter the brown, and then apply a couple of coats of white over it, allowing all coats to dry 2 days.


Masonite is harder than MDF. It will also need to primed with a bonding primer like XIM. XIM is known for its high quality primers that bond to "Tough-To-Paint" surfaces like porcelain, tile, glass, plastics, and more.

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Can Milk Paint be used outside?

Milk Paint is an exterior rated product and is ideal for outdoor projects. Topcoat is not required.

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Can oil based topcoats be used over Milk Paint?

Oil based top coat can be applied over Milk Paint so long as 24 hours wait time is allowed between the two products. When moving from a water based product to an oil based product it is essential that the first is dry before applying the second.

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Do I need to add a wetting agent such as Floetrol to General Finishes Milk Paint?

No. General Finishes already adds excellent wetting and flow agents to our Milk Paint. Adding another wetting agent is superfluous, and it may even be harmful to your finish if the formulas don't coordinate.

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Does GF Milk Paint require primer?

GF Milk Paints are self-sealing so it is not necessary to use primer. You may use a white pigmented stain-blocking primer if you need to seal knots, cover grain, paint light or white color on dark wood, or if you're painting a wood that is known to bleed, such as pine or mahogany. We recommend using General Finishes Stain Blocker, Kilz or Zinsser white pigmented shellac based primers.

Warning: sometimes it is impossible to block bleed through. Always test. Not all projects with existing finishes are candidates for light paint colors. If this happens, start turning your thoughts to Lamp Black Milk Paint - that will cover a lot of problems.

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Does Milk Paint need to be sealed with a topcoat or wax?

No, Milk Paint is General Finishes premium paint developed for commercial applications and is durable enough to stand up to most wear without top coat. If increased sheen or maximum durability for high use areas (cabinets, table tops) is required, GF recommends applying 2-3 coats of GF's High Performance or Enduro professional top coats. General Finishes offers Finishing Wax, High Performance Topcoat in 4 sheens (Flat, Satin, Semi Gloss and Gloss), Flat Out Flat Topcoat and Glaze Effects to compliment the Milk Paints.

Milk Paint is also a superior exterior rated finish.


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How can I improve coverage when using white paint on furniture?

A primer is your best defense under light paint.

Another technique to help avoid the slight color change that sometimes occurs when applying a topcoat is to add 10-15% of the paint you are using to your topcoat. This technique layers additional coats of color over your piece as well as providing the protection of a topcoat. If you don't like measuring, just add enough paint until you can see a bit of the hue in the topcoat. This method works with brush or a spray gun.

Your final coat of topcoat SHOULD NOT be tinted to maintain the full strength protection of the final topcoat.

Remember - NEVER EVER paint an existing piece of furniture with a light paint without proper preparation AND using a stain blocking primer. Topcoats can activate tannins in the wood, or dyes in the previous finish, causing yellow or pink bleed through. We recommend Zinsser BIN or General Finishes Stain Blocker, which has proven to be 100% effective when 2 coats are applied. It was developed specifically for upcycling furniture.

Here is a sample finishing schedule:

  1. Prep sand and clean
  2. 3 coats of paint (or 4 if needed)
  3. 2 coats of topcoat mixed with 10-15% paint
  4. 1 coat of topcoat

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How do I apply Antique White Milk Paint over cabinets that have been burned?

GF recommends that you replace the doors if you want to use a white paint. Some things are not meant to be and painting charred doors is a recipe for trouble. The charring will bleed through.

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How do I prevent water based topcoat or light colored paint from yellowing?

Many you may have noticed that the labels on our bright white paints, Snow White Milk Paint and Chalk White Chalk Style Paint now carry a warning label regarding the yellowing of topcoats. All bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. Water-based topcoat is reactive and more likely to draw out substances in the wood such as tannins or unknown substances in existing finishes causing the topcoat to yellow. This is an industry-wide issue. DO NOT CARRY THE COST OF WHITE PAINT YOURSELF– pass the cost on to the consumer who wants it with a fair upcharge. White paints, even if they did not yellow, require more coats to achieve coverage.

General Finishes background was originally on the professional side, and the incidences of yellowing topcoat over white paint were almost nil, and when our sprayable professional finish, Enduro White Poly, is used, there have been no incidences. But as the use of our paints has increased in the up-cycling and furniture refresh markets, we have heard more reports of our topcoat yellowing. Our original response was to teach about prepping, testing your finish schedule and finally creating Stain Blocker, our stain and tannin blocking primer, but this is not enough. Just as we advocate prepping all finishes, we are now advocating NOT using a clear water base topcoat over BRIGHT WHITE paint.

We are listening and General Finishes is in the process of developing a brushable version of our professional Enduro White Poly (available only in gallons), but that will take some time and rigorous testing before we can release the product. Here is what you should know to protect yourself and also some immediate suggestions to decrease chances of yellowing.

There is no way to reliably predict yellowing ahead of time. Sometimes yellowing occurs, sometimes it does not. Every existing finish is different and we rarely know the finishing provenance on an existing piece. Every tree is different and every piece of wood is unique. Wood can bleed tannins immediately after the topcoat dries or months later with a change in temperature that comes with a change in seasons. Oak, pine, mahogany, and Douglass Fur are particularly prone to bleed-through.

As is true of most "water-white" topcoats, our High Performance Water-Based topcoat is a clear drying finish over a non-reactive substrate such as plastic. When white paint sealed with a water-white topcoat is applied to something as unpredictable as wood, all bets are off and the reason is often unknown. Yellowing can be caused by the top coat activating the tannins in raw wood or aniline dyes, stains or contaminants in a pre-existing finish. This is most evident when using BRIGHT WHITE paint and most prevalent in the sculpted details of furniture, where the topcoat can collect, intensifying the color change to an unacceptable level.

To add to this issue, all bright white paint will yellow slightly with time, with or without topcoat. You have probably tried to touch up white woodwork in your home after several years and noticed that the new paint is brighter.

• Whites have a lower “hide” quality and are more transparent than most other colors. Most bright whites require additional coats to achieve the desired color and minimize color variation. This can increase the cost of paint finishing. Always include a clause in your contracts addressing the need for additional coats to achieve coverage.
• Bright white paints can yellow over time with or without topcoat.
• The underlying finish or wood species can affect the final color of light paint.
• Details and inside corners are difficult to cover with any paint color, but this property tends to be more noticeable with whites. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon in paint application and does not necessarily constitute a defect in the paint finish or your technique.
• The more porous the paint (chalk paint vs an acrylic paint), the more likely that yellowing will occur. The topcoat is actually seeping through the spaces caused by the larger particles of filler that give chalk style paints their texture.


1. Use a disclaimer in your contracts or recommend a softer white such as Antique White or Linen. Upcharge for the extra coats needed and ever guarantee a white finish over a piece that you cannot trace the provenance on. Here is a suggestion for your contracts: Terms of Agreement and Warranties: ________ (Initials) I have been informed that more coats are required when painting with bright whites, reds, greens or yellow. I understand that white paint can yellow over time and water-based topcoats can occasionally react with the substrate or existing finish under white paints causing yellowing, even is a stain blocking primer is used.

2. If it is a low use project, use a premium white paint that is self-sealing and does not require a topcoat. A clear top coat is not required on our Milk Paint for increased durability, as it is a self-sealing, exterior rated coating with very high durability and performance properties. However, top coats provide a smoother surface that is easier to clean and boost durability for high use projects such as table tops and kitchen cabinets.

3. Get a spray gun and use a professional "white coat" such as our Enduro White Poly. It is a white paint with "increased topcoat properties", is a stand-alone finish when 3 coats are applied and does not require sealing with a topcoat.

4. If you are still brushing, try a couple of our customer's techniques. 1) Add 10-15% of the paint you are using to the first application of topcoat. The last two layers of topcoat should NOT have paint in it, to maintain durability. This technique can be used with any color, not just white, and really boosts bright colors. 2) Use a coat of light gray over a lacquer based primer before applying white paint. We have good reports of these 2 techniques from customers BUT HAVE NOT TESTED IN OUR LAB. (Alternatively, GF prefers the use of Stain blocker without grey paint.)

5. Always test your project's ENTIRE finishing schedule (from cleaning to topcoat) on an inside door or a more hidden area of the piece. This does not help if the yellowing occurs later but you will at least know if there is an immediate problem.

6. Always apply a stain blocking primer under white or light-colored paint such as GF Stain Blocker or a shellac based primer. Always let any primer dry overnight. Some of the primers we have seen suggest a 3-hour dry time and that is not enough. 

7. If you are working on period pieces such as a 1940's serpentine mahogany desk which were often finished in stain containing aniline dyes that cast a pinkish bleed through under light paint, stay away from light colors. Not every piece of furniture is suitable for up-cycling with a light paint color. Pine, Mahogany, and furniture of the 1940's and 50's are a red flag.

8. Last, not all manufacturer's topcoats are compatible with other finishes and may react with a color change. Always follow best practices by not rushing, and testing to your satisfaction first.


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How do I repair chipping paint applied over an existing cabinet finish?

There is no easy solution to this problem. GF Milk Paint has strong adhesion properties but there are several reasons this finish could fail:
  1. The cabinets were not prep cleaned and sanded properly. Sanding and cleaning are an essential part of any refinishing process. Sanding lightly with the correct sandpaper grit will help clean and smooth the surface, but it will also abrade the previous finish which gives the new paint something to grip onto. Product may not adhere properly to a surface that is un-sanded or that is over-sanded (making the surface too smooth). In most cases you can use a 220 sanding pad to scuff the surface and clean with a 50|50 mix of water and denatured alcohol.
  2. The surface was contaminated with a dusting spray that contained silicone. Silicone is usually impossible to remove. You can try scrubbing the surface with a strong detergent such as Spic and Span and warm water combination using a gray Scotchbrite pad. After that clean with denatured alchohol full strength. In most cases you need to strip and sand, but there is no guarantee of success. Test a small area first.
  3. The surface was contaminated with a previous wax finish. Wax is also difficult or impossible to remove. Nothing adheres well to wax, and once you use it the wood grain can become contaminated. The wax can penetrate the wood, making future paint or stain finishes or touch ups difficult or impossible. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high. The surface was contaminated with an oil based soap.
  4. A lack of compatibility with the deglosser.
  5. A lack of compatibility with another manufacturer's top coat.
The most likely suspect is contamination. If any wax or silicone-based product has been used on the original surface, adhesion problems such as bubbling and chipping can be expected. 
You could try spot sanding then repainting the chipped areas but that rarely is a good solution - we think the problem will continue to occur. We recommend getting the cabinets into paintable condition by sanding back all the new paint and cleaning with a high strength detergent such as Spic and Span mixed with warm water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. 
Then prep sand with a 220 sanding PAD - do not use a finer grit or the new paint won't hold. 
Finally,  scrub with a scotch brite pad and a 50\50 mix of denatured alcohol and water. When preparing any surface we highly recommend using a a 50/50 mix of denatured alcohol and water instead of commercial cleaning solutions. The mix is more effective because it has a higher alcohol content, you can get denatured alcohol locally, and it is cheaper. Many commercial cleaning solutions have extremely high VOCs while denatured alcohol is much lower. Furthermore, the 50/50 mix does not have salt in it. The salt in commercial cleaning solutions could linger in the substrate and cause salt contamination when clear coating at the end of your project, which could create a white haze.
Then test one door, letting the surface cure for 7 days to see if the problem duplicates itself. If this is silicone contamination, it may be impossible to remove the silicone completely. If your test does not work, stripping is the only answer. We know this is not what you want to hear, but we hope that this insight will help you to achieve your desired end result. 
Future forward, when working with a pre-existing finish with no knowledge of previous wood care, alway test a hidden area before proceeding with the entire project.Here are General Finishes general recommendations for preparing a previously finished surface, including the recommended sanding grits:

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Is General Finishes Milk Paint different from their professional paint line?

Both products are exactly the same - the only difference is size. Professional paints are only sold in gallons for use in spray applications, whereas Retail Milk Paints are sold in pints and quarts. General Finishes Milk Paints are particularly durable because they were originally created for commercial use.

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Is GF's Milk Paint a True Milk Paint?

GF's Milk Paint is not a true Milk Paint - it is premixed and does not contain any casein based ingredients. We named our product Milk Paint with the intention of putting a clear, bright, contemporary spin on an old fashioned furniture paint tradition. It is designed to mimic the low luster finish of old world paints. It is our premium paint, carefully engineered for durability, ease of application and exterior use. All you have to do is prep your piece, stir the can and get started!
Here are some other qualities that make our Milk Paint stand out:

  • Extremely durable with great adhesion properties.
  • It is self-sealing one coat paint. No additional sealant is not required if low to medium wear is expected. If extra durability is desired in high use areas or if you want a glossier sheen, GF recommends applying High Performance or one of our Enduro Professional Top Coats as a sealant.
  • Performs well on outdoor projects.
  • It's UV resistant, water resistant and scratch resistant.
  • Sprays beautifully.
  • It can be intermixed with other Milk Paints, Chalk Style Paints, and Glazes and is a great companion to our water-based Stains, Dyes, Pearl Effects and Top Coats.

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My painted kitchen cabinets are cracking in the corners after I turned up the heat in my house. What happened and how can I fix it?

This issue is caused by a change in humidity in the house when the winter heating season starts. This is a very typical problem when painting over existing finishes. The cracking is a result of expansion and contraction. When you apply numerous heavy layers of primers, paints and topcoats they can crack at the joints or angles when the humidity changes. The cracking occurs when the door panel shrinks and breaks the heavy paint layer. 

There are two options when it comes to fixing this problem. 

Fill the cracks with painters caulk and reapply the paint and clear coat. 

Leave it alone and wait until spring when the cracks will close back up. 

Putting  a humidifier in the room may also help close the gaps.

Painting cabinets in the winter is your best bet to avoid this problem because there is no humidity. That way when the wood swells up in the hotter months and then shrinks back again in the cooler months, there is minimum cracking or damage. 


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What is the best applicator to use for Milk Paint or Water Based Topcoat?

Either bristle or foam brushes will work well with Milk Paint and Top Coat. The folks at GF might use several types of brushes for a project. For example, we like to use a bristle brush (which loads up more paint) to get Milk Paint on the surface, and then use a water or Extender dampened foam brush to smooth out the finish. Bristle brushes are particularly helpful on vertical and detailed surfaces but they can produce subtle texture. Foam brushes tend to produce a smoother finish which can be particularly helpful on flat horizontal surfaces. Pad Applicators or paint rollers are also helpful on larger horizontal surfaces such as a table top. For folks who don't want to invest in several brushes, the foam brush is our recommendation.

The very best application method is spraying.


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What is the Difference Between Latex and Acrylic Paint?

The word “latex” is often a misnomer and is used everywhere to differentiate a water-based product from an oil-based product. The same as the word “Kleenex” is used to describe any type of facial tissue, regardless of the brand.
Today, latex is the technical term for a suspension (U.S.) or emulsion (European) of microparticles in water.

Latex ( a plant-based derivative) was never one of the early ingredients used as a binder in paint, the material that holds all the ingredients together and imparts adhesion. Binders that are commonly used include synthetic or natural resins such as alkyds, acrylics, vinyl-acrylics, vinyl acetate/ethylene (VAE), polyurethanes, polyesters, melamine resins, epoxy, or oils. Acrylic paint is called that because an acrylic resin is used and not all resins are equal.

Yes, you can. You should differentiate between the “standard” wall paints and the “performance” wall paints, such as Advance by Ben Moore. The problem with “standard" wall paints is performance. The majority of latex wall paints are designed and engineered for a different purpose: and that is to have great coverage…..on a wall. Walls simply don’t have the wear and tear that other horizontal surfaces do, so wall paints are manufactured with fewer resins and more of the cost competitive fillers. This helps keep the cost down, which makes sense. 


The first is the quality of the resin - there are thousands on the market and they are not all equal. Resins affect cure time. The newer, performance wall paints, such as Benjamin Moore’s Advance, needs almost 20-30 days to FULLY cure for physical use in lab tests, but on a wall that does not matter - folks don’t walk on walls. Furniture and cabinet finishers need a faster cure time. Furniture and cabinets may need to be stacked, packaged or used fairly immediately, so the resins are selected are based on cure time properties.

The second difference is the amount of filler used. Both wall paints and furniture paints may use 100% Acrylic as the resin. Most interior house paints tend to be a combination of a binder, which is more expensive, (such as latex, acrylic, vinyl, vinyl acrylic, and others), a whole bunch of less expensive fillers such as calcium carbonate or talc, some pigment for color and water. The fillers in wall paint give it great coverage and allow the paint to be manufactured at a lower price point, but sacrifice durability and performance. Imagine wall paint as a can filled with 50% filler powder, some pigment colors, a little binder and then topped off with water. The higher end wall paints are a step up and improve this ratio but still tend to be less durable.

By comparison, a furniture paint may contain 30% filler powder, more binders and higher quality resins, pigments for color, and water. Chalk style furniture paints also have more filler powder than acrylic paints. That is why our Milk Paint is more durable than our Chalk Style Paint - the ratio of filler.

In summary, acrylic paints for furniture contain a higher ratio of resin to filler and superior resins.

High-quality acrylic resins give furniture paint the properties needed in the final finish: adhesion, hardness, flexibility (expansion and contraction with temperature changes in outdoor applications), good scrub resistance and superior color. These paints excel when it comes to flow, leveling and easy brushing. And these paints cure for use and recoating faster.

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Why are some Milk Paint colors thinner and more translucent than others?

The ability of a paint too "hide" (cover) the existing underlying finish color is dependent on a number of factors. One factor is colorants and the other is filler. Colorants affect the viscosity of durable furniture paints, making some paints thinner than others. GF could add more filler, making Millk Paint similar to wall paint, but that would reduce the durability.

When covering existing medium-dark finishes, at least 2 coats of primer is recommended. Even with the use of a primer, additional coats of paint may be necessary.   

When covering lighter colored finishes, it may take 3+ coats of paint to achieve acceptable hide.

If you want a light color that has better coverage, consider General Finishes Chalk Style paint.


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Why does bright paint take so many coats to achieve coverage?

The opacity of a paint is the ability to "hide" the surface underneath.

Paints that have more hiding capacity are made with a "white" base which contains a larger combination of calcium carbonate and titanium dioxide. The calcium carbonate acts as a spacer to spread out the titanium dioxide, the most common ingredient used in paints to increase "hiding" properties.

Extra deep and extra bright colors have lower opacity because they start out in a "clear" base which contains only calcium carbonate. Very little titanium dioxide is added to a bright paint formula to help keep these colors vibrant. Additionally, bright pigments have smaller particles which also affects opacity.

Neutral paint colors (light grays, browns, dark blues, dark greens, dark reds, etc.) contain a primary color(s) and a good amount of titanium dioxide, which provides excellent hide and requires fewer coats.

For example, if one coat of gray paint is put over a white surface, the outcome looks fairly gray. However, one coat of bright red paint over a white surface will leave a fair amount of white on the surface.

The opacity of a paint (the ability to hide the surface underneath) has nothing to do with the viscosity (thickness of the paint).

The key is to learn the colors that are the most extreme among your favorite manufacturers and use them accordingly. This will help you plan time allotments for your project and your pricing.

Tip to improve coverage to reduce the number of coats using GF paints:

  1. Lay down a primer coat of a similar, high opacity paint first, such as Seagull Gray under Snow White, Buttermilk Yellow under Sunglow, Brick Red under Holiday Red, or Coastal Blue under Royal Purple.
  2. Use a primer with light colors, especially over existing finishes.

This list ranks the opacity of General Finishes Milk Paint colors from highest to lowest. This contrast ratio testing was done on a sealed substrate with an 8 mil draw.

  • Coastal Blue:            100
  • Linen:                       100
  • Millstone:                  100
  • Seagull Gray:           100
  • Persian Blue:             99.97
  • Driftwood:                  99.75
  • Patina Green:            99.72
  • Buttermilk Yellow:      99.5
  • Halcyon Blue:            99.43
  • Klein Blue:                 99.39
  • Dark Chocolate:        99.38
  • Basil:                         99.37
  • Queenstown Gray:    99.26
  • Somerset Gold:         98.51
  • Brick Red:                 98.27
  • Emerald:                   98.1
  • Lamp Black:              98.1
  • Lime Green:              97.6
  • Tuscan Red:             97.3
  • Royal Purple:            97.2
  • Coral Crush:             96.17
  • Snow White:             96
  • Persimmon:              94.51
  • Sunglow:                  88.74
  • Holiday Red:             86.5

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Why does GF Milk Paint look different when applied with a spray gun versus a brush application?

Milk Paint is not like a filler-based wall paint. It is engineered for high-use applications such as table tops and cabinets that require considerably more durability than a wall. The resins that make Milk Paint durable change the properties of it, so you have to handle it differently. The type of applicator you use will change the thickness of the film and affect the appearance GF Milk Paint.

When refinishing kitchen cabinets, our contractor customers often roll the face frames and spray the doors. If there are any corners or edges that need to be filled in with a brush, do this before spraying or rolling. Then complete the entire section with one type applicator. With this approach you will notice a slight difference between the frame and the cabinet door, but the difference is considerably less obvious than it would be if you sprayed and rolled on this same surface. 

Secondly, always stir the can well just BEFORE and DURING use. If there is any delay, the ingredients will start separating. Color separation is a condition that the paint industry calls "float". This is very typical with specific colors such as grays because of the large variance in gravities of the pigments required to create the color.  In gray for instance, Ti02 (white) is 3.4 and black is 1.62. The lower density will float. This phenomena will not occur in colors that have less variance in densities. If it is a large project, we recommend continuing to stir during use to keep color properties consistent.


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Why does Milk Paint and Chalk Style paint separate in the can, even after stirring?

The separation is a condition that the paint industry calls "float". This is very typical with specific colors such grays because of the large variance in gravities of the pigments required to create the color. In gray for instance, Ti02 (white) is 3.4 and black is 1.62. The lower density will float. This phenomenon will not occur in colors that have less variance in densities.This issue is not unique to General Finishes products.

Always stir the can well just BEFORE and DURING use. If there is any delay, the ingredients will start separating. If it is a large project, we recommend continuing to stir during use to keep color properties consistent.

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Why is my application of Milk Paint is not adhering on previously finished cabinets?

There are several reasons:

  1. The cabinets were not prep cleaned and sanded properly. Sanding and cleaning are an essential part of any refinishing process. In most cases you can use a 220 sanding pad to scuff the surface and clean with a 50|50 mix of water and denatured alcohol.
  2. The surface was contaminated with a dusting spray that contained silicone. Silicone is usually impossible to remove. You can try scrubbing the surface with a strong detergent such as Spic and Span and warm water combination using a gray Scotchbrite pad. After that clean with denatured alchohol full strength. In most cases you need to strip and sand, but there is no guarantee of success. Test a small area first.
  3. The surface was contaminated with a previous wax finish.Wax is also difficult or impossible to remove. Nothing adheres well to wax, and once you use it the wood grain can become contaminated. The wax can penetrate the wood, making future paint or stain finishes or touch ups difficult or impossible. Even though there is internet chatter about removing wax with 3rd party products or mineral spirits, the risk of a failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high. GF does offer a lovelty Satin Finishing Wax, but we recommend the use of Top Coats such as our High Performance Top Coat  or Flat Out Flat (waterbased) for a reliable sealant. We promote glaze effects and stains as other means for adding depth to refinished furniture. 
  4. The surface was contaminated with an oil based soap.
  5. There was not enough dry time in between coats relative to the temperature and humidity. Ideal Conditions are 70 degrees F and 70% humidity. Refinishing furniture in a space that is below or above the 65-75 degrees F range can lead to problems. The colder your space it is, the longer you have to wait between coats. Cold temperatures slow the dry time and affect how quickly the finish will level, harden and cure. Our easy rule of thumb is; if it is cold enough to wear a sweater it is too cold to apply a water based finish.


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Will Milk Paint Adhere Over a Paper Veneer Finish?

We cannot guarantee that our paints will adhere well to a paper veneer - we have no idea what the actual material is or what adhesives were used to apply the veneer to the surface. The resins and additives in our paints may break down the adhesives used for the veneer.

Our Milk Paints have an excellent adhesion factor and might well be successful.  If you can abrade the surface with sandpaper, you will increase your chance of success. 

For best possible results, follow these steps:


GF's preparation video tutorial: ( 


Test your procedure on a hidden area first and let cure for 7-10 days. Then further test the finish by duplicating normal and tear such as washing, scrubbing, scratching, etc to see if the finish has bonded to the surface.  


If your finish adheres well, you should be ok to continue.  If the finish comes off easily, we recommend trying a sealing binder primer before you apply the paint, such as XIM 400 White Primer Sealer Bonder or whatever is recommended for paper veneer at your local hardware or paint store.  Again, TEST!

Apply Product:

Apply product directly over the primer and seal with 2-3 coats of GF Top Coat. We recommend using High Performance Top Coat over Milk Paint because it's water based and dries clear.


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