Paint - In My Opinion

I was just in the studio working on a paint project and thinking about why I used the products that I was using.  Paint from two different brands, finishing products from yet another brand. There is so much discussion out there on which "brand" is the best.  I'm not an expert.  Just a DIYer myself.  Ive been restoring and painting furniture since 2009.  Started with latex and spray paints (usually country white). Moved to chalk paints and wax and now use water based acrylic, milk paint, and occasionally chalk.  I prefer glaze to wax for finishing.  So, right or wrong, this is my opinion on the many paint choice out there.

Latex is easy, cheap, and accessible at your local hardware store.  You do need to sand or prime first and it's not environmentally friendly.  It's easy to apply, but, clean up is messy.  If you want to keep your brushes, you will need harsh chemicals to get the latex paint off or they will be hard as rock. 

For Latex paint, look for the "ooopsie" section of the hardware store.  You can get small cans of different colors that they either mixed wrong or was not just-right for the customer.  Cost is only a few bucks.  If you are distressing, be sure to use a mask.  You don't want to breath this in.  On that note, that's why I stopped using spray paints (even with the mask).  They left a film layer of burning paint on my contact lenses (yes, I wore protective goggles) and burned my throat and chest.  Cheap and easy to apply but I was quite sure I was shortening my life cycle every time I used it.

Furniture Paint.  Chalk and acrylic paints are much easier to use as far as applying and for distressing.  Some brands go on better than others.  Some go on like butter and are real smooth while some start to get sticky and clump a bit if you are too slow on applying or are brushing over (which you are really not supposed to do with chalk paint - long stokes, one direction).  Water based acrylic paint goes on smooth and you can go over it a few times with the paint brush without it getting tacky.  You wont ruin your piece if you step away for a minute as you might with some of the chalks.  I have used four of the most popular brands.  I don't have a favorite chalk paint.  I usually go by or suggest people go by #1 The color they like best #2 The most convenient location and #3 The best price.  Right now, for me, that's Paint Couture.  

Chalk paint is no sanding, prep, and prime, but, you really need two coats for full coverage.  You need to wax after you paint or your piece will be matte or chalky to the touch.  Waxing can be a big job.  It can get sticky and tacky.  If you have any kind of carpel tunnel or tennis elbow or weak muscles, this can be a painful job.  If you didn't have any of these symptoms before, you probably will get them after doing a few projects that need a wax finish.  To get a very sturdy, wont chip or scratch finish, I understand you need a few coats of wax and need to repeat. 

Most of these paint lines have low VOC. Paint Couture is one of the lowest in VOC and CeCe Caldwell has no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). If you are going to wax, I highly recommend CeCe Caldwell's wax. MUCH easier to use than AS. Little to no smell. Goes on real smooth and not as tacky and hard to work with.
Water based acrylic:  Although its acrylic based rather than chalk based, this paint is very similar to the chalk paint lines in that it needs little to no prep work and distresses very well.  It goes on smoother than some of the chalk lines and is low VOC.  Like chalk paint, it dries very matte and needs a finish. 

I've recently started using glaze and lacquer as a finish on my chalk and acrylic paint projects.  Love it.  Goes on smooth with a brush, dries hard as nails, and rinses off the brush easy.  There are also different colors.  You can use lacquer if you just want a totally clear finish that will not change the color of your paint.  Or, you can use colored glazes and get all kinds of different looks.  Ive even done a wood table in just glaze.  No prep, prime, or paint.  It turned my 90s style bleached pine table into a fabulous walnut finish in about 10 minutes total time.  

Milk Paint: Not for the faint at heart. With the other paints, you can pop open a can and get going without thinking much about it. There is a learning curve with milk paint. Milk Paint is an ancient, totally organic paint containing basic ingredients including milk protein, limestone, clay and natural color pigments. A Milk Paint finish is unique and can range from a solid color to a stain, it all depends on how much water you add. It can be used on any porous surface without a primer. It will not chip or peel on porous surfaces as it soaks in and binds with the substrate. If you are looking for a rustic, country, or stained look, milk paint is the best to use. You mix it in a cup with water. It goes on watery, but, as you brush, it gets a nice smooth finish that is super easy to distress, very durable. Finish with natural beeswax and you have a unique, durable, and completely eco-friendly product. Rinse the brushes safely and easily in the sink. Milk Paint comes in a powder form and has a very long shelf life. All the other paint products, once opened, don't keep well.

If I'm doing a small piece of furniture, I prefer to buy the sample jars of paint. Less expensive, you can try many different colors, and you aren't stuck with cans of lumpy, gooey, paint in the cupboards. Milk paint, in it's powder form, does not take up much room and will keep for years. One little packet of Milk Paint will cover 40-60sf.

Hmmm. Should I get into politics and what products retailers should consider if they want to sell one of the lines? Sure, why the heck not.

If you decide to manufacture and sell tin foil, you can call your brand whatever you want. Tin foil has been around for ages and is a common generic term. It would be illegal to try to copyright the words tin foil. Let's say you call it Abby Sam's Tin Foil. You can copyright some of it, but, can't tell other people that they can no longer use the words, tin foil. Even though you may make a fabulous tin foil product, you can't try to stop other people from making or selling their own tin foil. It's the American way. That's what capitalism is all about.

Chalk paint has been around for years. Yes, Annie Sloan made it very popular and has a keen marketing and sales acumen. But, making everyone else have to say, "chalk based paint" is ridiculous. Does everyone else who is not Reynold's Wrap have to call their product, "tin based foil"?

I also understand that it's quite difficult to be an AS retailer as far as quotas, what they have to buy, and margins. On the other side of that coin, their business model is successful. The company markets and sells so well, that people will come to you for the product. You don't have to market and sell their product on your own, they have already done it. People want it. You just have to supply it and it sells itself. They also must have a great training program, because those that sell it, seem very knowledgeable. It is not a passive company and you can not be a passive retailer if you carry it.

Because of the way AS does business, there have been many who did not agree with the way things were managed and so there were other companies formed in response (such as CeCe Caldwell and others). Then, American Paint Company, went to CeCe Caldwell's manufacturer and opened the same paint line under a different name at a lower price point.

Although the background business dealings of competing paint companies could probably be the next great realty TV show, consumers are the winners here. Competition lowers the price of the products and forces competitive improvements and business models. The downside for consumers is that there is greater learning curve to know which product might work best for them.

Naming names: Here are my favorites for different reasons...


Annie Sloan
's color pallet leans towards country colors. I prefer softer colors, and they have a few. My favorites are Paris Grey and Antoinette.

CeCe Caldwell is great for color bursts. I love the Santa Fe Turquoise.

Paint Couture's colors are based on the latest fashion trends and are mostly a soft color pallet. My favorites here are Calm and Serenity. For a true black, Baltic Black. They also have a custom color this year that matches the Pantone Color of the Year. Radiance (a dark fuscia).

Milk Paint. The best blues and greens are in the Homestead House Milk Paint line. Laurentine, Loyalist, Niagra Green and Upper Canada Green. Homestead House is the parent company to Miss Mustard Seed. Same product base, but, Miss Mustard Seeds has a their own designer colors. They also have great marketing and tutorials.


Since I have been introduced to glazes, not sure I'll ever wax again (except over Milk Paint). If I did, CeCe Caldwell's is the best for ease of use, more natural, and low odor. Clear wax can be either Beeswax or CeCe. CeCe for dark wax. For giving the aged look, dark wax might still beat the glazes. I'm just not sure you can get the same aged look of dark wax over an off white paint with a glaze. But, for everything else, especially tables, dressers, things you need to put items down on and don't want to scratch, glaze or lacquer wins over wax. 

Milk Paint is different. I would stick with all natural beeswax. Why add chemicals to your natural eco-friendly milk paint project. Goes on smooth, smells good, is natural, works well with the product. They also recommend Hemp Oil with Milk Paint. I don't really like the hemp oil. I stick to the beeswax. They also have a dark antiquing wax with Miss Mustard Seed. I dont really like that product either. I'd stick to CeCe for the dark wax or Paint Couture for a color wax accent (like gold, silver, or blue to give it a patina look).


Well obviously the $3 ooopsie can is the best price, or, making your own chalk paint (which I have not done). But, if you want a really nice finish and don't want too much work (finding all the ingredients and mixing your own chalk paint is way too many steps for me), stick to the above paints or milk paints.

Next in price, is Homestead House Milk Paint ($17). A small bag goes a long way. Their products are the least expensive and most natural. It's a few dollars more for the designer colors (MMS brand abt $22).

Paint Couture paints are the best price in the furniture/cabinet paint category (abt $10 less than chalk paint brands) and I like their soft color pallet the best. It's a company that has been in the designer paint market for years and has recently made their products accessible to the DIYer.


Paint Couture Glaze is my go to finish right now. Love the zinc and champain glazes. The colored waxes are fun to use too.


If you are going to do this more than once, invest in a hand sander. Don't try to use a piece of sandpaper. However, you can also get the distressed look without sanding at all. Before it dries, wipe your item where you want it to look distressed and pull the paint off with a towel. This is called wet distress. Or, go back in with dark wax, glaze, or color finishes and hit the crevices, grooves, and accents.

Another great product out right now is embossing cream. LOVE it. It's a creamy plaster type product that will give you a raised effect. Use it with a stencil (get a good quality thick one). Use a spackle tool to apply it and smooth it out. Let it dry and you have a raised stencil. Color over it with color wax using just your finger tip. Get a lace finish or grass cloth raised effect. Even fix broken frames by molding the emboss cream in the spot where the frame broke off.

In summary, I no longer use latex or spray paints. I do not mix my own paint. I like a smooth easy to apply paint product that adheres well and distresses easily.  I'm picky about paint colors and wax.  I want a polished, designer finish at a DIY price.

If you are interested in retailers who carry any of the items I talked about, I'm more than happy to share information on shops that carry it.


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