Painting Concrete with Milk Paint

This post walks you through the process of painting concrete with milk paint and identifies the supplies you will need.

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Back Story

I have a reputation for painting just about anything.  If there is something in our house that stands still for long enough, chances are, at some point, I will paint it.  So far, the couches have NOT been painted but I can’t say the same for our dining room table.  Mr. SLH makes sure never to stand still for too long.   

This is exactly what happened to a concrete horse head that I have had for a number of years.  I purchased it about twelve years ago when I lived in Delaware and – ohmygoodness- it is HEAVY.   I mean really heavy. Despite it being insanely heavy, I loved it and appreciated the quality of the piece.   So, I lugged it all the way to New York and put it in the basement where it stayed.  

There was nothing wrong with the piece. I still loved it but the fact that it was dark grey and brown meant none of the carved details really stood out. It just blended into the background of any home decor.  I didn’t want to put it outside because, as noted above, it’s ridiculously heavy and I didn’t think it could withstand the sub-zero New York winters.  Winter in Delaware is considerably milder than winter in upstate New York.  Concrete tends to break apart when it absorbs water-turned ice in sub zero temperatures.  Similarly, the notion of me carrying a heavy concrete item out of the garden at the end of every fall to bring inside for winter, was not going to happen.

So the other day, I thought – hmmm – I bet that horse head would look great if painted and given an antique wax finish.  When Mr. SLH went to work, I went down to the basement and lugged the concrete horse head upstairs onto my dining room table.  And . . . I decided to paint it with milk paint.

In this post, I will share the process with you as well as some tips and tricks. Let me just say – now I am inspired to paint all the concrete things!

Painting Concrete with Milk Paint

This was a fairly easy DIY project that I was able to complete on a Sunday afternoon.  Before I share the process I used, let me give you a list of supplies that are needed.

Supplies

 Milk paint is my favorite type of paint because it is created with all natural ingredients and is a nontoxic paint.  Milk paint is made from organic materials and the colors are derived from plants. It doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals that oil-based paints use.  It also doesn’t contain the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are found in latex paint, chalk paint, or acrylic paints. You can use milk paint on raw wood, metal, paper, resin and – obviously- concrete.

A couple of things to note about milk paint.  First, it dries with a matte finish.  Second, it needs to be sealed.  There are several ways you can accomplish this including: applying a wax, applying hemp oil or by using a water based sealer such as polycrylic.  

milk paint supplies

Below is a list of supplies that you will need. Where possible, I have provided links to online resources.  

Clean the Concrete Statue

As previously mentioned, the concrete horse head had been sitting in my basement for a number of years so it needed a good scrubbing.  I filled up the sink with warm water and Dawn dish soap. Then using a scrub brush, I removed all the dust from the concrete surface that had accumulated over the years.  The scrub brush helped clean all the little grooves and facial details.   Then I hoisted it out of the sink and dried it using a terry cloth towel. 

Mix Your Paint

While the concrete statue is drying, mix up your milk paint.  If you haven’t used milk paint before, please know that true milk paint comes in a powdered form.  (Most paints are ready to use in a liquid form) Generally you mix it 1:1 ratio with water. In general, you don’t need much water.  I mixed up about ½ cup of powdered milk paint with ½ cup of warm water.  I added a few drops of milk mix EZ to help the paint combine readily and a little bit of MMS milk grip to ensure the paint adhered to the horse head.  If your milk paint looks like pancake batter – then it has the right consistency.  If you wanted a standard quart of milk paint, you would need 16 ounces of powdered paint and 16 ounces of water. 

It’s worth noting that a small amount of milk paint goes a long way.  If you prefer a more “chippy look” for your project then simply omit the milk grip/ bonding agent when mixing your paint.

Also, if you haven’t used milk paint before, this is a perfect project to test it out.  It’s always good to start with smaller projects that are more manageable. 

Prepare Your Work Surface

Use brown kraft paper, a tarp or old towel to protect your work surface. Lay out your paint brush, wax brushes and sandpaper.  

Paint the Concrete Statue

Once the concrete has dried completely, apply your first coat of paint.  Since I was using the color Ironstone, the first coat looked a little splotchy.  Don’t be deterred if this happens.  Simply wait for the first coat of paint to dry and apply a second coat.  I applied light coats of paint and waited about 30 minutes for each coat of paint to dry.  This project required a total of three coats of paint because the concrete was such a dark grey-brown. 

Distress the Concrete Statue

When the paint has dried, use your 220 grit sandpaper to gently scuff areas that would normally get more wear.  For example, the top of the ears and the higher points of the mane were gently sanded.  I didn’t want the distressing to look obvious or heavy handed.  I wanted a more natural and weathered appearance which required a very light hand when sanding.  When I was done sanding, I wiped down the horse head with a damp rag to remove any dust. 

Using 220 grit sandpaper

Apply Wax

I applied clear wax to the concrete first and wiped off any excess using a terry cloth rag.  Here are some important tips. First, applying the clear wax first helps to ensure the application of antique wax goes on more uniformly.  Second, the clear wax seals the milk paint and helps to protect it. Applying the clear wax provides a smooth and even base for the antique wax which then creates a more naturally aged appearance.

If you don’t apply a clear wax first, you run the risk of the darker wax adhering to the surface and creating a dark and splotchy finish.

Another tip is to have a dedicated small wax brush for each wax color.

Once the dark wax has been applied, wipe off any excess with a terry cloth rag. Keep applying the dark wax and gently buff it away until you get the desired “aged” effect you are after.  The end result is a beautiful finish. 

Concrete horse head after application of wax

Enjoy your Updated Concrete Statue

I could not be happier with how this turned out.  The painted concrete statue has details that standout and the color compliments the piece.  I found myself wondering why I hadn’t tried painting it sooner.  Why did I let this beautiful piece stay in the basement for so many years?  Then when I lifted it up to move it and was reminded why.  As an aside, I am now thinking about using milk paint on a concrete floor.  It would be so fun to make a checker board pattern or to use a floor stencil.

Similarly, I think it would be fun to use milk paint on a wood floor.  Although, there would definitely be an extra cost, depending upon the square footage, with the need to use so much paint. 

Here are some photos I took for the horse head the next day.  Feel free to pin the images below if you want to bookmark this post for future reference.

Painting Concrete with milk paint

Don’t you love how the horse’s face turned out? I added the velvet ribbon for embellishment.

Painting concrete with milk paint

Now, this horse’s head has an almost European feeling. It feels like something you would see in a historic building in England.

Painting concrete with milk paint

We were so lucky this year because our hydrangeas bloomed like crazy!

Summary

Thank you for stopping by the blog today!  I hope you found some inspiration.  My goal is to share affordable, easy and elegant ways to spruce up your home.  If you want to see how milk paint looks on a piece of furniture, you may like to read this post about a small table makeover.

DIY Small Table Makeover

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10 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, what an amazing treasure to find and then what a stunning transformation. Just wow. So beautiful. You have an incredible eye.

  2. Love the transformation, it looks more like you now! Your staging is fabulous! I still have not tried milk paint, but I love the fact it’s chemical-free! Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

    1. Hi Donna! Thank you for stopping by. I love that you said the horse look more like me now.
      It really is true, we all have our unique finger prints.

  3. What a transformation, Anna, this looks amazing! I love the way this came together. It looks like it was always meant to be this color and you know I adore the velvet ribbon. It adds just the right seasonal touch. Great job sweet friend, it’s gorgeous! Hugs, CoCo

  4. I love the way the horse head ended up Anna, I am a fan of them, but have never come across one in person. The velvet ribbon is the perfect touch!

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