How to Paint a French Blue Milk Paint Finish

by | Mar 7, 2023 | Blog, Create, Furniture, Paint

The Turquoise Iris Journal Curator Amy Sadler loves to make something fairly new look authentically old. Here she shows us how to take an inexpensive red dresser and make it look like an antique with milk paint.

When I was dreaming about this paint finish I was looking at Pinterest and saw an old french blue antique dresser with years, and layers of paint and gesso peaking through. I was inspired and I started to zoom in and deconstruct the finish from the top down.

I saw several colors of light blues and greens. I could see where there were repairs and where gesso was used to build up an area.
So I got to work and here is how I created my antique french blue milk paint finish.



How to Paint an Antique French Blue Milk Paint Finish

  1. Sand and Clean

    Lightly sand your furniture piece with 220 grit sandpaper and clean any dust, grease, or grime with Krud Kutter Deglosser. My piece was red and I did not want any red showing through my paint finish. Knowing I was going to be distressing I needed my primer layer of paint to really stick to the red so I made sure that it was clean and prepped properly. If I had a stained wood piece to start with I would not have been so careful, as I wouldn’t have minded the stain layer showing up occasionally.

  2. Prime a painted piece

    If your furniture piece is already painted you will want to prime or use two layers of good bonding paint. I used Amy Howard One step paint in the color linen. You won’t want to use any paint with sheen, or a slick finish for this antique finish.

  3. Gesso

    Mix your gesso in a plastic cup. I used half a cup of Amy Howard cracked gesso and mixed the powder with warm water until I had a consistency that I liked. About as thick as pancake batter. Runny but not thin. Apply the cracked gesso over your base coat covering 100% of the furniture piece. I “built up” the gesso on corners and around the handle areas.

  4. Milk Paint in Layers

    Let each layer of gesso and milk paint dry to the touch until it doesn’t feel cold and then you are safe to add the next layer. I typically waited 30 minutes to 1 hour in between coats. I started with a layer of Cote D’Azure Toscana Milk Paint powder, and a little bit of Noir (to make a darker blue) mixed with warm water. I used half a cup of the blue powder, a teaspoon of Noir to a quarter cup of warm water for my first layer. The next color I used was Venetian green – one-half cup of powder to one-quarter cup of warm water. It takes such a small amount of paint for a small piece like this and I only made enough for what I needed for that layer if I did have a tiny bit left, I added it to the next color. Next, I used a layer of gesso on all of the corners and the handle area to build up the years of time there. Next, I took the Cote D’Azure alone without Noir. Each layer of milk paint is 100% coverage over the entire piece. I added what I had left of the colors and added more blue to the last layer.

  5. Scrape

    I used my 5 in 1 tool and my straight razor to scrape the layers and gently distress my antique finish. To make it look authentic I distressed it where it would have worn naturally over time. I use the 5 in 1 and my razor rather than sandpaper to make sure that I am chipping the finish and not melding it together with sandpaper.

  6. Smooth it out

    Again, not using sandpaper but instead a 0000 steel wool pad to smooth out any rough patches or areas that need distressed smooth. Steele wool will also give a nice patina that sandpaper won’t. This makes a mess so be sure to do this outside and wear proper PPE.

  7. Wax

    When I am happy with my distressing and have achieved my desired chippy-ness, I will use Mind your own beeswax to seal my milk paint. You will always want to seal a milk paint finish to keep it from chipping more or absorbing dirt from whatever touches it. Unless, of course, that is what you want to happen. I use a wax brush to add on the wax and I panic that I am ruining it because it darkens my milk paint, but then it dries and the paint lightens to its perfect shade of french blue again. I cover the piece with 100% coverage.

  8. Buff the wax

    After 24 hours I go back with my buff brush and buff the wax to a beautiful dull rubbed sheen. Have you ever shined shoes or seen a movie where a soldier is shining his boots? It’s just like that. Back and forth quickly over the wax and you can watch it shine up. It is so satisfying.

Join my VIP List for all my fun tips and inspo!

What Is Gesso

Gesso is an old method of milk painting. I think of gesso as a primer/ texture layer of sorts. It is the layer of time in my mind. As a piece of painted furniture is passed down and repainted in the past. It would have been touched up or repainted as it wore and each time it might have gotten a layer of gesso and milk paint or a new type of paint introduced.

Why Use Milk Paint Instead of Chalk Paint

Most households would have had access to making their own milk paint 100 years ago and I had that in mind as I finished this piece. I used slightly different shades and layers of white gesso in between every few to build up my years of time. I also wanted to get an authentic chipped look, and I love using milk paint and gesso combined to get this finish.

The Faux Marble Top

You can see how I made the faux marble top here.

I had so much fun making this piece! I hope that you will try it and be sure to share yours with us so we can cheer you on!

Join The Turquoise Iris Journal email list to receive updates when new posts are added to the site. 

Subscribe to The Turquoise Iris Journal to receive the quarterly print editions!

Amy Sadler
Amy Sadler

Amy Sadler is a Home Decor DIY Blogger and Interior Designer who specializes in unique paint finishes for furniture and cabinetry. Amy’s love for designing homes and especially kitchens for clients started her journey into blogging about all things home and DIY. View Amy’s Full Bio

We are looking for submissions for paint, craft, home, or lifestyle tutorials!