Painting with General Finishes Milk Paint

Painting furniture doesn’t have to be complicated. Painting with General Finishes Milk Paint is an easy and affordable way to give a tired piece of furniture a whole new look. Not only is the paint itself cost-effective and easy to apply, but it provides a durable finish that doesn’t have brush marks.

Whether you’re updating an old dresser or giving your dining table a fresh new look, working with General Finishes Milk Paint will ensure exceptional results every time. Learn more about the different types of paint for furniture here.

single end table before painting

It started out with this $15 end table from my local thrift store. It has a slick laminate top, but the rest is all real wood.

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Supplies Used For Painting with General Finishes Milk Paint

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I wanted this makeover to be super simple. So, even though I love painting furniture with a sprayer, I opted to use a paintbrush and General Finishes Milk Paint.

This paint is self-leveling so even though I used a paintbrush, I wasn’t left with brush strokes in the finish. But when it comes to top coating paint, spraying poly is the easiest way.

So I opted for a spray can of it. And, I even skipped scuff sanding! Yep, no sanding is needed for this makeover (and the finish feels silky smooth!)

BUT…most of the time you don’t want to skip the scuff sanding like I did in this project! Read here to learn the importance of sanding before painting furniture!

Seriously, this is a makeover that I believe anyone can do!

Cleaning and Removing Hardware

First things first, I scrubbed it clean with a degreasing cleaner and a wet rag. Learn more about how to clean furniture before painting here.

cleaning the table with Krud Kutter and a wet rag

While I was cleaning, I removed the old hardware as well. Then, while the end table dried, I taped off the drawer so my paint lines would be crisp and clean.

Read this post to learn more about how to prevent overspray when painting furniture.

Priming with Shellac to Paint End Table Without Sanding

Then I primed the end table with 2 coats of shellac so that the paint would stick without sanding. Check out the best primers for painting furniture in this post.

spraying clear shellac on an end table

(Thanks to this how to paint laminate furniture experiment, I’ve learned that shellac is amazing at making paint adhere to any surface.)

But, the shellac does more than just make the paint stick. It blocks stains and tannins from the wood from staining the paint. You can learn more about why bleed through is a problem when painting furniture here.

I used clear shellac in a spray can so it would be quick and easy to apply. And no sanding was required before or after I primed.

Painting End Table with General Finishes Milk Paint

For this end table, I chose a stunning light gray from General Finishes Milk Paint, called Seagull Gray.

a can of general finishes milk paint in seagull gray

The biggest reason why I love this paint is because it’s self-leveling, meaning it doesn’t leave as many brush marks behind.

Check out my detailed General Finishes Milk Paint Review to learn more. Here’s everything you need to know about painting furniture with acrylic paint.

It also sprays beautifully if you are wanting to spray it from a paint sprayer. Learn about the best paint sprayers for furniture here.

Check out my comparison between chalk paint vs acrylic paint here.

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Thinning General Finishes Milk Paint

It’s a water-based acrylic paint that is really thick straight out of the can. So, before I use it, I like to add some water to it to make it easier to brush on.

paint brush dipped in thinned out paint

I don’t measure an exact amount of water to paint here, but I would say I might add around 10% water to the paint. Check out this post to learn all the details on thinning paint for a paint sprayer.

After mixing the water and paint together really well, I brushed it onto the end table.

Brushing General Finishes Milk Paint

I brushed it on using a Zibra chiseled wedge brush.

brushing general finishes milk paint onto the top of the end table

Even though this paint is self-leveling, it can still leave brush marks behind.

So, I still try to brush it on in long brush strokes that go with the grain, so any brush marks that are left behind blend in with the grain.

Learn more tips and tricks on how to paint furniture without brush marks in this post.

When I got to the round part of the legs, I switched to my Zibra round paint brush because it’s easier to paint round things with the round brush.

holding the zibra round paint brush

(If I had to pick one paintbrush to use on a project, it would be the round brush, hands down!)

Read more about the best paint brushes for painting furniture here!

I let it dry for a couple of hours between each coat, and I wrapped my paintbrush in some plastic to keep it wet.

the first coat of paint on the end table looks very streaky
1 coat of paint

I ended up needing to paint 4 coats of this light gray color to get full coverage.

Filling Wood Grain

After a couple of coats of paint, I noticed how deep the wood grain was on the side corners.

deep wood grain on table after painting

So I took some time to fill in and hide the wood grain there before I finished everything up.

Topcoat with Spray on Waterbased Polycrylic

After that last coat, I sprayed 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic in a rattle can. This water-based poly is a protective coat, making the paint more durable and wipeable.

spraying minwax polycrylic onto painted end table

I sprayed it on thicker than a mist, but not too thick to make it run or puddle. And then I let it dry between coats for only an hour before spraying the next coat.

end table after spraying minwax polycrylic on it

Watch the full video of this makeover here, or keep on reading to see what it looks like now!

Best Brush for General Finishes Milk Paint

General Finishes’ website says that foam brushes are the best because they don’t leave brush marks.

Here’s an awesome foam painting sponge that covers so much more area than a dinky little foam brush.

But, I’ve found that regular Zibra paint brushes (synthetic brushes) leave an almost brush-stroke-free finish. I wouldn’t use a natural bristle brush if you are wanting a brush stroke-free finish.

Does General Finishes Milk Paint Need a Top Coat?

Yes, if you’re using it on a high-traffic surface (especially the top of furniture), General Finishes milk paint needs a top coat.

Learn more about topcoats for painting furniture here!

painted end table before topcoating
The end table before the topcoat

No, if you’re using it for things that don’t need to be durable (wall decor for example), General Finishes Milk Paint doesn’t need a top coat.

Best Paint for Furniture Without Sanding

Acrylic paint (General Finishes Milk Paint, Paint Couture Paint and Rustoleum Milk Paint to name a few) is one of the best paints to use when painting furniture without sanding.

It dries really smooth and is self-leveling, so even when you don’t sand it, you’re left with a soft, smooth finish.

End Table Before and After Painting

So, here’s what it looked like before.

the end table in the thrift store

And here’s what it looks like now.

close view of a brush free finish on the gray painted end table
full view of end table painted in seagull gray with white knobs

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

closeup of gray painted end table top and drawers
side view of end table painted with general finishes milk paint seagull gray

I love the light gray color. And my brush mark-free loving heart loves that you can barely see any brush marks in the finish.

I ended up spending $90 on supplies, but most of those can be used for multiple projects, so I would guess that I used around $30 max on supplies for this project.

What do you think of the makeover?

Painting With General Finishes Milk Paint

end table after makeover using general finishes milk paint in seagull gray

Painting furniture doesn't have to be complicated. Here's how to get a professional finish while painting with General Finishes Milk Paint.


  1. Scrub the furniture clean with a degreasing cleaner and a wet rag. Remove the old hardware as well. When everything dries, tape off the drawers and anywhere you don't want to get paint on.
  2. Prime the table with 2 coats of clear shellac to help the paint stick without sanding.
  3. Get your General Finishes milk paint and add some water to it to make it easier to brush on. After mixing the water and paint together really well, brush 4 coats of paint onto the table. Brush it on in long brush strokes that go with the grain. Let the paint dry for a couple of hours between each coat, and wrap your paintbrush in some plastic to keep it wet.
  4. Fill in and hide any wood grain before applying topcoat.
  5. Now, seal the painted end table with 3 coats of waterbased polycrylic. This is to make paint more durable and wipeable. Let the topcoat dry between coats for only an hour before spraying the next coat.
  6. Add your new hardware.

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More Makeovers with General Finishes Milk Paint

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  1. Fantastic!! Have you ever used the General Finishes Milk paint on kitchen or bathroom cabinets?

  2. Best tutorial I’ve watched! Do you have a dedicated space set up for these projects? And if so, what do you recommend for people who may only have a small area in the garage? Thanks

    1. I do have a dedicated space. But I’ve been painting furniture as a job since 2014.
      I started painting in my kitchen. Then moved out to the garage and the yard area.

      Just lay down plastic and paint with a paint brush.

      You can use a paint sprayer if you cover things with plastic in the area you are spraying.

      You can do it!!

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