Water Based Paints

3 Water Based Paint Video Lessons

7 Water Based Paint FAQs

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 tabletops 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, they will fill in before spraying or rolling. Then, they will 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. When working with a large project, we recommend continuing to stir during use to keep color properties consistent. 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.

Here is an example of Milk Paint color separation:GF University FAQ: Milk Paint Color Separation


Why Is My Application of Milk Paint 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.

Video Tutorial: How to Prep Existing High Use Finishes for Stain or Paint

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 alcohol 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 failure in re-coating over a wax finish is very high.

GF does offer a lovely General Finishes Satin Finishing Wax, but we recommend the use of topcoats such as our water-based General Finishes High Performance or General Finishes Flat Out Flat 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.

What is the Best Applicator to use for Milk Paint and 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.

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.

General Finishes 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:


VIDEO: How to Prep Sand Raw Wood
VIDEO: How to Prep Clean an Existing Finish
VIDEO: How to Power Prep Existing High Use Finishes


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

Why Are Some Milk Paint Colors Thinner and More Translucent Than Others?

The ability of a paint to "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 Milk 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.

How Can I Improve Coverage When Using White Paint on Furniture?*

A primer is your best defense under light-colored paint.

Another technique to avoid the slight color change that sometimes occurs when applying 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 a brush or a spray gun.

To maintain the full-strength protection of the topcoat, DO NOT TINT YOUR FINAL COAT of topcoat.

Remember, NEVER EVER paint an existing piece of furniture with a light paint without proper preparation AND 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 General Finishes Stain Blocker, which has been developed specifically for upcycling furniture and has proven to be 100% effective when two coats are applied, or Zinsser BIN.

Here is a sample finishing schedule:

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

VIDEO: How to update or refinish cabinets and woodwork light paint color using a sprayer.

Why Do Milk Paint and Chalk Style Paint Separate in the Can, Even After Stirring?*

The separation is a condition the paint industry calls "float." This is typical with specific colors, such as grays, because of the large variance in the gravities of the pigments required to create those colors. 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 with less variance in densities. Float is not unique to General Finishes products.

Always stir the paint 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 throughout use to keep color properties consistent.