Don’t tell my husband, but I am in love.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

Paint sprayer, where have you been all my life?

Creme de Menthe Maison Blanche crib with orange accents

Where were you when I was painting this crib?

Betsy Ross Flag Chair for July 4th

Or this chair?

Where were you when I was going mad painting slats and spindles. Oops, missed a spot. What was it Lady Macbeth said? “…damn spot!”

I always thought paint sprayers were out of my league, until I met the HomeRight Finish Max Fine Finish HVLP Paint Sprayer. Turns out, it’s just the right fit for my furniture-painting needs.

The folks at HomeRight generously gave me a Finish Max paint sprayer to review, and I decided to put it to the test with two different kinds of paint and on two projects that would have taken hours with a brush. Read on for my tips for using a paint sprayer with Chalk Paint and milk paint.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

First up was a client’s desk and chair. I never would have agreed to paint all those slats without a sprayer. I’ve learned my lesson about slatty furniture.

Since I paint primarily with Chalk Paint and milk paint, I wanted to test both in the paint sprayer.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

If you’ve ever painted with Chalk Paint or similar paints that require no sanding or priming, you know that they can be thick. I was a bit concerned that it would be too thick for the sprayer.

So, I used the handy viscosity cup that comes with the Finish Max to test how quickly the paint flowed. Following the recommendations from HomeRight, I decided to thin my Chalk Paint to a primer consistency by adding water. (If you’re using another type of paint, I don’t recommend using water as a thinner. But I’ve successfully thinned Chalk Paint with water before, so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.)

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

With the thinned Chalk Paint loaded into my sprayer, I headed outside, plugged in and pulled the trigger. The paint flowed beautifully in a fine mist (imagine that!) and I was able to apply several coats to the desk and chair in no time.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

Spindles and slats included.

When I am painting furniture, I really like a smooth finish. I usually sand lightly to smooth before applying wax or a topcoat. But the paint went on so smoothly with the Finish Max paint sprayer that I didn’t have to do that. Bonus time savings!

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

For my next project, I decided to see whether I could successfully paint a chair with milk paint using the HomeRight sprayer.

How to Mix Milk Paint

As you may be aware, milk paint comes in a powder and you mix it with water. Even after proper mixing, some sediment may remain. So, when I’m using milk paint, I like to stir frequently to make sure it stays mixed.

Part of the beauty of milk paint is that it is unpredictable and it may chip, giving you a truly authentic, aged, antique look. A little chippiness is good. A lot is bad.

Milk paint is mostly a no-prep paint, but if you’re painting on a nonporous surface, you do need to add a bonding agent to make it stick. I absolutely DO NOT recommend using paint mixed with bonding agent in the HomeRight Finish Max or any paint sprayer. Bonding agent is liquid glue, and I’m afraid it would clog the sprayer and make it impossible to clean.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

Milk paint is much thinner than Chalk Paint. It took more coats to get good coverage, so you will probably notice more overspray than with other paints.

The Finish Max sprayer has a nozzle control that allows you to direct the paint horizontally, vertically or in a cone. I found this feature invaluable when spraying milk paint. Once I adjusted the nozzle to match the direction I needed to spray, I got better spray and better coverage.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

As I mentioned earlier, milk paint is a powder mixed with water. Whenever I’m painting with a brush, I stir frequently. I found I needed to do the same thing with the sprayer to keep the paint mixed and the flow going. Because of the nature of milk paint, I also found it helpful to occasionally clear the nozzle with my fingernail or a damp paper towel to prevent paint or sediment buildup. This wasn’t the fault of the sprayer; it had more to do with the nature of milk paint.

Once I figured out how to technique for spraying milk paint, I was able to paint my spindle-back chair in just a few minutes and without having to contort myself into all kinds of weird angles. You know how it is when you’re painting spindles. You think you’re finished from one angle, then walk to the other side and realize you’ve missed a spot a mile wide.

“…damn spot.”

I definitely recommend using the HomeRight Finish Max Paint Sprayer with Chalk Paint on any type of project. You will definitely save time. And if you’re like me, you will love the smooth finish.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

As for milk paint, I would say to reserve the paint sprayer for jobs with lots of nooks and crannies or spindles and slats. And remember, DO NOT use bonding agent in your paint sprayer if you ever want to use your paint sprayer again.

I would also recommend thoroughly mixing your milk paint first, either with a blender or a submersible mixer, like the kind used to froth coffee. And even then, I would remember to shake the sprayer reservoir occasionally to keep the paint mixed and flowing evenly.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

My biggest concern going into the paint sprayer experiment was that any time I saved painting would be spent in the cleanup phase.

But the Finish Max was a snap to clean up because it’s so compact and all the parts where paint could get stuck are removable. My blogging friend, Jenna at Rain on a Tin Roof has a great tutorial on cleaning the Finish Max paint sprayer, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. She’s right on when she says it takes just 10 minutes to clean up.

Using a Paint Sprayer with Milk Paint and Chalk Paint

The HomeRight Finish Max Fine Finish HVLP Paint Sprayer and I are going to be a couple for a long, long time.

Disclosure: HomeRight provided me with a free paint sprayer and compensated me for my time, but I was not told what to write. Opinions are honest and they are my own. Read my full disclosure policy here.


  1. Oooo… I need one of these! Thanks for giving us the low down on the paint sprayer. The pieces you painted look great.

  2. Great post and tips! And the projects look great!

  3. I NEED this. Adding it to my Christmas list.

    Hubby is going to love me. heehee

    • Atta Girl Amy

      But won’t he be glad you’re not adding something sparkly and super-expensive to the list?

      There was a time when I would have been mad at my husband for buying me power tools as gifts, but this Christmas, I really want an outbuilding where I can do my painting and hoard furniture. How ungirly is that?

  4. So glad to know the benefits of using this sprayer now. Thanks for sharing all the tips!

  5. Doris Henson says:

    Be still my heart…………………….

  6. Amy, I have always wondered about trying the chalk paint in a sprayer. Do you think any sprayer would work (I have an Wagner power optimus sprayer)? Also what was your water to chalk paint ratio?

    • Atta Girl Amy

      I definitely think it’s worth trying it out, April. I am a horrible measurer, so I didn’t make note of the actual paint to water ratio that I used.

      Did your sprayer come with a viscosity cup that lets you time how quickly the paint flows through it. If so, I’d use that.

      Otherwise, I would suggest thinning it to the same consistency of a primer or latex. The great thing about chalk paint is that you can mix in a lot of water without affecting the quality of the paint. I do remember thinking I was adding too much water, but it still adhered well to the desk and chair.

  7. This was a great review, Amy. I have considered getting one of these for a long time. I don’t think I would use the milk paint though because of its clogging factor. I have found that I am not overly fond of the milk paint. I used it back in the 70’s but used it on raw wood then. I do like the chalk paint though.

    Nice to know about the clean up-cuz that is the biggie- xo Diana

    • Atta Girl Amy

      Diana, milk paint is definitely an acquired taste. It can be tricky to work with, but you can get some amazing authentic finishes when everything works out. I agree with you that it’s not the best choice for a sprayer because of the clogging. But I am so glad I finally got over my fear and tried out a paint sprayer. Now, my plan to makeover my kitchen windsor chairs can actually happen. There was no way I was going to hand paint all those spindles. But as soon as I can decide on a color, I’m going to paint them using my sprayer.

  8. I’m thinking about painting a crib with either milk paint or chalk paint. If you use the sprayer, is there a top coat seal that you can spray, too? What would you recommend?

    • Atta Girl Amy

      Hi Sonya. So sorry for my delay in replying to you. While I’m no expert, I do know that Miss Mustard Seed Hemp oil is completely food safe, so that would probably be a good, safe choice for the crib. I would just make sure that you use the bonding agent to apply the milk paint because you wouldn’t want any chipping. While milk paint is nontoxic, I still wouldn’t want it to chip if a baby chewed on it. Hemp oil is a good top coat, but it won’t prevent an already chippy finish from chipping more.

      Another option would be beeswax. It’s all-natural. I like Miss Mustard Seed’s Wax as well, and I use it regularly over chalk paint. You may want to contact the manufacturer, Homestead House ( for their recommendation for a crib.

      I probably would not use one of the waxes that contains chemicals on a crib.

      Polyurethane is probably another option; I’m sure it’s how commercially sold cribs are finished. Maybe check with Minwax or another poly manufacturer to see which is the best option for a crib.

      Hope this helps, and good luck with your crib makeover.

  9. Hello, I just found your blog while looking up hvlp sprayers. I was wondering what type of chalk paint you used with the sprayer? Name brand or homemade? Thanks

    • Atta Girl Amy

      Hi Niki:

      I used Annie Sloan chalk paint, thinned pretty significantly. I probably wouldn’t use Maison Blanche in it, as it’s really thick. But I have also used Van Gogh. My friend, Debbie, at Refresh Restyle, has also written a post about spraying with chalk paint. She included the ratio she used when making over her dining room chairs. You might find that helpful, too.

  10. Hi Amy, great article thank you for sharing your experiences. You mention a few times that while the sprayer works well with Chalk Paint, it should not be used with any type of “bonding agent” — what is meant by this? I’m not a fan of milk paint so that’s not an issue. But I like to use homemade chalk-style paint, following recipes that call for Plaster of Paris, powdered form Calcium Carbonate, or a combination both (then mixed with latex paint). Are these what you refer to as “bonding agents” and will they clog the sprayer /prevent easy cleanup and re-use? THANK YOU for any insight you can provide!

    • Atta Girl Amy

      Hi. Bonding agent is a special glue-like substance you add to milk paint when you are painting over a previously finished surface.

      I haven’t tried my paint sprayer with homemade chalk paint, but I would think it would still work, as long as any powder (Plaster of Paris or calcium carbonate) is completely dissolved. If it’s not well mixed, though, I suspect it would clog the paint sprayer. I encountered that a bit with milk paint since it is powdery and almost impossible to mix completely.

      Depending on the thickness of your homemade chalk paint, you may need to experiment with the ratio of paint to water when thinning it for use in a paint sprayer. I typically use a 1:4 part ratio when spraying chalk paint — 1 parts water to 4 parts paint. But some brands are thicker to start with and may require more water.

      Hope this answers your question. If you do decide to try homemade chalk paint in your sprayer, I’d love to hear how it turns out.


  1. […] And she’s a girl after my own heart with her spray painting skills! […]

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