‘Partners in Grime’ Planter – Snazz up Metal & Terra Cotta with Milk Paint!

In a previous post, we showed you how to get milk paint to stick to anything! I used a bonding agent to paint right over a lacquered finish on a mini adirondack chair (which you’ll see later).

I was curious to see if milk paint + bonder would stick just as well to other surfaces, such as metal and terra cotta, so when I came across a galvanized planter set at a garage sale for only a dollar I snapped it up (I’ve also seen them available for $3 at the dollar store). To complete my experiment, I also purchased some terra cotta planter pots at the dollar store.

You Will Need:

I used Letraset to create the wording on the front of the planters and tray because it has a strong adhesive. If you don’t know, Letraset was the brand name for the very first dry-transfer lettering product. It was only around until the late 1990’s (and was very expensive) but you can probably still find similar products in craft stores, office supply stores or even the dollar store. These days, Cricut machines are very popular so you can always design and cut your own wording instead.

I always suggest roughing up the surface with fine grit sandpaper first before painting, however I decided to throw caution to the wind this once! I didn’t sand anything beforehand so this was going to be a bold experiment!

I first ran a piece of painter’s tape along the bottom to act as the line against which I stuck on the letters. This piece of tape is just temporary to set the height of the letters.

When I laid out the lettering, I used the back seam of the metal planter to line up as a visual guide for ‘centre’.

I then ran another piece of tape along the top against the bottom edge of the ridges:

Lastly, I ran a piece vertically on either side of the wording at approximately the half way point to fashion a border. I literally just eyeballed everything; no measuring.

Once the letters were in place,  I peeled away the bottom piece of tape so I could replace it with with a thinner piece.

I cut a piece of painters tape in half vertically:

I adhered this new thinner tape on the bottom as shown:

Before I started painting, I made sure everything was well burnished – both the tape and the lettering.

If you’re using milk paint that’s been in storage for a few days, like I did, be sure to stir it thoroughly to reincorporate all the pigment.

This particular milk paint was left-over from my mini adirondack chair project. It already had bonding agent already in it so I used it to brush on a first coat right over the lettering.

If you are mixing milk paint from scratch, however, follow these instructions:

Mixing Milk Paint

For small quantities, I use a milk frother to mix the paint.

Put one part of warm water in the container first, measure out an equal part of milk paint powder and add it into the water.

The best technique is to rest the frother on the bottom of the container and apply pressure. Turn it on and lift it up a little bit so it moves; mix it using this pouncing motion for a maximum of 20-30 seconds so it doesn’t over-froth.

Let it sit for a few minutes (go do something else); this will allow the water to absorb into the powder. Give it another quick mix with the frother. If you find that the milk frother has produced foam, skim it off the surface before you add the bonding agent.

The bonding agent instructions say to use a ratio of 1:1, but I usually just eyeball it and squeeze it in. Stir to combine; I generally use a popsicle stick at this point so I have a record of what the colour looks like on raw wood.

Keep in mind that milk paint tends to settle on the bottom when it sits, so give it a stir while you’re using it every once in a while to reincorporate.

To clean the frother, turn it on in a cup of soapy water to clean, then rinse well.

Paint

As I painted each container, I used these plastic painters pyramids to keep them from rolling as they dried.

I don’t know how I ever got along without painters pyramids in previous paint projects; they are so handy!!

I gave each container two coats of paint, then let it dry overnight between coats (the bonding agent suggests 12 hours).

I lifted the green tape to see if any of the paint bled underneath; it was actually pretty good. If you do miss burnishing an area and get a paint bleed, I found that I could use a combination of X-acto knife to lightly score where I wanted to remove paint and then an orange stick to carefully scrape away the mistake. It takes some patience because the milk paint sticks well with the bonding agent in it, but you can still do small touch-ups.

I would suggest that you keep all the green tape on because you’ll be applying a clear coat of Varathane and you’ll just have to re-tape it again if you remove it.

Remove Lettering

Carefully remove the lettering. If you find the lettering difficult to lift, just use an X-acto knife to carefully pick away at one corner to get it started. Be sure to aim toward the vinyl letter so you don’t accidentally scratch the milk paint.

As you peel off the letters, take it slow and pull back when you reach the end so you don’t accidentally peel off paint you want to keep!

Terra Cotta Pots

I was curious to see if the milk paint would stick to clay pots as well. At first, I tried a milk paint whitewash (Homestead House’s Limestone) using straight-up milk paint (no bonder). It was a great look, but for this project, I decided to paint over it with the leftover red paint, which by the way is Homestead House’s Fort York Red.

I was glad I switched back to the red milk paint; it’s so vibrant!

I gave each pot two coats of milk paint on the outside only, like I did the metal. I much prefer the bright red to the lacklustre terra cotta colour!

Below you can see that I also put lettering onto the tray. While I used our blog name, ‘Birdz of a Feather’, you could write anything your heart desires! I marked the centre of the tray and worked out from there; forwards to the right and then backwards to the left. However, that was tricky because letters like the ‘O’ and ‘A’ were much wider and took up more visual space. I ended up peeling it off and repositioning several times (which is why you don’t see me laying down the letters in the video!!! – I was so consumed with the layout that I forgot to turn the camera on!!!) Luckily Letraset has a great adhesive; even after sitting for years, I was able to reposition. Once burnished, as you can see, it forms a strong bond that doesn’t allow paint to bleed.

Topcoat

We topcoated only the painted section portions of both the metal and clay pots with Varathane Diamond Wood Finish. We’ll likely also use these outdoors, so we used the outdoor satin finish. Hubs sprayed on three fine coats using a paint sprayer so we wouldn’t get runs.

We didn’t bother to paint the inside of the clay pots – either with milk paint or Varathane – because they’ll be filled with soil anyway.

Give the Varathane at least 3 days to dry before you use these.

Reveal

The wording on the metal pots says ‘partners in grime‘ because it is Birdz of a Feather’s catchphrase (not to be confused with our tagline which is ‘Feathering the Nest – One Room at a Time’). I often use it to describe my relationship with Hubs and our DIY adventures! But I am sure you can come up with something that is meaningful to you!

In retrospect, the Letraset letters were too big for this project (you can’t see the ‘s’ in partners) but I used what we had on-hand so we could use them up. I don’t think the Letraset brand is still available but if I were doing it again, I would either purchase a smaller size of of another brand of letters to make it more legible – or get a Cricut machine to design and cut my own. But you get the gist of it 🙂

Add some succulents to the metal and terra cotta pots and place it in front of a sunny window – or outside!

Below you can see I displayed the mini adirondack chair, the metal planter and the terra cotta pots together on our Ikea Satsumas Plant Stand.

We’re seeing a lot of red these days (in a good way!). It’s a testament to the success we’ve had using the bonding agent on hard to paint surfaces such as varnished wood, metal, and terra cotta. I wonder what’s left to put it to the test? If there is anything, you can be sure you’ll see it on Birdz of a Feather!

Don’t forget to pin for later!

Watch the video to see how easy it comes together!

If you’re interested in trying out a milk paint project – with or without the bonding agent – you have to check out Homestead House! While they are the driving force behind their own milk paint line and Miss Mustard Seed Milkpaint, they also make modern paints such as Fusion Mineral Paint. Fusion is low VOC, so I’d love to try it out one day too.

I think I’ll stick with traditional milk paint for a while though; it’s got my creative juices flowing. If you saw some of our previous posts, you may have noticed the tease below. Coming up soon is another milk paint project created from this phone booth surround we found at the Aberfoyle Antique Market!

If you missed it, check out the mini adirondack chair using the same batch of milk paint and bonder:

For other planter ideas, check out the garden category of our site.

Follow our blog here (link in the footer) or on Bloglovin’ (button below) to get tutorials on other DIY projects, in and around the home. You can also follow us on Pinterest, our Youtube channel, Instagram and on Facebook.

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3 thoughts on “‘Partners in Grime’ Planter – Snazz up Metal & Terra Cotta with Milk Paint!

    • Thanks Alys; I’m on such a succulent craze right now but I can’t keep a string of pearls alive if my life depended on it. I’m going to stick with no-fail for now. You can be sure there will be more succulent projects ahead 🙂

      • Since our drought a few year ago, I’ve come to love and appreciate the beauty of this wonderful group of plants. I agree with you that some are more challenging than others. I think they tend to lump them all together, when in reality, they probably have soil, light and water preferences that don’t always go with the others (at least that’s my excuse when they dry up on me).

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