Carl Milles was born and raised in Lagga near Uppsala, the son of an officer, major Emil Anderson. Carl's mother, Valborg died when he was just three years old. Carl began his schooling in Stockholm, but left prematurely and became apprenticed to a cabinet maker. Later he attended evening classes in woodwork, carving and modelling at the Stockholm Technical School.
In 1897 Carl was awarded a grant by the Swedish Handicraft Society, permitting him to travel to Paris, where he supported himself doing ornamental carpentry while studying anatomy at Ecole des Beaux-Arts. In 1899 he exhibited an original sculpture at the Paris Salon and continued to exhibit there each year until 1906.