Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by lindseymahoney
Painting furniture is my favorite budget-friendly DIY when I need a fresh new look while decorating a space. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced DIYer, this guide has all the information you need to successfully paint your furniture and create a beautiful, customized piece for your home.
This ultimate guide to painting furniture will walk you through the entire process, from prepping the surface to adding those finishing touches that will make your piece truly stand out.
How Do You Paint Furniture?
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Here is the easiest and most common way to paint furniture:
- Lightly sand the furniture to create a smooth surface
- Clean the furniture to remove dust and dirt
- Apply 1-2 coats of primer
- Paint the first coat of your desired furniture color using a paintbrush, roller, or paint sprayer
- Apply the second coat of paint
- Allow to dry for 24-48 hours
There are furniture painting kits available as well that follow a similar process, but I recommend following their instructions. I have used the Rust-Oleum kits and really like how easy they are to use and the paint is incredibly durable.
My Go-To Supplies When Painting Furniture
- Foam roller
- Preferred Latex Primer
- Oil Primer
- Urethane Trim Enamel Latex Paint – great for furniture and cabinets
- Furniture Paint Kit
- Sanding Block
- Krud Kutter or Goo Gone
- Clear coat sealer
- Milk Paint (chalk paint)
What kind of paint do you use for furniture?
When it comes to painting furniture, there are many options when choosing the best type of paint to use. The most common types of paint used for furniture are latex paint and chalk paint.
Latex paint is a versatile option that comes in a wide range of colors and finishes. It’s easy to use and provides a durable, long-lasting finish. I have used latex paint on most of my furniture projects and am always pleased with the results.
Chalk paint, on the other hand, has a unique matte finish and is known for its ability to adhere to almost any surface without the need for priming or sanding. It’s a popular choice for creating a distressed or vintage look. Surprisingly, I have not used chalk paint when upcycling furniture, but it is on my list of products to try!
Painting kits for furniture are another popular choice that makes it easy to achieve professional-looking results.
Ultimately, the type of paint you choose will depend on the look you want to achieve and the level of durability you need.
Is it necessary to prime furniture before painting?
It is not always necessary to prime furniture before painting, but it can be beneficial in certain situations. Priming helps to create a smooth and even surface for the paint to adhere to, especially if there is a glossy or slick finish.
It can also help to prevent stains or bleed-through from the original finish. Additionally, priming can improve the durability and longevity of the paint job.
If you are painting over a dark or heavily stained piece of furniture, or if you are using a light-colored paint, priming can help to ensure that the original color does not show through.
This exact scenario happened when I painted an old fern table to use as our guest bedroom nightstand. I actually used a strong latex primer, but the yellow staining was still bleeding through the paint.
In this situation, I had to use an oil-based primer to seal in the wood beneath the paint to prevent anything from bleeding through. This primer worked like a charm and the nightstand looks fabulous.
The decision to prime or not to prime will depend on the condition of the piece and the type of paint you are using.
What is the easiest way to paint furniture?
This question really depends on the tools you have available to you. Personally, I find it easiest to whip out a paintbrush and foam roller when I want to quickly paint a piece of furniture.
Other DIYers believe the easiest way to is to use a paint sprayer. Paint sprayers allow for quick and even coverage, making the painting process much faster and easier. They also eliminate brush strokes and provide a smooth finish. Just make sure to apply thin, even coats and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next.
What is the best way to clean furniture before painting?
Soap and water is the simplest way to clean your furniture.
When furniture has lots of dirt and grime, I like to use a cleaning agent like Krud Kutter or Goo Gone.
To remove dust particles after sanding, a damp cloth will do just fine.
What is the best color when painting furniture?
The world is your oyster! The best part about choosing a color when painting furniture is that you can always redo it if you don’t like it.
A pop of black is always a great option to ground the space.
Consider the overall design of the room when choosing colors for your furniture so that it feels cohesive.
For a modern look, painting furniture the same color as the walls is a great option. I have used this technique when painting a bookshelf in our guest bedroom and shelving in my daughter’s bedroom.
In the guest bedroom, I already had multiple pieces of furniture that were painted white. In an effort to avoid too many white furniture pieces, I opted to paint the bookcase the same color as the wall.
It looks so good and kept the room fresh and modern instead of leaning too far into the farmhouse direction.
Can I just paint over old furniture?
While it may be tempting to simply paint over old furniture, it is not recommended if you want the best results.
Painting without proper preparation can lead to a less durable and less professional-looking finish.
It is important to clean and sand the surface to remove any dirt, grime, or old paint before applying a primer. This will ensure that the paint adheres properly and creates a smooth and even base.
Taking the time to properly prepare the furniture will result in a longer-lasting and more professional-looking finish.
Is there any furniture that should NOT be painted?
In my opinion, YES there is definitely furniture that should NOT be painted. Whenever I acquire a new piece of furniture, I like to do a quick search on the history of that piece. Who made the furniture? What is the style? What year or era was it made?
Well-made wooden furniture will always be in style and should be incorporated into a design. Mixing and matching painted furniture with beautiful wood case pieces create a collected and unique design.
Ultimately, the decision is up to you on whether or not to paint a piece of furniture. I am always a supporter of reusing items and if painting a piece allows you to reuse that item, it is better than ending up in a dumpster!
Do you have to sand before painting?
In most cases, yes, it is recommended you at least lightly sand furniture before painting.
However, I have used paint kits that do not require sanding of any kind. It really depends on the condition of the furniture and if the surface needs to be smoothed out.
The kit I used on our dining room buffet included a deglossing solution that is a substitute for sanding. I wiped down the buffet with the deglosser solution, let it dry, and then applied the paint!
Lead paint was banned in the US in 1978, however, any furniture that looks to be more than 50 years old may contain lead paint. I highly recommend testing the furniture with a lead test kit prior to sanding.
Do you have to seal furniture after painting?
For furniture in high-traffic areas that will get a lot of use, I prefer to apply a topcoat to increase durability.
In my daughter’s bedroom, this was a MUST on her scalloped bookshelves that would be bumped and scratched by books every day.
A clear polyurethane top coat in a satin or matte finish is my go-to option for furniture.
What is the best way to paint an old dresser?
The best way to paint an old dresser is to start by removing the drawers and hardware.
Just like painting other pieces, you want to clean and sand the surfaces to remove dirt and grime.
Next, apply a primer to create a smooth and even base for the paint. Once the primer is dry, you can start painting with your chosen color.
Finish off with a clear topcoat or sealant to protect the paint and give it a polished look.
Attach the hardware to the drawers and put the dresser back together.
Painting furniture is my favorite way to upcycle thrifted or second-hand items! I hope these tips and techniques inspire you to reuse an old furniture item of your own.