How To Paint Furniture: Painting Up-Cycle Guide

Creating a custom piece of furniture for your home might seem like a lot of work, but it is well worth the efforts. For many people, the thought of beginning the process is the worst part.

As a beginner, you might wonder if this is a task you should take on. Thankfully, painting furniture is a simple task that anyone can master.

Here’s a complete how to paint furniture guide for the new painter.

Alongside your paint sprayer, buckets of paint, primer, and varnishes, you need a few essential tools and accessories to make the project fun, simple, and professional.

  • Personal protection
    Respirators are crucial when painting furniture. Everything from sanding to staining can cause problems with your breathing, taste, and smell. Cover your face, and don’t forget the goggles.
  • Sanding paper, sponges, and tack cloth
    You will want to sand your furniture down before you paint it. You also need to sand between paint coats. After all that sanding, the bits of dust needs to be removed too. The sandpaper will help get you started, and angled sanding sponges will get into nooks and crannies with ease. Between sanding and painting, use a tack cloth to remove dust and debris from the surface.
  • Wood filler
    A good wood putty filler and a putty knife will make short work of gouges, holes, and dings in your wooden furniture.
  • Painter’s tape and plastic sheeting
    You will want to use a good painter’s tape to mask off any areas you don’t want to be painted, and plastic sheeting will protect nearby areas from overspray.

Prepare Your Supplies

Before you learn how to paint wood furniture, it is imperative that you have the necessary supplies. Here’s a list of some things you might need:

  • Murphy’s Oil Soap or another cleaner
  • Tack Cloth
  • Medium Grit Sandpaper
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush, Roller or Paint Sprayer
  • Topcoat

Safety Tips When Spray Painting Furniture

Safety is important, no matter what you are doing. Careful planning and awareness can save you from injury, protect your equipment, and the items you are working on. Your paint sprayer owner’s manual will have a lot of safety information about the model you are using. Pay special attention to these areas to ensure you are meeting all safety requirements.

On top of that, you need to protect yourself. This can include protective gear, respirators, gloves, and goggles, as well as being safe on ladders or step stools and proper lifting techniques when moving large pieces of furniture.

You will also want to use caution when working near your items. Bangs, slips, and trips and dropping tools or the spray gun can cause damage to your furniture.

Step 1 – Prep Work is Key

A quality paint job starts with the prep work. It takes more than a fresh coat of paint on furniture to make it look good.

Start by cleaning the furniture well. There is probably years of dirt in areas of that furniture that you weren’t aware of.

Make sure you also remove all the hardware and properly label it so you can reassemble later.

If the piece of furniture has drawers, you’ll need to remove them for painting separately.


Step 2 – Sand Your Furniture

For the primer and paint to adhere properly, you’ll want to sand the furniture and get any glossy finish off.

Medium-grit sandpaper is ideal for this. If you are using paint, you don’t need to strip the entire finish.

If you are planning to stain the furniture, it must be down to bare wood.

best paint sprayer for furniture

The Frugal Girl recommends “an orbital sander, but other small sanders would work just fine too. I wouldn’t really recommend hand-sanding unless you are very strong/patient. It takes a LOT of sanding to remove old paint and stain, and I would get very weary of sanding if I had to do it manually.”


Step 3 – Prime the Furniture

Once the furniture is free of all dust and completely dry, you can apply primer. This will help the paint adhere better and also covers any discolorations or stains. I find that oil-based primers seem to work well with most furniture.

Once the priming is complete, you need to sand again. Use fine-grit sandpaper this time and lightly sand. This isn’t necessary but will ensure you have the most professional and even finish possible. Use a tack cloth to remove any dust afterward.


Step 4 – Paint the Furniture

Woman painting furniture outside with bosch sprayer

You are ready to paint. Some people choose to use a roller or brush, but you can also use a paint sprayer on most furniture projects. You will want to avoid flat finish paints as they can show fingerprints and become difficult to clean.

Your best bet will be to use a semi-gloss, interior latex paint for household furniture. By using a paint sprayer, you avoid seeing any brush strokes when the paint is dry.

If you are in need a paint sprayer, be sure to read the Best Paint Sprayer for Furniture Reviews.

Here are some tips if you choose to use a paint sprayer:

  • Always paint in a ventilated area.
  • Paint thin coats.
  • Practice spraying on scrap material first.
  • Stand about 10 to 12 inches away from the furniture while spraying.
  • Use smooth, even motions and don’t paint with your wrist.
  • Allow the furniture to dry completely before applying another coat.

If you want the best finish possible, you’ll want to sand lightly between each coat. I know it seems like a lot more work, but the outcome will be worth it.


Step 5 – Protect the Furniture

Once the last coat has dried, it is time to seal the furniture. If you aren’t going to seal it, plan to let it sit and cure for about 30 days.

Many paint sprayers will apply sealers easily as well. Be sure to let the furniture sit for a day or two and completely dry before using it.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions people ask when it comes to painting their furniture.

Can I paint furniture without sanding?

It isn’t recommended to paint without sanding. Old furniture will have layers of paint and finishes that need to be removed, so you achieve a uniform and smooth surface.

You will also need to sand between paint coats, especially after the primer has cured. This will reduce any bumps, or dust and debris lines from showing in your finished product.


Do you use more paint when using paint sprayers?

Sometimes you do use more paint when using a sprayer. This will be determined by the type of sprayer, type of paint, and the tip that you are using, as well as the number of coats you apply.

However, while you may use more paint, more paint is actually applied to the furniture. When using brushes or rollers, you lose a lot of paint to the pans, stuck in the bristles, or soaked into the rollers.


Can I use a Furniture Spray Paint Instead?

If you want to find an easier way to paint a piece of furniture, you could opt for furniture spray paint.


Trying to figure out how to spray paint furniture isn’t really that different than the steps listed above.


She Knows understands the benefits of spray painting furniture. 



She says, “Spray-painting gets the job done really fast, often in under 10 minutes. And compared to regular paint, it dries quickly, and you won't be dealing with any telltale brushstroke marks.”


There is a great YouTube video from Krylon that shows how to paint a dresser with spray paint.


Can I spray paint over varnished wood?

You can spray paint over varnished wood. However, you will still need to prep the surface and ensure you use only oil-based paints. To get a professional result, you should wash the surface with TSP, sand the varnish down and prime the entire piece before painting with color. You will also need at least two coats of paint for a clean, finished look.


Does this only apply to painting wood furniture? What if I want to paint laminate instead?

The steps I listed above were a guide to painting wood furniture. If you desire to know how to paint laminate furniture, the steps for that are simple as well.


You will follow the same basic steps as above. The only difference is to avoid sanding. 


Live Love DIY explains it like this, “Sanding laminate furniture can damage the laminate and basically ruin the piece. So, be careful. Rather than sanding the laminate, all you have to do to get the paint to adhere correctly is prime.”



Painting laminate furniture can actually be easier since you don’t have the sanding steps involved.


What is the Best Paint for Furniture?

Searching for the best paint for furniture is going to give you many options. It is more of a personal preference and choice. 


As Refresh Living says, “I would never be able to choose just one because I love certain characteristics about each one.”

Some people prefer the look of chalk paints while others search out metallic paint for furniture. I’ve met people that like the clean, crisp look of white furniture paint while others prefer the modern appeal of black furniture paint.


It really comes down to a personal preference and the look you are hoping to achieve.

Some of the more popular options are:

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Acrylic PaintChalk Paint
  • Milk Paint
  • Milk PaintLatex Paint

What do I Need to Know about Outdoor Furniture Paint?

If you are planning on using outdoor furniture paint, you’ll need to first determine what you are going to paint. The Creativity Exchange says that there are four basic outdoor painting categories. 


They are, “wood furniture, metal furniture and accessories, fiberglass garden pots and wicker/rattan.” 

Each of these will require different techniques and materials. For example, if you were to think about painting wicker furniture, you’d want to follow these steps:

  • 1
    Clean the wicker thoroughly by vacuuming the dust.
  • 2
    Use a wire brush to remove old paint.
  • 3
    Clean with a sponge and liquid detergent.
  • 4
    Rinse the furniture with a spray bottle of water.
  • 5
    Allow the wicker to dry completely.
  • 6
    Paint with spray paint or paint sprayer. (Enamel paint is a great option).
  • 7
    Allow the paint to dry for 48 hours.

Where Can I Find Some Painted Furniture Ideas?

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you are going to want to get creative and try some new things. Thankfully, the internet is filled with amazing painted furniture ideas. For example, if I wanted to find the best chalk paint furniture ideas, I would go look at Pinterest.


Sometimes, you just need some practical advice like painted bedroom furniture ideas.  Again, my go-to source when I need some inspiration has always been Pinterest.


Conclusion

Painting your household furniture can be a time-saver as well as fun. In addition, it takes old, worn-out pieces and makes the new again.

You can change the whole look of an entire room with some cans of paint. Try the techniques list above and see what creations you can make.


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