How to paint furniture

Furniture, Paint, paint furniture, Wood

When it comes to paint furniture, especially wood, one would think that the hardest part is picking the color? But you may be frustratingly disappointed to know that that is the easy part. If you want to paint furniture doesn’t really mean you need  much skills, but you should have  some knowledge, some proper guidelines and super slick information, otherwise it is really not going to have a good looking result. And you will be seriously disappointed, angry and not delighted with the finished product.

If you are planning to paint furniture, up cycle an old desk, get your distressing paint effect on, or breathe life back into an old, neglected piece of tatty furniture, you are going to need the basics. So, before you get swept away in the flurry of intoxication when it comes to the delicious array of colors, tones, hues, effects, and finishes, take the time to read up on what things you need to do first before you even unwrap your paintbrush.

Painting wooden furniture is something slightly different to painting over laminates and that kind of thing, but the basics are the same. Learning how to paint furniture of wood is a good base to start with, before tackling melamine or old laminate kitchen cupboards. Here are a number of excellent steps to follow to ensure that you get the most beautiful up cycled furniture ever.


Steps to paint furniture


table that illustrate how to paint furniture
By patti haskins under CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Clean, Clean, Clean

There is no substitute for the right preparation when it comes to painting anything. And if you are an arty type, this is the most boring part, and one we are all inclined to want to cut corners with or really leave out completely. But unless you can convince somebody to do it for you, you will have to do this part by yourself. And if it counts for anything, the personal rewards are huge once you have taken the time to do things properly from scratch yourself.

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If your furniture item has drawers in it, take them out first and clean everything really well. Get rid of the dust and cobwebs that might have gathered there while it was being stored in a garage and remove anything sticky – eww – or anything else revolting before you start. A warm water soapy solution will do wonders.

  • Strip

Keep your clothes on – this is about the wood! This is the part where you are going to strip down any old layers of paint or varnish to a dull version of its former self. If you are going to stain the wood, you will need to strip it down to its raw self, otherwise just getting the shiny bits off will do just fine. If you have an item that is already dull and miserable – you can skip this step altogether. Use a medium grain sand paper if there is quite a bit to take off, just don’t get too carried away. You can use a fine grit paper for a quick, light sand, or if you are someone that likes to get carried away with sanding – just to be on the safe side. Use a damp cloth to wipe away all those fine dusty bits everywhere – an absolute pain once they are all stuck to your paint brush later.

  • Priming your Furniture
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Priming is a bit of a tease really; you get the paintbrush unwrapped but that’s about as exciting as it gets. Unfortunately as boring as this bit is, it is necessary otherwise your delicious fuchsia frenzy colored paint won’t stick to your furniture – which will not make you happy later.

And if you have any horrible bits on the furniture – odd discolorations and stains – charming – the application of primer will do its job by hiding them away forever once the real paint is applied. Unenthusiastic primer people will be delighted to know that you can now get primer in a spray. Spray it on in a jiffy, put the kettle on and take a break – you must be exhausted already anyway.

  • Sanding

Yes, sorry, you have to sand again. But it’s not such a mission this time – and if you have had a couple of cups of tea already the primer should be dry. Using the light grit sandpaper, give it a quick and very light sand, wipe off all the excess sand dust again with a damp cloth and you will be ready to paint furniture. Only the bad news is you have to repeat this step between every coat of paint – once it has dried obviously. Oh just put the kettle on, the paint color will cheer you up.


Oh glory, the moment we have all been waiting for – the real reason we are dressed in our holey sweat pants on a Saturday morning – the paint. Pick a paint that has a gloss or semi gloss finish – it is easier to keep clean afterwards and it won’t show up any of your painting sins like fingerprints or brush marks along the way.

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Paint on thin coats – you may need anything from 2-3 coats depending on what color intensity you want. And don’t forget to sand lightly between each coat – a very important step otherwise this entire process is a waste of all your money.

You can use a roller, sponge, brush, brush and roller – anything you like depending on the finish you want. If you want a smooth, professional finish paint the corners first with a brush, then use a roller over the rest of the furniture. You can get rollers in all sorts of sizes and it will help eliminate unsightly brush strokes.

  • Finish

Finish doesn’t mean kick back and open a bottle of wine – just yet. After your furniture has had at least 24 hours to dry and if you managed to keep the cat off the surface – very difficult – you can now finish off your creation.

Apply a layer of polyurethane to seal, especially if it is a piece of furniture intended for a high traffic area like a desk or dining room table. If your finish is white however, this product is going to make your color yellow over time, so in this case, you will be much better off using furniture wax – which is a great sealer and protector for show pieces, but not very durable. Or, you could opt for a polyacrylic sealer, which will protect and seal without yellowing colors over time.

The last things to do? Stand back and admire your excellent handiwork!