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How to Paint Furniture

How to Paint Furniture: 10 Step by Step Guideline

A few days ago, I was going to my neighbor’s house, and I saw that he was struggling to paint his small furniture table, so I thought it might be helpful to create a guide for my beginner audience about how to paint furniture. So that’s why today I’m going to go over my technique for how I get the smoothest, most professional looking finish possible when I am painting furniture. 

Before we get started, I want to get out of the way a couple of things. First of all, I know there are a lot of wood purists out there who are entirely anti painting wood period, and I get it there are several pieces I would never even consider painting, but if that’s you and you are completely anti painting furniture, you’re in the wrong place now there isn’t just one right way to do this, but this is the technique that I have found works best for me okay that said let’s get started.

How to Paint Furniture at Home

Steps by step How to Paint Furniture

Okay, I’m going to use this bench to demonstrate my technique, so I will show you how I painted it but step one is to prep your piece, so this is where a lot of projects go wrong because a lot of people do not take the time to prep their surface properly and this is going to determine how smooth your paint finish ends up looking as well as how durable the finish ends up.

Before Start What You’ll Need?

  • Murphy’s Oil Soap
  • Medium Grit Sandpaper
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Paint Sprayer (Optional)
  • Topcoat
  • Primer
  • Tack Cloth
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Foam Roller
How to Paint Furniture Like pro
Source: Erin Spain

Step 1: First thing I like to do, especially if a piece has been in storage and is covered in dust or conquering cobwebs or whatever, is to give it a good cleaning with Murphy’s Oil Soap. It’s pretty self-explanatory; just dilute the Murphy Oil Soap in water and use a cloth to clean the entire piece. It is safe for finished wood, and it really helps you get a nice clean surface to start.

If your piece isn’t that grimy or dirty, then a quick wipe down with the cloth should suffice here. I’m using it to clean my workbench, but you get the idea. 

Start Sanding

Sanding the wood
Source: Erin Spain

Step 2: I use wood filler to patch any holes or nicks and cover any knots that might leave through later. I use cheap framing lumber to build this bench, so your furniture likely won’t have this many knots, if any to worry about, but if it does, wood filler generally does the trick. I allow it to dry according to the directions on the container, which may vary depending on the brand. Also, if your furniture has any hardware or attached to it, this would be the point where I would remove that and set it aside.

Step 3: I stand it with a sanding sponge; if you used wood filler to patch holes or knots, then sand that smooth and then just lightly sand the entire piece whether you use wood filler or not, you don’t have to put a ton of effort into this. The goal is just to rough up the surface enough for the paint to have something to grab on, so you don’t have to sand all of the finish off.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time doing this; you just want to dull the glossy finish a bit so the paint can adhere more quickly and so it doesn’t slide right off. Sometimes I use a sheet of sandpaper to get into nooks and crannies, but you don’t have to worry too much about that; it is not a big deal and not something you need to stress over.

Step 4: Wipe it down and get all the dust off from sanding; you can use a wet cloth, or I like to use a tack cloth which you can get at the hardware store. It’s a waxed cloth, and the dust will stick to it, so you can just wipe it over the surface of your furniture, and the dust will come right off okay now that the piece has been prepped.

It’s Time to Prime

How to Paint Furniture
Source: Erin Spain

Step 5:  I use a combination of a mini foam roller and an angled brush to apply my primer and my paint. The brush is helpful for getting into the crevices, and then I use the roller for the rest; make sure that your foam roller refills are made for smooth surfaces, and it should specify that on the package.

I like to keep popsicle sticks handy to use stir sticks, and you can buy those in bulk at the craft store. Next, I usually use a separate stain-blocking primer; even if my paint has primer included, I generally use kills or Zinser interior latex primer. After that, I typically stick with water-based primers and paints, which is just a personal preference, but some people like oil-based better. I just can’t stand the fumes, and I’m usually able to get a good finish with water-based, so it works for me, and I also find it helpful to place pieces of scrap wood underneath.

start priming
Source: Erin Spain

Step 6: Whatever I’m painting to elevate it off the ground a bit, so it’s easier to paint the bottom edge. The key here is to apply thin coats both of your primer and your paint. I only use one coat of primer, and then I allow that to dry completely. After my primer has dried, I come back in with my sanding sponge and lightly sand the whole thing again. You just want to buff out any brushstrokes or roller marks or sand off any drips that you missed, but you don’t want to sand the primer off; just a light pass with the sanding block should suffice. I go back in with my tack cloth and remove all of the dust and

Sand Again

How to Paint Furniture
Source: Erin Spain

Step 7: Now, we’re going to repeat the process, but this time with paint, the key is to apply multiple thin coats instead of one thick coat. Applying thin coat sanding in between really does produce the smoothest possible finish my go-to brands of paint are Behr marquee and Benjamin Moore, and for this bench, I’m using Behr marquee in the color tricorn black. I also typically use a satin or semi-gloss finish for furniture; the glossy or the finish, the easier it is to clean, which is why I never ever use matte finish paint on furniture.

It is challenging to keep clean I repeat the same process brushing the crevices and rolling the rest; keep in mind this is your first coat so that you will see roller marks, and you won’t get a completely opaque finish just yet, and that’s okay in between coats of paint I like to wrap my roller and brush in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out and then I can just unwrap them and use them again for my next coat. I also cover the paint tray with plastic wrap, let that first coat dry, and then once again go in with your sanding block and quickly smooth it out, then wipe the dust away with your tack cloth.

Repeat the Same Process

Source: Erin Spain

Step 8: I usually end up applying a total of one coat of primer and two coats of paint, although depending on your paint, you may need three coats, so now this is the final coat of paint I’m applying it the same way brushing the crevices and then rolling on a thin coat this time I won’t sand.

Step 9: I get a lot of questions about whether or not you should sand between your final coat of paint and your topcoat, and the answer is No. After my second and last coat of paint has dried, it’s time to add a top coat for protection; my two favorite top coats for painted furniture are Minwax polycrylic which I usually apply with a brush, and Minwax finishes paste wax in natural.

Source: Erin Spain

You can use polyurethane if you prefer a super durable oil-based finish, in which case I would use satin wipe-on poly, but I prefer to use that for stained furniture, not painted furniture for this project. So I’m going to finish it with paste wax. Here’s how I apply it I wear gloves since this can get messy, and then I apply it through a couple of layers of cheesecloth. I just rub it on through the cheesecloth and then allow it to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes per the instructions on the can at that point.

Now its time to clean
Source: Erin Spain

Step 10: I can go back in with a clean cotton cloth and buff it to as shiny as I want it, then I allow it to cure completely before using it. Now just a quick note you can always use a paint sprayer to apply your paint, but I usually don’t do that unless I’m painting a lot of furniture or a very large piece because I despise the cleanup that comes with that, but of course, it is an option.

Read also

Other Projects

Furniture painting project 1
Source: Erin Spain
Furniture painting project 2
Source: Erin Spain

Final Thought

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