Painting Furniture 101

Apr 13th, 2010

Painting furniture seems to be one of most favorite topics of a lot of questions, so today I’d like to teach you some “tricks of the trade” if you will about painting furniture.

First of all, the brand of spray paint that you buy makes an ENORMOUS difference. And, yes to those of you who are wondering i did mean to say “SPRAY” paint. I’ll go into more detail about that in a minute. Do not buy the crappy $1.00 a can spray paint. In my experience, you need at least five cans of the crappy stuff to do one or two cans of the good stuff. I recommend Krylon brand. It is pretty darn cheap at Wal-Mart and it has a great spray nozzle to help even out your spraying.

What sheen should I buy? I buy “GLOSS” sheen because I want to be able to wipe off the furniture when it is done, and if you prime it first, the furniture will not look too glossy. For some reason, the priming makes it look more like a satin finish when all is said and done.

Another famous question that I see a lot is “Do you sand your furniture first?” This one depends on the furniture. I rarely sand my furniture first because I like the scratches nicks and dents. I especially like my furniture to have these dents and deformities when I am glazing a piece of furniture; however, I do sand down a piece of furniture of the existing paint or finish is chipping off badly OR if I want to stain the wood. If you are going to re-stain the wood, then you will need to sand it down to the wood so that the new stain will be even.

Do you prime it first? YES, Prime it! Believe me using primer makes an enormous difference when painting furniture. I recommend using KILZ spray to prime your furniture. (One can costs around $4.00 at Wal-Mart and I promise it is worth it). I have used Krylon brand primer and it seems to work also, but I have only used that brand when I didn’t want to prime something white. KILZ only comes in white. So, for example, the RED BARSTOOLS that I painted, I used Krylon brand primer that was a redish brown color instead of white. Sidenote: you may be tempted to buy the cheaper brand primer…don’t do it. It does NOT do as good of a job as KILZ.

Do you polyurethane over the furniture afterward? This depends on the item. You need to be careful about using polyurethane on white items because over time the polyurethane will turn yellow. But, if your item is something that is used a lot, like for example your dining room table, then I would suggest to use a sealer such as polyurethane to project the top. Generally though, I rarely use polyurethane. 
 Update (as of 4/24/10) If you have an item that is used a lot for example bar stools, dining rooms table, or side tables, a good friend suggested using polyacrylic to seal and project the surface. I have never used it, but I trust her 100%.  She said, “Polyacrylic won’t bubble, you do not have to prepare your brush with mineral spirits before you brush, it won’t turn yellow like polyurethane does, and it does not put off an odor like polyurethane, its great, and it dries fast.” UPDATE use POLYACRYLIC if you need to protect the surface of your project.

Does it need to be warm to paint? Yes it should be at least 50 degrees to paint furniture. I use my garage year round because I live in a climate that rarely freezes. But, for most people this is not possible without some sort of heat source to ensure that the environment for painting stays above 50 degrees or so. I use a heater in my garage during the winter, and even in colder climates it would work as long as you keep the space above 50 degrees. If you try to paint when it is colder, your paint will freeze and crack.

I also get a lot of questions about Glazing furniture. Please check out our glazing 101 post for detailed instructions on how to glaze. Glazing is a great way to bring out the details in the furniture like the furniture below. For more details on the yellow furniture, goHERE to see that post. :)

Good luck on all your painting projects in the future! Don’t be afraid to give your furniture a new look and a new life by painting it!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the tutorial…Do you have to wait for the first coat of spray paint to dry before adding another coat to prevent dripping? I was using krylon spray paint and got a lot of drip marks on my first spray paint project.

  2. Very good tips!

  3. Perfect timing! I have a horrid looking dresser that I'm trying to decide what color to go with. And, of course, how to do it. :)

  4. Wish I'd had this info years ago. Ah, well, live and learn. Thanks for sharing. I'm including this in my Saturday Shout Outs this week.

  5. If only I had read this about a year ago. :) I've learned a lot of these lessons the hard way.

    Another painting technique I tried out was staining the paint when it is dried. Check it out…
    http://learnandgopollyco.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-twelve-dollar-beauty.html

  6. I normally paint furniture using a foam brush. Maybe I should be brave and try spray paint for my next project!

  7. Can you repaint any type of wood furniture. My dresser is made out of the cheaper wood, I think particle wood. Will that hold paint? I know sanding it down would probabably ruin it. I am just worried because of the cheaper wood that the paint wont stick.

  8. The tip about poly with white paint, didn't know that and I'm about to paint some white bookshelves, whew!

  9. Great tips, I just finished a chair using these guidelines… I used the Krylon primer, so I didn't have to sand it down, and Krylong GLOSS white. Thanks again! I love your blog!
    ~Rainey~

  10. You can also use a 40% off coupon and buy the paint at Joann's. Joann's will also accept competitor coupons, Hobby Lobby, Roberts, etc. However, they will only use the coupons if the item is also sold at the competitor's store. AND, you can use them all at the same time! :)

  11. I was just introduced to your site a couple of months ago and LOVE everything on it! You have such great taste and I want to copy all of your projects :) I am so glad you posted this. I decided just yesterday that I wanted to repaint my dining room table legs and chairs and I was wondering how to get started. This post really helped! Thanks!

  12. Thanks for the tips. One more question… Can I paint fake wood? I have a cheapo KMART dining set that is all chipped, and I want to paint it, just not sure if it will work out or not.

  13. Do you ever use any of the organic/non toxic paints? I'm interested in learning if those project turn out well.

    Please vote for GARBAGE TO GOLD at http://www.refresheverything.com/garbagetogold. You can vote once a day throughout the month of April!

    Thank you,
    Tumaini Rivera
    http://www.flippinfactory.wordpress.com
    Twitter: @flippinfactory

  14. Thanks for posting this! After seeing all your amazing funiture transformations on this blog I am going to attempt to paint a my first piece! I have a kids table and chairs set (ikea) that was given to us and its got a natural finish. I have the paint all ready to go(krylon gloss black and krylon primer)but the weather is not cooperating as we had a week of crazy wind and now snow! Hope I can get to it soon, your posts of fabulous funiture is giving me an itch to try it out!

  15. I'm ALL about spray paint – every room in my house is proof of that. And yes, brand does matter – I've wasted a lot of money (and time…sanding…) on cheap stuff. I'm going to study your glazing 101 blog now…I need a tutor!

  16. Yesterday I declared my love affair with spray paint over, after two failed projects. Today, I declare it back on. That nightstand WILL look awesome, and with nary a brush to wash. Thx!

  17. So if you aren't going to use a spray paint, and you will be placing items on top of the project, what type of paint to you use? interior Latex? Does it need to be covered with the poly? I painted my chairs with regular interior latex paint and they stick to the wall if they are leaned against it too long. Spray paint is less messy and easier but I'm limited when it comes to color choices. I hate the stiky paint! What do you recommend?

  18. I've tried Krylon spray paint several different times, and several different colors…and it always drips. Personally, I like Painter's Touch Rust-o-leum the best. Thanx for your tutorials in painting.

  19. Karlee, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Sutherlands have a LOT of different colors in spray paint….check them out :)

  20. Thanks for the information. I have been putting off the sanding on one project that I wanted to distress anyway, woo hoo! You freed me! :)

  21. So I've always been told that I need to sand the furniture first–or the paint won't stick–but you say you rarely sand your pieces. I'm about to do a dining table and 4 chairs–I so hope I can skip sanding–cuz that's a lot of work. Can I really not sand?

  22. Brooke @ www.allthingsthrifty.com says:

    I only sand a project if its surface is not smooth and even, otherwise, I prime and paint it without sanding. I do however sand the primer after to remove the "gritty" feel of the primer with a high grit sand paper. Good luck!

  23. Brooke~ Thanks for the great tips! My table turned out great! I have one more question though. After I was all done, I used polyurethane spray to protect it. I'm worried though, of the table top getting damaged from daily usage–and my 2.5 year old slamming toys and utensils on the surface. I don't want to cover up my beautiful table with a table cloth–is the polyurethane enough to withstand normal family/kids usage? Or is there something else I can do to protect it? thanks so much!

  24. Brooke @ www.allthingsthrifty.com says:

    Jane,
    That is what Polyurethane is made for. :) Just make sure that you have done enough coats to protect your furniture. If you did one thin coat your protection would be minimal, but if you did 3-4 coats, your protection would be much better. I hope you send me a picture so I can see!

  25. I'd love to send you pics! I need your email….So. I did 2 coats of the polyurethane. Now it's in my breakfast nook. Probably not a good place to do more coats? Or do you think it would be ok? ugh. The hubster had to take it apart to get it out and then in–lol :P

  26. Ok. I have another question >.< Now that time has gone by, and even after 5 coats of polyurethane, some paint has chipped–thanks to my 2 year old banging toys and silverware (and throwing them) on the surface of the table and chairs. What is the best way to repair that? Some of the chipping looks ok–give the table character, but others not so much. Thanks!!!

  27. What about yucky prefab? Like the faux woodgrain laminate stuff?

  28. Great tips, thank you! I have a couple projects that I'm just waiting for things to warm up around here so I can get to painting them. A question for you, have you ever stripped paint off of metal? I have an old boiler tub that my sister painted all cutesy for my mom in the 90's (big floral/eucalyptus arrangment in it) and now I'd really like to take it back to it's original metal. Or I'll paint it a metal looking color if I can't strip it. Any ideas or tips for painting metal? Any differences from wood?

  29. Walking by Faith says:

    I LOVE this post! I am trying to work up the courage to paint our old kitchen table, and your tips have answered all of my questions. You are awesome!

    I'm your newest follower. Stop by my blog sometime–I'd love to have you as a follower, as well! :)

    morrowsunshine.blogspot.com

  30. What do you use to accent the detail (the black lines)?

    eadimoulis@gmail.com

  31. Brooke @ www.allthingsthrifty.com says:

    The black on the furniture is glaze. I have glazing tutorials too.

  32. I love all your stuff–your work is amazing–I was curious if you ever paint on plastic or metal and if you prime those with the same primer–I got spray specifically designed to paint on plastic but wasn't sure if I should prime–wondering if you've had any experience with this that could possibly aid me. Thanks for all the beautiful work you share.

  33. I love painting furniture(my hubby thinks I am addicted…I love it!) and I love looking at your awesome ideas.

    For some reason though…my furniture gets bumpy or bubbly at certain places. Why is this? Do I need to sand the piece down?…Didn't I clean it enough?

    Any ideas on how to fix this would be awesome!

  34. Great tutorial! I've been in the painting business for a couple years now, my dad's been doin it for 30 yrs, and I havta give you props for really knowing your stuff. I cannot emphasize enough- prime prime prime! Kilz has always been our go-to brand. I've never tried Kryolan, but I know Rustoleum is great. Thanks for the accuracy- it's refreshing!

  35. And to those asking about painting particleboard, yes, you can, BUT, you have to be more careful and aware. Particleboard is just that- leftover project wood particles stuck together with resin, and a laminate piece laid over top. This means it's much less durable and much more prone to moisture, as well as heavier swelling than your regular wood. This makes your primer EXTREMELY important, and it also means you should use a primer that is also a sealant. Alcohol-based works best, it adheres better than water-based. I recommend Zinsser B-I-N (a Bullseye product). But be warned it smells strongly of alcohol, so I wouldn’t wear the same clothes to drive down to the corner store in haha. Hope I helped and happy crafting!

  36. If your furniture is already white but the paint is chipping do you need to prime it first? I got a vintage vanity at the thrift store and I want to paint it a tiffany blue. Its a white color now but has chips in it so should I prime it before I add the tiffany blue? Im very new to this so any advice woulx be great. Thanks!

  37. That spray paint tutorial said it was an piece of IKEA furniture. I have 3 pieces of IKEA furniture that I want to paint… Do I need to sand them down first since they're laminate? Do I prime them first? If I'm doing a darker shade, should I prime with white, or a color that's closest to the color I'm going to paint it?

  38. A great looking furniture can definitely make a home decorative. Painting furniture includes many steps such as stripping, surface leveling etc and can be a very time consuming task.
    home painting services

  39. What if I have a dresser that is already painted very well. Do I still have to prime it before painting it a new color?

  40. Question: They were out of the color I really wanted at Lowe's in a spray paint so instead I bought interior paint and an easy use paint sprayer. I was wondering why you don't use a paint sprayer instead of spray paint? I might answer my own question today when I attempt to paint this dresser! Just was curiuos on your thoughts! Thanks for the GREAT ideas!!!

  41. Hi! I'm not sure if you're still answering questions on this post, as it is pretty old, but… I have a question. :) I spray painted a wooden lamp base with Krylon gloss in "bright idea" yellow, and the finish turned out very rough – like sandpaper. I'm not sure what I did wrong. I sanded it slightly before I started (it was very smooth/shiny) and primed it with Krylon indoor/outdoor white primer. I then used two entire cans of the yellow spray paint to get the color to evenly cover. The color is good, but the texture is awful. I didn't do any sanding between coats. Is that where I went wrong? I also watched the video above, and it looks like she was holding the can pretty close to the surface. I held my can pretty far away so that I could make sure to do light, even coats. I thought I was holding it the recommended amount of inches away, but maybe I was farther. Would that make a difference? Thanks so much! I'm going to have to sand down my lamp and try again, and I want to do it right this time. :)

  42. The natural color provide a great effect of making furniture look beautiful and simple. Colors also improve the quality of the atmosphere of space. I found this is so knowledgeable post.
    antiques

  43. Buying cheap spray paint may bring some good results. But the prices are not what you have to look for, it is the quality. Good quality paint for a small price can do a lot better than overrated brands and this will be helpful to home owners as well as painting contractors Denver CO . Thanks for sharing!

  44. Have you ever done a piece of laminate furniture? I have a set of nightstands that I would LOVE to repaint but am not sure if just spraying them would work….does spray paint hold well to laminate?

  45. Thank you for the great tutorials. I refinished an old sewing chest and just started blogging. I linked to your post so hopefully, others will be able to follow you too! kelliinthemiddle.blogspot.com

  46. I have vintage cherry wood bedroom set, it was my grandparents, I am nervous about painting, do I need to sand it or treat it if it already has a polyurethane on it?

  47. @Katie's Blessings

    So if I were you, I'd just prime it first. If you are going to paint it black, use an oil-based gray primer, like rust-oleum. After priming,sand it just a little with a 220 grit sand paper, just to smooth it out. Good luck! I'd love to see the finished project!

  48. To answer some of the above questions, yes you can paint laminate however I did NOT sand it first. I primed it then lightly sanded it! When I did my pink desk, it was laminate and it turned out great. Here's the link to that… Hopefully this helps!!

    The Pink Desk

  49. @AbitWhitty

    I totally tired using a sprayer. Here's what I learned….

    The Sprayer

    How did you like yours?

  50. Question about doors:
    I want to paint some end tables but the doors on the front fit snugly. If I paint it the paint will wear off where they touch. Could I just sand the inner edges to lose a mm or two so the doors won't rub? I'm not quite sure what lease to do.
    Thanks and I love your stuff.

  51. @yurtgirl:

    That is exactly what I would do! Good luck with your project!

    xoxo, Brooke

  52. Robin Beiermeister says:

    My daughter painted her dresser with latex enamel. It looks great, but has a slightly gritty texture, especially on top (from foam rollers?) What would you do to smooth that out? I plan to sand it lightly and then either add a coat of quality (self leveling) oil based enamel or spray on a coat of Krylon. What do you think?

  53. Brooke, in the spray paint 101 info, you talk about multiple coats – but I'm worried that I should be letting them dry more. I am layering the coats every 10 minutes. Does this sound okay? The paint isn't completely dry when I do another coat. Maybe I'm spraying too much?

  54. Do you have a guide of the colors you have used and recommend? It would be helpful to see them on a piece before I decide what color I want to use for projects. Thanks!

  55. I can’t find your video on how to spray paint in this blog. Advice on where to see it?

    • The youtube video that was posted has been deleted by the author. We are currently working on a new one. I am so sorry for any inconvenience!

  56. I used the polyacrylic to seal the top of my dresser and it keeps bubbling – either a few larger bubbles or lots and lots of little ones. I keep sanding it down and redoing it, but I think I just keep making it worse. Is it my brush? If so, how much should I be spending on a brush and what brand is preferred? Can you give me some more tips for the polyacrylic?

  57. Ok…so I tried to prime a dining table and it turned to powder?? Only on the top of table. I had tried to strip the table originally but it didnt look right. Then I sanded it, wiped it down & started priming. I let it dry & you can literally blow it off the table! Any suggestions?? Help!

    • Woah, Amanda how frustrating! First of all, what kind of primer did you use? What brand was it?

      • I’ve had paint turn to powder when it was too cool or damp where I was painting. Just wipe off excess and start over. Lightly sand if needed but cleaning the powder residue off first should do okay then repaint.

  58. How long after spray painting do I need to wait before glazing? After glazing, how long should I wait to put hardware back on?

    • Would I put hardware back on first, then glaze? Than you very much for your help! You are a domestic Goddess! ;-)

    • As soon as it is dry I start glazing. So it will depend on your climate how long that will take. I live in a very dry HOT climate, so for me it can dry in 10 minutes or less. Same with glazing. You can put the hardware back on as soon as the glaze is dry. Good luck!

  59. I was told by the builder that I have foil finished kitchen cabinets. They are a pickle finish and I would love to be able to refinish them, but have not been able to find out how I go about painting them. Do you have any suggestions? I love your tutorials you have posted!

    • I have no idea what foil finished cabinets are! Me and Mr. All Things Thrifty have never heard of them! Tell us more, you have peaked our curiosity.

  60. Is there suppose to be a video? Am I missing it?

    • Debbie, you are right, we had a video that was not ours that we linked to on our post, but it has been deleted from you tube. We need to make our own and will do that as soon as possible!

  61. JenFarrow says:

    I am about to attempt my first spray painting project! I only want to paint the lower trim and legs and keep the table top it’s natural wood color. How do you keep from getting paint on it? Wrap it? THANKS!

    • Yes, you need to cover it up so that the paint doesn’t ruin it. I would use the cheap plastic from the hardware store to mask it off. Good luck!

  62. I’m new to spray painting but it’s so fun I’m spray painting everything that isn’t bolted down. I notice though that the finish is inconsistent. The finish on a tabletop I painted yesterday has glossier patches and more matte patches. I used Krylon glossy finish, did not prime but lightly sanded. Any suggestions what I’m doing wrong? Thanks so much!

    • What color are you using? I notice this a lot more in certain colors, and sometimes I have to change to a “satin” finish spray paint to make it go away. I particularly notice this is black spray paint. Make sure you are shaking the can really well before you spray it because sometimes the glossy sheen just isn’t mixed up well enough. If that doesn’t work, go and get a can of “satin” sheen and try that. Good luck!

  63. That image of the fun little 60s end table makes me realize the potential in all the yard sale stuff I dismissed just yesterday. Oops!

  64. Oh girl! thank u for all those tips :)

  65. Just about to try my first painting furniture project, thanks for all the tips!

    I have read several references to a video in this post that is supposed to show a spray painting technique, where is it?

  66. Just about to try my first painting furniture project, thanks for all the tips!

    I have read several references to a video in this post that is supposed to show a spray painting technique, where is it?

  67. One more question, on some other blogs, I have seen that they sand using a fine grit in between coats of color, what is your opinion on that?

    Thanks!!

    • I don’t do that. If you prime first with KILZ, your paint should adhere great to your furniture. I don’t think it would hurt, but I have never done this.

  68. Just finished a piece of furniture for a customer and I’m not happy with it at all! It isn’t me…it is the paint!! Never again will I use Rustoleum with a Satin finish! I don’t really care for Valspar, but their spray paint with primer in any finish works great! The Rustoleum has left white spots where the satin finish adhered to the furniture. Any suggestions on how to get rid of the spots?

    • Oh no!! What color did you use? Really it depends on the color sometimes on what brand I will suggest. I would probably paint over it again to get rid of the spots. Tell me the color and I will do my best to talk you through it.

  69. Susan Sanchez says:

    Hi Brooke! I just had to write and tell you how your tutorials inspired me to try your painting and glazing techniques. I recently found an antique wood pedestal table for my entry. It has hand carved detail on the pedestal and around the “skirt” of the table top. I re-stained the top dark walnut and painted the apron and pedestal turquoise with a dark brown glaze. The details of the carvings really pop now and I am in LOVE with this table! I’ve looked a long time for just the right piece. I can’t wait to do more. Thank you for your tutorials and making it look as easy as it really is. The key is just not rush the process or buy cheap materials, just like you say. I wish I could post a picture here!

  70. I found a krylon color I love online, but I’m not sure it comes in gloss. If I use the polyacrylic after painting, would it be okay to use a satin krylon spray paint? Thanks so much!

  71. Hi, thank you so much in making me want to finally decorate my home how i visioned it. I just came in from doing my first project. I want to paint my daughters small bookshelf in grape purple, so i primed it first. Is it normal to finish a WHOLE can of primer on a small bookshelf or did i go overboard?

    • Cindy,
      It gets easier to spray paint with practice, but don’t worry, I’ve used more than one can on littler projects myself!

  72. Love your blog! Love the layout too! Since I found it about a month ago I have decided I woul try my hand at redoing some furniture instead of buying new. So got this awesome chair and decided I wanted to stain instead of paint it. Read a bunch f blogs on staining furniture and I refinished my table top when I burnt a whole in it. Well intricate detains on chair are so hard to sand. Have been working on it for 2 weeks and still have a long way to go. Thanks for the inspiration I needed to try it. I guess if it doesn’t work out I am only out $5.

  73. Amy Capoccia says:

    Just wondering if the glaze will work on something I finished with polyurethane, instead of wax finish or gloss?

  74. That yellow furniture is absolutely gorgeous, nice yellow shade too.

  75. I hope you are still responding to this thread. I have the exact same china cabinet. How many cans of primer.paint did you use? I don’t want to get caught short! Thanks!

    • Hi Nikki, send me a picture of your china cabinet and I will tell you my best guess. :) Send it to allthingsthrifty at gmail dot com.

  76. I’ve read this entry and the one about spray painting and both are very helpful. I’m planning to spray paint my white chairs black, and this is the first time I’ve done anything like this! I just want to make sure I have the steps right. First, lightly sand using 220. Second, use Rust-oleum gray primer. Third, sand lighty once more (not sure about this or if I need to sand before the primer at all). Fourth, cover in Krylon black spray paint.

    Any suggestions or corrections? Thanks so much for all the info! :)

  77. Eagerly awaiting your response! Thanks!

Trackbacks

  1. […] on the project. If you spray too much, this will cause it to drip. Check out the video found in my painting 101 post, and you will see the technique I use to spray paint. I am not perfect, and sometimes I have a […]

  2. […] First though, I want to give a shout out to my friend Brooke at All Things Thrifty for her awesome Spray Painting 101 tips. I highly recommend checking it out. The girl is a spray painting pro. There is a short video […]

  3. […] name as me!) has an awesome website called All Things Thrifty. She has fabulous tutorials, such as Painting Furniture 101 with great tips and advice on how to use spray paint to jazz up your furniture. It’s amazing […]

  4. Full Body Painting Blog says:

    European Painting Techniques Furniture

    […] nd its got a natural finish. I have the paint all ready to go(krylon gloss black […]

  5. […]  I found two pretty good blog posts by AllThingsThrifty about the basics of spray painting  and painting furniture, which helped me plan out this project. Here’s a list of supplies that I […]

  6. […] doing anything I thoroughly read the info and watched the videos on how to spray paint furniture and how to glaze furniture. Even if you’re not planning to do either and you’re just […]

  7. […] some great resources on how to paint furniture, check out All Things Thrifty, or Natty by […]

  8. […] new to painting, I would HIGHLY recommend visiting All Things Thrifty and read her post Painting Furniture 101.  This is where I started and I am sooo thankful for this post to set me in the right direction. […]

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