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How to Paint Furniture

DIY couple getting ready to paint kitchen furniture

Table of contents

When learning how to paint furniture, one first needs to know what kind of materials they are will require. Some furniture, such as plastic, cannot be painted, and as for fabric furniture, it all comes down to what furniture you have.

So how do you paint furniture? I have given you a step-by-step process on how to paint furniture, but first, what materials can you use?

If you have some IKEA furniture that you want to revitalize with a fresh coat of paint following a few simple steps will give you the fresh look you desire.


Fine and Medium Grit Sandpaper

Sandpaper with an 80-to 120-grit rating is best for smoothing surfaces and removing minor defects, while 40-grit is best for heavy-duty sanding and stripping. Smooth surfaces can be achieved using super-fine sandpaper with a grit range of 360 to 600.


To begin your project, primer provides a smooth and even surface and creates the best possible surface when determining how to paint furniture.

Painting without priming is more susceptible to peeling, as the paint cannot adhere to the furniture’s surface.

Tack Cloth

You can use tack cloths before painting to remove any dust or particles that may have been sanded from the surface. Small bits of dust and filth can be left behind when cleaning using a regular towel, cotton rag, or painter’s rag.

Sanding Block

The greatest sanding blocks are portable and easy to use, and you’ll be able to manipulate them with ease. Ordinary sandpaper simply cannot match the smooth, flawless finish that a sanding block gives. The surface grit and the base are the most critical components of a sanding block.


It’s recommended that you select a satin or semi-gloss finish when painting with a latex or oil-based paint type.

Most projects benefit significantly from using a latex primer when using latex paint. If you don’t want to deal with the smell of an oil-based primer, this is the product for you.

Chalk paint is the best way to paint practically anything without sanding. It offers a gorgeous matte finish, and there is no need to prepare the surface.


A paintbrush takes less paint than a roller and gives the user complete control over the amount of paint applied.

Foam Roller

Generally, foam rollers tend to wear out more quickly than regular rollers. However, if you do not paint frequently, foam rollers are beneficial to have in your DIY cupboard.

Hot Tip: Using foam rollers is the best option if you plan to paint a room once or twice a year.

Paint Sprayer (Optional)

You can use latex paints with an airless sprayer without the need for thinning.

There are some constraints when using an airless system to spray paint that has not been thinned. Preparation is key to utilizing a paint sprayer, especially if it’s your first time.


There are essentially two protective topcoats for furniture projects: wax and water-based polyurethane.

Companies may refer to water-based polyurethane as acrylic resin or polyacrylic resin.

How to Paint Furniture: The Procedure

Painting a piece of wooden furniture, for article how to paint furniture

There is no set order to follow when painting furniture; it all comes down to what furniture you have. Is it maybe metal, glass, fabric, or wood? You also have different procedures for different paints used.

If you are looking for an in-depth tutorial on how to paint metal furniture or glass furniture, we have just the tutorials to guide you through, but for now, I’ll give you a step-by-step tutorial on how to do general furniture.

Start by sanding.

It’s time to sand to eliminate any imperfections and soften the surface so the paint can adhere. Use a sanding block to apply uniform pressure to large, flat surfaces. Using 120-grit sandpaper, work your way up to 320-grit sandpaper.

To create good adhesion between the paint and wooden furniture, we’re typically taught that we should first sand the wood. Aside from making the wood smooth, sanding also removes any irregularities and impurities that would otherwise make it appear uneven and cluttered.

It’s, however, not important to sand wood before finishing. I’ve added step-by-step instructions for painting furniture without sanding. Wood, however, isn’t the only material that needs sanding as this can work for others too.

Sanding is commonly used to eliminate rust, deburr an edge, or polish the surface of the metal. Metal sanding should be done with a 320 or higher grit number. Sandpaper with a finer grit is recommended for polishing metal.

Remove any residue.

Dusting a stool before beginning to paint

Remove latex paint with denatured alcohol and a clean rag if you have any paint left on the surface before scraping the furniture. Mineral spirits are needed to remove oil-based paint spatters, but be careful not to soak the furniture, as this can cause damage.

To remove the paint, use clean water and dry thoroughly.

Prime it.

All painting surfaces should be primed to prevent stains from seeping into the new paint. The type of primer you choose must be compatible with the paint you intend to use.

Picking out a satin or semi-gloss finish in either latex or oil-based paint is the most suitable option for furniture. A primer is necessary to provide a long-lasting paint job and greater paint adhesion to the surface.

Paint it!

Don’t skimp on quality while painting furniture using latex. The easier it is to clean, the glossier the finish. The additional time spent painting and drying will add up over the course of a few days if you do so.

Anything that doesn’t have a flat finish is what I advocate. Sand between each coat of paint, and I’ll say it again: sand!

If you want an even finish, this step is critical. In general, I apply two or three coats of paint.

Protect it.

A clean brush should be used to apply the sealer, spreading it out evenly and quickly along the wood’s grain.

When protecting your piece of furniture, it’s important to closely analyze the end grain and ensure that all surfaces are completely covered. A piece of wood with an unprotected end grain is more susceptible to stains and finishes than the rest of the wood.

How to Paint Furniture: Different Types

Laminated furniture

Spray painting some laminates

To begin with, use a warm, soft cloth and a small amount of warm water to wash and clean the surface. By completely wiping away any residue left behind by the chemical cleaners, the vinegar, and water or TSP solution may have worked better.

Sand the entire piece of furniture very carefully. Sanding too much might cause primer and paint adhesion problems, so be careful.

If you wish to paint laminate, use a primer developed for shiny surfaces. It is unnecessary to apply two coats, but you can if you desire.

Remember: that if the primer does not adhere properly to the laminate, it will appear uneven and bubbling.

Lightly sanding between coats will help you create a seamless, professional-looking finish. For further protection, apply a sealant.

Wood Furniture

Sanding is the first step. You don’t want to gouge the surface; instead, you aim to scuff it up a little.

Please do not use a paper towel or speculate on whether it could be better to use a lint-free cloth after sanding. All you need is a tack cloth!

Priming promotes better adhesion between the topcoat and the surface it is applied to, preventing stains and flaws from escaping.

The same principle applies when painting over a dark color with a lighter one. The final step is to paint and seal it.

Metal Furniture

It’s essential to ensure that your piece is completely dry following cleaning. Using low-grade sandpaper, smooth down any burrs on the metal surface. This method can eliminate rust in the 60 to 80 grit range.

Rust can be removed from metals with a wire brush and sandpaper. Coat the object with a thick coat of rust-inhibiting primer and sand the primer to a smooth finish after applying one or two coats. Use a moist cloth to clean the surface before completing the project thoroughly.

You have the option of spraying or brushing on your chosen color of paint. You may need more than one coat of paint. Protective finishes are required to paint indoors or on outdoor metal furniture.

Using different paints on the furniture

Latex Paint

Typically, latex paint is used for furniture and walls. When painting furniture with latex, don’t cut corners. A few additional coats will be required, so plan accordingly.

A considerable advantage of using latex-based paints is that they are available in a wide range of colors. Latex paints also dry very quickly, as it uses water as their medium rather than oil.

Key Insight: Clean-up and drying times are faster with water-based latex paint than oil-based paint.

Chalk Paint

For the most part, the most popular use of chalk paint is to give antique furniture a new lease on life or to make everyday items appear to be older. Chalk paint has the advantage of being simple to use and requiring little to no prior preparation.

Painting using chalk paint eliminates the need for sanding and may be done on almost any surface. Usually, you won’t need to prepare the surface, and it provides a wonderful matte finish.

Milk Paint

Furniture can be painted with milk paint, which is a great option. There are two ways to apply it: on raw wood or over an already painted surface. I recommend sanding and priming first, but you can skip these steps if you’re going for an aged look.

Milk Paint can be purchased as a powder or premixed substance. It’s a non-toxic and biodegradable paint option suitable for wood furniture.

Experts Tip: You can skip out the sanding step by mixing the milk paint with an equal amount of bonding agent.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is popular among painters who create paintings on canvas, but it can also transform furniture.

Key Fact: You can use acrylic to create art on any surface that isn’t shiny or smooth.

 Also, because it’s water-based, acrylic paint doesn’t produce a lot of toxic fumes, making it ideal for indoor projects.

When painting on wood with acrylic paint without a primer, your job is unlikely to go as planned. Add a thin layer of wood primer to make it simpler for the acrylic paint to adhere.

Oil Paint

Oil paint is a good choice for furniture because it sticks well to porous surfaces, soaks in quickly, and is self-leveling for simple application. Although the drying time between layers is lengthy (up to 24 hours), oil-based paints cure more quickly.

In terms of long-term durability, oil-based paint is ideal for furniture renovations. The paint will not chip as easily as certain latex paints, unlike some other paints on the market.


When painting wood, what kind of paint should I use?

A satin or semi-gloss finish in either latex or oil-based paint is the finest option for furniture. Most projects benefit greatly from using a latex primer when using latex paint. The primer should never be left unpainted.

Does chalk paint hold up well of furniture?

For chalk paint to last, it must be applied with a sealant. If you’re looking for a durable transparent layer for furniture, you can use chalk paint instead of wax.

Chalk paint vs ordinary paint?

Using chalk paint makes it easier to clean your brushes with soap and water rather than mineral spirits. It’s not just the matte surface of chalk paint that sets it apart from regular paint. It is also less prone to dripping because of its consistency than conventional paint.

Is it possible to paint over previously painted furniture?

Yes, it is possible to paint over previously painted furniture. Your paint will only adhere to the paint already on the furniture. Before repainting, you may need to remove any peeling or flaking paint.

What causes paint to flake off of a piece of wood?

Moisture seeps into the wood and breaks the paint’s link with the fibers, causing peeling paint. It’s not uncommon for water or moisture to build up in the walls and then spread outward.

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