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How to Paint Wood Furniture

A person painting over wooden furniture

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Sprucing up your exterior or interior furniture can be done by adding a fresh coat of paint and can easily replenish its worn-out look. For instance, whether it be your old IKEA furniture, or laminate, or bathroom cabinets, they can look refreshed in no time!

So, the good news is that you don’t have to throw out that old piece of furniture. If you seek a new look for your furniture or just got one from your neighbor’s yard sale, here’s how to get around painting it.

There are necessary steps to follow for a good finish on your wood furniture. You don’t want your paint to peel or chip off after a few months. Continue reading this article to determine How to Paint Wood Furniture professionally.

Where do I begin?

Before you begin any painting job, you should consider a few things. These include all the preparation leading up to the moment where you step back, hold your hip, and marvel at your work.

How to Paint Wood Furniture: Paint Type

Wood surfaces are unarguably the most common among furniture pieces. There is, therefore, a variety of paint that one could choose from, but understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each type is vital to help you make a knowledgeable decision.

  • Oil-based paint

These paints offer outstanding durability compared to most paints. They are, however, a bit more challenging to handle and require safety measures.

The choice of brush also matters. Oil-based paints require brushes with natural bristles, and they work better when brushed on.

In addition, oil-based paints don’t require a topcoat if they are applied correctly.

?Bear in Mind: If you are using oil-based paints, remember they contain volatile organic compounds or VOCs, so ensure you have protective equipment such as goggles, masks, and gloves.

  • Latex paint

When it comes to painting furniture, this is one of the most accessible paints to use. However, it is less durable.

Latex paint is water-based and must therefore be mixed with water before application. As a result, it is less dangerous to handle.

You will achieve the final look you desire after a few layers of sheen or semi-gloss coats. A polyacrylic topcoat is advisable when applying eggshell, flat, or satin coats.

Using a high-quality brush, particularly one with synthetic bristles, will help to minimize your brush strokes. Incorporating a small amount of floetrol may also be beneficial.

?Definition: Floetrol is a latex paint additive meant to improve the flow and leveling of water-based paints. It improves flow, reducing the prominence of brush strokes and roller marks.

  • Special paint

Acrylic paint dries fast, has no odor, and has good unique finishes. It’s also easy to mix them up in several colors.

Acrylic paint, however, does not stick well to wood surfaces and might require a few layers to have a good finish.

While acrylic may not be the most suitable for wood, it has several properties that make it a fantastic option. If you consider using acrylic paints when determining how to paint wood furniture, look at our guide for clear instructions on using acrylics.

How to Paint Wood Furniture: Step-by-Step

Wooden cabinets for article how to paint wood furniture

Considerations Before you Begin:

Before you start learning how to paint wood furniture, you should take a few necessary steps.

Consider if your wood is stained; if it is, you’ll need to follow a few extra steps to prepare your wood properly, and luckily we have the perfect guide for you!

Cover the floor with rosin paper or drop cloths and hold it down with painter’s tape if you are painting indoors. After you’ve finished painting, the last thing you want to do is scrape your floor, so this will help avoid all the paint splatters getting all over your floor.

You should also remove any items and food around the area that might be caught in the paint. When working with oil-based paints, mineral spirits and thinners are used, which may cause harmful implications to your health.

You also need to be in a well-ventilated room, or you can paint your furniture outside. Set up your project in a place away from strong winds or direct sunlight.

Painting your piece of furniture might take up to three days. You, therefore, need to choose a convenient day or weekend for the activity.

Remove any loose paint.

Take your scraper and gently go over your wood where you notice any loose or peeling paint. This will create a smoother, even surface for the best possible paint application.

?Be Mindful: Although you are trying to remove loose paint fragments, you must be extremely careful. You do not want to damage the wood underneath; otherwise, this will need to be repaired before you can paint.

Disassemble your furniture

If your furniture has any cabinet doors or drawers, detach them from the main piece. You can use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the hinges to the hardware.

If the hinges, door handles, and other accessories need to be replaced, you can buy new ones, but ensure they are compatible.

?‍?Professional Tip: Mark the hinges and the screws as you go. This is important for the final assembly after you finish painting.

Before painting, drill the necessary holes for the screws into your new accessories to avoid ruining the final paint coat.

Sand the surface

Fill in any holes on the furniture’s surface with wood filler. If you opt to acquire new hardware accessories, you will need to drill new screw holes.

After you’ve finished filling the holes, softly sand the surface to make it smooth. You can use sandpaper with a grit of 150–200.

When sanding, it is crucial to follow the grain of the wood. You will avoid damaging the wood since the fibers run in this direction.

Remove any surface paint or varnish with 80–100 grit sandpaper. Smooth the surface with 150-200 grit sandpaper after the first pass.

Wipe over the furniture with a tack cloth to remove dust particles and other debris.

Liquid deglosser

If your wood is laminated or has a varnish coat, you can use a deglosser to remove it. Deglossing is also an alternative to sanding wood surfaces.

Clean the surface thoroughly to remove any grease, dirt, and grime. If you use TSP, ensure you are wearing protective equipment. Always read the label on your primer, as TSP tends not to work well with some primers.

Wear rubber gloves and, using a cloth, rub the liquid deglosser on the surface of the wood. Wipe down with a clean wet rag, and you’re ready to go!

?Top Tip: Always check your manufacturers’ guidelines when determining dry and cure times. It’s paramount that your deglosser completely sets before you prime your surface.


Priming provides a seal and stability for the paint to bond to. As wood surfaces absorb paint in pores, priming will reduce the amount of paint you use. It is, therefore, necessary to prime beforehand.

When using latex paint, you need a quality primer. Latex-based primers take a few hours to dry, saving you time.

Oil-based primers generally take longer before you can apply the paint. They also have a more pungent odor compared to latex primers.

?Key Facts: When painting dull colors, use a dark primer, and when painting bright colors, use a white or grey primer. Grey primers are also useful when switching from a bright color to a dull one.

If the surface still feels rough after priming, you can lightly sand using a fine 150-180 grit sandpaper.
If the primer is transparent after the first coat, apply another layer till you get a chalk-like feel. Allow time to dry in between layers.

When the primer has dried off completely, sand the surface lightly using 220-grit sandpaper. Use a tack cloth to get off the dust.


It’s advisable to use a brush on furniture with crevices and surfaces designs like carvings, and typically, a roller is more suited for flat surfaces as it aids a quick and even paint distribution.

Furthermore, the type of paint you use determines the paintbrush you choose. For example, latex-based paints work better with synthetic bristle brushes, while oil-based paints work with natural bristle brushes.

If you opt for a paintbrush, dab the larger tip of the brush into the paint and use smooth, short strokes to apply the paint.

?Key Insight: Paint along the wood grain to keep the paint from peeling off as the wood expands and contracts
For rolling, ensure you roller the paint out on your tray a few times to get an even distribution of paint.

Lightly paint the wood surface with the roller. This is to avoid extra paint that has soaked in dripping along its edges and onto the furniture.

Sand Again

Lightly sand the first layer of paint using 220-grit sandpaper. This removes uneven painting and drip marks. Once you’re happy you have an even surface, wipe over the wood with a tack cloth to remove any leftover dust.

Second coat

Paint the second layer of paint after the first layer cures. Oil-based paints take longer to dry compared to latex paints.

?Don’t Forget: Paint dries from the surface down, and a dry look or feel doesn’t mean it has completely cured.

Reassemble your furniture

After the paint cures, your furniture is ready to go.

If your furniture has hardware like cabinets and drawers, it is time to assemble them. Use your previous marks and holes to put the hinges and handles together.

Remove any rosin paper or drop cloths you used and clean up the area, making sure to store any excess paint or dispose of it properly.

Our Top Eight Tips for How to Paint Wood Furniture!

  1. Use a roller and a paintbrush to make your work easier. Rollers are more suitable for large surfaces, while brushes are good for getting into crevices and tight spaces.
  2. If there are any damp drip marks on the floor, use a brush to smooth out the surface.
  3. If there are any dry drop marks, carefully sand the area with 220 grit sandpaper or use the knife’s edge to pick them out.
  4. To disguise these blemishes, paint a light layer of paint over them.
  5. Depending on the situation, painting in direct sunlight or heat can be either convenient or inconvenient.
  6. It is possible that your painted surfaces will dry more quickly, allowing you to make more progress, or that your current paint coat will be torn away.
  7. Self-leveling paints reduce the likelihood of drips accumulating on the paint’s surface.
  8. Paint from the top-down, allowing the paint to drip as you walk down the staircase.


  1. Why are some paint spots lighter?

    This condition is known as “flashing. ” The use of a high-quality primer guarantees that the paint finish has the appearance of a freshly painted sheen.

  2. Can I paint without sanding?

    The simple answer to the question is yes. If you choose not to sand your surface, you should use a liquid deglosser and a high-quality primer in combination with one another. However, on the other hand, sanding helps to produce a smoother paint finish, and your primer and paint will have a better bond with your wooden surface.

  3. Can I use turpentine to remove an existing paint coat?

    Although turpentine effectively removes an existing layer of oil-based paint, it is not recommended for use on wood surfaces. The mineral spirits on your wooden surface are thin, and the wood absorbs them.

  4. Is applying a primer necessary?

    The primary purpose is to create a surface for the paint to adhere to. However, using a primer is not necessary as long as you sand your surface well.

    A rough surface can also hold paint, but a primer improves its adhesion levels. Therefore, paint jobs that incorporate primers will last longer than those that skip the priming steps.

  5. Can I use an oil-based primer with latex paint?

    Yes. However, when using oil-based paints, use oil-based primers as they offer superior adhesion and stain blocking.

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