Skip to Content

How To Paint Furniture: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Furniture is made to last, so you probably have some pieces that have weathered numerous years and life events with you. Naturally, you’re inclined to take good care of them, which includes maintaining their physical appearance and attractiveness. If you’re not sure how to revive old or faded furniture, painting is a wonderful solution!

Nevertheless, many people don’t know how to paint furniture or where to start learning. That’s why we’ve made this guide! Read on so that we can help you achieve your vision and fall in love with your furniture all over again.

How to paint furniture

Why Paint Furniture?

Of all the ways to resolve such a problem, why learn how to paint furniture? We’re glad you asked! Though the process can be time-consuming and tedious, there are several reasons why you would be glad you did it. Let us tell you all about the benefits.

Revives a Room

When arranging and decorating a room, furniture serves several key purposes, one of them being setting the atmosphere. Its style, color, and quality can determine whether a room feels comfortable, interesting, relaxing, etc.

Consequently, worn furniture dampens the overall mood of a room. On the other side of that coin, the whole space will become more inviting when you improve the furniture by painting it.

Cost-Effective

Sure, beautiful furniture can brighten up a room, but couldn’t you buy a new piece rather than repaint it? Yes, but brand-new furniture is often expensive, and there’s no need to spend that much money when learning how to repaint furniture is an option.

Encourages Creativity

All people are meant to be at least a little creative. It boosts your intelligence, mental stability, and emotional health by giving you a method of exploring the world and expressing yourself.

Colorful painted kids chairs

Because you get to choose how to paint your furniture, it’s a great form of creativity. Your taste in colors, designs, and textures conveys your values and personality.

Great for Bonding

Repainting large furniture is a big task, so recruit a friend, child, or family member to assist. If they don’t already know, teach them how to paint furniture and use the opportunity to converse about anything that comes to mind, free from other distractions. The time you spend together will bring you closer and create fond memories.

Develops Skills

When you learn how to paint furniture, you practice certain skills that are useful in other chores and disciplines. Painting requires patience, organization, endurance, and precision, especially for small spaces.

After successfully painting furniture, you can apply those skills to fixing appliances, installing molding, setting up new electronics, etc.

Better for the Environment

Some old furniture is still salvageable with a paint job, so throwing it away just adds waste to your area. Buying new furniture increases demand and production, which can be harmful as well. By choosing to repaint your pieces whenever possible, you’re improving and protecting the environment.


What Will You Need?

The first step in mastering the art of painting furniture is getting the necessary tools and materials. Some items are easy to forget or underestimate, so we’re providing you with a list. Just check each item off once you have it in your possession!

Sandpaper/Sander

Sandpaper and sanders are essential when working with wood. A multi-function sander might let you cover more surfaces faster. However, a variety of sandpapers is ideal for small nooks, crannies, and other spaces that are only big enough for your hand. To be fully prepared, grab them both.

Safety Goggles

Sanding tosses wood splinters toward your eyes, and painting exposes them to chemical fumes. By wearing a pair of safety goggles, you’ll protect your eyes from harm while learning how to paint furniture. Find some at Amazon.

Tack Cloth

There are several effective ways to clear away the dust and other residue left behind by sanding. However, many experienced painters and woodworkers believe that using tack cloth is the best tool for the job. It grabs particles firmly and removes them thoroughly to create a glossy finish.

Wood Filler

Wood inevitably becomes damaged or worn down over time. Fixing serious holes and blemishes with sandable and paintable wood filler will make painting furniture easier and more satisfying.

Paint Primer

Because paint doesn’t adhere well to every surface without some help, if the paint you choose doesn’t have a built-in primer, you’ll want to prime the surface before painting. You can choose a spray-on primer or brush-on primer.

Paint Type

There are lots of factors to consider besides color when choosing the right paint for your furniture.

Chalk paint and milk paint work well on all kinds of surfaces. Jolie paint has 42 pre-mixed colors, but if you still can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, they’ll custom-mix colors too.

Dresser painted with blue chalkpaint

Chalk paint is ideal if you’re going for a vintage or distressed look. If you’re not familiar with chalk paint, we have several articles with tips, tricks, and reviews.

Oil-based paint is versatile and rich, sticks well to many materials, and leaves a glossy finish.

However, acrylic paint and latex paint are easier to apply and clean. They’re also less likely than oil to yellow, fade, chip, or crack over time. If you can’t decide between acrylic or latex paint, this article comparing the two might help.

Brushes/Sprayer/Roller

Of course, you’ll need tools with which to apply the paint. Paint sprayers and foam rollers are amazing at letting you paint large objects quickly.

For the smaller and less accessible areas, you’ll want to use paintbrushes. You’re probably used to using a flat paintbrush for oil, acrylic, and latex paints.

If you’re going to use chalk paint, you’ll want a special brush designed specifically for it. Jolie paintbrushes are designed to work beautifully with their paint.

Painters Tape

You need to control where the paint goes, and painter’s tape is a great tool for that. Get a few rolls so that you have plenty to cover any areas that you don’t want to be painted.

Protective Covering

If you already have old blankets or towels that you don’t mind getting dirty, then feel free to skip this item. Otherwise, purchasing a heavy-duty tarp, canvas dropcloth, or cheaper plastic dropcloths could save you the headache of cleaning paint off your floor after you’re done painting furniture.

Face Mask and/or Air Purifier

As we’ll explain later in this article, paint fumes can harm your health if you’re not careful. There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself, and one of them is to keep a face mask or air purifier handy. To be thoroughly prepared, we would strongly recommend that you have both of them.

Sealant

Once your paint job is done, you’ll want to use a polycrylic sealant to keep the coat looking fresh and vibrant for as long as possible. It also gives your furniture a nice shine! You can brush on this final protective coat or spray it on.


Project Setup Tips

Proper setup is key to successfully painting furniture. It helps you stay clean, safe, and organized. Before you start painting, prepare yourself with our advice.

Ventilate the Space

Breathing paint fumes for too long can have adverse effects like coughing, watery eyes, respiratory issues, dizziness, and/or headaches.

For the sake of your health, open any windows and vents you find in your workspace before you start painting furniture. As stated above, consider installing an air purifier and/or wearing a face mask as an extra precaution.

Set up Barriers

Even with ventilation, you must prevent any small children or pets from entering your workspace to reduce the odds that they’ll get hurt by the paint fumes. Also, their curiosity could lead to a bigger mess than necessary! Surround your workspace with barriers, like baby gates or tables tilted onto their sides.

Tape off

Even the most careful painters know that paint has a way of getting onto things. Before painting furniture, decide which parts of the furniture and the rest of the room should remain clear of paint.

Removing painters tape from furniture

Cover those areas with your painter’s tape. The tape will catch stray paint, reducing the mess. You can just peel it off and throw it away when you’re done.

Cover the Floor

You’ll want old blankets, towels, tarps, or dropcloths for the same reason that you’ll want the tape–coverage. Lay them on your workspace so that you don’t ruin your flooring while painting furniture.

To prevent them from sliding around beneath you, apply tape or put heavy objects on the corners to hold them in place.

Test the Color

Your paint might look nice in the can, but its color will change as it dries. The degree of change will depend on the surface. For example, dark wood makes dry paint look darker as well.

To ensure your paint looks exactly the way you want, test it on a piece of cardboard or similar material. Or, to see exactly how it will dry on your piece of furniture, dab some paint on an inconspicuous area.

Let the paint dry so that you can see how well it complements the other colors and designs in the room. Mix your paints or get a new can entirely if you don’t like the results.


Step-by-Step Instructions

Now that you have all your prep work done, it’s finally time to find out how to paint furniture. A surprising amount of organization and effort goes into the process.

To help you avoid mistakes, we’ve provided a description of each task in the order you should complete them!

Take the Piece Apart

Painting furniture is much easier when you can focus on each individual part. That way, you won’t have to turn yourself and/or the furniture at odd angles to reach less accessible areas.

Whether you’re painting a table, dresser, chair, or another item entirely, remove every part that you can and set them on the floor apart from each other so that you can focus on one at a time.

Sand the Wood

The quality and longevity of your new paint could be compromised by anything sullying the material of your furniture, including old, loose, or chipped paint. Also, if you’re painting on metal or old wood, it might be too smooth to hold the paint.

Sanding an antique chair

Sanding can resolve both problems. Put on your safety goggles and use your sandpaper or sander to fix every imperfection. Wipe off the residue with a tack cloth afterward.

Clean

Submerge a soft towel, sponge, or rag in warm water and mild detergent. Use it to clean any remaining dirt, dust, oil, grease, or debris from the furniture. Let your piece air dry before moving on to the next step.

Fill Holes

Whether from damage, wear, or removing hardware like nails and staples, you may have noticed some holes in your furniture as you progressed through the previous steps. To avoid any aesthetic interruptions in your paint job, use the wood filler to close up the holes.

Apply Primer

After all the hard work you’ll put into learning about painting furniture, you want the paint to stay for a long time. Primer can help with that since it’s designed to hold paint molecules better than bare surfaces. Apply at least one coat of primer to your furniture, then wait for it to air dry.

Get Painting

Finally, it’s time to paint! Using your roller, sprayer, and/or brushes, paint each furniture part one by one. You’re more likely to achieve a smooth and even look by applying multiple thin coats and using long strokes that follow the same direction. Allow the paint to air dry, and give it a light sanding between each coat.

Seal Your Work

A sealant will shield your paint job from water damage, fading, and premature wear or tear. Let the furniture dry for about 24 hours, and then apply the sealant. Two thin coats should do the trick.


Post-Project Cleanup Tips

Painting furniture causes a mess no matter how careful you are. If you feel lost about what to do once your project is finished, don’t worry. We’ll point you in the right direction with a few tips!

Removing Wayward Paint

Throughout your project, some of your paint probably dripped or spilled onto places where you didn’t want it to go. Don’t worry, you can still clean it up! While your furniture dries, wipe up stray oil paint with paint thinner or mineral spirits. Water with mild detergent will wash acrylic or latex paint away.

Store Paint and Primer

The sooner you put away your remaining paint and primer in a safe place, the better. That way, the people and pets in your home are less likely to cause an accident, and your paint will be ready to use for the next piece you refurbish.

Store both the paint and primer in a cool, dry, and dark place, away from heat or direct sunlight. A basement, garage, or shed works well.

Clean Tools Safely

Painting furniture leaves you with a lot of extra paint and dirty tools. Mineral spirits and paint thinner will also help you clean off your brushes and rollers, and you can use water with mild detergent for tools you use with other kinds of paint.

Cleaning paintbrushes and rollers

Paint can cause serious damage to pipes, septic systems, and the environment. Always wash your tools in a bucket and try one of these methods for proper disposal:

  • Leave the bucket out in the sun for a few days so that the water can simply evaporate.
  • If you don’t want to wait, use a strainer to catch any excess paint as you pour the water out.
  • Any leftover oil paint can be dropped off at a hazardous waste facility. Latex and acrylic paint can go into the trash after adding sand or cat litter to the container.

Painting Ideas

Now that we’ve explained how to prep and paint your furniture, and clean up afterward, here are some suggestions for colors and embellishments to make your piece uniquely yours.  

Color Options

White

Many people regard white as a “basic” color, but there’s more to it than that. When light hits a white piece of furniture, it appears brighter and sometimes bigger, which could help a room feel happier and more welcoming.

Also, white pairs well with every other color, so you can slip it seamlessly into any design scheme.

Gray/Blue

Both gray and blue have a calming effect on the mind. This makes them ideal for promoting tranquility and harmony. If your goal in painting furniture is to help people relax, socialize, or simply get along with each other, then blue or gray (or a combination of the two) is perfect.

Brown

Never underestimate the beauty of brown! Its earthy tone adds warmth and rustic charm to any room and any color with which it’s combined. If your furniture isn’t already brown, consider painting it a dark or reddish shade to create a cozy and pastoral effect.

Black

With its air of mystery and a sharp contrast to most other colors, black is the color of drama. Painting furniture black is a great way to make a room seem more intriguing or exciting. However, since it can also cause a room to feel smaller, reserve it for furniture in spaces that are large, have white or pastel color schemes, or get plenty of natural light.

Black desk with white wall

Still not sure about black? We have some ideas for incorporating black furniture into your decor.

Red/Pink/Orange

If you want passion, energy, or creativity, go for red, pink, or orange when painting furniture. They are all close together on the color wheel, so they tend to evoke similar moods and emotions.

Though they are available in muted shades, the most common ones are bright, so they can also make your furniture “pop.” That’s perfect if you want to your piece to draw attention.

Green

Along with orange, green is known for increasing creativity. However, its greatest strength is enhancing focus while soothing your nerves.

In fact, many workplaces use green color schemes to boost productivity and help visitors feel calm. If you’re painting furniture in your home office or similar environment, green would be an excellent choice.

Yellow

Yellow is often associated with cheerfulness and happiness, so it easily inspires positive emotions. It’s lovely for children’s furniture or anything that’s meant to contribute to a fun or uplifting atmosphere. Like red, pink, and orange, it’s also effective at making something stand out against other objects.

Embellishments

Your furniture will look wonderful painted a single color, but for a unique piece, try adding stripes, images, or geometric shapes with contrasting paint colors. Unless you’re brave and talented enough to paint freehand, using stencils may be your best option.

Writing

White dresser with embellishments

Perhaps you’d like your furniture to say something inspiring. Some stencils feature fun or thought-provoking phrases. Others have individual letters, which is handy if you want to customize your words.


Wrapping up How to Paint Furniture

Now that you know how to paint furniture, what are you waiting for? Gather everything you need, set up your workspace, and show us what you’ve got. Time to bring new life to your home with a little paint job!

We have more ideas for painting furniture, including different types of paints, tools, techniques, color schemes, etc. Take a look and become an expert at DIY projects!

sharon wilson

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

I have some Fushion mineral paint I purchased a while ago and have not used yet. Now I am reading that If I have a piece that has a finish on it that sanding won't work, I need to purchase Fushion's gripp it to appy first. Do I have to or could I use something from Dixie Bell instead.? Love reading your stuff and am finally getting up the courage to try some. Have quite a few would be projects. Thanks, Sharon wilson.