how to paint furniture

As stated in a previous painting tutorial: I ain’t claiming to be no expert. Should you ruin a piece of your furniture whilst attempting to replicate my super awesome style… well, I’m not taking responsibility. Sand ‘er down and try something else. When in doubt, check with someone who is an expert. The people at my Benjamin Moore store are the bomb, and I bet you’ve got people like that where you live.

This little how-to guide is for painting furniture. Maybe there’s something in the box that you live in that you’d like to paint. Go take a look.

There are many methods out there. You should pick one that suits the piece you are working with. Are you working with a previously painted piece, natural wood or some sort of man-made product? I was working with a previously painted wooden piece, thus this tutorial is for working with similar items. You could use, oh, I don’t know… the internet… to find a variety of tutorials and then settle on one that meets your needs.

Here’s the before:

Rosie Beaucoup found this sweet little dresser for me years ago, and it has been with me ever since. However, several moves have taken their toll on it. It has some chips in the paint and the colour doesn’t work so well in its new home. It’s hard to tell in the glare of the sun, but the dresser is off white – a little bit yellow.

Here’s the after:

Crisp and white!

Are you ready to paint? Did you find a piece of furniture in your box that needs some beautifying?

Remove hardware. Take off handles, pulls, hinges, etc. This is also a good time to fill in any holes or dents with some wood filler, or fix anything that is loose. Don’t forget to sand if you’ve been using wood filler. Apply wood filler in a thin layer, then gently sand and smooth. Repeat if necessary.

Sand the b*tch. This applies to pretty much any painted project. In this case, I was trying to remove some of the old oil based paint and smooth down some of the chipped areas. You can sand by hand or use a power sander. I wasn’t trying to take off all of the paint. (If I wanted to reveal the wooden surface, I would have gone the stripper route*.) For this project I used 2.0′ s hand sander with medium grit sandpaper. I wore a mask as oil paint dust was flyin’ everywhere. It. Was. Awesome. Follow the grain of the wood (if possible). Be sure to wipe down the sanded furniture thoroughly with a tack cloth or damp rag – you want to make sure you get rid of all the debris before painting. You could also use your vacuum cleaner to get the dust out of corners, etc.

Tape if you want. You could tape, for example, the sides of drawers to get crisp lines (when the drawer is open).

Prime. I like Zinsser 1-2-3 Bulls Eye. It sticks to everything and really stinks up the place. I use it because sometimes I’m priming weird, non-wood surfaces. So, because I have it in the house, I use it on everything. That’s called being frugal, people. There are many great primers on the market – check around. For this project I could have used any number of primers – I didn’t need anything so stickarific. There are primers for wood, and primers for laminates, etc. Shiny surfaces need good bonding power, so be sure you’re using the appropriate primer if you want your hard work to hold up over time. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions and allow for enough drying time.

Paint ‘er up. For my top coat(s) I used Benjamin Moore’s Aura Satin Waterborne Interior Paint in Martha Stewart’s Pure White. Aura is a little thicker than other paints and it dries fast – you don’t want to over-work it. It has great coverage – I’ve used it on walls and furniture. You can apply it over and under any other latex paint. The great thing about Aura is that you can retouch it months later and the colour should blend perfectly. (That’s what they say anyway.) Anyhoo, if you’re nervous about trying Aura, stick to your regular interior acrylic latex. I had to apply three coats of white. Remember, you’re better off applying multiple thin coats than a couple of thick, drippy ones.

You can apply your paint with a bristled brush, a foam brush or brush and roller – everyone has different preferences. If you go the roller route, edge like you would if you were painting a wall – do the edges, tricky bits and corners first, and then roll the flat surfaces with the roller. Oh, and if you’re using a foam roller, don’t bear down on it – it creates lines, bubbles and imperfections. For this piece I used a brush and nothing else – it gave me a nice, smooth finish.

Check for drips. Check for drips. Oh, and then check for drips. (If you miss one, you can always lightly sand the imperfection before applying your next coat.)

I always paint the back of my piece. Some people don’t. Those people are… lazy. Don’t be lazy. Paint the back. It will look redonkulous if you don’t.

Allow for proper drying before moving to next step.

Protect. I have been using Minwax’s Polycrylic Protective Finish (water-based) in a satin finish. It is also available in a gloss. I don’t use a wipe on poly for reasons stated here (basically it can turn yellow on ya).

Brush a product like the poly (pictured below) on carefully. It’s much runnier than paint, and can drip all over the place. You don’t want to over-work this stuff – you’ll see brush strokes. Some people use foam brushes and rollers, so that’s an option. Don’t shake the can of poly – it should be stirred so you don’t get bubbles. Also, the poly appears foggy in the can, but it goes on clear. Again, read the can and follow the instructions.

Wait. Now, as I’ve told you before, here’s the tough part. Don’t put anything on your newly painted surfaces for at least 48 hours. This requires an incredible amount of willpower. Then be ginger with the piece for about a week – watch out when you’re moving the piece around, etc. I think it takes about a month for a piece to be fully cured. But that’s just me. While you’re waiting, you could polish up the old hardware or pick up new bits and bobs for the piece.

That’s it. See? Easy.

*I am not recommending that you hire strippers to strip your furniture down to bare wood. I would recommend a chemical stripping medium from your local paint or hardware store.

Note: Some people sand between coats of paint/poly. I didn’t for this piece. However, you could lightly sand between each coat of paint and poly with very fine sandpaper if you’d like a really super-awesome finish. Don’t forget to wipe away the sanding debris before applying additional coats of paint and/or poly.

9 Responses to how to paint furniture

  1. Violet September 6, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

    Thank you SO much for this tutorial!!! I am about to begin painting quite a few pieces of furniture, and I was looking for a tutorial to help me along the way. I have painted furniture in the past, but had issues with it chipping, peeling, sticking, etc. Have a great day!

    • movitabeaucoup September 7, 2010 at 9:11 am #

      You are so welcome! Good luck with the painting…

  2. Beth March 3, 2011 at 3:02 am #

    Great tutorial! I recently repainted a cabinet that once belonged to my dh’s grandmother. It’s coming along rather slowly but thankfully I’m almost done! Also, after viewing the backside of your “repainted” dresser you’ve talked me out of being lazy… I agree, it’ll look 100x better. Thanks again & I’ll post some pics soon!

  3. paco productions ltd September 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Hi! These are great instructions. I am currently in the process of creating a list of great “how to paint furniture” tutorials on my blog: pacoproductionsltd.wordpress.com, can I add a link to your page?

  4. paco productions ltd September 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    thanks! will do!

  5. Caroline August 28, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    What a beautiful smudge faced kitty! The furniture is nice too.

  6. Catherine Desjardins April 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    You are one funny blogger! I love it! Thanks for all your tips. Btw, you are right, Halifax is a beautiful city. As I am a flight attendant I have to say the people from the East Coast are the nicest and kindest in Canada!

  7. movita beaucoup July 3, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    Comments on this post are now closed as it was published in 2010.

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