How to paint furniture – the expert guide to getting the perfect finish

Not only is upcycling a more affordable way to update your home, it’s much greener than buying new, so adding how to paint furniture to your DIY arsenal is not only economical, but also environmentally friendly.

Whether you’re looking for a quick refresh or a complete furniture overhaul, giving your furniture a fresh coat of paint is all you need to bring your space up to date, especially if you take the time to do it right.

“Upcycling and painting furniture has become increasingly popular in recent years due to our growing awareness of the impact of fast fashion,” says Aaron Markwell, color manager at COAT. “Plus, it’s an easy and affordable way to bring old furniture back to life.

“A growing trend we’ve seen is painting your furniture to match your walls or opting for a color palette,” adds Aaron. “It really opens up the room and creates the illusion of a bigger space.”

If you’re the type of person who’s constantly brimming with new paint ideas, painting your furniture can definitely be a weekend project you repeat over and over again: “Once you’ve painted furniture once, you’ll have it all.” the necessary skills and confidence. to resume the project! says James Greenwood, interior design expert at Graham & Brown.

We’ve put together the expert guide on how to update your space by giving your furniture a fresh coat of paint, including tips and tricks for getting the best finish along the way.

How to paint furniture – everything you need to know in 5 easy steps

You will need

  • Your paint of choice
  • Sandpaper
  • Lacquer (if using eggshell paint)
  • Pore ​​filler
  • Primer
  • sealant
  • Paint roller
  • High quality brushes

Pink and white striped wall with bed and set of green drawers with white and red painted design

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

1. Start preparing your furniture for painting

“When it comes to durability, proper preparation is the difference between a piece that won’t last long before scratching or chipping, and one that will truly stand the test of time,” says Claire Manton, furniture artist and founder of Claire’s Crafthouse.

Take your furniture to a well-ventilated area that is free of dust and debris. Next, you need to sand the item to create a proper base on which to paint.

‘A 120-160 grit sandpaper or sanding block is perfect for the job, removing any excess paint and creating a rough texture before painting.’ Aaron told COAT. “Make sure you clean the surfaces with a cloth and soapy water or sugar water to make sure all the dust is removed.”

“There’s no need to remove old paint unless the paint is chipping and peeling,” says paint expert Annie Sloan. Instead, sanding will do the job. “However, some antique furniture can be stained with oil-based products. You will need to use a hairspray to seal the stains before painting.

2. Fill all the holes in your furniture and beware of wood knots

It’s time to fix any blemishes your furniture might harbor.

“Carefully fill and sand any dents, sunken corners or chipped edges with a wood filler,” says Cathryn Sanders, Creative Manager at Earthborn Paints.

Charlotte Cosby, Creative Manager at Farrow & Ball, adds: “New wood can have knots which produce a sticky resin. If the knots are resinous, scrape off the excess and clean with methylate or white spirit. Allow the area to dry, then prime the treated patches with a wood knot blocking primer and resin.

Gray and cream painted herringbone pattern wooden drawer set

(Image credit: Crown)

3. Prepare your furniture for painting

“Primer isn’t always necessary when painting indoor and outdoor furniture, if the wood is new and untreated, this step isn’t necessary,” says Aaron of COAT. “If your surface has already been painted/treated or is glossy, primer is the way to go.”

There are several boot options available to you. Cathryn at Earthborn Paints recommends “Thinning the first coat of paint with water 10-20% to act as a primer.”

However, she adds, “A glossy surface like melamine will need a primer, such as our Multi-Purpose Primer, to provide a key for the paint to adhere to.”

On the other hand, Charlotte at Farrow & Ball suggests: “For previously painted wood, apply a coat of water-based interior wood primer and undercoat in the shade to complement the finish color you have chosen.”

“If the wood is bare, it will absorb the primer. For best results, thin the undercoat by adding 20% ​​water, followed by one full coat unthinned. Allow a minimum of 4 hours drying time between coats and before applying your topcoat.’

4. Paint your furniture

This is the part you’ve been waiting for: the painting. For best results, paint two coats of paint, making sure neither coat is too thick, and sand between coats.

“We recommend using a small foam roller for a super smooth application, then finishing with a brush for the harder to reach areas,” says Aaron. ‘Wait 2-4 hours until you apply the second coat.’

“When trying to achieve a smooth finish, less is more,” Claire advises. “Two thin coats, using a synthetic brush or microfiber roller, are much better than one thick coat.”

Powder blue drawers with blue vases and red flowers against a pale green wall

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

5. Seal it

“Whatever your style or choice of paint, be sure to protect your finished piece to make it long-lasting,” says Claire. “Some paints have sealers built in, but chalk paints require sealing with a wax, oil, or polyacrylic sealer.”

If you’re having trouble choosing a sealer, Claire says, “Oil-based sealers are best avoided on light colors, as they tend to yellow over time, but work great on darker colors, keeping them beautifully sharp.

Bright green wall with set of drawers painted in navy blue with pink flowers and picture frames

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

How do I choose the right color to paint my furniture?

If you have trouble choosing your paint color, try the testers.

“We suggest using test pots to get an idea of ​​what colors work well, as sometimes colors can look different from a paint pot on the wall,” says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.

“Ask yourself questions,” adds Justyna. “For example, what atmosphere do you want to create – airy or cozy? Playful or sophisticated? Do you want to make a room more spacious or visually bring the walls closer to the interior? How much natural light does the room get and is the light warm or cool? You can use warm or cool colors to balance natural light.

Do I have to remove the old paint first?

It depends on the style you are looking for. “If you’re looking for a smooth, flawless finish, select a paint that offers that,” Claire recommends.

“I use mineral paints like Fusion and Dixie Belle Silk All-In-One for these kinds of finishes. They have a finer consistency, are self-leveling and leave a very sleek finish when applied with a synthetic brush or short nap microfiber roller.

“If your project is rustic, industrial, shabby chic, thicker paints such as chalk paints, used with natural bristle brushes which create texture, will work well.”

What type of furniture can be painted?

“All types of furniture can be painted! says James at Graham & Brown. “Metal and wood are the most common types of recycling projects. We recommend using an Eggshell product which makes it scratch resistant.


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