10 DIY Furniture Painting Tips
Updated: Feb 27
Do you have an old, outdated piece of furniture lying around that you have been wanting to get rid of? Before you cut your losses and toss it, consider how it would look with a bright new coat of paint! Painting your furniture is easier than you might think, and it can completely change the look of your piece.
However, before you break open that old can of paint you’ve had in the garage for 9 years and start brushing, here are a few tips to consider:
Prep is Paramount!
We really can’t stress this enough. The outcome of your painting project hinges on this one point. If you take the time to properly prep your piece, you will be infinitely more satisfied with the outcome. Conversely, if you skip the prep in order to save some time, you will likely be unsatisfied with how it looks, and you will have wasted a perfectly good can of paint. When refinishing or repainting, ninety percent of the work we do in our shop is preparing each piece for the finish.
Sanding the piece down is some of the most crucial prep work you can do. Even a light scuff will greatly improve the adherence of the paint and the appearance of the final coat. When you don’t sand at all, the paint can look rough and chip off.
2. Priming is Prime.
Similar to the previous point, priming your piece with a high quality primer will also greatly improve the adherence of your paint or finish. It will also help with coverage if you are painting over top of an old finish. For the best results you will want to sand the surface of the piece before you apply the primer, and then also scuff the primer (once it is dry) before you apply the paint
3. Strip the old finish.
While this step is not always necessary, if you want the absolute best paint adherence, and possibly the best final look, you will want to consider stripping the old finish off with a chemical paint stripper. Any surface that you apply paint to is only as strong as its base coat, and if you are applying paint over top of an old and unstable finish you run the risk of paint chipping even if you sanded and primed. By stripping off the original finish, sanding the raw wood down, and priming before you apply a coat of paint, you are giving your topcoat the strongest base possible.
4. Buy the Best You Can Afford (Paint)
A high quality paint will outshine a cheap paint every time. Our advice is to buy the highest quality paint you can afford. Many mistakes made during prep can be made up for when a high quality paint is used. And if you spend hours of prep work on a piece and then use a cheap paint that you are unsatisfied with the look of, you will be right back to square one. High quality paints tend to result in a smoother surface, and a more consistent finish.
5. Buy the Best You Can Afford (Equipment)
To reiterate number 4, you also want to buy the best quality equipment that you can afford. It may seem crazy to spend $30 on a paint brush, however the nicer paint brushes have better bristles, and more consistent quality control. Likewise, if you are using a cheap paint sprayer, you are more likely to run into application issues. If you want a smooth final product, using high quality paint and brushes can help you mimic the look of a sprayed finish without having to buy a paint sprayer.
6. Want it Smooth? Spray!
Spraying is definitely not necessary to create a beautiful piece that you are completely satisfied with. But, if you want that manufacturer style smooth finish, you are going to want to spray the paint. Hardware stores sell airless electric sprayers that can get the job done quite well. This is also something you would want to consider if you think you are going to make a hobby out of painting furniture, or even a side business flipping furniture on craigslist.
7. Leave enough time for drying.
This step depends on the paint you are using and the application instructions. But you will want to read the instructions on the package carefully to allow enough time for drying. Even if the paint feels dry to the touch, it is often still in the curing process and setting anything down on it could leave marks in your finish. Be sure to wait the full length of time per your specific paint application instructions.
8. Take your Time!
This is pretty much self-explanatory, but don't rush. Rushing and cutting corners on any part of the process could leave you with a poor finish after hours of hard work. Plus you should enjoy the process of learning this new skill!
9. Pick a Timeless color.
Keep in mind this one is entirely subjective and you should always just pick a color you like! But it can be helpful when choosing to think about whether you think you will still like the look of your piece in 5 years (because you are going to do such a good job that you will have this piece of furniture forever of course!). Sometimes choosing the brightest, or trendiest colors can look great for a year or two, but leave you feeling the piece has become outdated again quickly.
10. Prep, Prep, Prep!!!
Did we say this one already? Oh yeah, we did. But that's because it is so freaking important! Sanding your piece is an absolute must. Some of the tips we’ve given in this post could be skipped, but not this one! Prep your piece!