You are currently viewing How to Paint Furniture with Professional Results

Would you like to learn how to paint furniture or thrift store finds like a pro? Are you wondering what is the best method to use? Or does the thought of painting furniture seem overwhelming?

No need to worry! We’ve been painting furniture for years and would love to share our tips and tricks. We will share how to paint furniture and get professional results.

As you may already know, we love to frequent thrift stores, vintage and flea markets in search of a pieces we can transform. It’s what we LOVE to do!

There is real satisfaction taking a worn, dilapidated and outdated piece of furniture and transforming it into something beautiful. A piece that will be treasured for years to come.

Here’s how to paint furniture and get a professional-looking finish that will hold up through years of use.

Use the right tools

Use the right tools! It’s definitely best to invest in a few quality pieces. A good quality paint brush makes all the difference. 

Several weeks ago, I decided on a whim one night to paint the lower portion of my coffee tale. It was late and I discovered that my good paint brush was a Steph’s house. Well, I just wanted to get it done so, I used an old brush that was not the best quality and it shows.

Once I was finished and the lighting was better, I realized that I need to do quite a bit of sanding to level out the brush marks. Lesson learned, ALWAYS use a good quality brush.

It’s important to keep them in good shape as well. Always wash them immediately after use with warm water and dish soap. 

Hang them to dry, with the bristles hanging down. This will help keep the shape of the brush and will ensure that your brush will last a long time.

Using an old brush with the bristles frayed or where there is dried paint in the ferrule will not give you good results.

Our favorite brush is the Purdy angle nylon/polyester brush.

Prep the surface

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Taking the time to prep the piece of furniture is just as important as using a good quality brush.

The first step in preparing the furniture is to clean it. Most thrifted furniture pieces are a little grimy. Depending on the piece you may want to use a degreaser like TSP.

Next fill in holes and imperfections in the furniture with wood filler or spackle, then sand until smooth.

I usually like to give my pieces a light sanding before painting. Sanding is like a swear word to some people, but often it needs to be done to ensure that you will get professional results when painting furniture. 

There are paints that say that no sanding is required, but often I will still sand. 

If the furniture piece  you would like to paint is raw wood you will need to apply a primer. A good quality bonding primer can also be used on glossy surfaces.

We like to use Zinnser Cover Stain Primer. It bonds to surfaces without the need to sand. It is an oil based primer, so it does have an odor, but will feel it’s superior to other primers. 

Primers not only bond to old surfaces, but they also block stains. If there are knot holes in the wood, tannins can be released and it will discolor your paint surface. Primer also creates a great surface for your paint to bind to as well. In our option, it’s always best to prime.

Take the time to remove the hardware. It just looks sloppy if you get paint on handles, knobs or hinges. If you find that the hardware already has paint on it, see our tip on how to easily remove dried paint from hardware.

Elevate furniture on blocks

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When painting furniture place blocks of wood or cans of food to raise your piece of furniture off the floor. This will ensure that your paint coverage is completely thorough. 

Have good lighting

Be sure to work in an area with good lighting. Nothing is worse than painting furniture to find that you missed runs and it has dried or that the paint coverage was not as good as you thought. If you are working in an area that is not well lit, bring in additional lights. You will be glad you did!

(Steph wore a headlamp while painting the legs of her dining table. It’s a great hands free option and will always direct the light where you’re looking.)

Thin your paint

Thinning the paint can help reduce brush marks. If you are using a latex paint, it can be thinned with a little water.

Oil-based Alkyd paint will need to be thinned with mineral spirits or paint thinner.

Floetrol is a paint additive that fortifies acrylic/latex paints. It does thin the paint a bit, but it helps eliminate brushstrokes and will help to produce beautiful results. You will need to watch for drips, but it helps level out the paint.

I was concerned about brushstrokes on my fireplace mantle, and so I used Floetrol. I was very pleased with the results.

Use good brush technique

Paint Furniture
Painted FurnitureFrench Bar Stool Makeover
Paint Furniture

You will want to hold your paint brush like you would a pencil.

Load your brush with no more than about an inch of paint on the bristles. Then pat the brush against opposite sides of the pail. With that amount of paint on the brush, you’ll be able to cover more surface before you need to reload

When cutting in the paint on furniture turn the brush and Fan the bristles so you’re using the tip of the taper to spread the paint in a straight line.

When painting larger surfaces you can apply the paint with the brush more flat to get more coverage. 

Paint in the same direction as the grain the wood. This is especially important when working with an open wood grain, such as oak.

Brushing against the grain will create texture as the paint reacts to natural texture of the wood.  

If you are painting a piece with a more shallow grain wood or laminate. Keep all your brushstrokes in one direction, top to bottom, or side to side. This will ensure an even finish.

Use a roller where you can

Paint Furniture

Another tip to speed up the process is to use a high density foam roller. Not only is it a quicker method to apply the paint, but you will almost entirely eliminate brushstrokes.

Use the right paint for the job

There are so many paint choices available today. Depending on the look and piece of furniture or the amount of use your furniture will get will determine the type of paint to use. A few weeks ago we wrote a post on Painting Furniture | Different Types of Paint & When to Use Them. For more information on paint selection please see this post.

We are big fans of The Home Depot. They carry the paint we love as well as have great customer service.

Sand lightly between coats

paint furniture

Yes, I’m going to use that word again, sand! It is important to  do a light sanding between coats, even with chalk paint. It will level out any imperfection before the next coat is applied.

It’s also important to do a light sanding on the primer coat before the first layer of paint is applied. 

Apply a protective finish

Paint Furniture

A protective topcoat will ensure that your piece of furniture will last a long time.

Do you really need a topcoat or sealer? Well, that depends on the paint you used. If you used a chalk paint or milk paint you must use some sort of protective finish.

We generally use a wax over chalk or milk paint. However, for a more durable finish a polyurethane can also be used. To prevent the topcoat from yellowing use a water based polyurethane. Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane is our favorite. It doesn’t yellow and creates an extremely durable finish. 

If the painted furniture piece is a darker color an oil-based polyurethane can be used. Our favorite oil-based polyurethane is Minwax Wipe On Poly.

Satin, semi-gloss or gloss finish latex or oil-based paints do not require a topcoat. On the other hand, if the paint used has a flat or eggshell finish, applying a topcoat is a good idea. You can still keep that matte finish by applying a matte topcoat.

Take your time

One last tip I’d like to share, is don’t rush, take your time and enjoy the process. I find that if I’m in a rush, it shows! Don’t rush this process, plan on a couple of days to complete your project. This will ensure that your piece will be beautiful, something to treasure for years to come.

That was a lot of information! Do you feel confident to tackle painting furniture now? Are you ready to paint a masterpiece? If so let us know how it turns out! We’d love to know!

If you have questions about painting or painting furniture, please leave your question in the comment section. We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for spending some time with us! 

If you are new here WELCOME! We’re glad to have you here, and are always so excited to have new readers and friends! You can learn more about us here. 

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And as always here at Sunny Side Design


Paint Furniture

Painting Furniture Ideas

For complete tutorials to paint furniture click on the images below.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. SawsHub

    I didn’t know we needed to sand between coats, gotta try that next time

    1. Michelle Dickson

      You will definitely get a smoother finish if you sand between coats. Let me know what you think.

  2. Gwen Tytgat

    I discovered your sight by accident and it is the best at descriptions and what to do…..I am so impressed and I have a night stand I have to redo. I am game on now that I have done this research. when finished I may post it so you can see it. Of course it may take me all summer as its too hot right now to attempt and I do all my work outdoors as I have no basement or garage. lol….

    1. Stephanie Hofer

      Thanks for your sweet comment Gwen! We’re SO happy you found us! We’d love to see your finished project when you’re done. We get it! It’s torturous working in the summer heat! Make sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter so you can always see the latest projects we’re working on. Out of curiosity, how did you find us? A web search? Facebook? Youtube? Pinterest? IG?

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