How to Paint Furniture

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Nov 27, 2023

If you’re on a mission to paint some furniture, whether it’s a desk, chair, table, or anything else, we can help. Consider this your complete guide to DIY furniture painting, including advice on the best paint for furniture and many other furniture painting tips!

Selecting the Right Paint

Before you can start your furniture makeover, you need to find the best paint for furniture that will meet your specific needs. You may love the yellow paint you used on your dining room chairs, but that doesn’t mean it will work for your coffee table or outdoor lounge seats.

Satin/Gloss: Satin, gloss, and semi-gloss paints are what we want to call “safe” furniture paints. They’re a safe choice for most furniture projects, so when in doubt, opt for a satin, gloss, or semi-gloss paint you like.

Latex: Latex paint is the best option for outdoor furniture projects like picnic tables, gazebos, patio tables, and more. Latex paint can also give indoor furniture a thick and bold appearance.

Milk: Milk paint uses natural ingredients, so it has a more watery or “milky” appearance. It’s a wonderful option to create a rustic and distressed look.

Chalk: Chalk paint is perfect for lazy folks who want to finish the DIY project quickly with as little priming and sealing as possible. Chalk paint is thick enough to fill scratches and minor dents and hide imperfections caused by a lack of sanding and priming. A chalk finish is the best low-effort option.

Acrylic: Acrylic paint is ideal for smaller projects, like birdhouses or footstools. It’s easy to apply evenly, like chalk paint but requires more priming and patience. Acrylic paint is super long-lasting and durable.

Oil: Oil paint is ideal for heavily-worn furniture with lots of imperfections. Like satin, gloss, and semi-gloss, oil paint is very versatile and works on different surfaces, but it’s not quite as easy to apply as satin and gloss.

Different Styles to Consider

When doing DIY furniture painting, you may feel like choosing a color is the beginning and the end of your style decision. But you’d be surprised by the many distinct and innovative designs and textures you can create with a few simple techniques.

Here are some funky and stylish options to consider:

● Aged Copper

● Distressed

● Shimmery

● Weathered

● Stencil Texture

● Metallic

● Whitewash

● Sponged

● Feathered

● Ombre

Brushing Vs. Rolling Vs. Spraying

So you have a few options regarding the tools you use to apply the paint. But which one do you use and when? Here’s a quick overview of when to roll, when to spray, and when to brush paint your furniture.

Brush: Brushing is usually the best choice for furniture projects, especially if they’re small and you want to create a unique or textured look. The distinct styles mentioned above are typically only achievable with brush painting.

Roll: You should roll paint your furniture when you have large pieces to finish and want a simple, even paint style. It’s a good technique for tables, bed frames, and other large objects where you want a clean coat of paint.

Spray: Spray painting furniture is not the best option as it’s usually more expensive, and your paint color and finish options are very limited. But spray paint is the fastest way to paint furniture, and you can get many pieces finished. For example, it’s great if you need to paint 4+ chairs quickly.

How to Paint Furniture: Step-by-Step Instructions

DIY furniture painting like a pro is not difficult, but it may entail more steps and materials than expected. If you want to beautifully transform your furniture, follow the steps below.

1. Cleaning and Sanding

To prep furniture for paintings, spray it with an all-purpose cleaner and wipe away all dirt, dust, and grime. Be thorough! Once clean, you should sand off any old paint or rough spots to ensure the paint color goes on evenly and smoothly. During this step, disassemble the furniture if that makes it easier.

2. Filling Imperfections

If the wooden furniture is distressed or old, fill in the cracks, scratches, dents, and other imperfections using wood putty or wood filler. But you can leave the imperfections to create a distressed, antique look.

3. Priming

Once the furniture surface is even and smooth, you can prime the entire area. The best primer will depend on the furniture material and paint you choose. Let the primer dry according to the instructions, usually 12 to 24 hours.

4. Painting

Now for the meat of the task! Take your time painting and try to practice stellar attention to detail. Depending on the paint you use, you may want to do a few coats. During this step, apply any unique techniques you want. Allow the paint to dry according to the instructions.

5. Applying a Protective Finish

Once the paint is 100% dry, apply a protective finish or wax coating to protect the lovely paint you just applied. Again, the best finishing product will be determined by the type of paint you choose.

6. Let Dry and Reassemble

Once the final coat of finish dries, you can reassemble the furniture and replace any hardware you removed.

7. Decorating and Styling

This last step is optional but also fun! You can decorate and style your furniture by adding jewels or metal accents to make the paint job pop even more!

Furniture Painting Mistakes to Avoid

Here are a few more furniture painting tips to help you avoid disaster; below are common mistakes people make when DIY furniture painting.

● Do not paint small pieces of furniture right side up.

● Do not skip the prepping and priming steps.

● Do not paint in cold or humid conditions.

● Do not add another coat until the paint, primer, or finish dries.

● Do not paint without ventilation.

● Do not paint without gloves or protective eyewear.

● Do not paint in clothes you care about.

● Do not use too much paint at once, or it will drip.

● Do not rush through the process.

Final Furniture Painting Tips

Our last tip is to try and have fun with your painted furniture project! DIY furniture painting can be a bit of a chore, but if you get excited about the transformation, you’ll be excited to paint. Hopefully, this guide has given you the confidence to paint your bland or unappealing furniture piece and create a look you’ll love for years to come


Transforming your mission style furniture through painting is not just a DIY project, it’s a creative journey inspired by the arts and crafts movement. Whether you’re revamping a mission style end table or giving a new life to an old chair, the key is in the details. A high-quality paint brush, carefully chosen for its ability to deliver a smooth finish, is essential. For achieving the best results, applying a second coat is often necessary, ensuring your table makeover or any other furniture project boasts a flawless finish.

Moreover, the process of sanding with multiple grits before painting is crucial for style furniture, particularly for pieces like mission furniture, where the beauty lies in the simplicity and craftsmanship. Each stroke of the brush adds character, and each layer of paint enhances the essence of the arts and crafts movement. Remember, patience is your ally. Allow ample time for the first coat to dry before applying the second, ensuring your mission style end table or any other piece emerges as a testament to both your skill and the timeless elegance of mission style furniture.

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