25 Furniture Painting Tips From the Experts

Paint is one of the most transformative tools at your disposal. It can give just about anything in a room a makeover: the walls, ceiling, accessories, and even the furniture. I’ve painted furniture for my home for years, especially when our budget was at its tightest. You can find a lot of great pieces at thrift stores, garage sales, and even inexpensive stores that have a great shape but just don’t have the right facade, and make them yours with a beautiful color, glaze or stain. I’ve gathered some of the best furniture painting tips to show you how.

This isn’t a step-by-step on how to paint furniture, but rather a collection of some of the best furniture painting tips I’ve found from various DIY bloggers, decorators, designers and painting experts. Each link follows to even more great furniture painting tips. Before taking on this project, talk with the experts at your local paint store, too, to get guidance based on the specific piece you are working with and what you will need for its surface. Every piece of furniture is different.

25 Furniture Painting Tips From the Experts | We checked with several of the top DIY bloggers and painting experts to find out what furniture painting tips they had to share. Here’s a collection of their best tips. | TheCasaCollective.com | #furniturepaintingtips #paintingfurniture #paint #furniture #diy

You can create a really beautiful, high end look for a fraction of the cost if you’re willing to put a little work in. I’ve broken up the tips into the five stages of painting furniture. Follow these to get started.


1 Stay away from paper veneer or particleboard furniture if at all possible. Solid-wood pieces are the easiest to work with and allow you to create the best finishes.
~ Barb Blair, owner of Knack Studios via Southern Living

2 Choose pieces according to your ability, your level of patience and how much time you are willing to spend on it. Otherwise you may end up with a garage full of unwanted junk.
~ Lilyfield Life

3 If you are painting a family heirloom just check first that your mother isn’t going to have a fit or you are not painting an expensive antique that may drastically reduce its value. If you have found something cheap at auction, a second hand shop, or the side of the road then I say go right ahead. If no one else wanted it for that cheap price, you should be welcome to do what you want with it.
Lilyfield Life

4 Handles can be expensive to replace so factor that into your costs if you don’t like the original handles. You can always paint the handles to change their look.
Lilyfield Life

5 When buying vintage furniture, check the quality of the piece. I try to always choose solid wood furniture, and not laminate or particle board. If you are buying a chest of drawers make sure the drawers all slide well. I also look for dovetailed drawers as this is a good indication of quality.
Lilyfield Life


6 It is always a good idea to test your painted surface for lead. We use a simple 3M Lead Test from 3M TEKK Protection to determine if old layers of paint contain lead. You do not want to be sanding down lead paint and breathe in the harmful particles.
~ The Idea Room

7 Have a general idea of the amount of time you’ll need to take the project from start to finish. Will it be a one-day affair, or do you need to let paint dry between coats (always a good idea)? Will you have to stop mid-painting to pick up your children or start dinner? Will you have to move the project out of the way before it’s dry?
~ DIY Home Staging Tips

8 Don’t try shortcuts with your paint makeover. If a piece has hardware or drawers, remove them entirely for prep and painting. Because these areas get a lot of use, they are ripe for eventual paint flaking. Sand drawer edges carefully so the old paint is gone before applying new. Two coats of sealer should give the drawers “armor” for future use.
~ Kim Yeager via Bob Vila

9 Before jumping in, consider the most sensible approach to your project. For example, turn tables and chairs upside down so you can paint the underbelly and insides easily. Who hasn’t painted a chair, and ended up with paint-covered arms from painting the insides of the legs last, reaching around wet paint to do it?
DIY Home Staging Tips

10 Paint will not stick to a dirty surface. I use Tri-sodium Phosphate, commonly called TSP. It can be purchased at most hardware stores in the paint department. I purchase it in powder form and dilute it with hot water. Using a clean rag and sometimes a toothbrush or scrub brush I scrub, scrub, and then scrub some more until the piece of furniture I am working on is spotless. Once the piece is clean, all TSP residue should be removed. This can be done with a clean damp cloth.
~ Alchemy Fine Living

11 Sand the furniture with fine sandpaper or liquid sander until it is smooth. Be sure to wear gloves, goggles, and a dust mask to protect yourself. After you’ve finished sanding, remove any sawdust that remains. Hand vacuums make quick work of this job. Otherwise, use a brush or barely damp rag to clean the wood. You might want to use both for some pieces.
~ Tracy Leigh Ritts via Family Time

12 Wood filler allows you to repair scratches, dents, welts and fill holes in your wood furniture before you go about painting it. I’ve tried other products, but to date Elmer’s is the best I’ve found. It’s moist and moldable and washes off your fingers and tools easily, dries quickly, and is also sandable and paintable.
~ Centsational Girl

13 Glue and clamp loose joints.
Lilyfield Life


14 Use a primer. This helps the final color to look its best. When choosing your primer, remember that you must use an oil based primer with oil based paint. You can use an oil based primer with latex paints. The difference between the primers? Oil based primers are amazing at blocking stains and awesome at helping the paint stick to the furniture. Its downfall is that it has a strong odor. Latex is not as good at blocking stains but it still does a good job & does not have a strong odor.
~ Liz Marie Blog

15 When you prime, you want to do several very thin coats. In fact, when you do the first coat, it should barely look like you’ve even primed. Let the primer dry for 10 minutes or so (depending on the weather conditions), and do another coat. Let that coat dry, and do one or two more coats. The furniture should be almost completely covered in a thin coat of primer at this point. However, if there’s a bit of wood still showing through in places, I don’t sweat it.
~ The Frugal Girl

16 I use Kilz Original when I am painting over a piece of furniture that has a stained or polyurethane finish. It will block any stain, resin, or oil from knots in the wood from bleeding through. It can be tinted if you are going to use a mid-tone or dark paint color.
~ In My Own Style

17 When using the spray formula of any primer or paint wear a paint mask and/or respirator and do it outside or in an open area with lots of ventilation. I use plastic sheeting to place large objects on so the over-spray doesn’t get on everything.
In My Own Style


18 You might want to check the “oops” paint section of your hardware store. If there is a color that is close to the one you want, the paint technicians might be able to tint it to your desired color for just a couple of bucks.
~ CampClem

19 Floetrol is a paint conditioner exclusively for latex paint (use Penetrol for oil based paints). It’s a product I have used time and again to extend the wet edge (or slow down the drying time) and also to minimize roller marks and brush strokes. The most frustrating part about applying paint to furniture by hand is the drag that occurs when paint starts to dry too quickly, so the Floetrol helps avoid that drag. I follow the directions on the back of the bottle, but I also let the paint’s workability act as a guide as to how much Floetrol is necessary.
Centsational Girl

20 When you’re painting, start at the top and work down, smoothing paint drips as you work downward.
~ DIY Network

21 Make sure you only have a light amount of paint on the roller at a time & wipe any access of the edges with a rag. Same goes for your brushes, do not put an excessive amount of paint on the tool at a time.
Liz Marie Blog

22 Just as with the primer, it’s very important to do a number of thin coats. I don’t think I can overstress this…5 thin coats are much, much better than one thick coat. The thin coats look better and they will be more durable.
The Frugal Girl

23 Give your paint makeover adequate time to dry between coats. The standard is 24 hours, but honestly, more is better with many paints, especially if there is humidity. The same goes for sealer. Don’t brush on or hand-apply without at least 24 hours of lag time since the last coat dried. If the paint is not totally dry, it will start to come off once you add the polyurethane finish. I like a poly finish rather than varnish, but you might prefer varnish for a more traditional look. Poly comes in flat and glossy finishes so you can choose whatever fits with the look you desire.
~ Kim Yeager via Bob Vila


24 It’s definitely important to add a protective layer when finished (however, if you are using enamel paint, you can probably skip this step). I prefer paste waxes on satin or eggshell finishes because it is low luster and will not shine or yellow. I use polycrylic when I want a hard glossy finish, but it does tend to yellow, so I do not use it on white or light colors.
~ Cassie from Primitive & Proper via Hyphen Interiors

25 Wait at least a full 72 hours to place objects on your newly painted piece to avoid dents or divots in your finish. If you really want to be on the safe side, we’d recommend waiting five full days. Sometimes factors like humidity and primer/paint/poly thickness can keep things from fully curing up, and you don’t want to get indents from using your newly painted piece too quickly.
~ Young House Love

I hope these furniture painting tips help you with your next project. Do you have any furniture painting tips that you’d like to share? Let me know what they are in the comments!

Before you begin your project, download the free Furniture Painting Tools & Supplies Checklist.


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  1. This is a fantastic and helpful post! These tips are very helpful for everyone who want to paint furniture. I would love to paint over some old furniture. Thanks for great tips.

    1. Hi Diana! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and found the tips helpful. If you’d like to paint some old furniture, I say find a piece and just go for it. Happy painting! 🙂

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