How to Paint Furniture

Three Methods:Prepping the FurnitureApplying Primer and PaintFinishing the Job

Good quality hardwood furniture shouldn't be left to languish in your garage or basement just because it has a few scratches. Give tired old pieces of furniture a new lease on life - or transform a junk-shop find - with this step-by-step guide to painting furniture.

Method 1
Prepping the Furniture

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    Remove the hardware. Use a power screwdriver or work by hand to remove knobs, handles, pulls, and any other hardware attached to the furniture. Place the hardware in labeled bags so you know the correct place for it later.
    • Consider taking a picture of the furniture before you remove the hardware, to help you find the correct place for each piece later.
    • Polish the hardware before you replace it, or consider buying new handles and knobs to match the new paint job.
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    Give it a rough sanding. Use a piece of medium-grit sandpaper or a power sander to sand the furniture on the top and all sides. This removes dirt, varnish, and residues from polishing and waxing compounds. Spend the same amount of time sanding each part of the furniture, so that one area doesn't get more worn down than the rest.
    • Sand with the grain, rather than against the grain. Sanding against the grain can leave permanent scratches on your furniture.
    • To sand curved surfaces, attach the sandpaper to a padded item, such as a rolled up sock.
    • Be careful sanding carved wood and turned legs. Sanding too hard could damage the design.
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    Repair the furniture. If the furniture has cracks, gouges, or large scratches, now is the time to repair them. Painting over this type of damage will result in a sloppy-looking, uneven surface.
    • Use a wood-patching compound to fill in holes and cracks. These putty-like compounds spread smoothly over the surface of the wood and harden as they dry.
    • Don't attempt to sand away deep scratches. Pressing too hard with a sander will result in a dipped spot on your furniture.
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    Go over it again with a fine sander. Use fine-grit sandpaper, emery cloth, or a fine sanding block to lightly sand the furniture one more time. This removes any remaining finish and evens the areas where the wood-patching compound overlaps the surface of the wood. When you're finished, wipe the surface of the furniture with a clean lint-free cloth to remove small wood particles and dust.

Method 2
Applying Primer and Paint

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    Paint the furniture with primer. Applying primer to the surface of wooden furniture helps the paint stick and last for years to come. Choose a color a few shades lighter than the color you plan to paint your furniture.
    • Apply the primer evenly to the surface of the furniture using an angled paintbrush.
    • One coat of primer should be sufficient, but if there are areas of the furniture that don't look completely covered, go over it with a second coat.
    • Let the primer dry completely before applying paint.
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    Choose a type of paint. Most types of paint work fine on wooden furniture, so choose the type and color that will give your table, chair or cabinet the look you want to achieve. Consider the following options when you pick out your paint:
    • For an upscale, high-quality look, go for a paint with a glossy finish.
    • Eggshell or matte paint can give furniture a "shabby chic" look, perfect for a child's dresser or a bookshelf in your sunroom.
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    Paint the furniture. Use a foam roller and a high-quality, angled paintbrush to paint the furniture evenly. All of your strokes should move in the same direction for a professional-looking finish.
    • It's not necessary to paint the inside of furniture drawers and dressers, since a coat of paint could cause the drawers to stick.
    • Depending on the type of paint you're using, you may want to paint more than one coat. Let the first coat dry completely before applying another one.

Method 3
Finishing the Job

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    Consider adding a finish. Painted furniture can be left alone or finished with a seal, wax, or distressing technique to give it an antique look.
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    Replace the hardware. After the paint has dried completely, use a power screwdriver or work by hand to replace the hardware.


  • Water-based acrylic paints dry quicker and have less odor than solvent-based paints.
  • After painting with water-based paints, simply rinse brushes thoroughly with warm water and soap. No white spirit is necessary, so it’s definitely gentler on the skin.
  • The color finish of quality paints lasts longer. Make sure that you buy the best you can afford, especially since you are only covering a piece of furniture and not entire walls.
  • Put a few coats of paint on if you want it to stay on.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Course sandpaper
  • Wood-patching compound
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Water based primer
  • Paint
  • Brushes

Article Info

Categories: Decorative Home Paintwork | Furniture and Cabinets