Best Paints for Wood Furniture

Painting wood furniture is an easy and inexpensive way to give your home a new, fresh look. But what paint should you use? In this post, we’re sharing what the best paint for wood furniture is. We’ll also share the pros and cons of the different paints so you can choose the best one for you.

Learn more about the different types of paint for furniture here.

collage of the best paints for wood furniture

The paint you use can make or break the outcome of your project. No joke.

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There are all kinds of paint out there, but a lot of them have specific purposes, and if you don’t use the right paint, your easy project can turn into a nightmare.

Types of Paint for Wood Furniture

When it comes to paint for wood furniture, there are two main types: water-based paints and oil-based paints. But there is also a newer type of paint out there, called alkyd paint.

Let’s go over the advantages and drawbacks of each type.

Oil Based Paint

Oil-based paint is an ideal choice for wood furniture that requires a glossy finish and superior durability.

It dries slower than water-based paint, giving the user extra time to work with it in order to achieve a smooth, brush-free finish.

Once dry, oil-based paint forms a hard, durable surface that can resist chipping, fading, and scratches.

It is also fairly resistant to moisture and humidity, making it an excellent option for wood furniture in humid climates, outdoor furniture, or furniture in rooms prone to high levels of moisture such as bathrooms and kitchens.

can of rustoleum protective enamel

Pros of Using Oil-Based Paint:

  • Dries slowly, allowing for a smoother finish
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Provides a glossy, professional finish

Cons of Using Oil-Based Paint:

  • Strong smell that can linger after application
  • Harder to cleanup – have to use mineral spirits usually
  • Difficult to find in stores

Oil-based paint is slowly going away, and it’s harder to find in stores. A lot of paint companies are replacing their oil-based paint with water-based paint.

Best Oil Based Paint for Wood Furniture

Honestly, I have a hard time finding oil-based paints anymore. I have tried and love Rustoleum Protective Enamel. Beware, it comes in only a few colors.

Water Based Paint

Water-based paint is a great option for wood furniture that needs a quick upgrade without much commitment.

It often dries faster than oil-based paints, so you have less time to work with it and it doesn’t level out as well. But, it can be easily cleaned up with water, making it more convenient.

However, it isn’t as durable as oil-based paint, though if you combine water-based paint with water-based polyurethane, it’s pretty darn durable.

Additionally, if you don’t use specific water-based paint, or use some tricks for painting without brush marks, then you can expect to have brush marks in your finish.

jar of country chic chalk paint

Pros of Using Water-Based Paint:

  • Dries quickly, allowing for a faster turnaround
  • Easier to clean up than oil paint
  • Available in a variety of finishes, including flat, satin, and semi-gloss
  • Easy to find in stores and online

Cons of Using Water-Based Paint:

  • Not as durable or long-lasting as oil paint
  • Can be difficult to apply evenly without brush streaks

Best Water Based Paint for Wood Furniture

Alkyd Paint

Are you stuck between water-based and oil-based paint?? Well… there’s actually another option.

It’s called Alkyd paint. It’s what a lot of paint companies are switching to instead of oil-based paint. It’s a combination of oil-based paint but in a water-borne formula.

Once it’s dry, it acts like oil-based. So, you get the durability of an oil-based paint, with the ease, clean up, and low fumes of a water-based paint!

can of sherwin williams emeral urethane trim enamel

Pros of Using Alkyd Paint:

  • Easier to clean up than oil paint
  • No harsh fumes like oil-based paint
  • Available in a variety of finishes, including flat, satin, semi-gloss and gloss
  • Self-levels beautifully
  • Durability is similar to oil-based paint

Cons of Using Alkyd Paint:

  • Can be more expensive
  • Take longer to dry than some waterbased paints

Best Alkyd Paint for Wood Furniture

How to Choose the Best Paint for Wood Furniture

When it comes to choosing the best paint for wood furniture, you should consider the look and feel you want out of your paint, its purpose, and the type of finish you desire.

Do you want a distressed look? Chalk paint is best. Check out this tutorial on how to distress furniture.

Do you want a high gloss finish? Use oil-based or alkyd paint. Check out how to paint furniture high gloss in this dresser makeover.

Check out this post on the best paint for furniture, to learn about the looks you can get with each type of water-based paint, and their pros and cons.

If you’re looking to give an outdoor piece a fresh new look, oil-based paints are the way to go. But if you’re looking for something a bit simpler, water-based paints are your best bet.

Water-based paint is ideal for furniture that may need a quick upgrade without much commitment, while oil-based paints provide longer-lasting protection.

I will say though, water-based paints have come a long way. They might not be AS durable as oil-based paint, but they are very durable on their own.

One of the most durable water based paints that I know of is Heirloom Traditions Paint. Even without sanding!

Also, if you’re conscious of toxins and your health, water-based paint is the better option.

Personally, I choose water-based paint 99% of the time because I don’t like to deal with the cleanup or fumes of oil-based paint. But I sure do love the glossy look oil-based paint creates.

What kind of finish is best for wood furniture

This is totally up to you! Some love the look of a matte, dull finish, while others crave the glossy, sleek look.

Keep in mind, the glossier the sheen, the easier it is to keep clean. The glossier the sheen, the more durable it is as well.

A semi-gloss or satin finish is the most popular finish for wood furniture, as it creates a smooth, professional look while still protecting the surface.

Anything above a satin sheen makes cleaning easier since dirt and grime will not stick to the surface as easily.

If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, go for the highest gloss finish.

If you’d like to add some subtle texture and interest to your piece, choose a satin finish. It’s a great balance between a matte and glossy finish.

Steps For Painting Wood Furniture

The exact steps depend on the type of paint you use. Oil-based paint is different than water-based paint, and even different types of water-based paint require different steps.

But, overall here are the steps you can expect when you paint wood furniture.

  1. Prepare the Furniture for Paint
  2. Prime
  3. Paint
  4. Topcoat

Here are some FREE checklists for you to download and print, with specific steps for each type of paint.

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These are so handy to have with you when you’re painting, especially if you’re painting for the first time, or if it has been a long time since you painted furniture.

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Tools for Painting Wood Furniture

The tools you use when painting wood furniture are just as important as the paint you use. Here is a supply list of my top 10, must have painting furniture supplies.

There is a link in that post where you can download the list and print it off, so it’s handy to take to the store when you are buying your supplies.

Here are a few more helpful posts about the tools we recommend for painting furniture.

Painting wood furniture is an easy way to give your piece a fresh new look. It all starts with the right paint and tools, and then it’s just a matter of following the steps and taking your time.

Choosing the type of finish, sheen, and color you want will help determine which type of paint is best for your project.

If you’re new to painting furniture, be sure to check out the free checklists and tools list before starting, so you have all the resources necessary for success! Happy painting!

More Furniture Paint Resources

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