How to Paint a Stained Dresser

You can paint over stained wood without stripping or sanding off the stain! Here’s how to paint a stained dresser!

Get more of our favorite DIY dresser makeovers here!

old antique dresser before makeover

With this DIY dresser makeover, we painted an old antique dresser for our client. She wanted this stained dresser painted in a specific green to match her decor. Here’s how we did it!

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Supplied Used to Paint a Stained Dresser

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When you break it down into these few steps, you can see that it’s totally doable! Let’s get into a few more of the details though to make sure your dresser makeover is a success!

Clean the Dresser with a Degreaser

At the very least, before painting a stained dresser, clean the surface with a degreaser. Paint and grease, oil or wax do not go together. So remove any furniture polish, wax, oils and grime.

I have been using the original Krud Kutter cleaner/degreaser for years to remove grime (even around the house!), but you can use another degreasing cleaner.

Learn more about how to clean furniture before painting here!

Scuff Sand to Remove the Shine from the Stained Wood

Scuff sanding is super easy. Rub 220 grit sandpaper over the entire surface to remove any shine from the stained wood finish. Learn more about sandpaper for furniture painting here.

If there is any shine to your furniture (or if it is really shiny, like high-gloss) you definitely need to at least scuff sand.

Scuff sanding shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes, but it will pay off in your paint finish lasting a lot longer. Read this post to learn more about the importance of sanding before painting furniture!

Easily clean up the dust from scuff sanding with a vacuum hose attachment. Then wipe down the dresser with a clean damp rag.

How to Paint Wood Furniture Without Sanding

If you really really really don’t want to scuff sand your furniture before painting, you have other options!

If your dresser is old and the finish has no shine to it, you can get away without sanding if you use chalk paint.

This particular dresser could have been painted without sanding because the finish on the stained wood was dry and not shiny at all.

Check out this post to learn more about how to paint wood furniture without sanding or priming.

Chalk paint is known as no-prep furniture paint. But there are definitely times that you still need to sand before painting with chalk paint. Check out my list of top chalk paint brands here.

BUT if the stained wood is dry, and the finish has no shine to it, the chalk paint should stick.

If you don’t scuff sand on a glossy, shiny, or slick piece of furniture, your paint can easily be peeled off. It will easily chip and scratch (even if you put a polyurethane top coat over the paint!).

**Note: I scuff sand every piece that passes my hands. I paint furniture for other people, so I make sure that paint is going to stick to their furniture for a long time. Even when I paint furniture for myself, I scuff sand. I don’t want all of my hard work to get damaged easily. So when in doubt, scuff sand!

Paint Stained Dresser

Now we’re ready for paint! Paint 1-3 coats of paint on your dresser.

**Note: If there is no varnish or finish on your stained wood, (you just stained the wood and didn’t put a clear coat over top) then seal the stain in with shellac before painting.

The stain can bleed through the paint, creating a mess for you!

I like to use these Zibra paintbrushes (especially the round paintbrush!!) on furniture.

The round brush makes it so easy to paint spindles and get into details compared to a regular flat brush. The square brush is my next favorite paintbrush!

**Note: I sprayed this dresser with my hobby paint sprayer. I love that it makes painting furniture quick and easy! Learn more about spray painting furniture here.

Green Chalk Painted Dresser without hardware

Best Paint for Painting Over Stained Wood

Honestly, the best paint for painting over stained wood depends on what type of finish you want on your dresser.

There are so many different kinds of paint available to use, and most of them are perfect to use on stained furniture.

So you have to ask yourself…Do you prefer a solid one-color finish? Do you want it distressed? Are you looking for a boho vibe with layered and blended colors?

Do you want a shiny finish or a matte finish? Do you want a chippy-painted farmhouse look or a shiny glamorous look?

You could use enamel paint to create a shiny glamorous look.

If you’re going for a distressed farmhouse style, chalk paint is your best bet. Check out the 6 best distressing furniture techniques here.

Do you love chippy-painted furniture? Powdered milk paint is for you! Here’s a chippy blue painted hutch makeover to take inspiration from.

Do you want a solid color finish without brush marks? A self-leveling acrylic paint would be best.

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There really is no right or wrong to which paint is best for stained wood. You can make any type of paint work for you. Learn more about the best paint for furniture and their pros and cons here!

There will be some extra (or different) prep work with some of these though, like priming before latex paint or enamel paint(or else they won’t stick!)

Learn the secret to painting furniture with latex paint here.

Or shellacking before a light-colored paint to prevent the wood tannin from bleeding through your paint (the stains will keep appearing, no matter how many coats of paint you apply).

Here’s more on how to stop stains from coming through paint.

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Can You Use Chalk Paint Over Stained Wood Furniture?

Yes! You can paint chalk paint over stained wood!

Painting a stained dresser can easily be done with chalk paint! In just a few steps, you can create a beautiful new piece of furniture for your home.

Out of all the paint in the furniture paint sea, I choose chalk paint most of the time. Why?

Because it is so forgiving! It is super easy for anyone to use, and if you make a mistake, it’s easy to fix! It’s water-based so cleanup is easy, and it doesn’t require a primer before painting.

It also distresses really nicely (and since you don’t have to prime, you don’t see white paint in your distressing).

The one downside to chalk paint is that it has to be sealed with a topcoat to provide extra durability and wipe-ability.

Chalk paint is super porous and very matte. Just wiping your hand over the paint without a sealer will mark it up with dust.

You can seal chalk paint with wax, water-based polyurethane or even hemp oil. Learn more about sealing chalk paint in this post on top coat protection options for chalky painted furniture.

My go-to has always been this water-based polyurethane! It doesn’t turn light colors yellow and it adds a lot of durability. Plus it comes in matte, satin and gloss sheens!

Learn ALL of my tips and tricks on how to spray polyurethane here!

Painting Dresser Green

On this dresser, our client chose a green named Argyle from Sherwin Williams.

green paint color samples

We went to Home Depot and got a quart of Behr Premium Plus Paint in Flat, and then used our homemade chalk paint recipe to make latex paint into chalk paint.

**Note: I’ve since used BB Frosch paint transformer powder to make chalk paint from latex paint. It is amazing and much better than my homemade chalk paint recipe. So if you’re looking for a custom chalk paint color, BBFrosch and latex paint from the hardware store is the way to go!

Check out my honest BB Frosch paint transformer review to learn more about the features, and pros and cons of this product.

Read more about my experience with BB Frosh paint powder in this DIY mustard yellow card catalog dresser makeover!

I sealed the homemade chalk paint with 3 coats of my favorite polyurethane! If you are painting over oil based stain, check out my guide here.

close up of green chalk painted dresser
green painted dresser

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

side angle of green painted dresser
top view of green chalk painted dresser

Enjoy a dresser that is now your style! For more green dressers, here’s our list of green painted dresser ideas! You can also check out bedroom dresser ideas and boys dresser ideas for more inspiration in updating your bedroom pieces, and these cheap DIY dresser ideas to get more budget friendly dresser makeovers.

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How to Paint a Stained Dresser

stained dresser painted with green chalk paint

You can paint over stained wood without stripping or sanding off the stain! Here's how to paint a stained dresser.


  1. Remove any dresser hardware.
  2. Clean the dresser with a degreaser like Krud Kutter. Then use 220 grit sandpaper to remove any shine from stained wood. Clean up the dust from scuff sanding with the vacuum then wipe down the dresser with a clean damp rag.
  3. Get your chalk paint and apply 1-3 coats of paint onto your dresser.
  4. Now, seal the chalk painted dresser with 3 coats of polyurethane.
  5. Attach back your old hardware or add in the new one!

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before and after photo of stained dresser painted green
Stained dresser before painting it
Photo of a stained wood dresser before painting it
old antique dresser before makeover


  1. Miss Daisy says:


      1. I love this Kelly green dresser you refinished. What color is that green??

        Thanks, Jannette

      2. Thank you!
        It’s called Argyle from Sherwin Williams.

  2. Very pretty. Love the green.

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