How to Paint Furniture: The Beginners Guide

Learn how to paint furniture and thrift store finds. With these steps, you’ll be painting furniture like a pro in no time!

Let’s talk about how to paint furniture if you’re a beginner!

We will make sure that your paint will stick and that all of your work will last a long time. 

Buffet table before paint

How to Paint Furniture

Let’s break it down into steps, and then I’ll go over every step in detail and link to all the products you’ll want to use on your painted furniture.

  1. Remove the hardware.
  2. Clean any dirt, grime, oils or wax off of the furniture.
  3. Fill in scratches, dings and holes.
  4. Tape off drawers.
  5. Give the paint something to hold onto.
  6. Paint at least 2 coats.
  7. Distress. (optional)
  8. Seal the paint
  9. Re-attach the hardware

Another great resource is these five biggest furniture painting mistakes you need to avoid!

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You’ll Need these Supplies to Paint Furniture

Get my list of 10 Must Have Products When Painting Furniture.

Remove the Hardware

Most furniture will have hardware. Everything needs to be removed for a clean paint finish.

If you want to change out the hardware, here is How to Change Hardware on Furniture.

remove hardware before painting furniture

Clean the Furniture Before Painting

What does dust, dirt, oil, wax and grime have in common?? They mess up your paint!

So we need to get them removed before we go any further.

Learn more about How to Clean Furniture Before Painting.

clean furniture with Krud Kutter before painting

So grab some Krud Kutter. This stuff is so amazing that I use it on every furniture makeover.

Then let your furniture dry.

Fill in Scratches, Dings and Holes

The next step in how to paint furniture is to fill in any imperfections that you don’t want to show anymore.

I use this wood filler.

Here is my list of the Best Wood Fillers for Furniture.

supplies for painting furniture

For smaller scratches, be generous with the wood filler and fill the damage completely.

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Learn how to repair furniture damage with Bondo.

Make the Paint Stick to Furniture

If you skip over one step, please don’t skip over this one.

This is the most important step in making sure that your paint will actually stick to your furniture.

You can scuff sand or use a mixture of both scuff sanding and adhesive primer for this.

Learn more about The Importance of Sanding Before Painting Furniture here.

Scuff Sanding

Scuff sanding is a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper that really only takes a few minutes.

The goal is to make the old finish a bit rough so the new paint has something to hold on to.

scuff sanding a drawer before painting

Just grab 220 grit sandpaper and lightly sand everything down. Just a couple of passes over everything should do.

Once you’ve sanded everywhere, you’ll want to wipe everything down with a tack cloth.

using a tack cloth to remove dust

When to use Primer on Your Painted Furniture

If the old finish on your furniture is super slick and shiny you really need to prime your furniture after you scuff sand.

This BIN shellac primer is the best!

Learn more about The Best Primers for Painting Furniture (and How to Choose the Right One)

a can of bin shellac based primer

Best Paint for Painting Furniture

There are so many types of furniture paint out there. Chalk paint, latex paint, enamel paint, mineral paint.. the list goes on and on.

In this particular makeover, I used chalk paint. It’s easy to use for beginners.

Some of my other favorite types of paint for furniture are all-in-one paints and enamel paints that don’t need a topcoat.

Learn all about the best paints for furniture here so you can choose the right paint for your project.

How to Chalk Paint Furniture

Chalk paint usually “doesn’t require a primer,” and most say that you don’t need to sand either. Both are true to some degree.

Chalk and clay based paints are super flat, and they have an additive in them that helps them stick to a lot of surfaces.

They usually won’t stick to super slick or shiny surfaces on their own though.

My favorite brand of chalk paint is Country Chic Paint.

It sticks very well, is easy to use, and they have so many good colors. Their customer service is amazing, and they are also super environmentally friendly!

a container of country chic paint in peacoat blue

The best part about chalk or clay based paints is how well it distresses.

Latex paint doesn’t like to distress, it just gums up. So if you’re looking for a worn feel, chalk paint is the way to go.

You can also make homemade chalk paint with latex paint if you’re on a budget.

How to Paint Furniture

When painting furniture, you can either brush, roll or spray the paint on.

Either way, thin coats are always better than thick coats of paint.

Be sure to let the paint dry completely before painting another coat.

Most paint needs at least 2 coats of paint for full coverage.

How to Paint Furniture with a Brush

Brushing is pretty straight forward.

A nicer brush (like this Country Chic Paint Oval Paint Brush) will help eliminate brush marks.

I also love Zibra Paint brushes because their brushes are in different shapes.

Their round brush is my favorite brush to help get into details on furniture.

Their square and triangle brush are amazing as well!

Read through this post to learn more about the best paint brush for painting furniture.

How to Spray Paint Furniture (My favorite way!)

If you have a large project(s), don’t want brush marks, or want to get the painting done quickly, use a paint sprayer!

This paint sprayer

  • doesn’t need an air compressor
  • easy to set up and clean up
  • you can put any paint in it
  • I even use it for my topcoats
wagner double duty paint sprayer

Painting is so fast with a paint sprayer, and it doesn’t leave brush marks! So it’s my go to.

If you want more details on the best (budget-friendly) paint sprayers for furniture, head over to this post on the best HVLP paint sprayers.

And learn how to use a paint sprayer here.

No matter your method of painting, you’ll want to paint at least 2 coats of paint for complete coverage.

How to Distress Painted Furniture

If you’re wanting a worn farmhouse or shabby chic look, you’ll want to distress the edges of your finish just a bit.

There are a few ways to distress painted furniture, but my favorite is to use 220 grit sandpaper.

Here are 6 techniques for distressing furniture!

Applying a Topcoat to Seal the Paint

Finally, you’re onto the last step in painting!

This one is very crucial, especially when you’re using chalk paint or mineral type paint.

Chalk paint or clay based paint is super porous and will attract dust like none other. It also isn’t very easy to wipe down if something gets on it.

So we always use Varathane Polyurethane Interior in Satin.

This poly is the best! It is sooo durable, it doesn’t yellow, and it makes the finish feel super professional and smooth.

a can of varathane polyurethane with a painting sponge

I’ve found that using a sponge like this really helps the application go on smooth and better than a brush!

Check out this tutorial on how to paint furniture black to learn how to apply polyurethane with a sponge.

But I personally like to spray the polyurethane.

Learn ALL of my tips and tricks on How to Spray Polyurethane here!

3 coats of poly is recommended.

Your DIY Furniture is Finished!!

Now that you’ve learned how to paint furniture, you’re ready to rock!

Your old ugly or outdated furniture is going to look so good painted!

How to Paint Furniture

navy blue painted buffet with gold hardware

Ready to update your old furniture? Here's how to chalk paint furniture to give it a new life.

Instructions

  1. Remove the hardware with a screwdriver.
  2. Clean any dirt, grime, oils or wax off of the furniture. Let dry.
  3. Fill in scratches, dings and holes with wood filler.
  4. Tape off drawers with painters tape.
  5. Scuff sand and or prime your furniture to help the paint stick.
  6. Paint at least 2 coats.
  7. Distress. (optional)
  8. Seal the paint with waterbased polyurethane.
  9. Re-attach the hardware.

Recommended Products

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Related Tutorials:

Get more furniture makeover ideas here!

blue chalk painted buffet table with gold hardware
blue chalk painted buffet table with text overlay

3 Comments

  1. Amazing! This has helped me out so much!

  2. I’ve painted a couple of pieces of furniture and they came out satisfactory. I want to paint 2 dressers and will follow your technique and use your checklist this time as I want them to come out flawless. Wish me luck!

  3. Bin shellac based primer or an oil based primer, or doing both (letting each dry completely before applying the next) should work. Sorry you’re having troubles!

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