Paint Furniture Black – Everything You Need to Know

Today we’re going back to the basics on how to paint furniture black for beginners. No paint sprayer, this is all by hand. I’m including how to know if you can paint without sanding, and sharing some different options of paint and tools to make your project easier.

Find more Black Painted Furniture ideas here!

Six drawer wood dresser before being painted black

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Supplies to Paint Furniture Black

How to Paint Furniture Black – Step by Step

  1. Remove Hardware and Clean
  2. Test the Paint
  3. Scuff Sand (If Needed)
  4. Prime (If Needed)
  5. Paint
  6. Topcoat (If Needed)
  7. Attach Hardware
  8. Let Cure

Before

This is the dresser that I’m painting black today.

Natural wood dresser before getting painted black.

Step 1: Remove the Hardware and Clean the Furniture

Remove hardware

First, I remove the hardware.

Clean

And then I clean the surface really well.

No matter what your furniture is made of, it ALL needs to be cleaned really well with a degreasing cleaner.

We need to remove all of the oils, wax, grime, and dust from the surface, or else our paint won’t really stick to the furniture.

I like Krud Kutter, but you can use dish soap in warm soapy water, or TSP.

Get more details on How to Clean Furniture Before Painting here!

Step 2: Test the Paint

What is the Furniture Made of?

Knowing what kind of material you’re working with will help you determine the next steps in your project.

If you are painting laminate – the plastic, really slick stuff – then you will need to do some extra things before you paint, or else the paint will just scratch right off.

Click here to learn all about the Best Paint for Laminate Furniture to make sure you get a durable finish on laminate!

When we look closely at the top of the dresser and feel it, it feels extra slick, and kind of like plastic.

And instead of a natural wood grain… there is no texture to it. That’s laminate.

Top view of the glossy top of the dresser shows it is made of laminate.

The rest of it seems to be wood.

It has natural wood grain texture, it’s not slick and shiny, and it doesn’t feel like plastic.

Let me know in the comments if you want me to do a post on how to tell what your furniture is made of.

If you can’t tell what your furniture is made of though, I have a couple of tricks that you can do to make sure your paint sticks!

Can you paint wood black without sanding?

Most likely you can.

But you can do a little test to know for sure.

Paint a sample of your paint onto a few different parts of your furniture. Then let it dry for 24 hours.

I actually did a sample WITHOUT scuff sanding beforehand, and a sample WITH scuff sanding before painting.

Check out this post that is all about How to Paint Wood Furniture (Without Sanding or Priming)

And then I scratched at them after 2 hours, just for funsies.

Both paint samples on the unprimed wood held up pretty good to the scratch test and did not scratch off.

Both samples on the wood stuck really really good!

The scuff-sanded one did better than the not scuff-sanded one, but for only drying for 2 hours each, they both did really well!

The samples on the laminate top though, both scratched SO easily.

The scuff-sanded one scratched a little bit less easily than the not scuff-sanded sample.

Black paint scratched off much easier on the laminate top.

Scratch Test

So I waited for the 24-hour mark.

Both laminate samples still scratched, though not as easily as before… But the samples on the wood held on for dear life.

So, after this little test, I knew that I probably didn’t need to do anything else to the bottom of the dresser… but I knew that even scuff sanding the laminate top wouldn’t be enough to make the paint stick.

Step 3: Scuff Sand (If Needed)

So I scuff-sanded the top of the dresser with 220-grit sandpaper.

And I did end up scuff sanding the bottom of the dresser too, just to show you what scuff sanding wood by hand can look like if your paint didn’t adhere well in the test.

How much do you need to sand wood before painting?

  • We DON’T need to remove the old finish and get it down to raw wood.
  • We just need to scuff it up a little bit.
  • On grooves and details, I put the folded edge of the sandpaper into the groove and rub it back and forth.
  • Be sure to remove the dust before you paint!

Think of how hard it is to hold onto something that’s really slick in your hands… like a brand-new phone without a case.

But if that phone has a case that isn’t as slick, and maybe has some texture on it… it’s so much easier to hang onto.

The same thing is true with paint and wood. Paint has a hard time holding onto a slick surface.

But if we scuff it up, and remove the shine a little bit, then the paint has a much easier time of holding on.

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

Step 4: Prime (If Needed)

And then I primed the laminate.

This time I tried out this Aqua lock primer in black.

I’ve heard that it has great adhesion to even really slick surfaces, and that it self-levels really well…I love when paint self-levels!

(In the end, I wasn’t super impressed with the self-leveling when I brushed the primer on though.)

I also love that this primer comes in black, so I don’t have to paint as many coats of black paint over it.

Brushing Aqua Lock Primer on the top of the dresser.

It was a little bit more expensive than some primers, and I had to get a gallon of it online.

So if you’re only painting a single piece of furniture, I don’t know that this is the primer for you.

Other Primer Options

Instead, I would personally use plain ole clear shellac, especially with this milk paint, or chalk paint.

Read more about The Best Primer for Painting Furniture (and How to Choose the Right One) here!

How can I paint my furniture black without sanding?

Last year I tested the clear shellac as a primer on laminate, compared to some other primers… and it made chalk paint stick to the laminate really well… even without any scuff sanding.

It comes in a spray can or a brushable version.

Of course, there are other primers for laminate too.

White & Gray Tinted Primers

Clear Primers

Primer Scratch Test

Since this primer is new to me, I did a scratch test on it, just to make sure that it was really sticking to the laminate before I wasted my time painting.

It passed!

Step 5: Paint with Black Paint

Now that I know my paint will stick, it’s time to paint!

I used my favorite brushable black paint, General Finishes Milk Paint in the color Lamp Black.

It’s water-based, so it doesn’t have harsh fumes, and clean-up is easy with soap and water.

But it self-levels very very well. It’s one of the very best self-leveling paints out there in my opinion.

I brushed it on with my round paintbrush from Zibra.

The consistency of this paint is thinner than I’m used to with their paint. So the coverage wasn’t as good as normal.

I’m not sure if they have a new formula or what. But I was a bit bummed with the coverage.

Brushing the first coat of General Finishes lamp black paint onto the dresser.

Paint Brushes

You can use a cheaper paintbrush, but Zibra brushes are usually around $10 and are great quality.

In general,

  • The cheaper quality, the more brush marks you’ll get in your paint.
  • The better quality, the less amount of brush marks you’ll get.

Cheaper brushes also tend to shed their bristles, while higher quality brushes don’t shed.

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

Rollers

On one side, and the top, I used a Sherwin Williams Mohair roller so you can see what kind of texture was left behind if you roll it on.

Using a mohair roller to roll the paint on one side of the dresser.

(Since this paint is so good at leveling out, there was basically no texture left behind!)

I personally don’t care to roll paint on when I’m painting furniture.

Especially if there are curves and grooves on it.

Check out the best roller for painting furniture here.

Rollers just can’t get into those details as well as a paintbrush, so I end up using both a brush and a roller…

And I feel like personally, I have more control over a brush than a roller.

What do you prefer?? A brush or a roller?? Or a sprayer?

The good news is that you can paint however you want to!

Best Black Furniture Paint

This paint is definitely not the only black paint out there.

Here are some more black paints that I recommend.

You can also check out this list of the best matte black paint for furniture.

After 1st coat

Here’s what the paint looked like after the first coat had dried for a couple of hours.

The dresser drawers didn't have the greatest coverage after the first coat of black paint.

Overall, it definitely needed another coat of paint to achieve full coverage.

2nd Coat

I painted the second coat on the same as the first coat.

3rd Coat

But there were some areas that didn’t have full coverage. So I ended up painting a 3rd coat on.

Dried 3rd Coat of Paint

After that 3rd coat was dry, here is what it looked like.

There are some brush marks, but for the most part, they leveled out and blended in with the wood grain.

On the top, where I had brushed the primer and rolled the paint, you could see brush marks from the primer, and only very very slight texture from the roller.

PS-If you really hate brush marks in your paint (like I do), check out this post on How to Paint Furniture Without Brush Marks.

The biggest problem though, and this was just user error… but there were a lot of specks of dried paint on the top.

The top had lots of specks of dried paint, giving it a textured feel.

Sand Top

So between the thicker brush marks and the specks of paint, I decided to sand the top to get rid of those.

Read this blog post to learn all about the Best Sander for Furniture!

Paint the Top Again

Once the texture was all gone, I painted another coat on the top.

Painting another coat of black paint on the top of the dresser.

Step 6: Topcoat (If Needed)

Technically, with this paint, you could stop right there.

They say that on low-traffic surfaces, you don’t need to topcoat this paint.

The low luster finish of this paint is gorgeous!

But, I personally want my furniture to be durable enough to withstand kids, and normal wear and tear.

So after the paint had dried for a couple of hours, I top coated it.

Other topcoat options

If you don’t want to topcoat by hand, you can get an absolutely amazing finish with

You could also use an oil-based wipe on polyurethane too.

Over black paint, oil-based poly looks absolutely amazing!

But, for those who can’t spray, don’t want to spray, or want the topcoat to dry quickly, I went ahead and applied the topcoat by hand so you can see how to do it.

Read this post to learn more about Topcoat Options for Painting Furniture.

Mix Paint into the Polyurethane

One of the best tricks to top-coating dark paint with water-based polyurethane is to mix some of the paint into the polyurethane.

Foam Sponge

Then, I like to use a foam sponge to apply it.

There are more expensive foam sponges from a bunch of different paint companies.

But you can also use a cheap tile grout sponge.

Someone suggested putting a nylon stocking or pantyhose over the sponge…So, I’m trying it out today.

Spoiler alert… I think I’m going to keep doing it like this!

I don’t know what changes, but the finish does look better.

How to Wipe On Water-Based Poly

Anyway, get a little bit of the tinted poly onto the sponge, but not too much!

Then wipe it on.

I try to wipe it on in the direction of the wood grain again.

Wiping water based polyurethane on the dresser with a sponge.

And I try not to go back over it more than a time or two.  

I like to wipe it on the edges, then wipe down the middle, trying not to leave a bunch behind in the edges.

For the drawers, it works best when I wipe it on the edges first, with a sponge that doesn’t have much poly on it.

I didn’t want too much poly in all of those grooves.

And then I put more poly on the sponge, and wiped it across the drawer, going off each side

For the top, I worked from side to side, in long strokes.

In Between Coats

Then I let it all dry for a couple of hours.

I wrapped my plastic glove around the foam to keep it from drying out while I waited for the first coat to dry.

Apply Another Coat or Two

Here’s what the first coat looked like after it was dry.

The black dresser after one coat of polyurethane was dry.

Then I wiped on another coat of poly all over.

Step 7: Attach Hardware

After that 2nd coat of poly was dry, I debated putting new gold knobs on, or putting the old hardware back on…

Which one would you choose?

Black painted dresser with gold knobs on one side and black drawer pulls on the other side.

Step 8: Let Cure

Then, before you start using your furniture, give it about a month to fully cure.

Or be extra gentle with it while you use it for the first month.

After a month, the paint and topcoat will be as durable as it’s going to get, so it’s ready for you to use like you normally would.

Watch the video tutorial here:

After

Here’s what it looks like now.

Zoomed in view of finished black dresser makeover.
Side angle view of newly painted black dresser.

A freshly black painted dresser, with a durable paint job that’s going to last.

Is the finish perfect? No.

There are still some streaks from the topcoat, and there are some brush marks… and minimal roller texture.

But for being hand painted, I’d say that it looks amazing.

What do you think?

Black painted dresser with black drawer pulls.
Six drawer dresser makeover with general finishes lamp black paint.

More Black Painted Furniture

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2 Comments

  1. Cecilia from Georgia says:

    Beautiful! The finish is like glass and the small imperfections add character.

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