Painting a Desk Black

Painting a desk black with General Finishes Enduro Poly creates a perfect satin painted finish. Here’s how to paint a desk AND transform it into a farmhouse style sofa table.

Get more Black Painted Furniture Ideas here!


desk in thrift store

This is what the desk/vanity looked like when we bought it.

The old finish on the top was in really bad condition, but I loved the shape and style of it.

So I scooped it up and couldn’t wait to fix it up!

Then I saw this desk by The Freckled Farmhouse on Instagram and I was completely inspired!

I loved the wood top on top of the existing top, and I loved the farmhouse feel!

So here’s my version of the little black painted desk.

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Supplies Used for painting a desk black:

Prep for Paint

First things first in any furniture makeover, we always prep the furniture for paint.

Prepping shouldn’t take a long time – unless you have a bunch of damage (click here to see all of our favorite ways to fix damaged furniture).

The best way to prep furniture for paint is to:

  1. Clean and remove any wax, oils or grime.
  2. Scuff sand to remove any sheen.
  3. Remove the dust.

First – Clean your furniture with a grease/oil cutting cleaner. I like to use Krud Kutter.

Learn more about How to Clean Furniture Before Painting here.

Second – Simply scuff sand with 220 grit sandpaper. Rub it all over the dresser, making sure that it removes all of the shine.

Read through The Importance of Sanding Before Painting Furniture to learn more.

desk after scuff sanding and prep
Ready for paint

Third – Then remove the dust with a vacuum hose attachment and/or a damp lint-free rag.

For the best dust removal, I like to use these tack cloths! They pick up all the dust and don’t leave any lint behind!

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Now you’re ready to prime!

Two coats of Primer

For the best results, apply two coats of primer, letting the primer dry between each coat (read the back of the can for exact dry time details).

If you choose not to prime before using Enduro Poly, be aware that the poly may:

  • Scratch off easily
  • Not have an even sheen
  • Not be able to stick to your furniture very well

To create a soft and smooth finish, sand the dry primer with 220 grit sandpaper. Then remove the dust.

First I used a grey tinted water-based primer. But after one coat of it, I could see a ton of bleedthrough!

rolling water-based primer onto the desk
Rolling on Primer
Bleed through stains showing in water-based primer
Bad bleed through stains in the water-based primer

So then I went over the grey primer with 2 coats of the BIN shellac based primer.

I like to use BIN shellac-based primer because it has excellent adhesion, and it blocks any bleed through from the wood tannins. (yep, bleedthrough is an issue with dark paint too!)

Check out The Best Primers to Stop Tannin Bleed here.

Desk Primed with BIN Shellac Based Primer
Primed with BIN Shellac Based Primer

Spray Enduro Poly

Pour your Enduro Poly into your paint sprayer (you shouldn’t need to thin it).

But you’ll still want to filter the paint through a paint filter to get any lumps or debris out of the paint.

Learn all about how to spray polyurethane with a paint sprayer here!

(Even the smallest speck of debris or dried paint can clog a paint sprayer, so you do not want to skip filtering your paint before putting it in the paint sprayer).

spraying Enduro Poly with a Fuji Paint Sprayer
Spraying Enduro Poly

Then spray a thin coat of Enduro Poly onto your furniture.

It should dry to the touch in about 5 minutes.

Sand Smooth

After about 45 minutes, you can sand the poly smooth with 220, 320, or 400 grit sandpaper.

This will create the most durable finish, but it will also make the black paint really smooth.

You don’t need to go crazy with this step and remove all of the paint.

Just lightly sand it so it feels nice and smooth.

Then remove the dust with the vacuum and tack cloth.

Repeat Steps 3 & 4

Spray another coat of the Enduro Poly, let it dry and then sand it smooth again.

If you need more than 3 coats, you can repeat this step until you are ready for your last coat.

But General Finishes recommends to use at least 3 coats for the best durability.

Spray the Last Coat of Enduro Poly

Spray your last coat of Enduro Poly onto your furniture and let it dry completely.

It will be super delicate until it cures (about 3-4 weeks), but it’s best to not set anything on it for at least 24 hours.

Click here to learn more about different options of Topcoats for Painting Furniture.

Here is a video of a dresser makeover with the same paint!

Painted Desk with Stained Top

  1. Cut a new wood top – sand it smooth and stain it.
  2. Attach the wood top to the top of the desk.
  3. Attach your new hardware and enjoy!

Check out more painted desk ideas here!

Cut, Sand and Stain the Wood Top

I think the wood top makes this piece really unique!

Yes, you see wood tops on a lot of furniture, but the wood top is usually part of the original piece.

This wood top sits on top of the existing desk top!

And I love the look!!

I picked out this edge glued wood from our local hardware store.

And then I cut the wood to size with our table saw.

For the measurements, I cut the wood just barely (about 1/8″) under the size of the existing top.

Then I sanded it smooth with my 3×4 Vacuum Compatible SurfPrep Sander (Use code RAY10 to get 10% off your order.)

Man, I love that sander! (It really comes in handy for sanding between all of those coats of paint!)

But you can use any power sander or sand by hand.

Read this post to learn about Best Sanders for Furniture.

Then I used a homemade water-based stain (made out of brown latex paint) to stain the top a very light weathered wood stain.

staining the wood top
Staining Wood Top

After the “stain” was dry, I sealed the stain in with 3 coats of my favorite water-based poly.

Attach the Wood Top

The next day I attached the new wood top to the existing desk top.

We ended up using my brad nail gun to shoot 1 1/4″ brad nails into the wood.

I really didn’t want to put nail holes in my new wood top, but I could not for the life of me get the desk top off.

(I wanted to screw or nail the new top onto the old top from the bottom of the old top.)

But the screws were way too tight.

So, after I put little brad nails in my new wood top, I filled the holes in with a little bit of natural wood filler.

Learn more about the Best Wood Fillers for Furniture here!

stained wood top on black painted desk

When the wood filler dried, I sanded it smooth and then I used a small paintbrush to put a small amount of “stain” on the wood filler.

You can barely see that the holes are there now. So it didn’t end up being a bad option.

Read this post to see how to use wood stain on wood filler.

Attach New Hardware

To finish off the farmhouse look, I attached some card catalog-style label pulls onto each drawer. And then I added labels that matched the color of the wood.

black painted desk with card catalog drawer pulls
black painted desk with wood top

More Before And After Makeovers

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

Best Black Paint for Furniture

The black paint that I used for this desk makeover is honestly the easiest paint I have ever used to paint furniture!

It dries quickly, levels really well, dries hard and durable (you don’t need a topcoat), and it doesn’t leave brush marks!

*Update: I have recently discovered another great all-in-one paint that doesn’t require a top coat and looks so good! Check it out here where we painted this cedar chest black with no topcoat!

Or click over to this DIY Slatted Wood Dresser to learn about a third option for a really easy black paint that doesn’t require a topcoat.

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

The one downside is that it has to be sprayed (trust me on this one. I tried brushing it instead of spraying, just to see, and it was not easy to make it look good when I brushed it on.)

Don't brush general finishes enduro poly

The other minor downside is that it only comes in clear, black or white. You can get it tinted to any color, but you need to special order it from a place that can tint it. (This is a great company that can tint it!)


before and after desk makeover photos

Painting a Desk Black

black painted desk with stained wood top

Paint your old desk and transform it into a farmhouse-style sofa table. Here are the steps for painting a desk black.


  1. Prep the desk for paint.
  2. Prime with 2 coats of primer - sand smooth after each coat is dry.
  3. Spray a thin coat of Enduro Poly, and let dry.
  4. Sand smooth.
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4.
  6. Spray your 3rd and last coat of Enduro Poly, and let dry.

Recommended Products

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More Black Furniture Makeovers

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One Comment

  1. This piece turned out amazing! General Finishes products are top-notch. Thanks for sharing this tutorial! Pinned ?

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