The Secret to Painting Furniture with Latex Paint

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to give your old furniture a fresh new look, then painting furniture with latex paint is the way to go! Latex paint is easy to apply, dries quickly, and comes in a variety of colors.

However, there’s one little trick you need to know in order for latex paint to stick and last on furniture. In today’s post, I’m sharing the secret behind using latex paint on furniture!

Get more tips and ideas for painting furniture here.

Rustic wood nightstands before getting painted.

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My sister bought these nightstands from Facebook Marketplace for $50 and asked me to paint them for her boys’ rooms.

She had some latex paint on hand, so today I’m sharing how to paint furniture with latex paint.

Supplies Used:

Painting Furniture with Latex Paint

  1. Remove the Hardware
  2. Clean
  3. Scuff Sand
  4. Prime
  5. Turn the Latex Paint into Homemade Chalk Paint
  6. Paint
  7. Topcoat
  8. Reattach the Hardware

Step 1: Remove the Hardware

First, I of course removed all of the hardware with my screwdriver. This electric screwdriver makes it so easy! I love that thing.

Step 2: Cleaning Wood Furniture Before Painting

What to clean furniture with before painting?

Then I cleaned them off with Krud Kutter… you never know where used furniture has been… and paint doesn’t like to stick to some things.

Krud Kutter eats through grease and grime so all of that stuff goes away pretty easily.

Learn more on how to clean furniture before painting here.

Cleaning wood nightstands with krud kutter and a damp rag.

Optional: Tape off the Drawers

I planned to spray the paint onto these nightstands, so I taped off the drawers with some plastic and painter’s tape so the paint wouldn’t get inside the drawers.

Related: How to Prevent Overspray When Spray Painting Furniture

I want a nice clean look.

Step 3: Scuff Sanding Furniture

Then I put the squishy interface pad and a 220 grit piece of sandpaper on my sander, and scuff sanded the surface of the nightstands.

I just wanted to scuff up the surface to help the paint stick.

Scuff sanding nightstands with a power sander before painting.

This is really really important when you’re painting with latex paint since latex paint doesn’t adhere super well.

Then I cleaned off the dust.

(I invested in a new SurfPrep shop-vac to go with my SurfPrep Sander…  but I haven’t figured out how to attach a brush to it yet, so I just placed my normal brush attachment on the end… it worked alright, but I definitely need to figure out a better way.)

Cleaning off the sanding dust with a shop vac attachment.

Step 4: Prime

Then we took the nightstands out to the garage, wiped them down with a tack cloth to make sure all the dust was gone… and then I sprayed a couple of coats of clear shellac on them.

This clear shellac is my primer, and it will help the paint stick better… and it will prevent stains from the wood from coming through my paint job.

Learn more about priming furniture before painting here.

Spraying clear shellac on nightstands as a primer before painting.

Step 5: Turn the Latex Paint into Chalk Paint

While that was drying, I went back downstairs in my little workshop and mixed up the paint.

My sister had this gallon of blue latex paint that she used on the walls, but she wanted the nightstands to be a little bit darker.

So I mixed in some black latex paint to make the paint darker, and then I poured it into my sprayer… putting it through that mesh filter when I poured it, so I wouldn’t get any clumps or debris in my sprayer that could clog it.

Learn more about using a paint sprayer here!

And now, for the secret for painting furniture with latex paint… I mixed some calcium carbonate powder with some water.

I honestly don’t measure, but I think it’s supposed to be 5 tablespoons calcium carbonate, with a little bit of water to make it into like a donut glaze.

And then you put that into 1 cup of latex paint and mix it together really well.

Here is the recipe to turn latex paint into chalk paint.

Why Turn Latex Paint Into Chalk Paint?

This calcium carbonate powder makes the latex paint adhere way better than if you just use latex paint.

From my experience, I wouldn’t use just plain latex paint on furniture… it’s not very durable and it doesn’t stick onto furniture very well.

Step 6: Paint with the New Latex Paint Mixture

Before I started spraying the nightstands, I tested the spray on a piece of cardboard. Making sure I wasn’t spraying too much or too little and that I liked how it looked.

Then I sprayed a coat of paint on the nightstands. Obviously, if you don’t want to spray, you can brush the paint on instead.

A sprayer is way faster for me, and I prefer the brush-free finish.

Here’s some really great tips on How to Paint Furniture Without Brush Marks when using a paint brush.

After I got a light coat on everything, I opened up the drawers and sprayed the tops and sides of the drawers.

Using a paint sprayer to spray blue latex paint onto the nightstands.

I let the paint dry for an hour or so, and then I painted another coat on.

Step 7: Topcoat the Latex Paint

Then I emptied the paint out of the sprayer, and without cleaning out the sprayer, I poured in some waterbased polyurethane topcoat.

Learn more about the best polyurethane for furniture here.

But I totally forgot to put the mesh filter on, so I poured it out.. thankfully that can was empty, put on the mesh filter, and poured it back in.

And then I mixed the poly really well to make it mix with the paint that was in the sprayer.

Mixing a little bit of the paint with the poly makes the poly look a lot better, especially on dark colors.

Related: How to Spray Polyurethane

Then I sprayed it onto the nightstand… and totally sprayed way too much.

Brushing out the polyurethane drips on a nightstand after spraying too much top coat.

So before it dried with a bunch of drips I would have to sand a lot, I brushed it out the best I could and then I let it all dry.

Thankfully you couldn’t really see the brush marks in the topcoat, but I lightly sanded everything with a fine grit foam sanding pad to make everything feel nice and smooth.

Then I cleaned up the dust and adjusted my settings on the sprayer to not spray as much… and I sprayed a couple of light coats, letting it dry between coats.

Step 8: Reattach the Hardware

Then I removed the plastic from the drawers and put the original hardware back on since that’s what my sister wanted.

Watch the full video makeover here!

Latex Paint on Furniture | Scratch Test

A couple of weeks after painting them, I did a quick scratch test… and it’s not scratching off!

I did the same process on this test board, but I didn’t add the calcium carbonate powder to the paint.

And look how easy it is to scratch off. And I did the test board almost a week before I did the nightstands.

The calcium carbonate powder makes all of the difference!

(Update: 2 months after the latex paint was tested on the board, it’s not scratching off anymore.)

Latex paint with calcium carbonate powder on nightstands does not scratch off, but latex paint with calcium carbonate on a board does scratch off.

And here’s what they look like now.

Top view of dark navy blue painted nightstands.

Aren’t they so cute? I love this deep blue, especially since it made it easier to paint with all of the rustic texture on these nightstands.

Close side view of blue painted nightstands with black hardware.

I think I would have left off the corner braces if it was mine… but what would you have done?

Full view of rustic nightstands painted  in a dark navy blue latex paint.

Oh, and I sold these… to my sister, in exchange for some shirts from her clothing business. Win, win right??


Can you paint furniture with wall paint?

Wall paint can be used to paint furniture, but it’s not as good as furniture paint.

Furniture paint is designed to adhere to surfaces and resist wear and tear, while wall paint is designed for a different purpose.

However, you can get good results by mixing calcium carbonate powder into wall paint. This will help the paint to adhere to the surface and resist wear and tear.

You should also topcoat the furniture with a clear waterbased topcoat to protect the paint.

Chalk Paint vs. Latex Paint

Chalk paint and latex paint are two popular types of paint for DIY projects. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the right type of paint for your project.

Chalk Paint:

  • Dries in a matte finish
  • Is very porous
  • Needs to be topcoated with polyurethane or wax
  • Adhere’s better than latex paint
  • Sands into a powder

Latex Paint:

  • Comes in flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss, and gloss finishes
  • Isn’t porous
  • Is meant for walls
  • Needs to be topcoated with polyurethane for best durability
  • Doesn’t adhere as well as chalk paint
  • Sands into balls of paint and gums up sandpaper

Homemade Chalk Paint

You can easily make homemade chalk paint by adding some calcium carbonate powder into some latex paint. Calcium carbonate powder is essentially chalk powder, so it’s literally turning it into chalk paint.

The calcium carbonate powder helps the latex paint adhere better to furniture than regular latex paint and it makes it feel and work more like chalk paint does.

Here is the homemade chalk paint recipe that I use.

Latex paint over shellac primer?

Latex paint is the one paint that clear shellac doesn’t work the best with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to help make latex paint stick any better to furniture.

BIN shellac based primer is a better option to use under latex paint.

Check out this test for painting laminate furniture and how much better chalk paint stuck to the primers than latex paint did.

Do I need to seal latex paint on furniture?

Yes! If you want your latex paint to be as durable as possible right from the start, seal it with a waterbased polyurethane like Varathane Polyurethane.

Water based polyurethane will put a hard layer over the latex paint to help protect it from scratching.

The latex paint might harden up enough that it won’t scratch, but that will take at least 30 days. Before 30 days is over, there are a lot of ways that your furniture can get scratched up. So it’s best to seal it before you use it.

Best Latex Paint Sprayer

Want to spray latex paint on your furniture instead of brushing it on?

Latex paint works really well with all of these sprayers in my Best HVLP Paint Sprayers for furniture list.

How do you thin latex paint?

Latex paint is typically water based, so you can just add some water to it to thin it out and make it look better when you spray it.

Add 10-15% water to your paint for a great spraying consistency.

Learn more about thinning paint for a paint sprayer here.

How to distress latex paint?

You can distress latex paint with 220 grit sandpaper. You can also use a damp old rag to rub the paint off in some areas.

It doesn’t distress as nicely as chalk paint does, but it can still be easily distressed.

Learn the best ways to distress painted furniture here.

More Furniture Makeovers with Latex Paint


  1. Erin Schettler says:

    Question – started with a chalk mineral paint and am not thrilled with it. Do I need to sand the piece again to shift to a latex paint?

    And your instructions and videos are amazing!

    1. did you topcoat the chalk paint yet?
      What latex paint are you going with? This method will turn the latex paint basically into chalk paint, so I’m not sure if that’s the way you really want to go?

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