Thursday, June 30, 2011

how i paint furniture

I've shared a few of my painted furniture pieces lately and although I am no expert, I have gotten down to a little system that works for me and thought I'd share it here in case you are wondering.

Here is a quick breakdown of each step:

1. Prep your space

2. Sand your furniture

3. Degloss if necessary

4.  Paint!

5. Finish with Paste Wax

6.  Enjoy your masterpiece!

And here is a bit more about each step: 

Step 1:: Prep your space

I use drop cloths and tarps to protect my surface from spills and drips, which are inevitable no matter how careful you are.  I also use milk crate{s} to stand the furniture on so that I can get to all the surfaces at once.

Step 2:: Sand your furniture

I prefer to use a palm sander which makes this step sooo easy and saves a ton of time.  A palm sander will run about $60 at Home Depot. Or you can rent one from your local tool shop for about $17 a day.  You will need to buy a pack of 220 grit sanding circles made especially for palm sanders which will run about $4 for a pack of 4.  The sheets just velcro on the sander and you replace them once they've lost their grit.  Easy peasy.


If you'd rather, you can use 220 grit sandpaper for this {just tear off a small piece and work it over the piece going in one direction until it feels smooth}. 

Step 3:: Degloss if necessary

Some areas like turned legs and carved detailing, or other ornate woodwork are hard to get with sandpaper or the palm sander.  For these areas, you can use the deglosser.  Just pour some on a clean cloth and wipe it onto the surface.  It will leave a matte, chalky surface, ready for paint.

Step 4:: Paint!

Pour a little paint into a disposable tray set inside a regular paint tray, cookie sheet or my high tech option: the top of a cardboard box.  It really doesn't matter what you set the disposable tray in/on as long as it provides a little support because the disposable trays are pretty flimsy.  Using a standard size high density foam roller, a small/trim high density foam roller and a 2" brush, apply the first coat of paint.  It's important to remove any excess paint from the roller or brush by running it along the bottom of the tray {the bumpy part} because the worst thing you can do is apply too much paint at once.  You want 2 or 3 light coats, not 1 thick and gloppy one. 

Using the largest foam roller first, roll as much of the furniture as you can, going in 1 direction and overlapping the roller lines a bit.  Then go in with the trim roller and get as much of the remaining areas as you can.  Lastly take your brush and get any remaining spots {there shouldn't be too many spots left to get, just the hard to reach areas or the intricate detailing that the rollers missed.}

Wait for the first coat to dry {about 4 hours} and repeat with a second coat.  A few pieces may even need a third coat, but most will be good with 2 coats.

{By the way, the brush I use is a Purdy XL Cub.  It's made for smaller hands so it's much more comfortable for me than the larger brushes which are usually made for a man}

Step 5:: Finish with Paste Wax

Most people will tell you to finish your furniture with Verathane or Polycrylic.  There isn't anything wrong with those, but it's not my preference.  I have tried them and I don't think they come out as smooth and glossy as furniture treated with Paste Wax.  You can experiment and find what you like best, but this is my fave. 

Once your piece is completely dry, apply some Paste Wax to a clean cloth and rub it over the furniture in a thin even coat.  Let it dry for about 15 minutes and buff it off with a second clean cloth.

You can also add stains to the Paste Wax if you want to add a patina to your furniture.  I use Minwax Paste Finishing Wax, but it does have a light peachy tint that can show up on white pieces.  So for white or very light pieces, bowling alley paste wax {which is clear} is your best bet and is guaranteed not to yellow.  Here is a great blog article about paste wax if you want to read more about it. 

One last thing...

Some pieces of furniture may have damage and require wood filler.  You will want to apply this with a putty knife after you have sanded the piece.  Allow the wood filler to dry completely, resand the area and paint.  This is also a great technique if you have a piece of furniture that you'd like to change the hardware on.  Say if you have pulls {two holes}, but want to change to knobs {1 hole}.

So that is it!!  I hope this is a helpful little reference for you.  My best advice would be to just go for it!  You will get more comfortable over time and you will develop your own little system. 

If you have any questions, just post them in the comments and I will be sure and answer them!

Happy Painting!!


  1. Really great post! I am just getting into painting furniture and need all the pointers I can get. Especially appreciate the paste wax tip...I have noticed the peachy tint of the minwax on my white pieces and will have to try the bowling alley wax! :) Thank you!

  2. Oh, thank you for this post!! I have some pieces to paint and this has given me the "push" to get started. I will make sure to show you pics when I am finished. :)

  3. great post - Thank You - I've been wanting to do this and feel a bit intimidated and your post makes it look fairly simple :)
    one Question about the wax - for things like coffee tables - How do you keep it clean - would wiping it with damp/wet cloth wear off the wax?

  4. Thanks for the information! My husband and I have been redoing some furniture and this was a great little review for me. :)

  5. Love this blog-your photo linky party is an amazing, great idea. I would love to participate in the future.
    Thanks for the painting tips, my eldest daughter and I were just talking today about looking for a used coffee table and painting it for her first apartment!

  6. I'm a new follower from LillyPie. Excited about your participation in her anniversary giveaway.

    I want to repaint a few pieces of furniture & this post is going to be very helpful!

  7. This is really helpful information. I am going to use this for my office furniture.Thank you.

  8. These tips always seemed to help me when I was painting my furniture

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Really great post ...i am just getting painter and i can get it.Especially appreciate.


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