Choosing the Right Paint for Your Furniture Painting Project

You have finally found the perfect piece of furniture to paint! Yay! So what paint should you use? There are only about a gazillion kinds of hard can it be?

So first things first, you need to determine what finish you are wanting to achieve. Take a look at Pinterest for some inspo photos. There are hundreds of specific types of finishes but I'm going to discuss 3 very simplified types of finishes for now. Smooth, distressed and chippy.

First, let's discuss the difference between chippy and distressed finishes. Many people mistake them for the same thing, and while both techniques can be used on one piece of furniture, there are differences in the type of paint to use achieve them.

Chippy is exactly as it sounds. Chips of paint flake off revealing the finish below.

Distressing is a technique that uses something abrasive, like sandpaper, to remove paint in areas that would have seen more wear and tear, like corners, edges and frequently used surfaces. It can also used to highlight architectural elements by adding depth.

The goal of both of these techniques/finishes is to make a piece look aged, weathered or worn. It's a specific look that is popular in certain decor styles such as beachy, farmhouse, French farmhouse, shabby chic, etc.

As I stated earlier, you can use both techniques in one piece of furniture. You just need to make sure you use the correct paint to achieve your desired look.

Paint For a Smooth Finish

I have worked with several brands of paint when trying to achieve a smooth, satin or glossy finish. My absolute favorite is Amulent paint by The Chippy Barn. It is a ceramic based paint and what that basically means is that it has exceptional durability and self leveling other words, it stays put and hides brush marks!

I personally like how it flows and its' workability. I also love that it comes in a traditional paint can which makes it easier, in my opinion, to use, store and clean up. The available colors are beautiful and I've mixed to get my own custom colors, as well. It's a thicker consistency that loads onto the brush nicely and covers well in one coat. I almost never need more than two coats for my projects. (side note: It can be distressed but because of the durability, it takes more work to distress it than a chalk paint which I will discuss later in the post.) It can be sealed with polyurethane, wax or oil depending on the desired look. You can check out their website and all of their paint and finishing products at

At this time, they are offering a discount for first time users.

Paint For a Chippy Finish

Milk paint is used to achieve a chippy finish. It's made from all natural ingredients such as milk, lime or borax and color pigments. It reacts with the existing finish on the furniture piece resulting in areas that may or may not chip off. The paint itself offers durable coverage. I like to warn people that milk paint has a mind of its own and will chip when and where it wants to. You can add a bonding agent to help control the chippiness, but it doesn't always prevent chipping. so just be aware that you will need to be open minded when working with milk paint. It usually comes as a powder that you mix with equal parts of hot water, stir vigorously, let sit for a bit to reduce the bubbles and then apply with your favorite brush. This is also the paint you need to use if you want both a chippy and distressed finish. It distresses easily and milk paint ages beautifully. You will want to seal it with a furniture wax or oil. My favorite brand of Milk Paint is Shackteau Interiors. The color palette is really lovely and the colors are easily mixed together to achieve a custom look. To learn more about this product, check out

Paint For a Distressed Finish

If you are looking for a distressed finish without the chippiness, then chalk paint will be a good choice. There are hundreds of chalk paints and every painter you talk to will have their favorite. Chalk paint is basically latex paint with plaster of paris, baking soda or unsanded grout and water added. These additives make the finish look matte and chalky. Because of the texture added to the paint, it is easily sanded down for a distressed look. You can seal it with polyurethane, wax or oil to brighten the color slightly. It can be used to achieve a beachy, weathered look or just to get a softer more matte finish that an authentically aged or vintage piece would have. I have used Rustoleum Chalked with great results. It's a thicker consistency, offers great coverage and durability and is available at Home Depot, so it's really easy to get some and get started on your project quickly. If you want a brand that offers more color choices, Annie Sloan, Dixie Bell and Country Chic are all quality paint brands with huge followings.

Hopefully this post helps you to narrow down the options and choose the right paint for your project. Having a vision for a piece and being able to bring it to life is very satisfying.....and addictive! Stay tuned for my next post about prepping your piece for painting. Probably the most important step in painting a piece of furniture is prep. I will talk about helpful products, tools and techniques for a quick and painless prep! If you enjoyed this post, or better yet, learned something from it, please like it and comment! And if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask! I'd love to hear from you!

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