How to Paint a Piece of Furniture

Painting is an easy way to refresh an old piece of furniture and make it better fit your current decor. Instead of getting rid of a table that is too dark or a bookcase that is blah, try painting it!

Check out my previous posts in this series:

>Choosing the right piece (previous blog post)

>Figuring out your design plan and choosing the correct paint (previous blog post)

>Prepping your piece (previous blog post)

Once you've completed those steps, then congratulations! It's time to paint!!! Happy dance!!!


First, a quick discussion on paint brushes. When I began painting furniture, I used a $5 brush from Home Depot. It did the job, and I didn't feel guilty about tossing them instead of cleaning them. I decided that was super wasteful of both money and for the environment. I upgraded to Zibra brushes.( about $10-$20 depending on style.) They were a big improvement and come in a bunch of different styles for painting multiple kinds of surfaces. Then, a friend introduced me to Cling On brushes (about $29-$35) and

I will never use anything else. They are a bit more expensive, but worth every penny if you plan to paint a lot. For a single project, I don't think I would spend the money, but for any more than one, I absolutely would. What I love about them is the shape and balanced feel in your hand. My hands do not get fatigued as quickly when I use Cling On brushes. The bristles are very soft and because of that, leave very few brush marks. They are insanely easy to clean. Literally put them in a cup of water and walk away. Especially for topcoats, they give you the smoothest finish of any brush or sponge that I've ever tried. You can use whatever brush you like. They all do essentially the same thing. I just wanted to share what I use professionally and why.


Tools you will need are: Paintbrush, painter's tape, a screwdriver, water in a glass jar or container, 300-400 grit sandpaper, lint free cloth and a drop cloth or something to avoid getting drips on your work surface if that's a concern. I usually have a damp rag, too. (because I'm messy and there's always a rogue drip or twenty.)


You will want to tape off any areas that you don't want to get paint on. Make sure you scrape the tape with a credit card or hard edge of some sort to seal the edge that will be up against your paint to prevent bleeding. You will also want to

remove hardware if you didn't during the prepping. One pet peeve of mine is painting over hardware, including hinges. It always looks sloppy. If you want to paint them, take them off, clean them and paint them with the proper product. (watch for a future blog post on this topic!) It will look a million times more professional!!!








Give the surface of your piece a final wipe with a lint free cloth. Dampen the paintbrush bristles and shake out excess water. (this saves paint because the bristles will not soak up as much paint if they are slightly damp) Before starting to paint, use a stir stick to stir the paint well making sure the color looks uniform in the can. (Don't shake your can of paint, it creates tiny bubbles that will show up in your finish!) With your slightly damp brush, dip into the paint so maybe a third to one half of the bristles are coated with paint. Don't dip it in all the way to the metal part, that's a huge waste of paint.

When you began to apply the paint to the surface, start at the top of the piece and work your way down. That way, you don't get drips on sections you have already finished.


I prefer to apply paint in long strokes without going back over the same spot more than a couple times. Once you brush the paint on, each time you swipe over it, you take paint away. So try to use long, light strokes. Your first coat should be thin. In my opinion, three thin coats always looks better than one or two thick coats. So continue long, light strokes all over, watching for and wiping up drips or pooling. Especially watch for these on edges and in corners or on uneven surfaces like spindles. If you do miss a drip and it dries, use a razor blade to scrape it off, lightly sand if there is an impression of it and repaint.


Follow product recommendations for how long you wait before applying the second coat. Typically one to two hours unless it is very cold or humid in your workspace. This is one reason I prefer thin coats.....they dry quicker.


Apply your second and (if necessary) third coats in the same manner. Long, light strokes, starting from the top of the piece and working down. If you see (or feel) little bubbles or imperfections in the paint, sand lightly with a 300-400 grit sand paper to remove the imperfections in between coats. Then wipe with your lint free cloth to remove the dust before painting the next coat. Sometimes lint or dust will get trapped in the wet paint and cause tiny imperfections. Once you get the coverage you desire, you can move on to distressing the piece, adding a stencil or transfer. The sky is the limit!


The last step is sealing your project. You can use a polyurethane, wax or oil to seal your surface. Keep an eye out for a future blog post on choosing the right sealer for your project and how to apply them. I would recommend 3-5 thinner coats depending on how much wear and tear the surface will be exposed to. For instance, a dining table top or coffee table top would require more coats than a dresser or side table. I

typically use Varathane Ultimate Polyurathane in Crystal clear satin finish. It comes in matte and glossy finish options, as well. It will not cause your light and white pieces to yellow. Many other topcoats out there will, so be aware of that. Apply with a brush or a sponge. I love my Cling On brushes for this step, especially!

Be aware that it will take several days to 3 weeks for the paint job to totally cure. (check the manufacturers directions) Until then, you can use the piece, just be careful with setting heavy objects on top because they could leave an indent, and avoid putting scratchy or rough surfaced items on it like a ceramic bowl with a raw base. I have learned that the hard way!

Hopefully this post will help you get that piece painted! If you have questions, please ask in the comments or email me! Stay tuned for a post on cleaning up and repainting hardware, and one on the different types of sealers and when to use them. Most importantly, relax and have fun...mistakes can be sanded and redone. If you take your time and have patience, it won't be long before you have a finished project that you can be proud of!


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