How to Paint Furniture

Get the professional-looking finish you want

With this simple "how to paint furniture" guideline, you'll attain the beautiful finish you demand, just as if it came fresh from the factory.

Whether it's old hand-me-down furniture in need of a new look, or new, unfinished pieces ready for a finish coat, these simple procedures should help.

Prep Your Furniture

Seemingly, the hardest part is to actually get the piece ready to paint. Just as getting an entire room ready, the same is true for even a small piece of furniture or cabinet.

Simply do the following:

  • Make sure the piece you're getting ready to paint is completely clean, inside and out.

  • Remove all hardware.

  • Next, get some #220 sandpaper*.

    *The "grit" number refers to the level of courseness of the sandpaper. The higher the number, the less course it is.

    Lightly sand the entire surface of your piece. You just want to break the surface, even if it's veneer. No need to rub hard and overwork yourself. If you plan on painting the inside, lightly sand there too. Remember to always sand with the grain.

    (The reason why you sand, is to "rough up" the surface before you paint furniture. This promotes adhesion, so the paint will bond to the surface more effectively)

  • Once you have finished sanding, you'll want to wipe down the surface with tack cloth. This is a waxy cloth that attracts, or picks up any dust or dirt that you generated by sanding. (You can buy this at any furiniture refinishing craft store, or "big-box" outlet such as Lowe's, or Home Depot)

    If you don't have any tack cloth, get a clean rag and thoroughly wipe down the surface, as many times as necessary. The purpose here is to have the surface dust free.

  • Once you have done that, you now need to prime the surface, so the finish paint will go on smoother and bond stronger. Just use a muli-purpose latex primer that can be found at any paint store.

    After the primer has dried, you're ready to paint .....

    Applying the Finish Coat

    When you paint furniture, you generally use a satin, or semi-gloss paint. So when you're done, you will notice the result will be a little shiny, or very shiny depending upon the sheen of the finish.

    To more easily paint furniture, always start with the more intricate areas, and work your way out to the flatter, bigger areas. In other words, paint the detailed (bevels, raised panels, trim, joints, spindles etc.) first, and proceed out from that point.

    If you were painting a chair, for example, you would proceed from the harder, more detailed parts (where the spindles, legs meet the seat and chairback) first, and move outward.

    As you paint "inside out", so to speak, you will ensure that your work will not overlap, and thereby harming what you've already done. As you move forward, you'll eventually tie it all together on the flatter areas.

    *NOTE* - Never paint over joined (when a perpendicular board meets a horizontal board) panels with the same brush stroke. In other words, if a board is running straight up and down, then your brush strokes should be straight up and dowm. If a board is horizontal, your brush strokes should follow horizontally as well. Doing this maintains the integrity of the grain pattern, and of the overall look of the furniture in general.

    It is important to keep your brush strokes short and consistent, not wavy and wild.

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