How to paint wood furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Painting furniture involves sanding, priming and painting. Having the patience to apply a second coat of paint, will reward you with a better-looking, longer-lasting finish. Painting wood furniture is very easy to do yourself, just follow the steps below.

Make sure there's no chance that your piece of furniture is an antique whose value could be destroyed by changing the finish.

Set up your work area in a well-ventilated place with nothing around that could produce flames or sparks.

Remove drawer pulls and other hardware. Place the furniture on a layer of newspaper or a disposable drop cloth.

Sand the piece of furniture until smooth with sandpaper or liquid sander. You may need to sand the furniture two or even three times, starting with relatively rough sandpaper (100 grit) and moving on to progressively finer grits (150). Wear gloves, safety goggles and a dust mask.

Remove any residual sawdust with a hand vacuum, brush or a tack cloth - you don't want to wet the wood.

Apply a coat of either white brush-on or gray spray-on water-based primer, depending on the size and area of the piece of furniture you intend to cover.

Allow the primer to become dry to the touch; this usually takes 1 to 2 hours. If you're not sure, read the recommended drying time on your can of primer.

If the primer coat looks spotty or thin, apply a second coat and allow it to dry.

Sand any rough areas.

Add a coat of water-based paint. Brush it on with even strokes, going in the direction of the wood grain. With spray paint, make slow passes with the can 8 to 12 inches from the wood surface. Allow the first coat to dry.

Add a second coat and allow it to dry overnight.


Wash paintbrushes well immediately after use. Rinse under fast-running water until the water runs clear from the bristles. When working with latex paint use brushes with synthetic bristles. Natural bristles work best for oil or alkyd based paints When using spray paint, cover a wide area with newspaper to protect adjacent surfaces.


Always work in a well-ventilated area.

Things You'll Need

  • Light-grit sandpaper
  • Water-based primers
  • Portable vacuums
  • Water-based paints
  • Paint sprayers
  • Tack cloths
  • Small and large brushes
  • Newspapers Or drop cloths
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