How to paint furniture without brush marks

Updated April 17, 2017

The obvious solution to avoiding brush marks while painting furniture is not to use a brush at all but instead to use spray paint. However, spray paint poses its own difficulties, such as a tendency to drip and coat unevenly. If you are committed to using a paintbrush, there are techniques that can help avoid brush marks. Consider practicing on a piece of scrap lumber before you try painting your furniture.

Sand the wood with an orbital sander to achieve the smoothest surface possible. If the wood has been previously painted, look for ridges, drips and divots that require extra attention. Use a pull scraper for ridges and fill depressions with spackle prior to sanding.

Wipe the sanded surface with a wet cloth to clean off sanding dust. Let the surface dry completely.

Add a flow extender to your paint if possible. This reduces the surface tension of the paint and helps it distribute more evenly, smoothing out visible brush strokes.

Use a professional grade paintbrush matched to the type of paint you're using. Consider a china bristle brush for oil-based paint and a polyester brush for latex-based paint. A high-quality paintbrush will yield a better result than an inexpensive or disposable brush.

Apply the paint with the wood grain, using long, smooth strokes, working on one section at a time. As soon as the surface is painted, knock the remaining paint off the brush into the paint can or tray. Immediately tip off the painted section by holding the brush at a low angle and lightly running the bristles over the painted surface, evening out visible brush marks.

Leave the surface undisturbed until it is completely dry. Once the paint begins to dry, any further brushwork will leave visible marks.


Save your painting projects for dry, cool weather. High temperatures cause the paint to set faster, making it difficult to smooth out. Whenever possible, paint your furniture while it is lying flat to avoid drips and to allow gravity to help smooth the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Orbital sander
  • Pull scraper
  • Spackle
  • Wet cloth
  • Flow extender
  • High-quality paintbrush
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About the Author

Denise Howard has been writing since 2004, specializing in home and garden, travel, music and education. A private music instructor and professional accompanist, Howard holds a Bachelor of Arts in music, studying both piano and voice.