How to Paint Folk Art Furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Painted furniture can add life and excitement to any room. When you paint in a folk art style, you transform furniture from a utilitarian object to a statement and a work of art. You can use folk art painting with furniture that you have just purchased or built, or liven up an older piece of furniture and hide wear and flaws. While there are guidelines for best durability and appearance, there really are no rules for content, so let your imagination have a field day.

Clean the piece of furniture to be painted. If it is a new piece of furniture, prime any bare wood with latex-based primer. If it is an older piece, clean all the surfaces with a mild dish soap in hot water, then with clean water, then dry thoroughly. If there is any loose paint, scrape the surfaces and sand with 100 grit sandpaper.

Get design ideas by reading in books or on the internet about various folk art styles. Consider how the different styles will blend with the piece of furniture you are painting and with the room you will be putting it in.

Paint over any knots in the wood with shellac before priming. If you don't do this the knots will bleed through your painting. Remove knots and fill the holes with glued-in pieces of wood or wood filler.

Use latex-based house paint for ease of use and affordability, or oil-based artist paints for richer colours. Oil paints dry much more slowly than latex, so if you are painting a complex design that involves a lot of colour mixing and shading, they are preferable.

Draw the design of your painting on a piece of paper before beginning to paint on the furniture. Paint the background colour on first. This is particularly important if you are painting something with many small figures or elements. By painting the background first, then painting the smaller elements on top of it, you won't need to paint around all the smaller bits.

Paint either decorative, nonrepresentational designs, or realistic images such as landscapes, animals or people.

Cover your painted furniture with a protective coat of polyurethane. For an antiqued look, rub over the piece with a light coat of stain or shoe polish before applying the polyurethane. Don't overdo this--too much will make it look muddy.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint scraper
  • 100 grit sandpaper
  • Glue
  • Oil paints
  • Latex paints
  • Large paint brush
  • Small paint brushes
  • Stain or shoe polish
  • Polyurethane
  • Rags
  • Wood filler
  • Small pieces of wood
  • Books on folk art
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About the Author

Jagg Xaxx has been writing since 1983. His primary areas of writing include surrealism, Buddhist iconography and environmental issues. Xaxx worked as a cabinetmaker for 12 years, as well as building and renovating several houses. Xaxx holds a Doctor of Philosophy in art history from the University of Manchester in the U.K.