Furniture paint techniques

Whether you are painting unfinished furniture or doing over old pieces, the world of decorating has changed. People are opting to paint their furniture in colours, with patterns and stencils. Using decorative painting techniques on old furniture is a great way to redecorate without buying new pieces. As with all art projects, preparation is the key to the best results.

Prepping the Furniture

Unfinished furniture is ready for priming, staining or varnishing. Fill scratches or chips in with wood filler. Let the wood filler dry. Sand the surfaces with wood filler until it is smooth using 220-grit sandpaper. Sand the wood in the direction of the grain. After sanding, prime, stain or varnish the furniture. Fill cracks and scratches or irregularities with wood and let it dry. Sand the filled areas until they are smooth. Remove any dirt or sanding dust before you prime, stain or varnish the piece.

White Washing Furniture

White washing furniture is a technique used to create a shabby chic look. The application of white over a darker primer will make the piece look more like an antique. Use this technique for an end table or a dining room set. Prime the furniture with a light neutral or blue-grey primer. Work in small areas at a time because you will be rubbing off wet paint. Brush on matt acrylic base white paint. Rub off a little paint with a clean cloth. Rub off paint along the edges as well so bits of the darker primer will show through the top coat. Other colours may be used as well as long as the primer is darker than the top coat.

Painting Furniture

Bold or pastel colours can be used to give furniture a fresh, modern look and work well for children's rooms or college dorm rooms. Apply a coat of primer and let it dry thoroughly. Sand the surface lightly with 220-grit sandpaper and wipe the piece with a tack cloth. Apply two or three coats of the paint colour of your choice. Sand lightly and wipe off dust with a tack cloth in between coats. Multiple colours can be used in painting furniture. Stripes, circles, polka-dots and tole images can be added to any piece of wood furniture. Use water-based paints such as acrylic or latex. Even if you use a latex house paint for the main colour, acrylic art paints can be used for the decorative painting.

Stencilling Furniture

Stencilling is a process of painting within a cut design -- the stencil -- and is used on furniture and walls. Begin by painting the furniture in the base colour. Sand the surface lightly before stencilling and use a tack cloth to wipe off dust. Stencilling takes better on a flat paint. Place the stencils on the furniture using blue tape to secure them in place. Mark registration points lightly with a pencil. Remove the pencil marks with a gum eraser when the paint is dry. Work with small amounts of paint to avoid making smearing or drips. Dip the brush into the paint and work it into the brush by swirling the brush on a plate. The amount of paint on the brush should be sparse, so remove excess paint with a paper towel. Use the tip of the brush to apply the paint to the openings in the stencil, lightly twirling the brush in small circles. Gently remove the tape and the stencil, taking care not to smear the paint.

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About the Author

Joan Mansson has been writing original puppet plays in her capacity as a librarian for over 20 years. She took several workshops with Woodstream Writers and studied with the Children's Institute of Literature. Mansson holds a Master of Library Science from Rutgers University and a Bachelor and Master of Arts from New Jersey City University.