Painting Furniture Techniques

Updated February 21, 2017

Reviving old furniture can be easily accomplished using paint and a variety of decorative painting techniques. While decorative painting is commonly associated with walls and ceilings, the techniques can be transferred to furniture surfaces. Before painting, always clean and wash furniture and remove all drawers and doors for easy access.

Aged Distressed Finish

Create the look of aged furniture by layering a variety of paints. Choose three different colours for an interesting combination. Colors can range from contrasting aquas and red to more muted tones, such as black and greens. Roll or brush on the first coat of paint and allow to dry for 24 hours before painting on the second coat. When the paint is completely dry, lightly sand edges and other areas to add distress marks. Use nails to hammer holes and abrasions for more obvious ageing. Lightly brush on the third coat with a dry brush technique. Brush on the colour on the edges and small sections. When completely dry, sand the entire piece to reveal sections of the base and secondary colour.

Raised Stencil

Embossing a piece of furniture gives an elegant professional look. Paint the entire piece one solid colour. Choose a stencil design to emboss. Stencils come in a variety of designs from modern to traditional. Lay the stencil flat in place where the effect will be placed. Tape the stencil in place. Using a coloured plaster or gel medium and a palette knife, lightly skim the stencil openings. Remove the stencil to show a slightly raised design. Add mica powder in metallic shades for an additional embellishment. Allow the plaster to dry. Paint the entire piece with a coat of clear polyurethane using a dry brush or roller and allow clear coat to dry for 24 hours.

Ostrich Skin Finish

Apply a bonding primer to the furniture and allow to dry for 24 hours. Next, paint the piece a solid base coat--one or more coats of paint may be necessary. Using a palette knife or trowel, apply a think coat of plaster approximately 3 cm thick to the furniture--the plaster should be added as smooth as possible. Grab a section of bubble wrap and place the rounded textured area into the wet plaster. Apply light pressure allowing circles to make an indentation. Remove the bubble wrap and reapply to remaining plaster areas. Let the plaster dry for 24 hours. Paint the plaster with a solid coat of latex paint. Again, more than one coat may be needed. Using a paint rag, lightly stain with the metallic gold glaze. Dip the rag into glaze and lightly rub into the crevices to give a reflective shimmery look.


Crackle paint can be added to furniture for additional texture and a distressed feel. A base coat is applied to the surface. This colour will peek through the topcoat of paint. Once dry, apply a coating of crackle paint. Allow the paint to dry enough so that it is tacky to touch. Next, apply the final coat of paint. If brushing the paint on the cracks, there will be elongated lines. If using a sponge to pounce on the paint, the pattern will have a more overall unique look. Do not go over an area more than once with the second coat of paint. The paint effects will be seen immediately. Add a clear coat of polyurethane for durability.

Snake Skin Finish

Follow the directions for ostrich skin finish. Once the wet plaster has been trowelled on and applied to the surface, use a piece of webbed netting. You can purchase netting at a fabric store or use netting from a bag of vegetables or onions purchased from the grocery store. Not a lot of netting is necessary. Lay the netting flat into the wet plaster. If the netting wrinkles, it is OK, as it will actually add to the realistic look of snakeskin. Continue to press the netting into the plaster and remove until the surface has the look of snakeskin. Allow the plaster to dry and then paint it with a base coat. Beige or brown gives a realistic look. Mix one part black paint to four parts glaze. Using a paint rag, dip into the glaze mixture and stain the snakeskin surface. The stain will add paint to the crevices, giving the textured skin more dimension.

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About the Author

Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.