Different Ways to Paint an Antique Steamer Trunk

Updated February 21, 2017

Steamer trunks can become a beautiful addition to a study or bedroom. A flat top truck can be used as a table top. The inside of the trunk can double for storage for linens, books or games. Steamer trunks are not only versatile but make an interesting focal point.


Trunks that have wood slats should be stripped of old paint or cleaned with Murphy Oil Soap before painting. Tin can be cleaned and rust removed with a wire brush or a fine grade of sandpaper.

Painting Wood

A quick sanding may be needed before painting the wood. Wood slats can be painted in a gloss or high gloss paint and then allowed to dry completely. Run your hand over the dry painted surface to feel for any rough or raised spots. Any places that are not smooth should have another light sanding and then apply a second coat of paint. Another option other than painting would be to stain the wood using an oil-based stain.

Painting Tin

Embossed tin can be painted and then lightly sanded to emphasise the intricacies of the design on the trim. A light sanding will remove a small amount of paint from the raised design. Two colours of paint can also be used on embossed tin. First paint the bottom coat and let it dry thoroughly. This coat will show as the raised area on the tin. Paint a different colour over the top using water based paint. Do not let this paint dry completely. Using a wet sponge with a paper towel wrapped around it, wipe across the top of the tin. Start by using a light stroke until the desired amount of paint is removed from the raised tin. Use a clear coat of shellac to protect the painted finish.

Faux Paint

Large areas can be painted in a faux finish. Paint the whole area in a base coat and let the paint dry. The second colour should be mixed with a glazing liquid. The amount of glazing liquid will determine the transparency of the paint. Use a sea sponge to dip just the edges into the second colour. Keep a newspaper handy to remove excess paint from the sponge. Lightly dab the sponge to the area, rotating the sponge between dabs to allow for different patterns. Paint colours can be selected to emulate wood tones or to compliment the decor of the room.


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About the Author

Emma Lee owns a photography website and also works as a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, animals and photography. Her work can be found on various websites. Lee attended Charles County Community College located in Maryland.