How to Paint Wood Furniture

By on March 20, 2014
How to Paint Wood Furniture

If you own a piece of wood furniture that has seen better days or you just want to add a splash of color to your furniture piece, don’t be afraid of paint. Oh sure, there are paint haters everywhere you look, but paint is a fantastic way to transform that old, ugly drab piece of brown wood into something cheerful, colorful and wonderful!

If you’ve never painted wood furniture before, I’ve got good news…it’s incredibly easy!

Step 1 – Prep Your Furniture

It’s always a good idea, especially with older pieces, to give your wood furniture a quick wipe down to clean it and clear it from cobwebs if it’s been sitting in store for awhile. You can use something as simple as a damp cloth, or if you have any sort of stubborn residue you can try something a bit strong such as Lift Off (that’s what I use). Lift Off will take just about anything off of any surface, and I use it a lot in my furniture makeovers.

Another aspect of your prep work will involve removing the hardware from your furniture piece. This is pretty simply and requires usually just a basic screwdriver.

Now, if you’re using something such as Annie Sloan chalk paint or maybe another distressing technique, then you don’t need to do any further prep work but if you’re going to for a sleek, smooth finish, then you will want to be sure to patch any holes with wood filler and give your wood furniture a light sanding. This should take off any existing varnish or lacquers that might still be on the surface of the wood.

Lastly, be sure to wipe down the wood again, just to be sure you’ve removed any leftover dust debris from your sanding.

Step 2 – Prime Your Furniture

Now that your little baby is clean and smooth, it’s time to give her a base coat to give the paint something to grip onto. This is called priming and you’ll want to get yourself some primer in either a spray can form or in a can you can apply with a brush or roller from a can of primer. I personally love to use it in a spray can form, because it’s easier to apply and goes on thinner and without lines.

When applying your primer to the wood furniture, keep your paint application light and in several thin coats. Don’t try to just stack it on thick immediately…this doesn’t look nice. You’re going for a nice, even coverage on the entire piece so that your paint sticks.

When you’re done priming, run your fingers across the wood. Does it feel smooth? No? Give it a light sanding with a fine grit paper to smooth it out and then wipe it down with a tack cloth to pick up all the dust.

Step 3 – Paint Your Wood Furniture

It’s time! This is the fun part. You can apply paint in either a spray paint form or grab a can of your favorite paint and apply with a brush or roller.

Which ever method you use, remember that several thin coats is better than fewer thick coats. I can’t say this enough, so please trust me on this and you will end up with a beautiful piece. You do not have to wait until the paint is fully cured before applying your next coat, in fact, most of the time, I am usually starting on my next coat within a few minutes after ending the previous coat.

Step 4 – Protect Your Finish (totally optional)

Not everyone will do this last step and it’s not required but giving your painted wood furniture a protective coating will keep your furniture looking great and durable for a longer period of time.

You can do a quick spray paint of lacquer or apply it using a brush from a can. If your wood furniture is a table of any kind and will see a lot of use, I highly recommend giving the table top portion of the piece a few extra coats of lacquer to give it a highly durable surface that can take the constant use.

That’s all there is to learning how to paint wood furniture. It’s quite easy and can quite possibly keep you from tossing that old junky wood furniture piece out into the trash pile. Just start with a clean and prepped piece, prime, paint and protect. Easy as that! Be warned…painting wood furniture can be quite addictive, so your family better watch out once you see what you can do.

Now, get to painting!

About Misty Spears

I absolutely love all things DIY, especially when it comes to decorating my own home. I’m a thrift store junkie and my head just explodes with ideas to repurpose old junk into something practical and beautiful when I come across that perfect treasure. I’m a wood furniture rebel and try to paint every surface I can to bring color into my life. My life revolves around my family and enjoying every moment that life serves up to me. You can connect with me on Twitter @diyhomeinterior, Instagram @mistyspears and see my pins on Pinterest for a sneak peak into all the DIY projects I am working on and crazy life happenings.


  1. Edie Dykeman

    March 20, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    What a great tutorial! I’m going to paint a white chest after we move in June. It got banged up on the previous move three years ago, but I knew we were moving back so that’s my (excuse) reason for waiting. Will be back for more details when the time comes. Thanks!

    • Misty Spears

      March 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      That’s great Edie. I’d love to see pics of your finished project.

  2. Cynthia Dixon

    March 20, 2014 at 10:40 pm


    I am loving your new site! I’ve painted a couple of items in the past, but that’s been many moons ago. I’ll have to refer back to this when the mood strikes me again.

    Great job you’re doing on this site. Love it!

    • Misty Spears

      March 21, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Thank you Cynthia. Glad you are a frequent reader!

  3. Bonnie Gean

    March 21, 2014 at 5:00 am

    We had to move from our old house into a new place two years ago (to be closer to the partner’s work area) and I find there is less room here than we had before.

    PLUS, at the old place we had a backyard. Here, I don’t have one. :(

    I really like to paint furniture and as you said, it’s very easy. STOP making me want to move just so I have room to tinker in the garage again! ROFL

    • Misty Spears

      March 21, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Bonnie you should see my middle of the night paint areas. I have actually painted on my daughters play rug because if was the only spot I had since the garage was too cold and it was raining outside. Although I will admit, so far I haven’t done many large pieces. Smaller items just seem to work better when it’s an inside job.

  4. Nate

    March 21, 2014 at 6:25 am

    This is such a wonderful tutorial. It’s just awesome to see that you are taking something that needs to be restored into something that looks almost brand new! Great job!

    • Misty Spears

      March 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks Nate. I’m on a mission to try and keep my home decorating costs as low as I can, so painting has proven to be a great way to take free or cheap things and make them wonderful again.

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