Furniture Painting

Furniture Painting

Furniture painting is a big craft these days, as the "cottage chic" look of gussied-up garage sale finds has taken hold. But, furniture painting is not quite the same as painting a wall or a canvas.

Choosing Furniture for Painting

The first step for a successful furniture painting experience is choosing the right furniture to paint. It's a lot of fun to go to garage sales, flea markets and antique stores to look for good buys that would look great with a fresh coat of paint.

When you find what you think is a good piece, look it over carefully. Stay away from pieces that have large gouges, cracks, broken legs, drawers that don't track properly or other major flaws unless you have experience with woodworking or furniture repair. Pieces with scratches, dings on the back that won't be seen, glass rings, stains or other minor flaws that can be hidden, sanded out or painted over make wonderful choices. As an added bonus, you can often get less-than-perfect furniture for a better price than you would perfect pieces.

However, please don't buy a real antique piece from the turn of the last century or earlier and take it home and paint it.

Preparing Your Furniture for Painting

Once you have purchased your piece, you'll need to do a little more work before you can paint it. Unless you bought your furniture from a raw wood store, there will likely be some kind of varnish or paint already on your piece that you will want to take off.

Use a paint and varnish remover to soften the paint or varnish, making it easier to sand or scrape off later. There are several different kinds of varnish remover available.

  • Some have paraffin or other waxy substances that keep the remover from evaporating too quickly to do its job. This wax will also keep your paint from adhering well, so it needs to be removed by wiping the piece down with turpentine. This adds an extra step and extra cost to the process.
  • Other varnish removers don't have wax; you have to work more quickly with them but they are usable.
  • Still other removers claim a water-only cleanup; after applying the remover you can simply wash the old paint away with water. These are somewhat difficult to use and water isn't great for the wood.

Your choice of varnish remover will depend upon your needs and the amount of time you have to devote to the project. Go to your local hardware store and look at some of the different products. Follow the directions closely and always work in a well-ventilated area both when working with paint and varnish removers and when sanding or scraping the piece.

Furniture Painting Tips

It's a good idea to prime your furniture before you paint it with whatever base color you want to use. This is especially important if there are stains in the wood that you were not able to sand out. The primer will help keep those stains from resurfacing over your new paint job.

The type of primer you choose will depend on the type of paint you want to use. There are oil-based primers for use with oil-based paints and latex-based primers for latex-based paints. Follow the directions on the primer for best results, and allow your piece to dry thoroughly before painting.

There are many different ways to paint furniture. You can simply paint the piece all one color or change up the colors by, for example, painting each drawer front of a dresser a different color or painting the legs of a chair a different color from the seat and the back.

You could also paint the whole piece one color and come back and stencil or freehand paint a design on top of the base paint. Or, use other techniques like Tole Painting, Sponge Painting, using a crackle finish or any other Faux Painting techniques you like to make your furniture painting projects completely your own.

As with other types of painting, remember the following tips:

  • Wear old clothes while you work
  • Protect surfaces you don't want to paint with newspapers or drop cloths
  • Work in a well-ventilated area
  • Allow each step of painting to dry before moving on to the next step

Furniture painting is a fun way to express your creativity and get some great new furniture at an affordable price.


Furniture Painting