This post has been a long time coming. I really haven’t had a great furniture piece to use as an example for this post/finish until recently. Over the years, it has really bothered me to hear from so many of you that you really want to try and paint an old piece of furniture but you’re just too nervous to give it a try. I know many of you love seeing all of the gorgeous furniture transformations out there but you sit on the sidelines because you worry you’ll mess it up. Well, this furniture painting basics post is just for you!
With so many painting techniques out there and thousands of different paint products to use, I know it’s confusing and intimidating for someone who has never painted furniture before. There is one very basic technique that you really can’t mess up and I wanted to go into really great detail today because if you follow each of the steps, you are pretty much guaranteed an amazingly beautiful matte finish like this:
My goal today is to convince you sideliner’s to finally paint your first piece of furniture. I’m making it easy for you by walking you through each step and I have included every little detail in this post including what the piece should look like at each step and what products work best. This finish is the perfect technique for painting furniture for the first time.
The piece I’m sharing today as an example is a hutch and it’s a typical old piece of furniture that is perfect for transforming with paint. My friend Rita had this piece in storage for years and we painted it for her daughter Taylor, who recently graduated from nursing school.
So this is what the piece looked like before we revamped it:
We decided on a the color that we wanted (Mindful Gray by Sherwin Williams) and Rita wanted a beautiful painted matte finish. Rita also wanted to do the revamp with me so that she could learn this basic paint technique because she has other pieces in storage that she is interested in trying on her own.
So directly below are my step by step instructions. I have listed the instructions like an outline so that you can print this page out and have it with you when you pick up your paint supplies. If you decide give it a try, I would love to see pictures of your finished project. I really hope this helps someone to finally give it a try!
So let’s jump right in.
1. The first thing you want to do when getting ready to paint a piece of furniture is to look over the piece for any problems. For instance, Rita’s hutch had a small decorative wood piece missing off of the top and she happened to have saved the little piece. We glued it back in place with wood glue and let it dry. If something is loose on your piece, just use a little wood glue underneath it to secure.
2) Next, you will want to lightly sand your piece. This will only take about 10-30 minutes depending on the size of your piece. I think the thought of having to sand a piece before painting scares people from painting a piece of furniture. You do not have to sand off a finish down to raw wood or anything like that, you just want to slightly rough up the finish and ensure that any residue from old polyurethane or sealant (very top sealant coat) is off. If the piece has been previously painted, you just want to smooth and rough up the old paint.
The most important thing to know when you sand a piece for painting is that you need to use fine grit sanding sponge. Anything with more grit will leave lines in your wood or old paint that you will see on your final finish. The sanding sponge is my little trick for light sanding at high speed because you can get into tiny areas and arch the sponge around furniture legs, etc..
Below is a picture of the sanding sponge that I like. I pulled off the label so you could see what the sponge looks like:
You can find sanding sponges right next to the sand paper at the store and it will say right on the front what grit it is. Notice my label says “Fine”.
Again, all you want to do is slightly rough up your piece and just make sure that it’s smooth.
3) Wipe down the piece thoroughly with a slightly damp old t-shirt or lint free towel (cut in big squares). You want to be sure an get any dust and sanding residue off of the piece before you paint. After using a slightly damp towel (you don’t want your piece to be too wet), go behind it with a dry towel to make sure the piece is completely dry.
4) Tape off any edges along glass. Remove any hardware.
1) When it comes to priming a piece of furniture, regardless of whether it’s been painted before or not, I prefer to use Kilz Original Primer:
I personally think Kilz Original is the best stain blocking primer on the market. Even though it’s oil based and contrary to what people say, you can paint latex paint over an oil based stain blocking primer. The confusion is because you should not paint latex paint over oil-based paint (not a primer). I prefer an oil based primer because it helps seal and product the wood, thoroughly blocks any stains from bleeding through and it lays the best foundation for a flawless finish.
A lot of primer goes along way! I used about 1/3rd of a quart for this hutch.
2) When it comes to priming a piece of furniture, you want to use an old cheap paint brush that you can either throw away when your done or clean up with mineral spirits. Because Kilz is oil-based, you cannot clean the brush with water. I usually just pour some mineral spirits in a plastic container and soak my brush overnight and then swirl around until the paint is off the brush. I wipe it with an old t-shirt.
3) Next, brush on a coat of primer. I am fairly generous when I paint on primer but I don’t paint it on too thick. I just basically cover the piece like this:
You can get an idea about how much coverage you need by looking at the image above. I just brushed on enough piece to cover the piece.
You don’t have to worry terribly about even brush strokes when brushing on primer because you will lightly sand the primer ridges after it dries.
4) Allow the primer to completely dry for at least 24 hours. Some people only wait a few hours but I completely disagree and always wait a full 24 hours. If the primer is not completely dry, the primer will gum up and will not sand evenly.
5) Next, lightly sand the dried primer with fine grit sanding sponge. This should only take a few minutes and you basically want to make sure the surface of your primer is smooth. You do not want to sand off the primer, your just making sure its smooth and you can feel the difference before and after lightly going over it. This makes all of the difference in the smoothness of your end paint finish! Unfortunately, so many people do not sand their primer and they think the are seeing paint brush strokes in a final paint finish. However, primer leaves ridges/brush marks that need to be lightly sanded.
6) Wipe down the piece thoroughly with a slightly damp old t-shirt or lint free towel (cut in big squares). You want to be sure an get any sanding residue off of the piece before you paint so the surface is smooth. After using a slightly damp towel (you don’t want your piece to be too wet), go behind it with a dry towel to make sure the piece is completely dry.
1) For the paint itself, I like to use a premium latex paint in a satin (matte) sheen. I don’t recommend scrimping on paint when it comes to painting furniture because premium paints are thicker and cover more and you really get what you pay for in a finish. It doesn’t really matter where you get your paint, I just always ask the paint store which paint is their premium paint. I also always tell the guys what I’m doing and say that I want the best (or close to the best) paint and they always point me in the right direction.
I also always use an extender and this is very important and helps to ensure a flawless smooth paint finish. A paint extender is an additive that you add to your paint that “extends” the open time for painting. In other words, it slows down the drying time to allow you more time to paint and even out your brush strokes. The other thing an extender does is that helps spread/level out the paint. Think of paint like honey and an extender is like adding oil to it. Honey doesn’t really spread or level out well but if you add oil to it, it will spread and your brush marks will spread out and disappear. I never paint without an extender and it ensures a smooth fiish!
My favorite extender is Floetrol:
2) When you paint a piece of furniture, just know that you are always going to need two coats of paint. The other thing is, your first coat is going to look terrible and you’re going to think you have done something wrong. Just know this going into it. Do not panic! First coats just always look bad. They look really bad! Got it?
For our hutch, I used up about 3/4ths of a quart of paint. If your piece of furniture is about the same size of the hutch, you will only need a quart. If it’s a little larger, a quart will still probably be all you need. Anything larger, you will need two quarts, which is still cheaper than a gallon of paint.
Keep in mind too that you’re going to need a really good brush. I use a smaller brush for little hard to reach areas and a really wide brush for more coverage. Because I use an extender, I don’t get the top of the line brushes but I don’t buy the cheapest brush either. Medium priced is best.
3) I always begin by stirring my paint thoroughly and then I pour it into a plastic measuring paint cup that I get at the paint store. I believe they hold about 3-4 cups of paint. I fill it about 2/3rds full of paint and then I add two cap fulls of my extender. (It doesn’t take much) and then I mix again.
4) I brush on my paint with medium coverage; not too thin and not too thick. I do not worry so much about my brush strokes because I’m using an extender. However!! A word of warning*** When you use an extender, after about 10 minutes, your paint will start looking like its drying funny and uneven. Do not worry, it’s just the extender doing its job and it will be gone when its completely dry. In some cases because the extender helps make the paint spread, you may start seeing your paint begin to run slightly in areas. Just make sure to go back after about 10-15 minutes (that’s when the extenders really start to work) and brush over these areas again. Again, extenders do not work immediately, so be sure and go back and look after 10-15 minutes.
5) Allow your first coat to dry completely overnight. Remember, your first coat is going to look like your dog painted it! Don’t think you’ve done something wrong. It’s completely normal!
6) For your second coat (the next day), do the exact same thing as your first coat. Pour your paint into a paint measuring cup and add two cap fulls of extender, stir and brush on. For the second coat, I use more medium to thick coverage but not too thick that my paint will run. Your extender will do the same weird thing and look funny drying and may run. Check your brushed areas after 10 minutes for drips or the paint running.
When your piece completely dries, your finish should look something like this:
Let me just say, that it’s impossible to get this beautiful and smooth of a finish without an extender. An extender makes all the difference and as you can see, not a brush mark to be found. What’s amazing is that this piece was also beat up. It had a lot of scratches and and uneven wood but you would never know it now!
Rita wanted to a very light glaze on the finish after we were done and we simply did a dry brush technique over the piece after it dried. We used Urbane Bronze by Sherwin Williams and swiped over the piece with a dry brush in certain areas. Dry brush is where you dip your brush in paint and then try and get as much paint off of the brush with a towel as possible. Then you very lightly swipe the piece of furniture. This is what the piece looked like when we were finished:
I know it seems like a lot here but I have been wanting to write an extremely detailed post specifically for beginners. You know that piece that’s been in the corner of your garage for years that you’ve always wanted to paint? Let’s paint it! You can do it!!
If you want to read more about the different types of paint techniques that I have shared on the blog, I shared my all-time top 10 paint projects here.
I’ll be back on Wednesday with a fun project!