How to Create a Beautiful Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint…

Tips for creating a hand painted finish with spray paint {The Creativity Exchange}
Tips and Tricks for Revamping Furniture with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}


How to Create a Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}



Tips for Creating a Beautiful Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}


I’m back from my vacation last week and it was so nice to have a little getaway. I really needed it!!  A big THANK YOU to my friends Jennifer, Amy and Denise for guest blogging for me while I was gone! I’m back with a project that has been in the works for a couple of months now and I’m excited to share it with you.

My friend Laci asked me if I would be interested in revamping an old dining room set for her.  I thought Laci’s project would be the perfect transformation to show you just how easy it is to create gorgeous hand painted looking finishes with spray paint.

While I still use regular paint for my revamps, my preferred and most often used method for revamps is now with spray paint, because it’s so much faster!  I can come really close to basically duplicating almost any type of paint finish with spray paint as long as I make sure to use a few tricks that I’m sharing today.

So on to the steps…

1) Temperature and Humidity for Spray Painting

The most important thing to know before spray painting furniture is that the temperature and humidity can make or break a revamp project! If it’s too cold or too hot, spray paint will not dry properly and will gum up.  If there is too much moisture in the air, the paint will also not dry properly.  If you are going to spray paint and it’s too cold, hot or it’s raining, bring your piece inside to dry after spraying. I believe most spray paints say that the temp should be a minimum of 55-60 degrees.  Unfortunately, I have had many spray paint projects fail because I chanced it and painted when it was too hot or too wet and my pieces did not dry properly.  Unfortunately, you cannot sand pieces that have not dried/cured completely.

2) Begin by Lightly Sanding


Tips & Tricks for Revamping Furniture with Spray Paint


No matter what I’m spray painting, I always begin by roughing up the surface lightly with fine grit sand paper.  If the piece is old and has a layer of polyurethane, I try and rough it up as much as possible. If I’m spray painting something that has already been painted, I just lightly rough it up. A hand sander with fine grit paper is good to use for pieces that have a heavy top coat of sealant {Poly, shellac, etc..}.  The fine grit (I like 220) is very important because you will see lines through the spray paint if you use too heavy grit.

After I sand, I wipe the piece down thoroughly with a lightly damp towel and wipe it dry.

3) Spray on the Primer

Tips for creating a beautiful hand painted finish with spray paint {The Creativity Exchange}


Another important thing to remember is it’s best to always use the same brand spray primer as the the top coat.  Paint companies develop primers and top coats to work together and not using the same products can work against you.  It’s one thing to spray a lamp or something like that with two different products but if the goal is to have a hand painted beautiful finish, it’s best to use the same products for extra measure.

Right now, I prefer to work with Rust-Oleum spray paints and for this project, I used Rust-Oleum Painters Touch 2x Ultra Cover Primer for my base coat:


Rust-Oleum Painters Touch 2 X Ultra Cover Spray Paint


I like to spray a thin coat of primer that covers completely but is not sprayed on too thick.  The thicker the primer is, the longer it will take to dry completely. Two thin coats will dry faster than one super thick coat.   If the furniture sucks up and absorbs a lot of the primer (mainly old pieces will do this), I do not recommend that you keep spraying until it’s saturated.  I allow the primer to dry completely, lightly sand and spray another thin layer. I personally like to wait a full 12 hours for the primer to fully dry.

4) Lightly Sand the Primer


Tips & Tricks for Revamping Furniture with Spray Paint


I always lightly sand between every layer of primer and top coat with fine grit paper or sanding sponge.  I prefer the sanding sponge because it’s so much faster, it can arch in little nooks easily and it holds up well:


How to Create a Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}


I really believe that allowing each layer of paint to completely dry and the light sanding in between each paint layer, makes all the difference when it comes to creating a beautiful finish with spray paint. If the layers do not dry completely, you cannot sand and control the finish because the paint will gum up when you try to sand.

When it comes to lightly sanding the primer, the goal is to just take the edge off of the primer coat.  You can feel that spray primer has a slight roughness to it and you just want to sand a second or too over that roughness until it feels smooth.

If you start sanding and the primer is not sanding well and is gummy, the primer is not dry yet. If it’s too hot or too cold outside (or wet), the piece will not dry completely and these pieces should be moved into the home to dry.

By the way, I always wear a mask when I sand primer or spray paint.

5) Ready for the Top Coat


museum cones-furniture 076
Once I have lightly sanded my base coat and wiped down the residue, I am ready move on to the top coat.

For slightly distressed, chalky looking finishes, I always use the satin finish.  I really only use gloss paints for when I want a high gloss/ lacquered modern finish.  Even if I want an in between finish that is not distressed, I still use a satin finish and do not sand the final coat so I can have a slight sheen.  If the store does not have the color that I want in a satin, I will use the gloss but I will sand the gloss off of the top coat.

Again, just like the base coat, I only spray a thin layer of paint at a time (just enough to cover) and I allow it to dry.  Because I usually use the same color primer as the top coat, I rarely need a second top coat.  For pieces that I want slightly or heavily distress, one coat is usually more than enough because the light variation adds to finish after light sanding.

For this project, Laci and I spray painted the buffet and table top with one coat of Rust-Oleum black satin. The reason we just did one coat was because we wanted to sand and distress down below the black to the white of the primer, which would soak up the brown in our wax.  Our goal was to have an ebony black/brown finish:


Tips & Tricks for Revamping Furniture with Spray Paint


6) Final Sanding with Fine Grit 

For the white pieces in this project, Laci wanted a  slightly distressed finish with areas where the wood peeked through, so we only did one top coat of the satin white {Rust-Oleum}.    We then strategically roughed up areas with 220 fine grit paper by hand.  I like to sand in a circle to get the paint off to the wood and I strategically go over the edges with the sanding sponge to the wood:


How to Create a Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}


7) Wax, Glaze or Nothing…

After I have finished lightly sanding my top coat, I will usually either do a wax, glaze or nothing at all.

For the white pieces, initially Laci and I had talked about using a gold metallic wax to add a touch of metallic to the distressed areas but Laci loved the finish so much at this point, we decided to just leave it as is.  We also did not seal it with a spray poly because Laci wants the pieces to naturally wear even more.


How to Create a Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint- The Creativity Exchange


For the black pieces, we strategically sanded down in areas down to the white and we used a walnut Express Color stain by MinWax that we wiped on and off with a dish cloth:

express color by MinWax


This express color can also be buffed on and off but you need to buff a lot and add little by little.  If you get too much on, you can remove by wiping over it again with more product. I loved that I was able to get my brown wood grain swipes on the black in a very natural way with this product.  I also buffed a lot to get my butter finish:


Tips for Creating a Beautiful Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint -The Creativity Exchange

If you look closely at this image, you can see areas where we sanded down to the white that picked up the brown in very subtle way that created a beautiful ebony finish with a lot of depth:


How to Create a Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}


You would not believe how smooth and sleek this table top feels!

We did the exact same thing to the buffet:
How to Create a Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}
For the buffet, I went over the wood carving design with Testor’s Gold Enamel paint (sold in the model car section at craft stores):


How to paint on glass- Testor's

Our plan was to lightly sand the gold enamel once it cured (2 weeks), but we loved the boldness so much that we didn’t want to sand it (we still haven’t added the hardware in this image yet):


How to Create a Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint (The Creativity Exchange)

I also like to work with glazes on my spray painted finishes and any kind of glaze will work. I like Valspar glazes the most.  I usually swipe on the glaze with a cloth and wipe off excess. With wax I rub in circles and with glaze, I swipe on and off with a long stroke with a cloth. I always use very little at a time (for more control) and keep adding little by little until I get my desired finish.

Here is a piece that I spray painted, heavily distressed, sanded and then glazed that I did a few years ago for the Studio 319 revamp:


Tips for Creating a Beautiful Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}


Tips for creating a beautiful hand painted finish with spray paint {The Creativity Exchange}


I know this seems like it’s labor intensive but it’s really not as time consuming as it sounds.  As long as each layer of paint is allowed to completely dry and each layer is lightly sanded, I have found that I can do the exact same finishing techniques on spray paint as I can on traditional paint or chalk paint.  You can play around with glazes and waxes and you will be amazed with what you can do.

How to Create a Hand painted Like Finish with Spray Paint {The Creativity Exchange}

Thanks for hanging out with me today and I will be back on Wednesday!



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TDC Before and After
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21 Responses to How to Create a Beautiful Hand Painted Finish with Spray Paint…

  1. Melindah says:

    I gotta tell you the zebra prints on those chairs are giving me European-meets-African classic. I kinda agree: it is task intensive, but seeing the finished products, it’s worth it.

  2. Little Bit says:

    thanks for the great tute… really good tips on the importance of sanding and allowing each thin coat to dry first! Little Bit

  3. Cyndy, thanks for the great post and wonderful step-by-step directions.

  4. Megan says:

    It turned out absolutely gorgeous!!

  5. louise says:

    I’m about to try this with our dinign room chairs and side board. So perfect timing! Thanks! These look great!

  6. Angela says:

    All your pieces are so pretty & this is such a thorough post.
    My struggle when thinking of painting wood is not knowing what color to choose. I’d love to bite the bullet & bring variety to our existing pieces. Any tips on choosing colors would be great.

  7. Carrie says:

    Love how this turned out! Just picked up a beautiful antique dresser to use as a buffet and am so glad I found this tutorial. The buffet will be my first venture in redoing furniture and I’m pretty excited. When you use wax, which one do you prefer and where do you purchase it? Been in my local Lowe’s looking around and could only find min wax in clear. Really wanting to try a darker wax after I distress the buffet.

  8. Julie says:

    Love the finished look! How long do you wait before sanding off a gloss paint for a more chalky look?

  9. nancy says:

    thanks great tips about the waxes/glazes–i really had no idea what they were for and just had the ‘a-ha’ moment when i saw the top of the ebony table. NOW, i know exactly what it does and happy I know!

  10. Alice says:

    do you need to seal the table top to protect it against water stains?

  11. Jeanene says:

    Hi, Cindy! Thanks for posting this great tutorial. The table came out beautifully!

    I wonder if you can tell me…as far as temperature goes, I live in a very dry, hot climate…and working out in my garage is my only option. Am I likely to run into problems in 90 degree heat(probably not that high in the shade of my garage) that is very dry? How hot is too hot? Thanks!

  12. Maria says:

    I just put a second coat of Rustoleum 2x spray paint on my table top. The table was properly primed with a separate Rustoleum primer. In one 2″ x 1.5″ area, the paint has bubbled. I am in an absolute state of panic. What do I do?? Do I have to start over from the beginning? I am absolutely kicking myself because I was questioning whether or not to give the table top a second coat, and if I would have left it at one coat, I would have ended up with a beautiful job. I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I waited three days before putting on this second coat. The table top felt dry, was it perhaps not dry enough? Do I have to wait for the second coat of paint to cure before attempting any fixes? Please help!!

    • Cyndy says:

      Don’t panic Maria! If you just wait until the paint is completely dry, you can sand the bubbles down. Once you sand it down, you can make a decision if you want another coat or if you want it slightly distressed and left as is. Not sure what happened and why it bubbled? Hmmm.. If you do decided to add more paint after you have sanded bubbles, I would do a very light coat (just enough to cover). Keep me posted Maria and you can email me as well if you run into any more problems.

      • Maria says:

        Thanks to YOU, crisis averted! I did exactly as you said. I sanded the area down with 220 grit sand paper followed by 330 grit. In only a tiny area did the sanding reveal the grey primer underneath (1/4″ x 1/4″ area). My next question is this: I just finished painting it about 1/2 an hour ago. So far, no bubbling whatsoever in the offending area. It looks as smooth as the rest of the table. I am using Rustoleum 2x paint plus primer for this project in Kona Brown and it is really beautiful. So in your opinion, how long do I have to wait before I can seal this final coat of paint with Rustoleum Crystal Clear Enamel spray (it’s a dining room table)? How many days do I give it? Also, do I need to lightly sand the surface with 330 grit sandpaper before applying the clear coat? And finally, do I lightly sand between coats of clear coat, or do I applying them one after another and how much time do I allow each coat to dry between coats? As it’s a dining room table, how many coats of clear coat do you recommend? Thank you so very much for your time and your kind and generous consideration.

        • Cyndy says:

          Maria, where do you live and is this piece outside? If it’s not between 45 and 60 degrees where you live, I would bring the piece in asap to dry. I forgot to ask you about that and if it’s below 45 degrees, it could be why you got bubbling. No, no more sanding. Just make sure that you wipe down the surface with a very slightly damp tack cloth or something that won’t leave fibers and let it dry and then spray clear coat. I would wait at least 48 hours just to be very safe. The longer you wait, the safer you are. You could even go three days. No sanding needed between your clear coats. Also, be sure and do very, very light coats and that you are far back enough. You want each coat to just lightly coat. Keep me posted Maria! You know you’ll need to send me final picture! You’re doing great and it’s gonna be fabulous. If you are not between 45 and 65 degrees outside, I would not spray clear coat.

          • Maria says:

            I will follow your directions to the letter. I do want to tell you one thing however. After adding the coat of paint yesterday, it was rather obvious that I poorly sanded the table top. In some areas, I can see that I did not sand with the grain. I discussed it with my husband late last night, as I wanted to resand those areas out (they are only paint level deep) and needed some moral support. He told me absolutely not, that I should consider them to be my signature and to just move on to clear coating. I think I’m going to do that, because I cannot bring myself to sand down to remove them. The table will be imperfect, but it will be mine. My first project from which I have learned a great deal about patience, mindfulness, and the wisdom of learning when to leave well enough alone. I will post a picture of the sad little table when I am done. I wish I had taken before shots, as it has greatly improved since then, by leaps and bounds actually. It was battered, bruised, scraped and scratched and looked like it was appropriately destined for the trash heap, and I think I have breathed some new life back into it. When and if I am ever ready to correct the flaws and maybe even start over, I will. But for now, it will remain as it is. I love your blog, by the way.

  13. Jeannine Chase says:

    I have used Rustoleum2X Painter’s Touch on a small table. I sanded between coats but the surface does not feel as silky smooth I would have gotten from a polyurathane, sp?. It feels slightly rough. It looks great otherwise.

  14. Gina Scotti says:

    My boyfriend and are inexperienced in re-purpose get furniture and decided to sand and spray paint a chair using krylon color max which is a combo of primer & paint in one can. We sanded it a bit but only 10 minutes after because the bottle said it dries in 10 minutes. It came out pretty nice but right now the black paint rubs if you touch it. Can I use wax that you seal chalk paint with to seal and finish the chair. It is dark wax. Would that work? If not, what do you recommend? We want to be able to wipe food off the chairs easily without wearing off the paint so I was wondering if a glossy finish would make cleaning easier and be better for eating food at. Thank you for your time.

    • Cyndy says:

      I would recommend using a clear satin spray topcoat. The satin finish would keep it matte looking. Any of the brands would work and would seal it. Hope that helps!

  15. Dale says:

    thank you so much for this. I am going to paint my current kitchen table which has a butcher block top white. I am concerned that when putting a hot cup or plate on it, the paint will come up. Does this happen with rustoleum?

  16. Lindsay says:

    Hi, I loved this information. I have a medicine cabinet that is laminate or something similar, but its not the right shade of “wood”. I’m wanting to paint it white. I would love a wait distressed look similar to the chairs. With maybe a little more depth. Do you think I can accomplish it with spray paint? I can use wax like they discuss on chalk paints? Does glaze have depth options too?

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