Home / DIY Decorating / How To Paint Wood Furniture in 3 Basic Steps!

How To Paint Wood Furniture in 3 Basic Steps!

Wondering how to paint wood furniture, furniture painting tips, or even how to paint wood?  Then you’re in luck because today we’re focusing on how to paint to wood furniture in 3 basic steps!

You’ve gone out to yard sales, thrift stores, maybe inherited a family piece of furniture and you don’t know where to start! You’ve come to the right place! Today we’re going to show you how to refinish furniture by using paint to transform your furniture from drab to fab!

How To Paint Wood Furniture

Most furniture projects have 3 basic steps!  Prep, Paint and Finish!

Prep: Prepping is laying the groundwork for your project! Good prepping can take a piece of furniture from drab to fab! The prep works makes your hard work last forever!

Clean: Make sure your furniture is clear of any dust and grime. Use TSP (available at home improvement stores) to wipe it down really well before you get started.

Sand: Use an electric sander to smooth surfaces! Use a medium to coarse grit sandpaper for weathered wood or furniture with a glossy finish.

Prime:  Give your piece a coat or two of spray primer (like KILZ – available at home improvement stores) then use fine grit sandpaper to smooth away any gritty texture.

Paint: Go to your local home improvement store and find a paint color you love. For most furniture projects, a quart of paint is plenty.

Painting Tips

There are a few different ways to paint; you can use a traditional paintbrush, a trim roller, a paint pad, or a fancy paint sprayer. We love to use either a Wagner Paint Sprayer or even a sprayer attached to an air compressor.  Paint your piece with the method you like best! We’ve used all of these methods and they all work wonderfully!  If you paint a lot, you may want to invest in a either sprayer. They work wonders!

Most pieces of furniture have hardware. You can opt to replace the hardware but don’t forget, you can spray paint your hardware if you don’t like the finish on your piece. Hardware updates can really help transform your furniture!

Finish: Now that your piece is looking fabulous, you want to finish and protect it! Using Polycrylic and Polyurethane are a couple of ways to finish and protect your piece. Our favorite product to finish a piece is Minwax’s Polycrylic in Semi-gloss. It also comes in a spray!  We don’t use polyurethane on any light colored paints (especially white) because it can yellow over time.

Here are a couple of our makeovers, all using this technique!

Pottery Barn Inspired Black Credenza

Sunny Dining Room

For more tips and tricks on painting, head over to Classy Clutter! For bright funky furniture – All Things Thrifty. For more traditional and antique furniture – Miss Mustard Seed!  Be sure to stop by next week to learn how to Spray Paint Furniture!

Painting Wood Furniture:

I hope that gives you a few ideas on painting techniques. {wink} If you have a make over tutorial on your blog, we’d love to see it! Feel free to leave the blog link in the comments or on the Tip Junkie Facebook page. Or if you’re looking for a specific tutorial, let me know! I’ll be happy to find it for you. {{I’ve got your back!}}

Mallory and Savannah are best friends and the brains behind Classy Clutter, a one-stop shop for all things creative with a focus on Furniture and Home Décor. Both are moms with a mission for being creative on the cheap!  Mallory is a full-time mom of two little boys and a student.  She runs her Etsy Shop – Heartfelt Designs and Photography Business from her home in New York. Savannah is a cosmetologist at an Arizona salon called Hair Do and keeps busy doing furniture, crafts and activities with her two little girls!  Classy Clutter keeps them connected from NY to AZ! Classy Clutter is your place for inspiration, tips and tutorials!  Please hop over and check us out!  We’d love to have you!


  1. Vanessa Pyatt

    When you’ve painted wood furniture, do you have trouble with things sticking to the finished piece? My husband recently made me a desk and even though the paint has been dry for weeks, everything from my laptop to a piece of paper gets stuck on it. This also happens on a bookshelf he painted. Wonder what he is doing wrong?

  2. Anna @ The Guiltless Life

    Aha! Thank you! That first photo with the shabby chic white is exactly what I am going for in my new place so thanks for the inspiration and tips :).

  3. josi

    If you don’t leave enough time to dry in between coats this will happen. (if you prime, follow the time on the can to let dry, then if you paint, follow the time on the can to let dry in between coats. If you do a primer and 2 coats of paint, this will typically take you 2 days.)

  4. Julie

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Julian Cassell

    Hi Laurie,

    Good tips here with well written advice and instruction. Painted furniture is always popular on my side of the pond, and it is, as you’ve demonstrated, a great DIY project.



  6. Cand

    What paint colors did u use on the white buffet? I love it!

  7. Mallory Nikolaus

    Hi Cand!

    The undercoat is Rustoleum grey spray paint (can’t recall the exact color right now) and the top is called Swiss Coffee! Thanks!!

  8. Lailah

    Aha!! You just save me a few hundred $$$. I was about to pay someone to repaint a few big pieces. Thank you!
    Now, I have an excuse to invest in some more materials!!

  9. Corin

    Are polycrilic and polyurethane the same thing? I’m painting a dresser a lavender color and want to finish it if possible- but wondering if polycrilic works for light colors?

  10. [email protected] furniture

    You made some good quality points there. I did a search on the topic and found many people will agree with your blog.

  11. [email protected] furniture

    Found your site today through Yahoo. Great blog you’ve got, bookmarked.

  12. Lu Wells

    Have the same problem…but you have to go the extra mile and use the polycrylic or polyurethane to finish the pieces…just painted a bookcase and bureau for my daughter and had the same problem…putting the finish coat on-saved the day!!

  13. Furniture painting

    Its awesome post. Its very helpfull & neccesarry.

  14. Click here

    When you’ve painted wood furniture, do you have trouble with things sticking to the finished piece? My husband recently made me a desk and even though the paint has been dry for weeks, everything from my laptop to a piece of paper gets stuck on it. This also happens on a bookshelf he painted. Wonder what he is doing wrong?

  15. tammy

    I have found a dresser at a local thrift store and I am going to paint it white, I don’t want things to stick to it, but I don’t want it to yellow with polyurethane will polycrylic yellow? Please help

  16. Jim

    Hi I just painted 6 chaira backs and legs I sanded it and theI did not seal it with anything clear. My daughter sat down and one chair hit one stratched the chair happened twiced.Help please…thanks Jim

  17. Anne

    I am planning to paint an old dining table and chairs, but am getting conflicting info about type of paint and finishes. I had planned to use latex primer and paint, but it was suggested to me by a ‘paint guy’ at Lowe’s to use oil paint because the latex would rub off. But with cloth seats on the chairs do you think the paint would be durable enough if I add a polyurethane topcoat? I do not have children using this furniture very often. What do you recommend for type of paint and primer and topcoat.

  18. Divamom777

    I’d like to know if it’s always necessary to sand? Can i just use primer?

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  20. Tuckpaw

    I have never painted a piece of furniture, but I want to pain this old buffet with several different teals, yellow, black, reds. What steps should I take to prepare this item for painting, what kind of paint should I use, etc.i will try to figure out how to send a picture.

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