How to Paint Furniture: I've received so many questions about painting furniture that I decided to write up a step by step guide to share with you. I'm sure there are many different ways to paint furniture but this is how my dad taught me. Below are a few of the pieces I have painted so you can see the "before and afters". The instructions are at the bottom of this post.
This bed was free on craigslist.org I was the second person to call on it but I left my name/number just in case the first person didn't show up. He showed up but when he saw how bad of shape it was in he didn't want it. It had someone's initials carved in it but nothing a little sanding couldn't fix.
Stripping: I almost always strip my furniture before I paint it. Another option would be to sand it really well. You don’t want any clear finish or wax on it or the paint will scrape right off. I use Jasco paint stripper. It comes in a can and I think you should be able to find it at most hardware stores. Follow the directions on the can and make sure you have long sleeves and pants, shoes, and safety glasses or goggles on. Trust me on this one…I was using this wearing flip-flops and got just a speck of it on the top of my foot….Ouch, it feels likes it's burning a hole through your skin…actually it probably is. You can use a wire brush to get into crevices. I buy the small disposable wire brushes at the hardware store (they are shaped like a toothbrush).
Prepping: Before you paint, wipe the piece down to remove all the stripper and sand it lightly. I like to use the 3M sponge sanders. Wipe down again after sanding.
Adding appliqués: If you would like to add appliqués now is the time. You can see on the picture of my bed that I added a cherub/swag appliqué. There are a number of places you can buy them. One is Do It Youself Chic and another is The Shabby Suite. Update: I've been purchasing some lately at The Bella Cottage. Click on either one of those to go to their website.
Primer: Some pieces I primed first and others I didn’t. If the wood still has stain that was not removed completely from stripping and sanding it, I would prime it for sure. Make sure you get a primer that also says "sealer", this will seal the stain so it doesn't bleed through your paint. Some pieces of furniture will need two coats of primer to seal the stain.
Paint: I use regular latex indoor house paint. I’ve used flat and eggshell, it doesn’t really matter, in the end they look the same. I use a soft white, not pure stark white but any color will do. Just brush it on following the grain of the wood. Let it dry and if needed add a second coat. I wait about a week before I go on to the next step (If you're in a hurry you can probably wait 48 hours and be fine). Latex paint it will be gummy if you try to sand it before it’s really had time to cure. Warning...It’s going to look really bad at this point, it will be very flat and chalky looking, especially if you used flat latex but trust me it will look good in the end after you put the paste wax on.
Sanding and distressing: I lightly sand the whole painted piece with very fine sand paper. This really smoothes out the latex paint. On the edges I sand through to the wood to give it a distressed look. You want to do this in areas where the piece would normally wear over time, like on the edges. If you want a more distressed look you can take a large chain and hit it on the wood to leave dents…I don’t do this but I’ve seen my dad do it on his pieces.
Adding accent colors: This is optional but on some pieces you may want to add another color to bring out the details of the piece. There are two ways to do this. The first is to buy some brown craft paint (umber or sienna colors) and dilute with a little water to make a wash. Use a rag to wipe the wash over the area you would like to “antique” and then lightly wipe away the excess. If you’ve added too much you can remove some of it with a wet rag. I used this technique on the cherub swag appliqué on my bed. The second option is to use “Rub n Buff” which is available at most hobby stores. It comes in many different colors. Put a little on your finger and lightly rub over the piece where you want to add color. The difference between these two options is that the first one gets down into the crevices and the second one goes on the high spots. You can even use both of these together.
Waxing: I use a paste wax instead of a clear coat. I use Howard Citrus Shield Premium Natural Paste Wax. Make sure you get Natural color because it comes in different wood tones also. The wax does make the furniture a little more yellow but it's very light. Follow the directions on the can…you rub it on and buff it out. It takes a few coats of this to give it a nice luster. To keep up the wax finish I occasionally use another Howard product called Feed-N-Wax. Both these products can be found in most hardware stores. (look in the area where they have the wood refinishing products NOT in the cleaning department where you will find furniture polish)
That's it! I hope I didn't leave anything out. Please feel free to leave a message or email me if something isn't clear.
UPDATE: I'm adding a link to how I painted my blue cabinet because I often get asked, click here for those instructions.