Use these tricks to achieve the best finish while giving your furniture a facelift with a fresh coat of paint.

By Jamie Lott and Jessica Bennett
Updated June 02, 2021
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Refreshing furniture can be a quick, DIY-friendly process that gives new life to an old piece. With just a few hours of work, you can easily transform secondhand scores or hand-me-down furniture to fit your style and needs. The process typically involves adding a fresh coat of paint or stain for new color, texture, or shine. Although painting furniture might seem straightforward, there are a few critical things to know beforehand to ensure the color goes on smoothly and adheres properly. Use these tips for painting furniture to create a long-lasting, beautiful finish.

blue chest home décor flowers wall photos
Credit: Brie Williams

1. Select a Furniture Piece to Paint

When choosing a piece of furniture to update, first consider whether the piece is an antique. Some antiques can be valuable, and painting could potentially devalue the piece. Midcentury-modern furniture, for example, usually sells well as-is, so consider that before painting if you're planning to sell it later. That said, if you've had your great-grandmother's China hutch in the garage for the past 20 years and you know you'll never use it without an update, go for it!

If you're not planning to resell the item, it's only as valuable as how much you treasure it. And if you'll appreciate it more with a bright blue paint job, then renovate the furniture item instead of letting it age in storage.

applying top layer paint on table
Credit: Jason Donnelly

2. Choose the Best Paint for Furniture

It's important to choose a paint specifically designed for furniture, such as spray paint made to adhere to wood surfaces. You should also consider the finish you hope to achieve, whether that's smooth and modern or textured and distressed. Chalk-style paints, milk- or mineral-based paints, and acrylics are all great choices for painting furniture and versatile enough to give you a variety of looks. As with color choices, paint options vary widely and are typically limited only by personal preference. Grab a couple of samples of various brands, and play around with them until you find the finish you like best.

black and white decor above midcentury furniture
Credit: Helen Norman

3. When in Doubt, Prime Before Painting

Some paints, including chalk-finish varieties, boast the ability to adhere to furniture without the need to sand first. However, there are always exceptions. For the best finish and adhesion, consider using a primer. Some old paint and set-in stains can bleed through your new paint job, meaning that even coat after coat, the stain could show through and affect the color of your paint.

In general, you can assume pieces that appear to have a red-tinted stain will show stains. When in doubt, it's best to prime. Some furniture paint lines offer their own primers or stain-blockers that are designed to work with their paints.

prepping the wood surface
Credit: Jason Donnelly

4. Prepare Wood Surfaces Before Painting

Adding paint to formerly stained furniture will highlight its features, including pretty architectural details and any blemishes or imperfections. Be sure to fill holes and sand out scratches prior to painting for the best results. Even a distressed finish will benefit from a little repair and prep work beforehand.

Towels in baskets with bathroom vanity and sink
Credit: Nathan Schroder

5. Have the Right Tools for Renovating Furniture On Hand

If you're considering renovating furniture pieces often, some invaluable tools to have on hand include:

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