Furniture Painting Tips

Furniture and cabinet painting and preparation tips for DIY decorators that will make the outcome of your painted furniture project look like a pro did it.

Tips To Follow When Painting Furniture or Cabinets

I have painted and made over dozens and dozens of pieces of furniture with paint and stain. This page is to help you find the answer to your furniture painting questions so you feel confident to proceed with your furniture makeover project and have success.

Fill Holes and Damaged Areas

Using Wood Filler to repair marks and holes

  • Always fill holes from old drawers pulls or blemishes in the surface with wood filler before painting.  Once the filler is dry, sand with 100 grit sandpaper, followed by 220 grit to smooth. Clean off grit and then paint.

Sand to Provide “Tooth”

Sanding prep for painting

  • When painting laminate furniture or cabinets: Use 100-grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block to rough up the laminate surface. You just need to scratch the surface to provide some “tooth” for the paint to grab onto.  A 5 minute going-over is all that is needed.

Clean Surface Well

Painting Prep Tips

  • It is important to clean what you are about to paint. I use a bucket of hot water, dish detergent and a scrub brush. I use an SOS pad to scrub around the molding  or any detail on an item to make sure no dirt or grease is still on the surface. I dry the item with a big towel immediately after I rinse off all the soap.

How to use a tack cloth

  • Before priming and painting a piece of furniture, go over your entire item with a tack cloth. Tack cloths are sold in the paint aisle at the home improvement store. They are sticky cloths that you wipe over the surface before painting to pick up dust, dirt and sanding grit before painting. They come folded.
    • To use, unfold and cut a section off with scissors, place the rest back in the bag to use for another project. Throw away the used cloth when it loses its stickiness or gets dirty.

Mask Areas You Don’t Want to Paint

Painting Prep tips

  • When painting furniture with doors that you don’t want to remove. I always paint the outside of the doors, but sometimes don’t paint the inside of the doors. To make the doors look seamless with the base, I tape around the lip on the back of the door and then paint the front and around the perimeter edges on the back of the door. When the painter’s tape is removed, the insides of the doors look nice and neat with the outer edges painted only.

Should You Remove Doors and Hinges When Painting Furniture?

mark furniture hardware and place in marked bags before painting

This is a very important tip if you plan to remove the doors and door hinges to paint your piece of furniture.  You must tag where each hinge and screw goes so you can place them back onto the doors and then the furniture base in the exact same way.

  • I mark TOP left, BOTTOM right, etc. Even tape the screws to the hinges they came from. If you don’t do this, your doors may not line up or close the same way when you put them back on.

What is the Easy Way to Paint Cabinet or Furniture Pulls and Knobs?

Wood door knobs lined up on toothpicks stuck into foam.

  •  The fast and easy way to paint furniture knobs is to use Styrofoam from packaging to create a tray of sorts. Push in a toothpick and then place a knob on top.

Drawer pulls lined up to get painted

After drawer pulls being painted

  • For drawer pulls with a base and movable handles – Use toothpicks to hold the knobs away from the surface so that you can spray all parts of them at one time.

The easy method to paint furniture knobs

  • If using the knob’s screw – Punch the drawer knob screws up from under a thin piece of Styrofoam and then screw the knob on.  The knobs are secure, but you can move the Styrofoam all around with one hand and paint with your other hand to reach all sides of the knob.

Use Styrofoam for Easy Painting

  • If using spray paint and you want to re-use the Styrofoam cover it with paper or foil first or use a piece of cardboard instead of Styrofoam.  Spray paint will eat the foam.

What is the Best Drop Cloth to Use When Painting Furniture?

the best drop cloth to use when painting furniture and it is free!

THE BEST DROP CLOTH is not a cloth at all. It is a flattened cardboard box. It makes the best drop cloth when painting furniture for a few reasons:

  • When I get lazy and don’t want to carry a piece of furniture to my garage or basement to paint, I have found the best drop cloth to use is a flattened cardboard box.
  • When you place the item on it you can easily turn it around to reach all sides of the piece you are working on from one position. You can just swirl the cardboard to view the side you need to work on. Since the cardboard slides easily on flooring it makes painting furniture in place or close to were it will go, so very easy.
  • If you don’t finish painting in one day, you can simply slide the cardboard with the furniture still on it out of the way until you have time to work on it again.
  • Easy clean-up. Simply fold the cardboard up and store it to use for your next project. I keep a few of the opened boxes propped up against the wall in my garage so I have them on hand when I want to paint.
  • Using a cardboard box as a drop cloth is also good for the planet since you are repurposing it.

If you get a lot of packages (boxes) delivered to your home, flatten and save them. They are great to use all lined up around the perimeter of a room when you are painting the walls in a room. Plastic and cloth drop cloths move too easily and have to be taped down. Flattened cardboard boxes stay put and since they are thicker than cloth, if any paint spills, it stays on top and does not seep through like paint can when a cloth is used.

The Best Buffing Cloths for Chalk Paint

Wax finish on paint tip

  • When adding a wax finish to milk or chalk paint, use a brush or a cut piece of a worn t-shirt to apply the wax in a circular motion. After you apply the wax with a brush or old worn t-shirt, buff it with a soft lint-free cloth or another section of a worn t-shirt to create a nice subtle sheen over the painted surface.  

Finish the Raw Edge on a Piece of Furniture with Veneer Tape and Band Edge Trimmer

How to Trim Excess banding

  • When you have a rough surface or unfinished edge on a piece of plywood or a piece of furniture that lost it’s veneer, you can easily fix this before painting.  Use the Band-It Edge Trimmer with Band-It Veneer Edging. It will create a seamless finish. See the full post here.  It is so easy to use…  you simply iron it on! Yes that is right – it is iron-on and will hold up forever.

How do I paint over furniture with polyurethane on it?

Furniture painting tips

  • Sand over all surfaces to be painted with 100 grit sandpaper. Wipe away grit, let dry. A 10 minute going over with the sandpaper in your hand is all that is needed to provide some “tooth” for the paint to grab on to.
  • Using a high quality brush, Purdy makes good ones. They are around 10 bucks but if you take care of it, it can last for years. 
  • Brush on one very thin coat of KILZ primer, let dry. Add another thin coat, let dry.
  • If you see any brush strokes in the dried primer or paint, you can smooth them with 220 grit sandpaper. Wipe away sanding grit.
  • Brush on 2 light coats of high quality paint Look for the words Acrylic or Enamel on the label. Let the first coat dry before applying the second. Use light coats.
  • Once paint is dry you can seal with water based Polyurethane.  I use Minwax Polycrylic. Dry time: I wait at least 24 hours, if humid, wait longer.
  • Paint can take a few weeks to fully cure, so be gentle for with your painted pieces for a week or two before heavy use.

Do You Need to Sand Before Painting Furniture?

When painting furniture there is no need to remove all the paint down to the bare wood. If you wanted to stain the wood, then yes you would need to do this, but when painting furniture the sanding is done just on the surface to to rough it up to provide some “tooth” for the paint to grab onto. Clean the sanding grit off and then apply the paint in light coats, letting the first coat dry before applying the second light coat.

If using chalk paint or any latex paint, tannins may seep through to the paint in some types of wood. If your set is old and dark stained wood and you plan to use a light color, you may want to prime first with clear shellac. One coat and let it dry will do the trick. I have only had to do this on one piece. A mahogany mirror where the wood was old. I painted it with Annie Sloan blue and it went brown right away. This doesn’t happen on most new or lighter stained pieces of furniture.

Do You Use a Brush or Roller to Paint Furniture?

To answer the question, Do you use a brush or roller to paint furniture? The answer is—I use both.

Each piece of furniture is different and requires a different plan. I use a brush most of the time, but a roller comes in pretty handy and speeds up the process of painting large pieces of furniture

  • I use either a high quality angled brush made for latex paint or a flocked foam roller with rounded ends. The rounded ends keep roller marks from occurring in the painted finish.

For instance when painting a dresser – I use a 1-1/2″ angled brush to apply the primer coat and the paint to the detailed molding under the top of the dresser. I used a foam roller with round edges to prime and then paint the large flat areas of the piece. I also use a roller when I paint the front of a dresser and the drawer fronts. If the drawers have detailed or rounded edges, I use the angled brush. After rolling the paint on I fix any drips or excess paint with a few dabs of the paint brush.

When I am painting a piece of furniture that has grooves in it, I use a roller first and then use a brush to paint into the grooves.

If you are thinking of painting a piece of furniture, it’s best to have both a brush and a roller handy. Along with the brush and roller, you should have a small clean container or tray to pour your paint into. Keeping it small allows you to hold the container in one hand and the brush or roller in the other as you work around the piece.

What is the Best Way to Clean a Paint Brush and Roller?

To keep your brushes and rollers in good shape so that you can continue to use them, wash each out thoroughly with soap and water and hang them upside down to dry after each use.