YOUR First Paint Project

I remember when I first started reading Do It Yourself blogs.  I was really blown away by the simple transformations that these ladies were doing.  A little bit of paint goes a long, long way.  The before and after pictures just amazed me.  LOVE before and after pictures.  Then there's the fact that they would find these furniture pieces at thrift stores and yard sales, making their furniture make overs that much more fantastic.  I remember thinking, "I wonder if I could do that?  I think I should do that.  I want to do that!"  Taking a piece of furniture and making it your own with a little bit of paint is extremely rewarding, especially if you don't have a budget for new furniture.  Over the last 2 years since I started painting and working on my "projects," I've learned  a few things that you might find helpful.  If you're wondering how to start your own furniture paint projects, then this is the post for you.

I made every rookie mistake there is to make when I first started painting furniture.  I thought, "brush, meet paint.  Paint, meet furniture."  That was my approach and it was all wrong.  When I work on a piece now and introduce it on my blog, I try to give each of my steps and painting tips.  That's what helped me most when I started, and I hope that's what will help you.

Spray Painted Baby Chair

My very first piece was a free dresser my husband brought home.  Someone had donated it to our church, and I couldn't wait to Transform it.  It was perfect for our daughter who had been sharing and really needed a dresser of her own, but it sat in her room for months.  I was afraid to paint it, mess it up, ruin it.  Then finally one day, I got the courage to just paint it white.  I "rolled" on the paint, let it dry, then used polyurethane like every tells you to do.  Wrong, wrong, and wrong.  In an attempt to help you not make the same mistakes, here are some tips to help you get started and ease those nerves.

The players

1.  Wood furniture is best, but you can paint laminate.  I would suggest starting with a smaller piece like a side table or nightstand.  Clean the piece thoroughly before getting started and remove any hardware.  Take a before picture of your piece so you know how to put it all back when you're done.  When I started blogging, my very first post was about painting my husband's much needed nightstand. It was small and the perfect project size to get started with.

70's Nightstand Transformation
2.  Sand if needed.  If the piece has lots of scuffs and scratches, you'll need to sand.  I personally have an electric sander that I found at a yard sale and it has really been a life saver.  Sanding by hand will take longer and may leave you sore, but it's a step that shouldn't be skipped if the piece is screaming for it. I use 100 or 150 grit sand paper for this step. Also, if I'm going to stain a piece, I always sand to the bare wood.  If I'm going to paint a piece, I just sand to get the existing varnish off the piece.
*Always use a sanding mask and goggles protection.  Always.
Sanding and wood filler much needed.

3.  Clean up the sawdust.  You can vacuum the dust from your sanding step and use a "tack cloth" or wet rag to clean up the dust. I've done both. Tack cloths can be found at your home improvement stores.  Just make sure your piece is free of dust. You don't want to start painting a piece with dust, only to see the paint job ruined with dust particles.  Clean and wipe.  This is a step that will be repeated after priming too.

4.  Use wood filler if needed.  If your piece has gashes, use a good wood filler.  Most wood fillers are not "stain-able" meaning you'll see the difference if you stain the wood.  Most do a great job if you're just going to paint the piece.  When using wood filler, use your fingers or putting knife to fill in the gash, let the filler dry overnight, and sand until it's smooth with the rest of the piece.  After sanding a piece and filling it, I close my eyes and run my hands along the area I'm working on.  Everything should feel nice and smooth, but I also want to feel where more sanding may need to take place.

4.  To prime or not to prime?  I do both and it really depends on what kind of look I want.  If  I want to have a shabby chic look, I don't use a separate primer usually.   I like to use paint that is primer and paint in one  for those projects, but it's not a must.  If I know I won't be "shabbing" the project or if it's a laminate piece, I always use primer.  I prefer using Zinssers primer because it bonds to laminate and blocks stains.  Kilz is also a great primer.  For most projects, I like using spray primer  because it cuts down on time, but it's much more expensive to use than buying a gallon of a good primer.  Always use TWO coats of primer on furniture that will be heavily used (like a table top or dresser top) and you must sand the piece again after each coat of primer.  Repeat step 3- cleaning up the primer dust.

No primer used on this piece that is shabbed (sanded) along the edges.

5.  Spray paint or brush on can paint?  I have very strong opinions about this.  I love spray paint because your painting time is cut significantly.  There's little clean up when using spray paint and it dries in 20 minutes.  BUT... spray paint is only good for small projects or small areas of your entire piece.  I spray paint legs, chairs, or anything that's curved.  If a piece has lot's of grooves, I'll spray paint those too.  Why not spray the whole piece?  Even the best spray paint doesn't come out evenly, and you will get blotches of paint in some areas.  Anything with a long, flat surface requires and looks best using a brush dipped in paint.  I learned the hard way.
See the blotches on the spray painted doors?  Redo.

Legs look best spray painted.

6.  Brushes and rollers make a difference.  Everyone says to use a good brush like the Purdy brand.  I love Purdy brushes too, but I really, really hate cleaning paint brushes.  Really, really hate it.  I have found, and I know this is going to shock some people, that the disposable sponge brushes give me the same, smooth paint look that comes from the best brushes out there.   I buy a pack of 10 at Walmart for $1.50, and to be honest, I prefer using them on furniture.  When I'm done painting for the day, I throw the brush away.  Shocking I know.  For large pieces, I use a roll and brush technique.  Disposable paint brushes don't last long in paint, that why people don't use them as much.  The roll and brush technique eliminates that problem.

No brush strokes when I use a sponge brush.  How to paint Laminate.
Here's how to do the roll and brush technique. Use a (sponge/foam) roller to paint large areas of your piece.  After covering a section, immediately use the sponge/foam brush like you normally would.  The roller covers a large section, but the brush smooths it out.  The foam brush doesn't get all wilty because it's not being dipped in paint over and over again.  Only the roller is being dipped in paint.  By the way, I use foam brushes for staining wood too, and those pieces look gorgeous! Of course, I still have my purdy brush and use it occasionally too.

7.  Protect your piece.  I learned this the hard way too.  Your paint project will last so much longer if you protect it the right way.  Once the paint is dry and you've shabbed your piece if desired,  use polyurethane (either wipe on or brush on) on dark paint or stained wood.  I use polycrylic on light or white paint. The clear semi gloss or satin is my preference.  It's not super glossy but the piece looks finished.  I've bought the spray formulas too but they don't do the job in my opinion.  Remember my daughter's dresser I talked about earlier.  I painted it white then use polyurethane to protect it.  Wrong.  After two months, the polyurethane turned yellowish.  I should have used polycrylic on the dresser to protect it, but I didn't know the difference. I have a can of both in my garage and use them accordingly- using a sponge brush of course.  I usually use two coats of poly, and yes, you must lightly sand in between coats.  I use 220 grit sand paper for this step.

Polyurethane on black paint

8. Change or paint the hardware.  I have heard people say that hardware (pulls and knobs) are like the jewelry of furniture.  I think that's so true.  The hardware can really change a piece.  Sleek hardware can update and modernize an old piece, but spray painting the hardware can bring a pop of color.

New hardware for an old piece

Spray painted hardware

I'm still learning about painting furniture, and I still make mistakes.  Right now, I'm learning about different kinds of paint and when to use them.  The best part about painting your own furniture is having many pieces in your home that look beautiful and have your personal signature.  LOVE it.  It really can be a trial and error learning curve, but if you're just getting started, these tips will help. 


I link all my projects with some wonderful blogs.  To visit them, go to the {Link Party Love} page found at the top of this page on the {Home} bar.
Also linking to:
Between Naps on the Porch
Savvy Southern Style

No Minimalist Here
The Shabby Creek Cottage

Miss Mustard Seed

Funky Junk Interiors
Coastal Charm