Ideas for Painting Wood Furniture
Wood furniture is known for its staying power, both structurally and aesthetically. With the right care, a wooden chair, table or bookshelf will look great in any home and can be handed down from one generation to another. For some, wood furniture is a canvas on which one can try out new and creative decorating ideas.
Painting wood furniture is one of the most popular do-it-yourself projects. Some want to give a new look to a piece, others paint furniture when remodeling a room and some decorate wooden furniture as a way to show off their artistic side.
When you paint or repaint wood furniture, the final result will depend on the type of wood you use and whether you want to go for a traditional look or something more modern. Whatever your goal, chances are you’ll take on one of the most popular wood furniture painting projects listed below.
Basic Tools and Materials
Whatever project you decide to tackle, you’re going to need a lot of tools and materials. Some tools are more appropriate for certain projects over others, but most items are recommended for all types of wood furniture painting projects. Here’s the complete list:
Drop Cloth: This goes over the work area where you’ll be painting. It should be large enough to hold you and the piece, plus a few extra square inches.
Protective Gear: Some projects will require a dust mask, especially if you’re going to be doing heavy sanding. Others may require gloves. All projects require goggles or other protective eyewear.
Furniture Cleanser: Furniture has to be clean before you can do anything with it. Dishwashing liquid works fine for most pieces, but you may need mineral spirits if the piece is covered with oil or grease.
Screwdriver: If furniture has knobs, handles or hinges, they need to be removed before you start painting. Otherwise, you may get paint on them and leave unpainted areas on the furniture.
Sandpaper: Unfinished wood gives furniture a natural look, but it doesnt take paint very well. Plus, it can leave splinters and snag clothing. Sandpapered wood surfaces are smooth, even and take paint better.
Power Sander: Sandpaper is fine for small pieces or hard-to-reach areas, but it could take hours to sand a table or armoire by hand. The power sander is better for larger pieces of wood furniture.
Tack Cloth: Painting is a multi-step process and you may need to clean up after completing each step. Tack cloth can handle most of these tasks, such as wiping off dust after sanding.
Paint: Oil-based enamel is widely considered the best choice for painting or repainting wood furniture because of its hold and durability, but satin and latex work well, too.
Paint Brushes or Rollers: Buy brushes in a variety of sizes. Larger brushes and rollers are good for large surfaces like tabletops, while smaller sizes are best for painting smaller surfaces or crevices and other hard-to-reach areas.
Clear Wax: While not required for painting wood furniture, a coat of wax, applied with a dry rag, adds a shine to your piece – and an extra layer of protection to your new color.
These are the things you’ll need for just about any wood painting project you undertake. However, some projects require additional material, along with extra steps to get the look you want. The following are some of the most popular wood furniture painting projects and the steps you need to follow to complete them.
Painting Unfinished Wood Furniture
If you want to paint unfinished wood furniture, you have a lot of options. Some people choose to finish it with varnish and retain that natural look. Others choose to paint it with a bright color to match the rest of their colorful furniture. However, unfinished wood usually means untreated wood, so you have to take more time to ensure it doesn’t contain rough edges or nasty splinters.
In addition to the standard tools and materials, you’ll also need a primer, either shellac or oil-based, to create a suitable base for painting.
How to Paint Unfinished Wood: Preparation and Painting Steps
Before painting, clean the wood with cleanser and let it dry completely. Next, use a power sander to smooth out the surfaces. Switch to sandpaper to smooth out the corners without wearing them down. Always sand with the grain of the wood to ensure a smoother surface. Wipe off the dust with the tack cloth.
Apply one coat of primer to the furniture. Shellac or oil-based are popular choices, but water-based works as well. It should take about two hours for the primer to dry. When it does, sand it again and add a second coat of primer. This provides a better surface for painting and protects the integrity of the wood. Once the primer dries, you’re finally ready to paint.
For most wood furniture, you’ll need two coats of paint. Add one coat, let it dry, and then add the other. Painting one layer on top of another will suffice most of the time, but you could also sand between layers to ensure both layers stay on and don’t peel off.
Just because wood furniture is finished doesn’t mean you’re finished remodeling it. It takes a few more steps when it comes to painting finished wood furniture, but it’s worth it to give a new look to an old piece.
Repainting Finished Wood Furniture
Just because wood furniture is finished doesn’t mean you’re done remodeling it. It takes a few more steps to paint finished wood furniture, but it’s worth it to give a new look to an old piece.
In addition to the standard tools and materials, you’ll also need the following:
- A scraper tool
- Dry towel or rag
- Oil-based clear sealant
The prep work is the same for finished wood furniture as it is for unfinished. Place the drop cloth on the floor, put on your protective gear, remove hardware and clean the furniture. However, finished wood requires more time on certain steps than on others, sanding in particular.
Before you can paint a finished piece, you have to remove the finish itself. A smooth surface with a relatively thin varnish can be removed with a higher-grit sandpaper. However, a rough surface and thicker varnish requires a lower grit paper and more time with the power sander. Keep sanding until the wood is smooth and has lost its shine.
If the furniture has already been painted, you may need a scraper tool before sanding. Just scrape off the loose pieces before sanding. When you’re done, wipe the furniture with your tack cloth. Add one or two coats of primer and then two coats of paint, letting each coat dry before adding the next.
Paint Wood Furniture Shabby Chic-Style
Distressed furniture is one of the hottest trends in wood furniture and part of the new shabby chic movement. For some, this means taking that piece you already own and giving it a hot new color but not doing much else. For others, it means remaking a new piece to look old and worn. Either way, you end up with a chair, table or hutch that gives the phrase “antique furniture” a whole new meaning.
Before following these shabby chic painting tips, make sure you have the following items:
- Candle wax
- Scraping tool
- A heavy sack
- Wood stain
- Protective satin finish
Distressed Wood Furniture
Unlike newer-looking furniture, distressed wood furniture has two tones or more, so each step will happen one layer at a time. First, sand down your furniture with a medium-grit sandpaper and dust off with the tack cloth. Next, add primer to the entire piece.
Now it’s time to “damage” your furniture, or at least make it appear damaged by beating it with your sack full of nails, knobs or other objects. Don’t beat the furniture so hard that it actually breaks – just enough to add dents and dings that create the illusion of being an untreated hand-me-down.
Once it’s distressed to your satisfaction, apply a base coat of your preferred color, rub candle wax on random spots where you want to see more color and add a top coat. After the paint has dried, lightly sand the piece. Sand more heavily on the areas that would typically see wear and tear, such as the corners and legs on a wood table, or use the scraping tool. Wipe off the dust and add a wood stain and a protective satin finish to preserve the look.
Paint With Stencils
Wood furniture, both finished and unfinished, may come in one color, but that color is actually comprised of the tones and highlights that can only come from natural wood. For some, this is not enough color variety, so they turn to other decorative outlets when they want to paint or repaint wood furniture. Stencils are popular because they can turn each piece into a one-of-a-kind creation.
In addition to your regular set of tools and materials, you’ll also need:
- Round sponge
- Stencils or stencil paper
- Stencil adhesive
- Acrylic paint in a second color
- Dry rag
- Water and white vinegar
How to Use Stencils While Painting
Before stenciling, prepare your furniture. Place your drop cloth, put on your protective gear, clean the piece and sand it down. Next, apply the primer and let it dry. From there, you have two options for using stencils in your painting project, depending on the kind of stencil you’re using.
If you’re using stencil paper, start by applying a base coat and letting it dry. Place the stencil paper on the surface you want to paint and add the second color. Depending on the size of the paper and the size of the area you want to stencil, you may have to repeat this step several times. If this is the case, plan ahead – decide where you want to place the stencil before actually painting.
If you’re using the stencils themselves, the process is reversed. First, place the stencils on the furniture surface and hold secure with adhesive, and then add paint. This allows the natural color to come out. If, however, you prefer a finish underneath the stencils, add the stain, let it dry, then add the stencils and paint the second color. Wait until the second coat dries before removing the stencils.
If some adhesive gets stuck to the furniture, rinse it off with the rag and water/white vinegar mixture. If this doesn’t work, try a mild dishwashing liquid or oil soap. Rinse the area off with another dry cloth and let the whole thing dry. Finally, apply a protective finish to protect both the stenciled areas and the background underneath.
It can take several hours to paint or repaint wood furniture. You might be tempted to skip a step or two to save time, but in doing so, you may end up with furniture that doesn’t hold its color and will eventually need another time-consuming paint job.
While it’s best to follow every step and make sure it’s done right, you may be able to save a little time by using different tools and materials. The following shortcuts can cut the painting time and still preserve your furniture.
Painting Without Sanding
For many woodworkers, the idea of painting wood furniture without sanding is blasphemy because an unsanded surface all but ensures that the paint will eventually peel, especially on a heavily used piece. However, you can get away with it if you’re painting unfinished furniture because of its untreated surface. If you decide to, make sure your primer is oil-based or replace the power sander with a liquid sander. Painting furniture with oil paint or primers allows unsanded furniture to take on a smoother, thorough paint coating with fewer coats of paint.
Without primer, wood furniture is harder to paint, but primer can add as many as four hours to a wood furniture painting project. You can’t skip this step, especially if you’re going to skip the sanding step, but you can combine it with another step. Instead of buying paint and primer, find a paint with a built-in primer. That way you get the base and the color in two coats instead of four.
Corners and Crevices
Your wood furniture painting project may go smoothly, but you’ll notice it slows down when it comes to joints, corners and carvings. Whether you’re stripping, cleaning or painting, these areas aren’t always easy to treat, especially with most standard painting materials.
For these areas, think smaller and more specialized. Use medium steel wool rather than sandpaper to strip the varnish and avoid the risk of sanding down certain details. When it comes time to prime and paint, don’t use the brushes you find in hardware stores. Go with an artist’s brush or brushes from a kid’s paint set. They’re small enough to fit even the smallest crevice and ensure no spot on your furniture goes untouched.
A Quality Wood Furniture Painting Project Begins with Quality Wood Furniture.
Whether you’re a fan of do-it-yourself projects or want to make over an older piece to match a new addition, your work will only be as good as the furniture you use. Amish Outlet Store sells quality wood furniture that fits any taste and color scheme, and can easily stand up to your next creative idea. Try out some of the ideas listed above, or sign up for our newsletter and get a steady stream of new ideas every week.