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Two side tables showing a difference in sheen.

How To Paint Furniture

Learn how to paint furniture easily these tips and step by step instructions. You’ll avoid frustrating mistakes and have a long-lasting piece that shines like new!
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 7 hours
Servings 1 dresser
Author Rachel
Cost $50


  • TSP or Cleaner
  • Sandpaper 220 and 120 grit
  • Sanding Blocks 80 or 120 grit
  • Drop Cloths
  • Wood Filler Only for imperfections or filling old hardware
  • Lint-free Microfiber rollers Some paints work better with foam rollers
  • Painter's Tape
  • Paint trays
  • Stainblocking Primer
  • Paint
  • Protective Top Coat Recommended but optional


  • Remove doors and drawers. Unscrew hardware.
    kitchen drawers laid out to dry,
  • Clean using Tri-Sodium Phosphate or a mild degreaser for getting any grime and dirt off. Repair scratches with wood filler.
    Wiping and cleaning wood.
  • Sand any glossy varnish or coating off. You do not need to sand every bit of previous stain or paint off if it is in good condition. Sanding is going to give the best bond, and always sand high traffic surfaces such as tabletops, around doorknobs, or dresser tops. Use an orbital sander with 120 grit to make this much easier. Vacuum and wipe all dust off of the panels before priming.
    Two drawers sanded so that they are prepped for painting furniture.
  • Prime the cabinets with a quality primer. For very light colors, use 2 coats of primer. Allow to dry 24 hours.
    Painting a dresser white with a paintbrush.
  • Paint the dresser with 2 coats of paint. You can use either a paint sprayer or brushes and rollers. If brushing, brush with the grain and always from one end to the other. If paint starts to dry, don't go back over it.
    Boys bedroom in grey and navy with red accents and a red racing stripe painted on the wall.


Guide to Cleaning Furniture for Painting
  • Knots - use a shellac based primer
  • Gooey stuff/adhesive - I like Goo Gone for gooey messes, but make sure to clean off with a degreaser or teaspoon afterwards to remove any residue.
  • Grease stains - clean with a good degreaser like Simple Green to break up what you can.
  • Permanent Marker/food coloring/other - Clean as best you can with teaspoon and then prime at least two coats.
More Tips for Painting Furniture
  1. Get the right tools. A few extra dollars will save you a lot of heartache and frustration. I have a helpful post on painting without brush strokes here. I prefer fine taklon brushes.
  2. Tape off any edges you don’t want painted such as inside doors.
  3. Use a lint free -microfiber roller across all flat or large surfaces for the smoothest finish.
  4. You will get the best results if you brush details or corners then roll before the paint has time to dry.