I’m not usually one for painting furniture. I don’t have many pieces that need to be painted, and when I do, it’s usually something simple like a nightstand or side table. But since I’ve been married, my husband has been converting our apartment into a more masculine space by painting some of the wood-grain accent pieces in darker colors. It was fun to watch him transform an old dresser into a new piece of furniture with just spray paint, but then he asked me if I’d paint his computer desk for him (because he’s too lazy to do it himself!). Well…I said yes! And then proceeded to spend the next two days getting covered in dust and primer fumes while sanding down all the nooks and crannies before finally getting around to actually painting it:

How To Paint Furniture

Clean and sand the furniture.

Before you begin painting, it’s important to clean and sand your furniture.

The first step is to wipe down your piece with a damp cloth. This will remove any dust or dirt that may have accumulated over time. If there are major scratches or marks on the surface of your piece, use fine-grit sandpaper to remove them (following manufacturer instructions). A vacuum cleaner can be used to suck up any leftover dust from the sanded surfaces before moving onto step two: priming!

Use primer for paint adhesion.

Primer is a base coat that helps the paint stick to the surface. It’s a must if you are painting over a dark or textured surface. If your furniture has been stained, varnished or painted before, use primer on top of it so that your new coat will look fresh and clean.

Even if you don’t need to use primer for adhesion purposes only (and not all pieces require this step), we recommend priming them before painting because it gives them an even color tone and minimizes brush strokes in the final result. You can tint some white latex paint with some yellowish tones or add some black acrylic artist’s oil paint into it until you get an appropriate shade for your piece – just make sure not too much pigment gets added since this will make it harder for subsequent layers of paint to stick onto each other!

Prime in the direction of the grain.

  • Prime in the direction of the grain. The most important thing to remember is that you want to prime furniture in such a way that it will not peel or chip off easily, especially if you’re painting over wood stain or another type of varnish. You can sand down any rough edges with sandpaper and then wipe off all dust before priming.
  • Sanding can be done by hand or with an electric sander (depending on how big your piece of furniture is). Use medium grit sandpaper for this task–if you use too fine a grit, it’ll take longer and won’t be as effective at removing old paint jobs; if you use too coarse a grit, then there’s a chance that some parts could become scratched by accident during this process! Once everything has been cleaned off after being sanded down smoothly enough for us humans’ eyesight levels (and maybe even lower), move on to step two: priming!

Apply a base coat in thin, even coats.

Next, we’ll apply a base coat in thin, even layers. This will help to protect the wood and give our new color depth.

  • For large areas: If you’re painting furniture with a roller or paint pad (recommended for smaller pieces), begin by rolling out your first coat in long strokes from top to bottom. Then go back over it with short strokes to fill in any bare spots that were missed during initial application.
  • For small areas: If there are only small bits of wood showing through your first coat, use an old rag or paper towel wrapped around your finger as an applicator tool rather than trying to get them covered up with a roller or pad–it’ll save time!

Allow each coat to dry completely before applying another one.

  • Don’t apply the paint too thickly.
  • Allow each coat to dry completely before applying another one.
  • Don’t rush, and don’t use a brush to apply your first coat of paint–it will leave brush marks in the finish. Instead, use a roller (a foam one works best). Rollers give you more control over how much paint goes on each surface and they allow you to work quickly without having to worry about brush strokes or drips from brushes with long bristles that can get messy if you’re not careful!

Add highlights if desired (see below).

You can also add highlights to your furniture, if you’d like. Highlights are the contrast between the base coat and the wood grain. This will make your piece look more finished and give it depth. To highlight:

  • Use a different color of paint than what you used for your base coat (I used black).
  • Use a small brush to apply highlights in random places on each piece of furniture–you don’t want them to be too uniform or symmetrical!

Painting a piece of furniture is simple with a little prep work and patience.

Before you begin painting, make sure you have all of the necessary tools at hand. You’ll need a paintbrush or rollers, latex or oil-based paints (depending on what kind of furniture you’re working with), primer if needed and an old towel or cloth to wipe off any excess paint from your hands.

If you’re using a brush and roller set up, apply two thin coats of primer before applying the first coat of color. This will ensure that your finish is smooth and even when it dries! Let each layer dry completely before applying another one; this can take anywhere from two hours to overnight depending on how thickly you applied each coat. If there’s any bumpiness in your finished product after drying fully–or if it looks dull–you may need another layer of primer before moving forward with painting again!


With a little prep work and patience, you can paint your furniture and make it look great. Remember to clean and sand the piece before starting, prime it in the direction of the grain, apply a base coat in thin, even coats, allow each coat to dry completely before applying another one, add highlights if desired (see below)