Learn how to paint furniture with this detailed tutorial, which includes great tips for getting a smooth finish! Update your old furniture by painting it!
I’m very happy with how this dresser turned, but honestly, it only turned out OK because of much trial and error on my part. I made a few mistakes on some other painting projects, and learned some painting do’s and don’ts along the way. So, in this post I’ll try to help you skip all of the problems and mistakes, and go straight to having a painting project that you’re thrilled with too!
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, I will earn a small commission. The great thing is, it won’t cost you a penny more! Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
How To Paint Furniture
I’m afraid there aren’t any shortcuts, or quick fixes that I can share from this painting project. I had a lot of water damage on the top of this dresser, so it needed a lot of prep work ahead of the painting, The prep work is so important to get a nice finish. Believe me, if I could have used any shortcuts I would have!
Let’s take another look at the dresser before it’s makeover. It’s a good, solid (heavy) dresser that just needed some TLC and updating.
The finished painted dresser.
- Wooster paintbrush – I LOVE this paintbrush! The soft rubber handle makes it comfortable to use for hours.
- Benjamin Moore Advance paint – A latex paint in Benjamin Moore’s color White. This paint is awesome when you want a very smooth finish. It has a slow dry time, so it levels out very nicely.
- Wooster roller – This roller is fabulous! The smooth finish it gives is almost as good as the finish you get from spray painting.
- Zinsser Allprime Oil-Base Sealer and Stain Blocker. This is a good oil primer to cover the wood stain and varnish.
- Black and Decker Mouse Detail Sander – This was great for sanding the flat parts of wood. It has a narrow tip at the top that helped to get in the corners of the drawer fronts.
- Sandpaper – I used regular sandpaper on the curved parts of wood that the Mouse Sander could not get to.
- Tack cloth – To clean off sawdust from sanding.
- TSP Substitute – This is a liquid form of TSP.
- Paint Sanding Respirator – I wear this mask whenever I’m sanding my projects.
- Polycrylic Protective Finish – I applied the polycrylic to the top of the dresser to help protect it from scuff marks.
- Hickory Hardware drawer pulls and Hickory Hardware knobs – I love the hardware I bought for the dresser! They really update the look!
I’ve created a video showing the steps that I took to prep and paint the dresser, and I’ve also listed the steps below the video.
1. Take off hardware –
The first thing I did was take off all of the hardware.
I also took the fake wicker inserts out of the two top drawers at this point.
2. Wash with TSP SUBSTITUTE –
I washed all of the drawers and the dresser with a liquid TSP Substitute. (Follow the directions carefully). This is probably one of the most important steps to prepping the furniture. Use the liquid TSP substitute.
I used the powdered real TSP on another painting project, but did not rinse it very well. The paint started chipping off very quickly after I had finished the project.
When I asked my local paint store guy what I did wrong, he said that probably I didn’t rinse the TSP well enough. He said that a lot of people mess up this step, and he recommends using liquid TSP substitute instead. The liquid TSP Substitute does not have to be rinsed off, but I did rinse anyway.
This step is important because you don’t want leave any oils on the wood, or your paint won’t stick as well.
3. Fill holes from drawer hardware, and any other imperfections in the wood.
I filled all of the holes in the drawers from the hardware with a good wood filler, and let it dry.
4. Sand all wood.
To get a smooth finish, and to give the primer and paint something to grab onto, you need to sand all of the wood. I used a 100 grit and then finished with a 240 grit for the water damaged top of the dresser. If you are starting with a fairly smooth undamaged finish, the the 220 grit will work fine.
Make sure to sand the same direction as the grain in the wood. Do not use a circular motion or go against the grain of the wood. This will cause the wood to scratch.
For the flat parts of wood, I was able to use my Black and Decker Mouse Detail Sander.
It worked great for getting into the corners, and like I said the flat parts of wood. Especially the top that was water damaged.
For the curvier wood parts, I did have to sand by hand with sandpaper.
Here’s a picture of one of the drawers after the holes were filled and sanded.
5. Wipe down the wood with a tack cloth.
Make sure to wipe all of the sanded wood with a tack cloth to clean the dust from sanding off of the wood.
*At this point I inserted my new drawer inserts, using up some leftover pieces of V-board from another reno project.
6. Prime the wood with an oil primer.
Using the paintbrush, prime all of the wood. I found that using the paintbrush instead of the foam roller worked better when trying to apply the oil-primer. The primer went on smoother. Let the primer dry the recommended amount of time that it says on the can. I let mine dry overnight.
7. Sand all primed wood.
I know, I know, sanding again? This was key to getting a smooth finish. After the primer was dry, I had to sand all of the oil primed surfaces with the 220 grit sandpaper before applying the Advance regular paint. Otherwise, I could see every brush stroke from applying the primer.
8. Apply the paint ( I used Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint in a satin finish – color White).
Apply the paint using the Wooster foam rollers where possible. For the top of the dresser this was especially important. The roller gave me a very nice, smooth finish. For the curved parts of wood, I needed to use the Wooster paintbrush instead. Let the paint dry the recommended amount of time before re-coating. For the Advance paint I was using, it was recommending to wait 16 hours before applying the second coat. I let mine dry overnight.
9. Apply a second coat of paint.
Follow the instructions in step 8 to apply the second coat of paint. The Advance paint is very thick, so I only needed 2 coats. If you’re using a thinner paint, you may have to apply another coat.
10. Install new drawer hardware.
I couldn’t wait for this step! Installing the new drawer hardware really updated the dresser. For this dresser I chose this Hickory Hardware knob and Hickory Hardware drawer pull. Make sure to let your paint dry a couple of days before installing the hardware.
11. For extra protection, apply 2-3 coats of a polycrylic protective finish to the top of the dresser.
After a few months of daily use we were getting some black scuff marks on the top of the dresser.
To help protect the white paint, I applied 2 coats of a Polycrylic Protective Finish made by Minwax to the top of the dresser. I did’t use the polycrylic on the whole dresser, but you could if you wanted too.
UPDATE: I’ve created a video about HOW TO APPLY POLYCRYLIC OVER PAINT. You can find it here:
It took some hard work, but now we have a nice smooth painted finish!
I’m thrilled with the updated look of our dresser! Let’s look at the before and after again.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my how to paint furniture tutorial! If you’ve updated a tired and worn out piece of furniture with paint, please share pictures with us. I would love to see your finished projects!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: