DIY Tips & Tricks: How To Paint Furniture

Well, I was painting furniture again this afternoon. At our house, if it sits still for too long, it gets a coat of paint. So I thought I’d share a few of my how-to tips when painting or refinishing a piece of furniture. You might want to read the Scoring and Refinishing a CraigsList Furniture Deal {How-To} first, to learn more about my love for high adhesion primer and my paint sprayer. Once you’ve got the down-low on the primer, come back here for these tips and tricks for painting (without a sprayer this time)!

1. Choose The Right Paint

I had a piece of fabric I loved (the fabric used here on the sofa throw pillows, here on the kitchen hand towels, and here on a slip-covered stool cushion), so that was the inspiration. If there is an item you want to match, take the item to Lowe’s or Home Depot, and ask them to do a free color match. They will scan your item and custom tint your paint to a perfect match.

Unfortunately, my fabric has a weathered sort of weave, so there was a variety of shades in it that made it not easy to scan. so I moved on to plan B, which was perusing the paint chips in the hopes of finding a match. Ask the paint associate if you can look at their swatch books, too. I actually [got permission and] took the swatch books out front to see the colors in natural daylight. I chose three shades that looked close and/or complimentary to my fabric. Lowe’s sells little tester pots of color, so I got my colors custom mixed for about $3 each and headed home.

On a scrap piece of wood, I painted the three shades and lived with them for a few days. Color ALWAYS looks different over a large area than it does on a little swatch, so if at all possible, get a sample pot to do a test run. I leaned the wood on the wall where the china cabinet is going, too, so I could see the colors in the right lighting.

For furniture, I like to do a slightly higher gloss, so I stay away from matte and egg shell and go for satin instead.

On a side note: you might want to check the “oops” paint section of your hardware store. If there is a color that is close to the one you want, the paint technicians might be able to tint it to your desired color for just a couple of bucks.

Also, I got in on that Glidden free paint quart deal last time I saw it (it really was completely FREE! Wow!). I chose powder pink not knowing where exactly I’d use it at the time, and am painting Sissy’s Goodwill-find bedside table with it. Fun & free! Nice! (The only drawback is that it is egg shell finish, but I plan on going over this piece later with a gloss sealer to make it *shine*).

2. Set Up Your Work Space

We set up in the garage with a cheap plastic drop cloth from Lowe’s Home Improvement. I propped up the buffet (bottom) and the hutch (top) of the china cabinet to be painted on a few pieces of fence picket scraps (so the drop cloth doesn’t stick). Make sure to position your furniture so that you can get to all sides and angles easily.

3. Prepare Your Pieces

Remove all the hardware. I know it can seem a little tedious, but you do not want to be searching for missing screws once you’re done painting. So go ahead and put the removed hardware in bags. It’s also a great idea to put different handles and their corresponding screws in a different bag (so for example, drawer pulls in one bag, upper door hinges in another, upper door pulls in a third), and take two seconds to label them so you don’t have to figure out again where each pull and hinge goes.

Next, use blue painter’s tape to tape off any glass or portions you don’t want to get paint on.

4. Gather Your Tools

I used a foam brush to get in all the nooks and crannies (I like them because they are inexpensive and don’t leave brush stroke marks), and a six inch foam roller for the rest.

HOT TIP: Put a piece of blue tape across one side of your paint can opening to wipe excess paint off your brush. this keep it from gathering and pooling in the lip of your paint can (and avoids a big mess when you go to secure the lid in between coats). I *LOVE* this because there is no additional clean-up. Just throw the piece of blue tape away when you’re done with it, and use a fresh piece the next time you crack open the paint!

And… RESOURCEFUL or JUST PLAIN CHEAP? 😉  I was just dipping the roller sideways into the can of paint because I didn’t have a paint tray, but then it dawned on me that it would be really easy to make one, so I just (A) cut the back off a cereal box (in retrospect, you could just cut it along both long and one of the short sides). Then (B) tape one short edge to one short end (or just fold it down if you didn’t cut one end), and tape the other end to the inside of the box to form a paint tray slope. Next (C) “double bag” it by putting it inside two plastic grocery shopping bags, and tape it off at the openings to secure (I used blue tape because it’s what I had on hand, but you could also use scotch tape or duct tape or whatever). And (D) Voila! Instant free disposable paint tray (more “zero clean up”! I love that!).

5. Get To Painting

You’re ready to roll, so get to it! If you’re painting wood, remember to brush or roll in the same direction of the grain. Cut in all the corners first with the small brush, then roll out the larger areas.

ANOTHER HOT TIP: When you need to take a break or in between coats, there’s no need to wash all the brushes, just put them in a sealed ziploc bag in your refrigerator! I stored the blue paint brushes like this for over a MONTH without ever washing them of having them dry out!

6. Include Your Kids

Believe it or not, it is possible to [effectively] paint furniture with young children around! Even though you’re getting something done, don’t forget to relish this summer vacation with your precious ones!

Hand the meticulous eight-year-old a roller!

Distract the rambunctious four-year-old with a bucket, a tap, and a dirty car!

Sequester the VERY busy toddler in an adjoining pack-and-play full of toys!

Ahem, and speaking of having those brushes stored for a month reminds me: the FULL “before and after” reveal post on the china cabinet will be coming up later this week!

So, what tried and true furniture painting tips do you use? Any of the ones from this post you might be trying out? Happy painting y’all!


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6 responses to “DIY Tips & Tricks: How To Paint Furniture

  1. Pingback: Before And After: The CraigsList China Cabinet Goes BLUE | CampClem·

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  6. Hi! Love your tips! Just curious though…did you sand or clean the furniture first? Or just dust it off? I’m new at this and need to know.


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