How To Paint Furniture For Beginners

In this post, I am sharing how to paint furniture for beginners. I have been painting pieces of furniture in my home for the past six years. I have painted everything from kitchen cabinets, fireplaces to even painting fabric. I get a lot of paint questions in my DM’s on Instagram so I thought I would put together a furniture painting FAQ post so you guys could use this post as a guide for your projects.

I know how intimidating it can be when you want to start a project. There is so much variety of paints to choose from. Whether you want to use chalk paint or satin I have used loads of different paints and I can share what has worked for me. I have also had a few painting disasters too and I will try my best to share as much info with you so you can avoid making the same painting mistakes I made. I am no expert when it comes to painting furniture but I can speak from experience.

I also like to try new brands as well and I haven’t tried them all so I can only comment on the ones I have tried. Below are the most common painting questions I get asked, I hope you find this post useful.

How To Paint Furniture For Beginners

How do I paint my kitchen cabinets?

I painted my laminate kitchen cabinets over three years ago and they are still going strong. It was the best thing I ever did to my kitchen and it made a massive difference to the room. I had ugly orange coloured fake wood presses and I was able to paint them. I do not recommend chalk paint for kitchen cabinets. I recommend using a primer and an eggshell or satin finish paint. Whether you have solid wood or laminate presses then these are the steps I took to transform mine.

  • Start by using warm soapy water to remove all the built-up grime from your cabinets. You can also use sugar soap to remove the build-up of dirt.
  •  Very lightly sand each cabinet door, you do not have to sand it back bare. You just have to scratch or key it so your paint has something to grip onto.
  •  Apply one or two coats of primer to your cabinets and follow the drying time for each coat. It is tempting to recoat but always allow for the paint to fully dry.
  •  Once the primer is dry you can apply your topcoat. You can use either an eggshell paint or satinwood paint. Apply two coats. Allow the paint to dry.
  •  You do not need to apply a sealer with eggshell or satinwood paint. This paint will dry with a sheen and once it cures it is durable.

I find satin and eggshell paint is more durable in my home. So for pieces that get a lot of traffic, I would use those paints. I have pieces in my home that are painted in chalk paint and they have discoloured overtime or the wax hasn’t been durable enough.

So, for kitchen cabinets, my go-to paint would be primer and satinwood/eggshell. Both Farrow & Ball and Colortrend have a great range of colours in their paint ranges. You can see more pictures of my kitchen in this post here and check out the video below.

Painted kitchen before and after

Do I have to sand and prep a piece before painting?

Yes, regardless of what a paint company says on their tin, I always prep a piece. Would you apply makeup to a dirty face? Furniture will build up a layer of dirt, oils and grime over time. I have skipped the prep in the past and these are the pieces of furniture that have not stood the test of time.

When you start to paint furniture it is easy to want to cut corners and skip the prep. Allow yourself the extra time to prep your piece properly. Here is how I prep a piece for painting, this is the same prep I do for all pieces included wood and PVC.

  • I use warm soapy water and some sugar soap to wash my piece, this will get rid of all the dirt and grime. You will be surprised by how much dirt comes off a piece of furniture.
  • using a sanding block I lightly sand my piece. You do not have to sand a piece to the original wood. You are simply scratching the piece so the paint can grip to it. This step doesn’t take long and you can sand in the direction of the wood. Make sure to wipe away any dust from sanding before painting.
  • I leave my piece to fully dry before applying any paint. Generally, I will prep a piece for painting the night before painting the piece.

I know a lot of brands advertise that you don’t need to sand a piece before painting. I would still give these items a clean with warm soapy water before painting. You want your piece to last and you don’t want to be covering up chips every few weeks on your piece. Take your time, painting is fun and enjoy each step.

Colortrend primer

Chalk paint V’s Satinwood

Before chalk paint exploded onto the market everyone would have used Satinwood and Eggshell paints on wood and metal. I have used many different brands of chalk paint and I find satinwood more durable and sustainable over time.

I do love chalk paint, however, I have noticed it is not as durable over time and I keep it for small pieces like mirrors/jars and the odd chair. When it came to painting my kitchen cabinets and front door I went with eggshell paint.

With chalk paint I have had to redo and go over some past projects from 2-3 years ago that didn’t last long under daily use, However, my kitchen cabinets and pieces I painted with the eggshell are still durable with no chipping.

There are pro’s and con’s to each type of paint, from my experience if you are painting something big like a kitchen, fireplace, a piece of furniture in high traffic areas like your kitchen table etc then go for satinwood or eggshell. For smaller projects or pieces that you want to achieve that aged shabby chic and antiqued look then go for chalk paint.

Moneywise, depending on the brand of paint there is not much price difference between chalk paint and satinwood. With chalk paint, you can easily get a distressed shabby look and there and brands of chalk paint that have ranges of products to achieve crackle effect and different decorative effects. It’s also good to note, chalk paint brands advertise that you do not have to prime, however, you do have to seal chalk paint with wax or lacquer.

Satinwood and eggshell you can apply a primer but you do not have to seal. So, when it comes to time I find I don’t save any more time by using chalk paint versus satinwood. Also, most brands of satin have low VOC’s and don’t have an odour.

It all comes down to personal preference. As you paint more pieces of furniture and try different paints you will find which one works best for you and your style. I always encourage people to get tester pots and try out some paints before making their minds up.

Farrow and ball estate eggshell in Calamine

How do I minimise brush strokes?

If you want a really smooth finish for your project then I love to use a sponge roller. I also use a makeup brush to get inside the smaller hard to reach areas. I love the foundation brushes from Pennies (Primark) to give me a smooth finish.

I love the Harris brand of paintbrushes. I try to avoid the cheap paintbrushes from the likes of the pound shops as they shed over time and don’t wash as well. I have some Harris brushes that are years old and still going strong.

Did you paint your skirting boards, any tips?

Yes, I have painted my skirting boards and doors. I had ugly orange pine doors and skirting when I first moved into my home. Painting these made a massive difference and has made my rooms look bigger. I have a post about painting skirting which you can find here. 

I basically follow the three rules that I mentioned above. Prep, Prime and Paint! I won’t lie, painting skirting boards aren’t the most fun thing to do. Your back aches and you want to give up halfway through. My best advice is to break up this job and take it in steps. I didn’t tackle all of mine at once. I painted my skirting boards room by room.

Painted skirting before and after

How is your painted fridge holding up?

I painted my ugly black plastic fridge pink around two years ago. I am happy to report that it is holding up well and I haven’t had any issues. I haven’t used magnets on it so that has helped with making the paint last. I also wash it down with warm soapy water and I don’t use harsh chemical cleaners on it.

If you have an ugly fridge, maybe you got it second hand or can’t afford a new one then check out my post on painting your fridge here. My fridge has a plastic coating to it so once I prepped and used a primer the paint was able to adhere to it. If your fridge is metal then I can’t recommend painting it as I haven’t painted metal aside from metal garden furniture.

Tips for painting Ikea furniture?

I have painted a few Ikea items and I always use a primer on it and follow the steps above. I wouldn’t skip priming as Ikea furniture can have quite a sheen to it and using rimer gives it a better base for paint to stick to. I know people who have used chalk paint on it too and I would recommend sealing the chalk paint with lacquer. You might like my Ikea kids kitchen makeover, you can read about it here. I used Colourtrend primer and satinwood paint to paint this unit.

Click here for my Ikea furniture painting guide

Ikea Duktig kids kitchen

What brand of paint should I use, what paint is the best?

When it comes to choosing a paint brand I will always tell you to do your own research and read up on the brand before purchasing. Each brand of paint has different drying and curing times. I always recommend getting a tester pot and following the brand’s guidelines on how best to use it.

There are tons of paint brands on the market and I haven’t tried them all. When it comes to eggshell and satinwood paints my favourite brands are Colortrend, Farrow & Ball, Little green and Autentico eggshell. When it comes to chalk paints I like the Autentico vintage range, Rust-oleum and Frenchic range of chalk paints. Have fun trying out new paints and if you have any doubts then do a patch test first.

farrow and ball eggshell paint
Rustoleum primer and copper spray paint

Prep, Prime and Paint

Whether you are painting a chest of drawers or your kitchen presses I follow those three rules. When I first started out painting furniture, I would be really impatient and would want to paint a piece within the day. Nowadays I take my time and enjoy each step. I regret rushing some of my past projects as I had to go back and redo them. Take your time, do a good prep and you won’t go wrong.

I hope you found this furniture painting FAQ’s post useful. I have some projects to tackle that involves stripping and removing paint so I will do a separate post on that topic soon. Let me know if you have any fun painting projects planned for this year. Comment below or tag me in your projects on Instagram.

Also please share this furniture painting FAQ’s post with others if you found it useful. Thanks for reading, Chat soon, Catherine.

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  1. July 20, 2020 / 11:38 am

    Welldone..certainly inspired

  2. daintydressdiaries
    July 24, 2020 / 2:57 pm

    Thanks for reading Lydia! X

  3. Lorraine
    August 12, 2020 / 10:54 am

    Great guide ! Just tackling an old kitchen table my neighbour was chucking out !

  4. daintydressdiaries
    August 12, 2020 / 12:54 pm

    Thanks for reading Lorraine, good luck painting the table!

  5. Mairead
    September 20, 2020 / 9:22 am

    Brilliant guide. Thanks for putting this up on your blog

  6. daintydressdiaries
    September 20, 2020 / 9:23 am

    I’m glad you found it useful, thanks for reading Mairead. X

  7. Lucinda
    June 11, 2021 / 8:39 am

    Thank you for your lovely, inspiring website. This guide is so helpful. I know I’m impatient and would want to get an item done in a day, but I’m going to follow your advice and prep the day before, and tryst to take my time so it lasts. Thank you!

  8. daintydressdiaries
    June 11, 2021 / 2:43 pm

    I am so happy you found this post useful, best of luck with your upcycling x

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