Thursday, April 8, 2010

The ABCs of Painting Furniture

Where does the time go? Went back to my studio the other day after a long Easter break. I'm working on two bookcases for a friend's home and I am loving how they are turning out!

Many times, people ask me how to paint furniture. It's not hard, but it does take time and patience.

What you will need:
piece of furniture
fine sand paper
Paint brush (a good one, meaning a little more expensive one). If you get a cheap (under $3 or $4) paintbrush, it tends to provide an uneven coat and most of the time, you will start loosing bristles as you paint -- and unless you want "hairs" on your piece, you need to splurge. Use one that is made for latex-based paints.
1 quart of primer - Glidden Gripper, Kilz, etc.
1 quart of latex paint (check whoops section of paint store for bargains)
assorted pints/quarts of acrylic or latex paints
drop cloth
paint pans
rag to catch spills


1 (a) If the piece is stained (or painted a dark color and you want it a light color), you will need to sand it with fine sandpaper and then prime it with a paint or stain primer. I use Glidden Gripper, which can be purchased at Home Depot. Other primers are available, but this one works best for me. I don't use spray primers as they tend to clump up and drip, making the project even more labor intensive.
Sometimes, if the stain or dark paint bleeds through, you have to lightly sand again and use another coat of primer.

1(b) If the piece is unfinished, it still needs to be lightly sanded and primed, but only one coast of primer is necessary.

2. Next, you need to paint your base paint. For example, I used a rust latex paint as the base paint for the bookshelf above. Since I was painting a dark color over a light color, I needed to apply two coats of base paint. The person purchasing the shelves wanted the back of the bookshelf to be white and even though it was already painted white, I needed to add one coat to make it look fresh.

3. This step is where the fun begins! If you choose to, you can paint designs, either freehand (which I do) or with stencils. I personally don't use stencils because I love the look of a freehand design -- it never looks perfect and I believe it adds special character to the piece. I also like to outline my designs with a black paint pen to give them a more whimsical touch (see close-up of a mirror shelf I did).

4. Optional: since I paint a lot of children's furniture, I usually finish my project with a protective coating. I use an eco-friendly, non-toxic polywhey coating from Virginia Naturals on dark painted furniture. However, I have learned not to use this same polywhey coating on light or white paint as it will yellow the finish. For these finishes, I choose to use a protective wax coating or a water-based polyurethane (however, some people say that it can also turn yellow...it hasn't happened to me yet).

So, there you have it! If you want to try this on your own, please feel free to ask me any questions.

3 comments:

Magic Brush said...

Do you use Minwax Polyacrylic for your topcoats? Its my favorite!

molly susan strong said...

Fun stuff. I have reinvented myself many times over. I am a big fan of the above product and I mix color into it for a top coat and glaze in ONE!! Also try Behr paint with the primer in it.

Renze said...

Thanks to both of you for commenting! Yes, I use minwax when I don't use Vermont Naturals. And thanks, Molly for the advice.