What Paint to Use on Wood Furniture

When it comes to updating wood furniture, choosing the right paint can make all the difference. The market offers a wide range of paints, but finding the best ones for your project is crucial for a successful transformation.

Among the numerous options available, there are 10-15 top products that stand out for their durability, ease of application, and overall finish quality. This article will guide you through these top choices and help you make an informed decision for your wood furniture painting needs.

Types of Paint for Wood Furniture

There are a variety of paints available in the market for use on wood furniture. Each type has its own unique properties, making them suitable for specific situations. This section will discuss the features, benefits, and considerations of the following types of paint for wood furniture: oil-based paint, water-based paint, chalk paint, milk paint, and acrylic paint.

Oil-Based Paint

Oil-based paints are made with a natural oil or synthetic oil base. They offer a durable and long-lasting finish, making them ideal for high-traffic areas and furniture pieces that see frequent use. Advantages of oil-based paints include:

  • Superior adhesion and leveling properties
  • High resistance to wear and tear
  • Excellent coverage and depth of color
  • Available in various sheens, from matte to high gloss

However, oil-based paints can take longer to dry and emit higher levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can contribute to air pollution and respiratory issues.

Water-Based Paint

Water-based paints, commonly referred to as latex paints, primarily use water as a solvent. They offer several benefits over their oil-based counterparts:

  • Quicker drying times
  • Low levels of VOC emissions
  • Easier application and cleanup
  • Available in various sheens and a wide range of colors

While not as durable as oil-based paints, water-based paints have improved in recent years, offering admirable performance and durability.

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a versatile furniture paint known for its matte and powdery finish. It requires minimal surface preparation, making it a popular choice for those looking to give their furniture a vintage or distressed appearance. Chalk paint offers:

  • Excellent adhesion to various surfaces
  • Easy distressing effects for an aged look
  • Produces a rich, textured finish
  • Available in a wide array of colors

However, it is important to note that chalk paint is not as durable as other types and may require sealer or wax for protection.

Milk Paint

Milk paint is a water-based paint made from natural ingredients like milk proteins, lime, and pigments. It offers an eco-friendly alternative with a unique, matte finish. Advantages of milk paint include:

  • Non-toxic and environmentally friendly
  • Produces a rustic, old-world finish
  • Easy to mix and apply
  • Available in a range of color options

However, milk paint may require additional surface prep and protection to ensure durability.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is a water-based paint with added acrylic resin, resulting in a strong and durable finish. It is suitable for a wide range of projects, including wooden furniture. Benefits of acrylic paint include:

  • Quick drying and low VOC emissions
  • Highly resistant to water and UV damage
  • Available in various sheens and an array of colors
  • Good adhesion and long-lasting finish

However, acrylic paint may not perform as well in extreme temperatures or high-humidity environments.

Selecting the Right Finish

When it comes to choosing the right finish for your wooden furniture, there are several factors to consider. Each type of finish has its own unique properties and benefits, and understanding them is essential to making the best choice for your specific project. In this section, we’ll discuss the different types of finishes available, including gloss, flat, satin, and more, so you can determine which one is best suited for your wooden furniture.

Gloss finishes, also known as semigloss or high gloss, are known for their durable and shiny finish, which makes them an ideal choice for furniture that experiences frequent use or contact. The high shine of a gloss finish can also make colors appear more vibrant, enhancing the overall appearance of the piece. Some of the best gloss finish products available for wood furniture include:

  • Product 1
  • Product 2
  • Product 3

Flat finishes, on the other hand, offer a non-reflective surface that is perfect for hiding imperfections in the wood. This makes them a suitable option for furniture pieces with rough surfaces or visible wood grain. Flat finish products to consider include:

  • Product 4
  • Product 5
  • Product 6

Satin finishes, also known as satin sheen, offer a balance between the high shine of gloss finishes and the matte appearance of flat finishes. Satin finishes are ideal for wooden furniture that needs a more muted, elegant shine. They also provide a durable finish, making them a popular choice for both professional and DIY projects. Recommended satin finish products are:

  • Product 7
  • Product 8
  • Product 9

Regardless of which type of finish you choose, it’s essential to consider the specific needs of your furniture project. Factors such as the amount of expected wear and tear, the desired appearance, and the type of wood being used should all play a role in your decision. By understanding the various finishes available and their individual properties, you’ll be well-equipped to select the perfect finish for your wooden furniture project.

Preparing Wood Furniture for Painting

Before you set out to paint your wooden furniture, it is essential to prepare the surface properly. This will ensure the paint adheres well and gives you a smooth finish. There are two main steps to follow when preparing wood furniture for painting: sanding and priming.


Sanding is a crucial step in prepping the wood surface. It helps to create a smooth surface by removing old paint, varnish, and any imperfections. Begin with a coarse-grit sandpaper, around 120-grit, and gradually move to a finer grit, like 220-grit, for the best results.

  • Always sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid scratches.
  • Ensure that you remove any dust or debris after sanding using a tack cloth or a vacuum with a brush attachment.
  • For detailed areas, use a sanding sponge or a folded piece of sandpaper to reach into tight spaces.

Paying attention to these sanding tips will help create a smooth, ready-to-paint surface for your wood furniture.


Applying a primer is a vital step in preparing wood furniture for painting. It provides a base for the paint to adhere to and enhances the paint’s durability. When choosing a primer, consider the type of paint you plan to use and the wood’s surface condition.

Type of paintRecommended primer
Latex paintWater-based primer
Oil-based paintOil-based primer

For wood with stains or knots, use a stain-blocking primer to prevent any bleed-through. When applying the primer, use a natural bristle brush and ensure full coverage of the wood surface. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before moving on to painting.

Following these preparation steps, your wood furniture will be ready for a seamless paint application that not only looks great but also protects and preserves the wood beneath.

Paint Application Techniques

Choosing the right paint for your wood furniture is important, but it’s also essential to apply the paint correctly to achieve the best results. In this section, we will discuss two popular application techniques: Brush and Spray Paint.


Using a brush is the most common method of applying paint to wood furniture. It’s an affordable and accessible option suitable for various projects. However, achieving a smooth and even finish depends on the quality of the brush and the technique used.

Here are some tips for using a brush effectively:

  • Choose a high-quality synthetic brush for smooth application and easy cleaning.
  • Always clean the brush properly before use to remove any dust or debris that could affect the finish.
  • Apply the paint in thin coats, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next.
  • Smooth out any visible brush strokes with long and even strokes.
  • Maintain a wet edge by working in sections and avoiding overlapping dried paint.

Spray Paint

If you’re looking for a quicker and more even finish, spray paint might be the way to go. With a range of paint products designed specifically for wood furniture, this method has become increasingly popular.

Here are some tips for using spray paint effectively:

  • Choose a well-ventilated workspace, preferably outdoors or in a garage.
  • Protect your work area with drop cloths or newspapers to catch any paint overspray.
  • Hold the spray can 6-12 inches away from the surface and apply the paint in thin, even coats.
  • Move the spray can in a side-to-side motion, overlapping each pass slightly for an even finish.
  • Allow each coat to dry before applying the next, as recommended by the paint manufacturer.

Both brush and spray paint applications have their merits, and the choice ultimately depends on the individual project and personal preference. Investing in the proper tools and following these techniques will help ensure a beautiful and long-lasting finish for your wood furniture.

Coverage and Drying Time

When choosing paint for wood furniture, it is essential to consider the coverage and drying time of each product. These factors play a significant role in the overall success of your DIY project.

Coverage refers to how much area a can of paint can adequately cover. Most paints will specify their coverage on the label, usually measured in square feet per gallon or quart. To determine how much paint you need for your project, measure the surface area of your furniture and calculate the number of coats you will be applying.

Drying time is another crucial aspect to consider. The time it takes for the paint to fully dry can vary between different brands and types of paint. Generally, water-based paints have faster drying times than oil-based paints. Drying time is essential to consider if you have limited time to complete your project, as it may dictate how many coats you can apply in a given timeframe.

To help you make an informed decision, here are some products with their coverage and drying times:

ProductCoverage (sq ft per gallon)Drying Time (hours)
Product 13501
Product 24002
Product 33004

Remember that these values are approximate and can be influenced by factors such as application method, surface texture, and environmental conditions. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure optimal results for your DIY project.

Eco-Friendly and VOC Considerations

When selecting paint for wood furniture, it’s essential to consider the environmental impact and indoor air quality. One crucial factor is the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the paint. VOCs are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature and can cause adverse health effects, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, and even damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

Choosing eco-friendly, low-VOC or zero-VOC paint products can significantly reduce the risks associated with traditional paint fumes. These products are not only better for your health but are also beneficial for the environment. Here are some top eco-friendly paint options for wood furniture:

  • 1. AFM Safecoat: This brand offers a range of low-VOC and zero-VOC paints designed for wood furniture. Their products are free of solvents, heavy metals, and other harmful chemicals.
  • 2. Earthpaint: Earthpaint’s wood finishes are made from all-natural ingredients and have low to zero VOC levels. Their products include eco-friendly stains, sealers, and varnishes.
  • 3. ECOS Paints: ECOS Paints provides a selection of zero-VOC, eco-friendly paints and finishes. Their products are certified by environmental organizations, guaranteeing their commitment to sustainability and indoor air quality.
  • 4. Milk Paint: Made from all-natural ingredients, milk paint is an eco-friendly option with no VOCs. It’s perfect for giving wood furniture an antique, distressed look.

When comparing eco-friendly paint options, consider the certification labels and organizations endorsing these products. The Greenguard Gold Certification is one such label that ensures low chemical emissions and supports healthy indoor environments. Another certification to watch for is Green Seal, which guarantees the product meets rigorous environmental and performance standards.

In summary, choosing eco-friendly, low-VOC or zero-VOC paint products not only contributes to a healthier indoor living space but also helps reduce your impact on the environment. By selecting one of the suggested products above, you can ensure that your wood furniture project is both safe and sustainable.

Creating a Distressed Look

Creating a distressed look on wood furniture can give it a stylish and vintage feel, making it a popular choice for upcycling projects. To achieve this look, you can use various paint products designed specifically for wood surfaces. This section will discuss a few key products and techniques to help you create that perfect distressed appearance on your furniture.

1. Chalk Paint: Chalk paint is an excellent choice for creating a distressed look on wood furniture. It adheres well to different surfaces, has a matte finish, and is easy to sand, allowing you to create an aged, worn look with ease. Some popular chalk paint brands include Annie Sloan, Rust-Oleum, and Valspar.

2. Milk Paint: Milk paint is another great option for achieving a distressed appearance on wood surfaces. This environmentally friendly paint is perfect for creating an authentic vintage feel. Brands such as Miss Mustard Seed and The Real Milk Paint Company offer high-quality milk paints suitable for your project.

3. Crackle Medium: Applying a crackle medium in between base paint and topcoat will help you achieve a cracked, weathered effect. The medium works with a variety of paint types, allowing you to create a distressed look using your preferred choice of paint. Some popular options include DecoArt and Golden Crackle Paste.

When planning to distress your wood furniture, consider using the following techniques for best results:

  • Sanding: Lightly sanding the edges, corners, and other areas prone to natural wear and tear can help create an authentic, distressed appearance. Use fine-grit sandpaper to create subtle effects or coarse-grit sandpaper for a more dramatic look.
  • Layering Paint: Applying multiple layers of paint in different colors can add depth and character to your distressed furniture. Once the layers have dried, lightly sand some areas to reveal the underlying colors, giving your furniture a unique, aged appearance.
  • Using Stain: Applying a wood stain over your painted surface can add a layer of depth and help darken the distressed areas, while also blending the natural wood tones with the paint for a cohesive look.
  • Waxing: Applying a dark wax after the paint has dried can further enhance the distressed appearance by adding depth and dimension. The wax can be applied to the edges and corners, then buffed out to create a subtle, aged effect.

Experimenting with different products, techniques, and color combinations can help you achieve the perfect distressed look for your wood furniture. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to test your ideas on a small, inconspicuous area before committing to the whole piece.

Sealing and Protecting Wood Furniture

Sealing and protecting your wood furniture is an essential step in the painting process to ensure durability and longevity. Applying a high-quality sealer creates a barrier that enhances the adhesion of the paint while protecting the wood from moisture, wear, and UV damage.

When choosing a sealer, consider its compatibility with the paint you have selected for your wood furniture. Alkyd paints, for instance, provide a durable and long-lasting finish, making them an excellent choice for furniture exposed to heavy use or placed outdoors. However, ensure that the sealer is suitable for use with alkyd paints to avoid any undesirable finishes or reactions.

Some of the proven sealers for wood furniture are as follows:

  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Oil-based polyurethane
  • Shellac
  • Lacquer
  • Varnish

Applying a sealer correctly is crucial in enhancing the furniture’s durability and appearance. Follow these steps to ensure proper sealing and protection:

  1. Clean the surface of the furniture thoroughly, removing any dust, dirt, or debris.
  2. Sand the surface lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to create a smooth surface and improve adhesion.
  3. Wipe the surface clean with a tack cloth to remove any sanding residue.
  4. Apply the sealer evenly using a high-quality brush or foam applicator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate number of coats and drying time.
  5. After the sealer has dried completely, sand the surface again lightly to remove any imperfections and ensure an ultra-smooth finish.
  6. Wipe the surface clean with a tack cloth before proceeding to paint.

Taking the time to seal and protect your wood furniture ensures that the paint adheres properly and provides a long-lasting, durable finish that can withstand daily use and exposure to the elements.

15 Best Recommended Products

One main consideration when choosing to paint wooden furniture is the type of paint that will be best suited to the task. The following 15 recommended products are consistently praised for their performance, durability, and ease of use on wood furniture.

Among the wide range of options, there are a few standout products that deserve special mention.

Rust-Oleum Gloss Furniture Paint

Rust-Oleum Gloss Furniture Paint is a top choice for many DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike. This versatile, water-based paint is known for providing a high shine, mirror-like finish on wood furniture. It is easy to apply, dries fast, and is available in a wide range of colors. With its exceptional coverage, just one or two coats are usually enough for most projects.

Key features of Rust-Oleum Gloss Furniture Paint include:

  • High-gloss, durable finish
  • Water-based and non-toxic formula
  • Fast-drying and low odor
  • Excellent coverage and color selection

This paint is ideal for anyone seeking a glossy, professional-looking finish on their wood furniture.

Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint

For those seeking a more eco-friendly and vintage-inspired option, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint is an excellent choice. This all-natural paint is made from five simple ingredients, including milk protein, making it an environmentally friendly and completely biodegradable option. It is available in a beautiful range of colors, perfect for creating an aged, distressed look on wood furniture.

Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint offers the following benefits:

  • All-natural, eco-friendly formula
  • Suitable for all types of wood surfaces
  • Wide range of colors and a uniquely beautiful finish
  • Easy to use and great for DIY projects

As an environmentally conscious paint that provides a unique, vintage look, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint is a fantastic option for wood furniture restorations and makeovers.

With these two standout products and 13 other exceptional options, this list provides a comprehensive guide to the best paint for wood furniture, making your next furniture makeover a success.

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