Painting Furniture 101: Paint

Glad you came back for painting 101!

 The focus for today's post is the type of paint I use to paint furniture.

Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, the type of piece I plan on painting is what determines what type of paint I am going to use.

For smaller items, pieces with curves, nooks and crannies and smaller surface areas I will use spray paint.
Spray paint can be used to paint so many surfaces. 

Items I have painted are plastic garden pots, picture frames, chairs, trays, brass lamps, fireplace screens, baskets, ceramic ktochkes, lamps, etc.

I love using spray paint, it is the quickest and easiest way to transform furniture and accessories.

Since spray paint colours are limited {at least at my hardware store} I usually use spray paint if I don't need a specific exact colour, that is why a paint sprayer would be so nice! My go-to colours are usually black or white. I have used silver and bronze, but find the patina is too shiny so I "dull" the colour by rubbing black paint and wiping off to give it a more aged patina, like I used on my antique mirror. 

When I decide to roll on paint, here are the few types I use. 

First: Primer

I prime almost ALL surfaces. Primer is the best way to get a smooth and professional finish. It also minimizes paint wear and chipping. Most importantly it helps the paint adhere to the surface.

The type of primer I use for 90% of my projects is an oil-based primer.
The reason I use an oil-based primer is that most Craigslist or thrift store finds have an unknown finish and usually some unknown awful laquer or varnish.
A latex primer would just peel off.  

The beauty of oil-based primer is that you can use latex paint on top!
So if you know your piece was painted with oil, you can paint on the oil-based primer and then top with latex paints! Perfect solution -no need to sand away all that oil based paint or varnish!

My favourite primer is a high-adhesion primer {means it really STICKS}
 by Zinsser

The best part is this stuff dries FAST, no waiting overnight. It is dry and ready to coat in 1 hour!
The drawback is it smells. 

Unfortunately, I ran out of that primer halfway through a project and was too lazy to drive 15 minutes to the big box hardware store. 
Since Benjamin Moore is about 5 minutes away so I have been using this:

This works really well but the drying time is at least 12 hours. Hard for this impatient girl!
The bonus is it doesn't seem to smell as long as the Zinsser primer.

Second: Paint

For most of my projects I use a satin finish paint. It is a personal preference. I would use glossy if I wanted a shiny, modern look to my furniture, but have yet to feel the urge to shine things up! Or use eggshell or flat if I wanted an old world distressed look. 

The range of most paint sheens are from flat to shiny:
matte {flat}, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss and gloss.

For the past year or so I was using Benjamin Moore's Aura paint for my furniture but after using Behr on the end table I am switching!

I found with Aura the finish didn't cure like I wanted and you could see the brush strokes/roller marks because the paint dried so darn fast.

When I painted my daughter's side table I used this:

Loved how it turned out. The satin finish wasn't as shiny as the Aura satin paint and because coverage was fantastic, you couldn't see roller marks!

I use this paint for walls:

This paint is fantastic as it is a primer-in-one paint. But I wouldn't use it on furniture without using an oil-based primer on an unknown surface, I learned the hard way over a year ago when I painted a Billy bookcase without using an oil-based primer and the paint peeled right off.
Only use this without a primer if you know you are painting over latex.

Third: Sealant

I use a sealant over top of  paint on surfaces I know will get lots of wear such as desks, dresser tops, table tops. etc.

My favourite is this:

It goes on milky but dries clear. Using a minimum of 3 coats, it dries to a nice hard finish! 

There many varieties of sealants out there, some you can spray, while others you wipe-on. I have yet to try them all.

When choosing a sealant you need to choose one that has the same sheen as your paint or comes in a sheen you want. They too range from flat to shiny.

Come back next week as I share my spray painting and painting techniques putting my tools and paint to use!

PS: Here is a fabulously funny joke my son told me while I was painting the bathroom last week:
Why was the blonde wearing a fur coat and denim jacket while painting?
Because the label on the paint can said: "For best result put on 2 coats!"

XO Barbara


  1. Great post, Barbara!
    FYI: They can put an extender in your Aura paint so that it doesn't dry as fast. But you know... I really like Behr so can understand why you like it too!! One of the things like about Behr is that it's just a little bit thicker - and that helps make that smoother surface :-)

  2. Great tips!! When I was doing some painting projects last summer, the lady that helped me at the hardware store told me to use acetone (nail polish remover with acetone works) to test for oil paint. I think it was if the acetone took the paint off, the paint was not oil. If acetone doesn't do anything, it is oil. Does that make sense? It might be the other way around, but I'm pretty that's right.

  3. Wonderful post Barbabra. I love Zinsser too! I've actually never used it at home but it's what I spec @ work! I never have any problems with it. I have a ton of things in the garage waiting for paint - your tips will help!

    P.S. Did you just change the font on your posts titles? Or maybe I've not been very observant and it's been that way for awhile!

  4. Again, so helpful! I have never put a sealant on my pieces and, of course, they get scratched so easily! I will definitely be using the type you use for my next project. And that joke is hilarious - your son is a funny guy!

  5. Thanks for the great tips and the joke - your son does it again!


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