How To Spray Paint Wooden Furniture

It’s truly amazing what a little paint can do.  It can completely transform something from old and ratty to updated and fresh.

This tutorial is not the end all be all in furniture painting, it’s just how I did it.

I started with this desk. (click here to see how I got it)

The desk was stained, a little burned, and scratched.

I drove to Lowes and picked up primer, spray paint, clear sealant, fine grit sand paper, and tack cloth. I also bought satin nickel paint for the hardware (but I didn’t end up using this because I liked the way the original hardware’s finish looked). This all totaled up to about $25.  Sweet.

The first thing I did was remove all the hardware with a screwdriver.

I sanded the surface a little to get any previous sealant off.  In the places it was dinged or scratched, I used a little elbow grease and just sanded a bit more until it felt smoother.  I didn’t sand every inch.  It didn’t need to be perfect.

Remove all drawers and give the faces of them a quick sand also.

I used a sandpaper block because the it was easier to hold than paper, plus since it was flat, the desk top was uniformly sanded.

Run over the entire surface area with a tack cloth.  I didn’t know what a tack cloth was until now.  It’s like less-sticky fly paper that picks up all the dust from sanding.  Don’t skip this step.  If you have a dusty surface, the paint will stick to the dust, not the desk.

Be sure to do this in a well ventilated space (ideally outside).  Also, if you are at all concerned with the floor or grass you are about to paint on, be sure to cover it with a tarp.  Don’t end up like me.  Like me meaning in the dog house for a few days because you have successfully primed and painted your grass a lovely shade of Oceanic Blue.

Spray the primer on in long strokes.  Try to hold the can about 8 inches from the desk.  I put on 2 thin coats of primer.

Yes, I primed the grass by accident.

I waited about 10 minutes in between coats.

Don’t forget to prime the drawers too!

Next up was my favorite part.  COLOR!

When you spray paint the color on, use long, even strokes. 

(Before I got to this point I found random plastic in our garage to put under the legs in an attempt to save the lawn)

Don’t panic like I did when the paint looks like this after one coat…

After 3 thin coats, the streaks disappeared.

Again, don’t forget the drawers!

After the paint dries, It’s time for the clear sealant.  I chose a satin finish to try to mask the spots that I didn’t sand as well as I thought I did.

Evenly spray 2 coats of this stuff on the furniture.

I did my happy dance when I knew it was going to turn out nicely!  Our poor neighbors!

I let this dry for a few hours.

I am so impatient!

Screw on the hardware when you are sure it’s dry.

I am so happy with the end result, and even happier that it was so easy!

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353 thoughts on “How To Spray Paint Wooden Furniture

    1. I saw a bright green chest in a Betsey Johnson Shop in NYC and always wanted something funky like that, but didn’t know where to find one -especially in my price range. It was free, so if it looked horrible, I wouldn’t feel too bad. Thanks Kell!

  1. Wow that is awesome, I emailed the link to my mom! She wants to do this to some furniture now. I’ve been hesitant to spray paint furniture but you’ve inspired me!

    1. Thanks Michelle! I agree with you on the hardware. It was a total fluke. I bought brushed nickel paint if I hated the way it looked with the origial hardware. I actually thought i was going to have to buy new handles. I got lucky.

  2. Very nice! Those streaks on the first coat made it look like you were trying to get a sky effect (with clouds, etc) but I’m guessing it didn’t look like that in actuality.

    The end result is gorgeous and it goes very well with that frame on top! That makes me want to convince my parents to do the same for the furniture on my baby sister’s bedroom. A lavender color or something light would be wonderful for her room.

  3. very awesome! i have plenty of wooden furniture in my garage that i didnt want in my room cause of the color, but now i would want to pull them out and change it up a bit. nice DYI modifier. good post! thanks

  4. The after=-one-coat picture looked nice, actually, like a cloudy summer sky. A few birds handpainted in and a balloon might make a nice kid’s desk.

  5. What a great-looking desk! And it came at such an appropriate time for me :) I am currently painting a bathroom vanity. If I’d known how easy it was to spray it, I would have opted to do that rather than hand-painting. Thanks for the how-to!

  6. That is beautiful!! I love the color, and the hardware looks great! If you have an account on HGTV , check out the Pottery Barn Inspired Bath and tell me what you think of my painted cabinets with legs!! I love paint! Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  7. Well,everyone has already said what an awesome job but I just cant resist saying it again. I will defintely try this when the weather warms up here…now I feel like hitting some yardsales! Again, great job

  8. Wow! What an amazing transformation! You’ve got me inspired to spray paint everything… where shall I start?! Thanks and a great blog!


  9. Go girl! You didn’t say why/how you chose colour. The result is beautiful. Your grass is awful. Take care of nature and nature will take care of you. Great job. Love this post.

    1. We just laid down some fertilizer & fresh seed so our fingers are crossed! I wanted a bright color because one day while shopping in NYC, I was in a Betsy Johnson Boutique (her clothing is really funky, eclectic, and carefree). There was a lime green painted piece of furniture that had the same shape as this desk. They used it to display jewelry and hats. It inspired me to attempt this project.

  10. Great job, love the color… and the grass will be back to normal after the first or second cutting… My mom does it all the time. I have a tall chest I need to refinish, I was going to strip it and stain it, but I am thinking I like the bright color, I just might have to do that instead. Thank you!

  11. Wow!!! I’m going down to my local hardware store for some spray paint this minute. I have an old victorian vanity that has been sitting in my basement for 15 years, and after reading this informative post I can’t wait to get started. Thanks for sharing.

  12. The desk looks great. Thanks for the tips, I have been planning to paint some of my living room furniture and your steps are clear and easy to follow.

  13. Mindy, This is fantastic! I happen to have an entire bedroom set of this same exact furniture that I got for my 8th birthday and passed down through two daughters. I’m planning to redo the guest bedroom and wondered if I could possibly paint all of it, but never dared to try for fear it would be a dreadful mess…. OK. Now I not only have confirmation I should go for it, but you have also provided a step-by-step tutorial.Thank you!! I’ll have to send you photos of my “before and after” pics – or possibly post them and link back to you, and then we can do a happy dance together. :) – MoSop
    P.S. Congrats for being Freshly Pressed.

  14. Yeah! I am so excited to see you Freshly Pressed congratulations, I am forever trying to find fun crafty blogs here on wordpress and they are few and far between, I am adding you to my fav. list. I so wish they would feature more crafty and hand made by me blogs on the Freshly Pressed front page.



  15. I love it! Wow, it looks so cool. I was wondering how well such a bright blue would work out with the early pictures, but it looks great! Thanks for all the info too. 😀

  16. I absolutely love this! Furniture refinishing is my latest obsession and this desk caught my eye from the main page. I LOVE that shade of blue and I LOVE the curves of that desk!

  17. LOVE the blue desk! But what really struck me is the cobalt bottles. I have tons of them just sitting on a shelf and really like the idea of a single bright flower. I have bright yellow daffodils about to fade that I may cut and bring in now. Thanks for the great idea!

  18. Love it, especially the blue! I’m going to painting a piece of wood furniture and I didn’t even think of spray paint so THANK YOU! I’ll even bring out the stencils :)

  19. Wow I really love this! The thing that caught my eye was the ‘keep calm and carry on’ picture you have hanging on your wall! I have the same thing 😀 Awesome post!

  20. That is awesome! At some point that will have to happen to the French Provincial furniture that I *had* to have when I was twelve.

  21. Looks fabulous! I clicked on this because I just did a rehab on a dresser myself and was curious to see what technique you used. You’ve got me thinking I’ll use spray paint next time.

    For my old IKEA dresser, I distressed it. It came out great. But yeah, for a bench I have, might be fun to try a bright color, spray-painted on. :-)

  22. Your desk turned out lovely! I have done several pieces of furniture this way, only I painted them all by hand with a brush. But that’s just because I find painting that way relaxing. Must be the repetitive motion.
    It’s a great way to pick up an inexpensive piece and make it your own. Once, I found a small table with curved legs and curved corners that I painted and antiqued and decoupaged. I only paid $3 for the table!

  23. Looks SO good!!! Really wasn’t sure how blue was going to turn out, but it looks amazing! Now you have a unique, stylish piece of furniture that you can be proud of! Awesome!

    1. I originally wanted a white desk for that room, that’s why this caught my eye in the first place. Just because I liked it, didn’t mean it would flow with the rest of our home’s decor. This realization is the result of too many impulse buys, lol! I did, however, love the shape. The cream color made it too old fashioned looking.

  24. I’m sorry Mindy,
    You probably destroyed a valuable piece of old furniture worth several hundred dollars or more. People destroy valuable furniture with the best intentions.

    1. I wouldn’t have painted it if it was of nice quality. The reverse side of this desk was particle board which is a dead giveaway that it was not an antique of any kind. Thank you for your concern though! If this baby was solid wood, I had full intentions to strip it down and stain it.

    2. This made me LOL. Buzzzzkillll. It’s not as if she’s out cutting down trees, polluting the world, or making babies cry. It’s a piece of (somewhat) wood!

  25. Nice project, I like the style of the dresser. I used alot of different spray paints and Valspar was my least favorite, how do you like it ? I prefer rustoleum 2X the coverage it sprays nice with less coats. I think lowes sells valspar and home depot sells rustoleum 2x. Nice Job once again A++++

    1. That explains why Lowes didn’t have the Rustoleum. Hmmm. Yes, now that I recall, Rustoleum has that nice piece attached to the nozzle that increases the surface area that it covers. Thank goodness the Valspar worked out! Thanks for the input Jerimiah! Next time, I’ll remember that & go to Home Depot.

  26. Mindy, Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! That was fun to see a familiar face on the menu.

    Since I’m due for a “spray paint the new front door” project this spring, this post was also timely for me.

    Good work! :)

  27. Pingback: Furniture DIY «
  28. Really cool! I was a bit surprised by the color you chose but when I saw it with the accompanying poster I knew you’d made the right decision. 😀 It looks great! Learning to restore or reinvent furniture is one of the things on my to-do list this year, and I had no idea it could be so easy! How long did the sanding take you?

  29. This furniture is so lovely. Great job! Thank you for sharing this at the Creative Bloggers’ Party & Hop :) I hope you’ll join us again starting 5 pm this Sunday, PST.

      1. I totally will!!!
        You should have a section here where we send you our pics of the stuff we make thanks to you… and of course you know its never going to come out half as awesome as yours, so it can be like a comedy corner or something LOL

        1. Trust me! If I can do this, ANYONE can! It just takes a leap of faith and a little elbow grease 😉 Funny you should say that… this blog is going to get a makeover to make it easier to navigate too! I am in the slow process of doing that.

  30. Okay, first of all, I’m going to have to say you’re a genius. The idea of spray painting a desk would have never occurred to me.
    Now that you gave me the idea, I’d like to add something to it. It’s probably possible to make designs on the desk using stencils, isn’t it? Those would give it some spice and flair! According to me, it would look very pretty!
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    Ashley, aka TheEverydayMuser

  31. This table color is really beautiful, I like it very much, give a person a kind of friendly feeling, your work is absolutely fantastic, if can I can add oneself like small adorn article!! That is more perfect!

  32. Thank you, I am getting ready to paint furniture this weekend and I have been going back and forth on paint or spray paint. You made the choice easy. Thank you again!

  33. Looks great! I am thinking about doing the same procedure for my dining table but I am worried about wear. How has this held up with use and would you recommend it for someone using their table on a daily basis for cooking and prep? I have a feeling I might need the ol’ oil based treatment, just curious what your opinion was and how the paint is holding up.

    1. Good question. I wouldn’t reccomend this for a tabletop unless you use a more durable top coat/ sealer. The paint is holding up just fine, but I’d be worried if there were hot plates and water cups on top of it regularly.

  34. Thank you for the response, I will be on the look out for the ultimate sealer. I really want the high gloss that spray paint offers. Oil base is incredibly labor intensive, as I am sure you know and I still never get the results I want.

    1. I understand. Spray paint is faster, more evenly distributed, and it covers all of the little nooks and crannies that you may miss with a paintbrush. When you find the sealer, please shoot me an email to let me know about your findings 😉

  35. wow! the result is amazing!
    im thinking of spray painting a desk too now! im wondering just how many cans did you need for that?

  36. What a beautiful result! I feel so inspired by your pictures. I have several french provincial pieces that I have been nervous about starting but now I feel so inspired. It looks much easier than I thought! I can’t wait to start now!

  37. What a great post! I’m researching painting my kitchen island turquoise using spray paint, it’s currently black painted beadboard. I’m wondering, now that it’s been several months, if you’re noticing any wear on the paint? How did you pick the paint you chose (based on the color availability or was there something more to it)? It’s hard to sand the little decorative areas, does the paint adhere to those spots as well? Thanks!

    1. I just went for it! I didn’t really do much research. I have no idea how the paint would react for a piece that will be in the kitchen and presumably get wet. I use it for my craft table so there isn’t any moisture on it. It has held up wonderfully. Also, the paint stuck everywhere (even the tiny nooks & crannies). Be sure to use a primer. Good luck!

  38. hi there,

    i’m not sure if you still check the comments regularly, but i was wondering if i could ask you a few questions.

    i started to fix up a set of chairs for my daughters playroom. you can see what i’ve done so far here:

    it’s one of the most recent posts.

    anyway, i went to home depot, where the woman (OLD woman) at the paint counter suggested that i purchase rustoleum spray paint for the job. i did, and i chose aqua and green apple. good enough.

    now, i specifically asked her if i needed a primer. she said no.

    so… a result, you can still see the wood grain through a lot of the coloured spray paint job.

    ALSO, to add fuel to the fire, the paint job feels…weird. it doesn’t feel smooth and glossy. but there are no visible bumps from splatter or feels gritty, i guess? i bought ‘satin’ finish. perhaps i should have went with gloss. it looks and feels like it would be quite prone to getting dirty from little hands.

    and furthermore…she told me NOT to use a sealant because “spray paint has a built in sealant”.

    so, thanks to this woman, i have a project underway that is NOT working.

    is a primer and sealant absolutely necessary in your experience? i’m pretty ticked off at this old bat! lmao.

    any help would be so greatly appreciated! i am MAJORLY ticked off! lol.

    1. Hi! Hmmm….this is what I’d do. Lightly sand it with a high grit sandpaper. Then use a thing coat or 2 of white primer. Then hit it with the colored spray paint. Thin coats dry quickly. It’s definitely salvageable :) Good luck!

  39. sand the existing spray paint i already put on it, you mean (the blue and green, as shown in the picture?)

    i probably don’t need to do the legs because i don’t care about them as much. but the backs and seats..yeah. bad, bad, bad.

    i went out and bought rustoleum white spray primer tonight. and a clear also made by rustoleum – don’t know if that’s necessary, but the ‘satin’ finish felt really….non satin-ish and more bland and yucky, if that makes any sense. haha. for a kids’ playroom i would think i’d need something more glossy and washable.

    1. Yes, sand the old paint. You might as well do the legs too. The color will look more uniform. If you use a higher grit, it will smooth it out. I used a sealant because I wanted a satin finish and the colored paint was glossy. I can’t wait to see!!

  40. Are the paint, primer and sealer oil based or acrylic??

    Your desk looks so pretty n full of fun. want to paint the 1950s mahogany dresser n mirror I grew up with white for my granddaughter’s new bedroom in our home. Do u know if this same process works on a dark wood like mahogany??

    Your process actually makes painting furniture sound fun n affordable. Last time I tried painting furniture, the greatest impressions I made were on the ER Doc n the surgeon… The next time, I hired a professional refinisher n didn’t get a quote beforehand. I think the surgeon was less expensive.

    So — oil or acrylic based products?? Has anyone tried this on mahogany??

    Also — can wood furniture b painted w car paint?? If so has anyone taken their furniture to car repair places w their great painting abilities, pricing out this method n judging its long-term effects on furniture. I know its been used on outdoor metal chairs by Martha Stewart but I’ve always wondered, especially with today’s economy n everyone diversifying if car painting places can or do paint wood furniture… Anyone??


  41. Hello, I really like your step-by-step instructions. I am currently in the process of creating and posting a list of links for good “how to paint/spray paint furniture” tutorials on my blog;, and wanted to know if I could copy your link to this page? Thanks.

  42. Thank you for the simple, easy-to-follow tips, and pictures. I love the way your desk turned out and just finished painting a chest of drawers. I started off with white, but think I may upgrade to a more fun color. I can’t wait for it to dry so I can put it back in the room. :mrgreen:

  43. So it’s been awhile since you painted your desk…did the spray paint hold up well? I am painting SIX spindle back chairs and it’s taking forever by brush! I would love to put the finish coats on with spray paint, but was a little worried it wouldn’t hold up…? Love the desk by the way!

  44. This looks great! I have the vanity that matches this desk, same hardware and everything!This was the first site I came across looking to find out how to properly paint it. I’m searching for a mother of pearl paint to use and want to paint the grooves silver. I think it will look amazing! Any suggestions on the type of spray paint or if the color I want even exists as a spray paint color option? Thanks!

    1. Hmmm…the mother of pearl color or finish? I used a satin finish, but they sell a pearl finish. I’d try a creamy white such as “Heirloom White” and finish it with a pearl top coat. Email me before and after photos so I can create a reader re-do post to feature you! Good luck :)


      1. Is the primer and sealant important? I bought my spray paint but didnt buy those. Shall i go back and get them before beginnning? What do they do?

        1. I’m not really sure. I used it because I thought it would cover the woodgrain (that might show through otherwise) and so the blue would be the color I saw on the can. If you paint over a dark wood base, it could tint the color of the spray paint. I’ve never done it without primer so I’m not sure how it would turn out or last. Good luck & happy painting!

          1. I painted over a chest of drawers that has a dark wood base, using a white satin finish spray paint/primer in one. Going on nearly 2 months of every day use now and have had no issues. It took about 4 or 6 cans of the spray paint to coat the entire chest. Very reasonably priced and available at the big home improvement stores. (Not sure if you can mention specific names or not.) 😛

  45. Curious: Do you HAVE to use the final step of sealant paint? and did you sand in between the coats at all?

    Also: Do you have a website to see all your furniture finds and transformations?

    1. I only used a sealant to give a pearl finish. I’m not sure what would happen without the clear coat. I didn’t sand between coats. This is the only website I have, but you can click DIY under the tags to the right and some stuff should pop up or try DIY in the little search box. Thanks so much for stopping by!!

  46. My spray paint had serious overspray issues – and I used Valspar…do you know of a brand that isn’t so bad in this regard?

  47. I’ve got some furniture that looks just like this that I want to spray paint but it has a glossy, formica-type top to the dresser and desk. Did your piece have the same? I’m just nervous about how the paint will hold on such a glossy finish, if I can’t sand it down enough. Sorry if this question has been asked before; I didn’t feel like reading through 237 comments, haha! :)

  48. I’m doing this today! Got my spraypaint and 99 pence eBay desk at the ready, very excited – will definitely send you my before and after pictures :)

    I am really glad to have found your website, this is the article that brought me here but I’m totally staying for your lovely writing style.

  49. Wow that is a lot of comments! I almost ruined a dresser yesterday because (possibly) I painted on a very humid day. I used Krylon paint and now there is a fine coat of powder on it to the touch, can’t use that in the new baby’s room! I hope I can recover it. Guess primer and sealer would be a good idea but now that is has so many coats of good paint under the bad ones, I wonder if primer is still necessary.
    Also, you don’t really explain how to use the tack cloth. Is it reusable?

    Great looking dresser though. :smile:

    1. Humidity can ruin any paint job. I’ve never used Krylon on furniture, so I’m not sure if that;’s what happened. I’d definitely prime and seal if it’s a decent piece of furniture, Id definitely prime if you’re giving it another go. The tack cloth is usable as long as it’s still sticky. It just picks up the fine particles after sanding. Wipe any nooks & crannies with it to be sure to pick up any teeny dust specks that you may have missed. Update me on the progress & good luck!!

  50. Wow! I’ve been wanting to do a dresser almost exactly like that but have been afraid to. Thank you so much! I’m buying paint today. You’ve inspired me :) xxx

  51. I can only side with Heather!
    I have an old wooden nightstand here that I don’t want to throw away, so I will try to paint it soon.
    Thank you for the Instructions!

  52. I LOVE your how to. It makes me regret telling my mom to donate my old childhood furniture since I now have 2 daughters that would love it had I saw your blog before it was too late. I had that off white with gold trim that every girl in the 80’s had, you know the ugly stuff with the great shape & beautiful hardware! Boy how I wish my mom had drug her feet on getting rid of it like she does most everything LOL. Well just wanted to say hi & let you know how much I love your blog & that fabulous desk! I’ll be looking for one before Xmas for my little girl :)

    ~ Crystal Granite
    Sacramental, Ca

  53. Oops…I accidentally posted my comment on your main page. lol. I was wandering if you could tell me the shade and brand of paint you used for this project? i want to give my Daughter’s bedroom furniture a make-over. Thanks! 😉

  54. Nice and easy instructions! I’ve got a couple old thick wood cabinets I’ve been using for tv and AV stands and was debating painting them or spending $$$ on new gear, but you’ve made this seem much less daunting. Thanks!

  55. I always loved putting my own twist on the furniture, but slowly I am being drawn to natural attributes of wood (as opposed to paint over it) – I have found this gorgeous Walnut End Table which I have sanded a little to reveal fantastic wear & tear marks underneath, and it added character to the Native American theme I wanted to go for. The Bull Skull silhouette is painted on top using oil based glossy paint, tell me what you think:

  56. I love this and I’ve just purchased a $15 desk and chair from Goodwill for my 8 year old daughter’s room. I assured her we would paint it a bright color. Can I ask a couple of questions? How much sanding was needed? and does the spray paint with clear coat sealant hold up pretty well to wear? For a child’s room, I know there will be some chair banging, etc… Thanks! It looks amazing and we both love it as our inspiration!

    1. Hi Jennifer! I didn’t really sand that much at all. If it’s going in a child’s room, I wouldn’t sand that much either since it will definitely be going through some wear and tear. The sealant is still doing it’s job for my little blue desk. It’s not bullet proof, but it’s no worse off than say, an espresso stained piece of furniture that could chip if it’s been banged into. Good luck! Send before & afters to to have your re-do featured :)

  57. I usually HATE old furniture painted, because I feel it ruins the piece. However, I absolutely LOVE what you did with this one! Oh, and thank you, thank you, thank you for NOT distressing it like so many others do, which doubly ruins the piece. Great job! Now I want to paint something and make it the focal point in the room. Any room. And I’m off on the hunt ….. :)

  58. Good job! Amazes me your still getting comments 2 years later I work in a industrial paint spraying furniture company now just started I like it alot we do high professional spraying from police stations to museums even bits for the queen palace but I think technique is the key and a good prep before and if you like spraying you should buy a proper spray gun and pump cheaper in the long run otherwise enjoy life and your spraying, and your finished products.

    Big smie and wave from the uk!

  59. Okay. You are just super cute! Love your attempt to save the lawn. But who doesn’t love blue grass?! I have been wanting to paint furniture for awhile and haven’t been brave enough to try it…yet!

  60. Wow, sweet idea It does looks so easy, thanks for explaining it so well, ill be sure to use your technique, it looks great :)

  61. Thank you so much for your posts about painting furniture. I’m about to take on several furniture painting projects in my own home, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin without your ‘tutorials’. So THANK YOU! I hope they turn out as pretty as yours!

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