How to Paint a Piece of Furniture (Guide & Tips)

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So you want to learn how to paint a piece of furniture, and you’ve already determined that your primary paint applicator will be a paint sprayer rather than just paint brushes and/or paint rollers. I know the difficulties associated with using with just brushes or rollers. From a poor quality finish to uneven application brushes and rollers just don’t cut it sometimes.

Well, with that being said let’s take a look at what’s involved in painting a piece of furniture with a paint sprayer. To help simplify the process we have broken the process down into 5 steps.

Women using paint sprayer for chalk paint

How to Paint a Piece of Furniture in 5 Steps

More than one type of paint sprayer exists, and so determining beforehand what paint sprayer features you’ll be needing for your particular project must be a point of concern.

Would you believe some paint sprayers are made to work in conjunction with a garden hose to facilitate the sprayer’s swift and efficient cleaning? This is a huge benefit if you plan on using your paint sprayer frequently.

Additionally, as Chris A. Minick informs us in the extraordinarily helpful Spray Finishing and Other Techniques, some sprayers are most or only compatible with certain liquid materials, while others offer more adaptability (pg. 43).

Features alone as topic could keep us occupied for a while, but, at this juncture, let’s look at that nowadays there are three kinds of paint sprayers. The three are these:

  1. Compressed Air (CA) Sprayer
  2. High Volume Low-Pressure (HVLP) Sprayer
  3. Airless Paint Sprayer

The HVLP type? It’s highly recommended for furniture painting. Lending his advice regarding choosing one, Minick, in the aforesaid book, argues that the HVLP’s gun’s pressure output should be at least 2 psi (pg. 51). So, indeed, employing the paint sprayer undoubtedly requires learning and preparation. The outcome, however, will be well worth it.

There’ll be some preliminary steps to perform before doing the deed, though. Clearing out your work area of things that need not be there is a major one. You’ll thereby avoid paint splatter’s from ruining anything around your house and you and your equipment will be more likely unencumbered. Of course, a portable spray booth is an option for catching overspray, thus saving you from a lot of clean-up headaches.

Relatedly, hardware on the furniture piece you’ll be painting ought to be removed. Set such aside in a safe and memorable place, unless you’ll be installing new ones instead, post-paint.

You’ll likewise have gathered everything you’ll need, as well as could potentially need, for the task, items such as:

  • Clothing suitable for the messy work ahead.
  • Disposable gloves.
  • Eyes-protecting goggles
  • Disposable dust mask or a respirator with its cartridges.
  • Canvas drop cloths, avoiding the slippery plastic option that could occasion a fall or leave droppings of wet paint that could be tracked on the bare floors.
  • Rags to clean up potential spills
  • Screwdriver
  • Multi-task painter’s tool
  • Low-tack painter’s tape
  • A thermostat
  • Strainer for eliminating lumps of paint so that only liquid paint goes into the sprayer.
  • A couple or so types and sizes of brushes as well as paint rollers.
  • Paint tray
  • A practice object such as a large section of cardboard
  • Sandpaper or other sander
  • Wood filler
  • Primer (if appropriate for the surface and task, e.g. if the surface is stripped or stained).
  • Thinners
  • Polyurethane
  • A protectively covered or unimportant chair or stool to sit on, if a sitting position is needed.

The aforementioned thermostat? With is you’ll determine if the temperature of the work area is within the preferred range, whether you’ll be painting outside or inside. Optimal functioning of your spray painter depends on conducive temperatures. Adequate ventilation is a must when using paints and other toxic materials, so, if you’re fortunate enough that working outside is possible, the temperature range will ideally be between 64 and 77° F, whereas the humidity will be between 40 and 50 percent. If you work inside, make sure all of your appliances have proper ventilation and the temperature stays between 45 to 75° F.

Employ the low-tack painter’s tape to cover certain areas of the target object(s) so that those areas aren’t inadvertently doused with the color(s) being applied. Additionally, the paint will have been mixed with thinner, and the strainer utilized.

Better Homes and Gardens has a great chart about different surfaces in its book How To Paint Just About Anything, and in this reference work it states that, if metal will be the surface sprayed, sandpapering it for primer to cling better, and so the paint clings better to the primed surface, is advisable (pgs. 180-181). If it’ll be wood, you’ll need to exercise considerable preparation of the wood, too; moreover, wooden furniture painted prior to the lead paint prohibition of the late 70s ought to be suspected of containing lead, and treated accordingly.

And, oh, the pressure gauge must be adjusted to the most suitable and manageable setting for you, and the compressor activated a bit prior to actual use.

Ready for the five steps now? Let’s dive in.

Step 1. Adjust Valves and Conduct a Test

Set the valves pertaining to fan-width and the delivery of the paint. Ascertain if the settings are indeed accurate. Choose a horizontal pattern for vertical surfaces, or, if the surface isn’t too large, choose a concentrated circular transfer pattern. Test your paint sprayer’s gun on your cardboard or whatever you had previously chosen for such a test. You’ve determined your settings are correct and your sprayer is operating properly; moreover, your technique is established.

Step 2. Ensure Paint Sprayer is 6 – 8 Inches away from the Furniture

Consistency in the distance of your sprayer’s gun from the target surface is essential to achieving an even coat. Your sprayer’s discharger should be held in an upright position with its tip approximately 6 inches to 8 inches from the surface. The target furniture may not be upright like, say, a pantry or armoire, but rather a chair, yet this rule regarding consistent distance applies. (Consult this video for an illustration.)

Step 3. Hold Paint Sprayer Still and Evenly Coat Furniture

As you’re keeping yourself aware of your regulators and how your paint is transferring to your furniture’s surface, ensure that your arm isn’t, as it were, operating autonomously, but rather that you are comfortably gripping the paint gun and keeping your arm steady as you move instead your core. By this careful posture and methodical motion, the depth and surface of your coat remain even. Avoid rushing. Also, be sure to commence your spraying not on the target surface itself, which would cause irregularities in the coat, but just a bit ahead of the left side edge until you go off the right side edge with your paint sprayer’s gun’s muzzle, having remained consistent in distance, height, and straightness. Reverse the direction of the next pass for more surface coverage, and so forth, if still needed.

Also make sure to paint the underside of the furniture. This is important if you want your paint job to appear professional.

Step 4. Spray the Edges Last, and Do So Vertically

Whether it be a tall erect piece of furniture or something smaller such as a chair or stool, you will need to paint the edges. This can be done with a vertical motioning of the sprayer down the edges of the furniture. Just ensure you do it quickly to avoid any paint running.

Step 5. Perform Finishing Touches With Brush

Is the coat uniform? Any running? Addressing such with your paint brush. Either way, exercise considerable care. Perchance a drip is unfortunately occurring, as long as you know it’s major enough to require addressing, and that you can address it without making far worse tainting, proceed cautiously in wiping it away before you reapply paint to that area.

And, as we’re closing, remember to clean your equipment that made your endeavour so much easier and a success.

Conclusion of Our DIY

Definitely in “How to Paint a Piece of Furniture,” we’ve established that it isn’t too difficult a thing for you to accomplish yourself. So what will be your next project?

Needless to say, if you ever need a refresher course, or think of something we didn’t discuss for you herein, you know where to find us.

Sources consulted:

Paula Marshall, editor, Better Homes and Gardens: How to Paint Just About Anything (Des Moines: Meredith Books, 2006);

The New Best of Fine Woodworking, Spray Finishing and Other Techniques (Newtown: The Taunton Press, 2006).



Ryan is a writer for He's been a hobbyist and painter for a long time, and now enjoys teaching others. His content primarly focuses on reviews and guides for painters and construction professionals.

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