This tutorial will show you how to paint a dresser in the least amount of steps possible. Before you grab your paint brush and get started, remember that not all dressers are good candidates for repainting or refinishing.
Antique dressers should be evaluated prior to painting to make sure that doing so won't devalue the piece. Once you're sure chalk paint is the way to go, determine the composition of the dresser in question. If the dresser is made out of laminate or veneer, make sure you prep accordingly.
We decided to paint this solid wood vintage dresser in Himalayan Salt from The Spruce Best Home chalk paint line. This was intended to give it a more modern look. However, to maintain a little bit of vintage charm, we buffed in some dark wax and created a subtle antique finish. Follow along to recreate something similar.
Find an Old Dresser
First and foremost, pick out a dresser that is in need of a makeover. The best painted dresser before-and-afters take something dated and turn it into a piece that is much more fitted to the space. This dresser had been painted numerous times and the faux wood look using brown paint was heavy and worn. Opting to repaint the dresser in a solid color lightened the overall look and made the piece more eclectic.
- Chalk-finish paint
- Wax finish
- Sanding block
- Paint brush
- Clean rag
Remove Hardware and Contents
Prep work is so important when painting a dresser. Don't rush the process or you'll end up with a careless looking end result. To start, carefully remove all drawer pulls using a screwdriver and empty all the drawers. Working on the dresser will be much easier when it's not loaded with stuff.
A word of warning: Don't make the mistake of shutting the drawers without the pulls in place. If you do, use a flat head screw driver to lodge the drawer open.
Sand Existing Finish
If your dresser has a smooth finish and is in good shape, feel free to skip this step if you are using chalk paint. However, if you want to smooth out some rough edges, use a medium grit sanding block to sand off any high points.
The great thing about chalk paint is that it will adhere to most existing finishes. Other paint will need lacquer and shiny finishes sanded down so that the paint adheres.
Clean the Dresser and Let Dry
Removing any dust and debris from the surface is a vital step during prep. Dust will get stuck in the paint and compromise the finish if this step isn't completed.
Use a damp, lint-free cloth to wipe down the dresser and allow it to dry completely. Tougher stains and gunk can be removed with a combination of vinegar and water.
Roll on a Coat of Paint
All paint works a little bit differently. Read the directions on the paint can for specifics. Since we were using chalk-finish paint, we added a tablespoon of water to thin out the paint to a desirable consistency prior to painting.
We like to use a roller on larger surface areas to create a finish that does not have visible brush strokes. Using a small roller will ensure a smooth finish on large areas like drawer fronts and drawer sides.
However, if you want to use a brush, just make sure it's high quality, so you don't end up with bristles in the paint.
Trim in With a Brush
Unfortunately, not every surface of the dresser can be painted with a roller. Go back in with a quality paint brush and fill in the edges and any detailing the roller didn't hit.
Allow the paint to dry completely before going on to the next step. Depending on the paint used, you may need to apply 1-3 coats of paint. Luckily, we only needed to apply one since the paint covered well.
We waited around 48 hours before applying the final protective finish.
Buff on a Wax Finish
For latex and oil-based paints, you won't necessarily need to put a finish coat on top of a dresser. However, if you're painting with chalk paint, wax finishes are a common finishing step.
We buffed on two different wax finishes: a clear and a dark. Focus the dark wax on details and around the edges and use the same rag to buff that dark wax directly into the clear wax for best results. The transitions should look seamless from one wax to the next.
Use Wax to Lubricate Rails
One way to make a dresser seem new again is to improve its function. This quick trick will help old wooden dressers slide better and not get stuck. Simply buff on a wax finish on the wood rails of the dresser drawer and the inner rails where the wood rubs against each other.
Enjoy Your Hard Work!
All images by Heirlooms at Home.