Whether you've just purchased a new-to-you furniture piece or simply want to alter the look of one you already have, spray paint is an easy way to get the job done. While refinishing and staining require hours of sanding and prep work, spray painting can upgrade your furniture's look in a fraction of the time while keeping costs low.
Before You Begin
Spray paint has come a long way in recent years and, thanks to the variety of inexpensive, quality paints on the market, getting a professional finish is easier than ever before. Plus, many spray paint cans come with upgraded, comfortable grips that will help you avoid the dreaded fingertip pain that comes with using traditional aerosol cans. Even if you settle on a paint that doesn't have this feature, a universal comfort grip can be purchased, which will make steady painting much easier.
After you've chosen your color, we recommend paying an extra couple of dollars for higher quality spray paint (and, trust us—go for the comfort grip). For a higher-quality finish, it's a good idea to start with a spray primer. Pay close attention to the intended purposes of your paint and primer, as there are plenty of specialty paints to choose from. For metal, choose a primer that adheres to metal, for wood, a wood primer, and so on.
Always paint in a well-ventilated area and wear proper safety gear such as a painting mask, goggles, and gloves. Protect your surroundings by using a drop cloth. To paint as safely as possible, consult the safety warnings on the can before beginning.
Equipment / Tools
- Universal comfort grip (optional)
- Drop cloth
- Safety gear
- Wire brush
- Vacuum (optional)
- Spray paint
- Spray primer rated for your specific material
- Painter's tape
- Lint-free cloth
- Quick-drying wood filler
Thoroughly Clean Furniture
Place your furniture piece on a drop cloth in a well-ventilated area. Before you begin painting, thoroughly clean the piece. Start by removing dust and dirt with a vacuum or brush, then wipe clean with a damp rag and degreasing soap and rinse. Once dry, use a lint-free cloth to remove any remaining dust and debris. If your piece has lots of details, such as a chair with spindles, pay special attention, as these areas tend to collect grime.
Repair Any Damage
Inspect the piece for any imperfections. Any splintering or loose paint should be sanded smooth and any dents or dings can be filled with quick-drying wood filler. Once dry, sand any filled spots smooth and remove all dust and debris. If the furniture has metal components, use a wire brush and sandpaper to remove all rust and loose paint. Damaged metal parts can be repaired with an appropriated metal repair filler.
Mask With Painter's Tape
Protect any areas that you don't wish to paint using painter's tape.
Prime Surface If Needed
Primer helps the spray paint evenly adhere to the furniture, resulting in a long-lasting, better-looking finish. While certain spray paints claim to have a built-in primer, specific surfaces like raw wood, painted wood, particleboard, and metal should always be primed with an appropriately rated primer.
Prep Spray Can
Carefully read the instructions on the label of your primer before using it. Shake the primer until the can rattles, then proceed for around one full minute to properly mix. Test the nozzle in the air to ensure there are no clogs before painting.
Prime the Surface
The best spray painting method is to paint in straight, steady lines and hold the can nearly one foot from the surface. On each pass, slightly overlap the previous pass. Never focus on one place for more than an instant and revisit missed spots on the next coat. Occasionally shake the can as you paint to keep paint mixed.
To avoid harsh stop and start lines, start and stop each pass off of the object you are painting.
Once the entire surface has a light coat, allow the coat to dry according to the can's specific recoat time before recoating. Once the entire surface is adequately coated, allow the primer to dry for the full dry time before painting.
Factors such as heat and humidity can drastically effect spray paint. Always carefully read the instructions on your paint's labels to properly factor in these elements.
Prep Surface for Painting
Once the primer has fully dried, wipe down the surface once more with a lint-free cloth to remove any dust and debris. Some primers recommend light sanding before painting; read the label to determine if this is necessary.
Spray paint the surface following the same method as the primer, applying light coats and allowing proper dry time before recoating. Once you've achieved a uniform, full coating, allow the paint to fully dry for the specified dry time.
Runs and wrinkled paint can ruin the look of your furniture. If you see runs, wipe them away while they are still wet, then wipe the can to ensure there is no clogging. For runs and wrinkles that are dry, wait until they are fully dry, sand smooth, and recoat.
Paint Detailed Areas
Furniture with detailed areas like spindles, trim, arms, and legs can be a little trickier to spray paint. Rather than attempting to fill every detail on each pass, it's often easier to go back and pass over missed spots when you recoat and at the end.
"Healthy Indoor Painting Practices." United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, 2000.