Learn how to paint brown furniture white for a stunning new look! This comprehensive guide covers painting tips, types of paint, and more.
Are you tired of the old, boring brown furniture in your home? Maybe you've scored a gorgeous piece of furniture at the flea market and want to give it a fresh, new look. Well, today, I'm going to show you how to paint brown furniture white and achieve a stunning, modern finish. This guide to repainting furniture covers everything you need to know. So, get your paintbrushes ready, and let's transform your furniture from drab to fab!
Table of contents
- Your furniture painting questions answered
- Can I paint wood white without sanding?
- Tips for sanding furniture before painting
- Should you paint furniture with a brush or roller?
- How do you prevent brush marks when painting wood?
- How to protect glass doors and windows before painting
- Do I need primer to paint over brown?
- How Many Coats of Primer Before White Paint?
- How do you modernize brown furniture?
- Is white primer the same as white paint?
- Can you paint IKEA furniture without primer?
- Do you have to seal furniture after painting?
- How to seal chalk paint
- Final thoughts
- Answers to your questions on how to paint brown furniture white
- More furniture painting ideas
Your furniture painting questions answered
The inspiration for this post came from my lovely readers. I've been getting a lot of questions lately about how to turn boring brown furniture into a gorgeous, pristine white. You know, I've written about using chalk paint on furniture many times before, but today, I'm doing a deep dive. Get ready to have all your furniture painting questions answered!
Do you remember the lovely wooden table I shared a few weeks ago in my ultimate guide to furniture prepping? This week, I'm using the same table to show you how to paint brown furniture white. If you're a first-timer, a small table like this is the perfect project to get you started with furniture painting.
First up, here's a list of supplies you might need for painting brown furniture white using chalk finish paint:
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1. White chalk paint for wood. I use chalk paint because it's non-toxic and oder free.
2. Water-based furniture primer paint
3. Paintbrushes (large & small for details) or
4. Paint roller (See below for more details on rollers)
5. Sandpaper (in various grits)
6. Tack cloth or a clean, lint-free cloth
7. Finishing wax for painted furniture or
9. Drop cloth or old sheets to protect the floor
10. Painter's tape (optional for taping windows and glass doors)
11. Gloves (optional, for protecting your manicure)
12. Wheelie stool (Optional but very helpful)
13. Mouse sander
While I show you how I painted my brown table white, I'm going to answer a few of the most common questions that I get about the best way to paint furniture.
Can I paint wood white without sanding?
When it comes to painting wood furniture, sanding is typically recommended to prepare the surface for painting. Sanding helps to remove any existing paint finishes or imperfections, creating a smooth surface that will allow the paint to adhere better.
However, you can skip sanding if the painting surface is intact, but bear in mind that the finish may not be as durable as it would be with proper sanding. Additionally, the paint may not stick properly, resulting in an uneven or blotchy finish.
Can you use chalk paint straight over varnish?
The table I'm painting today has a very dark stain with varnish over the top. The varnish is flaking away in places, and if I painted straight over that, my paint would just flake off too. In this case, it makes more sense to sand away the flaking varnish.
I also want to create a driftwood finish on the tabletop, so it has already been sanded down to the bare wood in preparation for that.
I know that you are supposed to be able to paint directly onto any surface with chalk paint, but I have not found that to be true. Particularly when I paint brown furniture white, the old wood stain will quite often bleed through the paint. I cover that extensively in my furniture prep post, and I recommend you read that if you are unsure about the prep work for your furniture update.
If your painting surface is in such good condition that you think it will be OK to skip the sanding step, here are some tips to help you pull off the best results:
Tips for sanding furniture before painting
- Clean the surface thoroughly. See my post on preparing furniture for painting for this.
- Use paint with good adhesion properties, such as chalked paint, or chalk spray paint, that is specifically formulated for use on furniture.
- Apply a primer. You will need at least two coats and possibly three.
- Apply multiple thin coats of paint rather than one thick coat to ensure good coverage and adhesion.
- Make sure each coat has completely dried before you apply the next one.
- Finish with a clear coat or wax to protect the finish and add durability.
Keep in mind that sanding is still the best option for achieving the most durable and long-lasting finish, especially if you want to paint brown furniture white.
Should you paint furniture with a brush or roller?
Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference and the specific piece of furniture being painted.
Using a brush is great for getting into small crevices and corners. A roller, on the other hand, can cover large areas quickly and give a smoother finish without brushstrokes. Either way, it's important to apply the paint evenly.
Because I'm only painting the bottom of my table white, I'm using a paintbrush. A paintbrush is better for getting into the nooks and crannies of the table legs and drawers. If I were working on larger paint projects such as painting kitchen cabinets or a tabletop or painting wood cabinets, I would use a roller to avoid leaving brush marks in the paint finish. See my next tip for more information about brushstrokes.
How do you prevent brush marks when painting wood?
To be honest, most of my furniture is vintage, and I don't mind seeing brush marks. However, I can perfectly understand that there are times when brush marks can be the bane of your furniture painting project. If you're painting brown kitchen cabinets white, you'll probably prefer a smoother finish.
Here are my best tips for preventing brush marks:
- First, use the right brush for your diy furniture painting project. A high-quality, synthetic bristle brush will give you the smoothest finish. A good brush may be more expensive, but if you look after it, it will last much longer than a cheaper alternative.
- Second, thin your paint. If your paint is too thick, it can leave visible brush strokes. I find chalk paint to be quite thick, so I almost always mix some water into the paint in my painting tray.
- Third, use long, even strokes. For items like cabinets and tabletops, try to paint in the same direction as the wood grain and use long, even strokes. This will help ensure an even finish.
- Fourthly, don't overload your brush. Too much paint on your brush can result in drips, which can leave unsightly marks on your finished piece. Load up your brush with just enough paint to cover a small area, and work in sections to create a smooth, even finish.
- Finally, give each coat of primer and paint a very light sanding with fine grit sandpaper. Wipe away the sanding dust with a tack cloth or damp rag.
★Tip★ Recommended reading: How to prep furniture for chalk paint
How to protect glass doors and windows before painting
If you're planning on painting brown furniture white using chalk paint, you'll want to make sure you protect any glass windows or doors from getting paint on them. A simple way to do this without removing the glass is by using painter's tape to cover the edges of the glass.
You can also use paper to cover the glass entirely, sticking it in place with tape. This will allow you to paint the frames without worrying about getting paint on the glass.
Even though it's an extra step, it's definitely worth taking the time to cover the glass in your windows and doors. Believe me, there is nothing worse than having to scrape away paint and wax at the end of your project.
Do I need primer to paint over brown?
For me, primer is an essential part of all of my painting projects, especially when painting over a dark color like brown. The purpose of primer is to create a surface that the paint can stick to as well as to provide a base color that will help the paint look more even.
Make sure to choose a primer that is suitable for the type of paint you're using and follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying times. Read more about using the right kind of primer for using with chalk paint here.
You can find more tips about how to prime furniture in my media stand makeover post. My ultimate furniture prep post also dives deeper into bleed-through. That's when the dark color from the stain seeps through the layers of paint, making the finish look uneven and blotchy.
I experience bleed-through on almost all of the dark-stained furniture that I've painted. In the photo above, you can see the stain bleeding through the first coat of white primer on my table, particularly on the left side. That leads us to the next question.
How Many Coats of Primer Before White Paint?
How many coats of primer do you need to apply before you paint brown furniture white? It depends on the condition and color of your furniture.
As a rule of thumb, you'll need to apply at least one coat of primer before painting with white paint. If you're working with a particularly dark piece of furniture, you'll probably need to apply two or more coats of primer to ensure a smooth and even base.
I almost always paint two coats of primer onto furniture before painting it white. The photo above shows how the bottom half of the table looks after applying the first coat of primer.
Primer creates a barrier between the surface of your furniture and the paint you're applying. This barrier stops any stains or colors from bleeding through.
So, even if you're tempted to skip the primer, don't do it! For me, it's an important first step in getting a long-lasting finish on my furniture and for avoiding horrible dark patches bleeding through my paint.
Once the last coat of primer is dry, you can start painting with white furniture paint. I typically use off-white paint on most of my furniture projects but you can use any white paint for wood furniture. Two coats of white furniture paint should be enough.
How do you modernize brown furniture?
Painting your furniture is by far the easiest way to modernize it. As we already covered, white paint can give it a fresh and modern vibe. But why stop there? Why not experiment with different types of paint finishes like a crackle glaze or glossy finish to make your furniture stand out?
Swap out the hardware
Another trick for updating furniture is to swap out the hardware, like knobs or handles. You'll be amazed at how changing out the hardware can make such a huge difference in the overall look of your furniture.
[Image: updating old furniture]
★Tip★ For more inspiration, check out my blog post on updating old furniture. It's brimming with great tips and ideas that will get your creative juices flowing!
Is white primer the same as white paint?
Right, let's talk about white primer versus white paint. Primer is specifically designed to create a surface that paint can stick to, whereas paint is meant to add color and protect that surface.
So, when should you use each product? If your furniture is dark and you want to paint it a light color like white, you should definitely use a white primer first.
If you're looking to add color or a finishing touch to furniture that has already been primed, you should use white paint instead. It's the final layer that adds depth and texture to your furniture.
If you're just looking for a shortcut, you can use paint and primer in one product. All-in-one products have both primer and paint in them, which can save you some time. I don't recommend all-in-one products because I find that I almost always need a primer with a stain blocker, and by using a separate product, I feel like I have more control over the outcome.
Can you paint IKEA furniture without primer?
As with many things, it depends! Some of their products are made of particleboard or MDF, which may warp if exposed to moisture. In this case, you should prime the surface first to protect it from any water-based paint like chalk paint or chalked spray paint.
However, if the piece of furniture is made of solid wood, you may be able to skip the primer step altogether. Don't forget to thoroughly clean and prepare the surface before painting. You'll still need to give the furniture a light sanding to scuff up the surface a little so that the primer can stick to it.
IKEA MOPPE HACK
If you're interested in tackling this IKEA Moppe hack, check out my DIY Barn Quilt design tutorial which includes a free template.
Do you have to seal furniture after painting?
Yes, it is highly recommended to seal furniture after painting to protect the finish. Sealing also helps to prevent scratches, stains, and fading over time.
There are several options for sealing furniture, including clear wax, polyacrylic sealer, and polyurethane. On furniture pieces like my small hallway table that don't get a lot of traffic, I always use clear wax to finish them. I sometimes use white wax for wood furniture or white finishing wax over the clear wax as well.
Alternatively, items like kitchen tables or dining tables will need more protection from spills. In this case, I use a protective layer of poly. Always choose a non-yellowing sealer to avoid discoloration from UV light. If a product is non-yellowing, it will say so on the label.
How to seal chalk paint
Once your chalk paint has dried, it's essential to apply a protective topcoat to seal the paint and prevent any chips or scratches. Two of the most popular options for sealing chalk paint are clear wax and polyacrylic or polyurethane sealer.
How to seal chalk paint with wax
You can seal chalk paint with finishing wax for painted furniture. To apply clear wax, start by scooping a small amount of wax onto a wax brush and working it into the furniture's surface in a circular motion. Make sure to cover the entire surface and apply a thin and even layer.
To see if you have applied enough clear furniture wax, feel the waxed area with your fingers. If you come across any dry spots, you'll need to apply more wax.
Let the furniture wax dry (about 10–15 minutes), then use a clean, lint-free cloth to buff the surface until it shines.
How to seal chalk paint with Poly
Polyacrylic sealer is a water-based product that goes on like a thin coat of paint. You can apply it with a brush or a roller, and it dries clear, providing a protective layer. Apply a thin and even layer, and let it dry completely according to the product's instructions.
I used poly to seal the fold-down desk surface of my secretary desk after I painted and stenciled it with chalk paint.
Congratulations on taking the first step toward transforming your brown furniture into a stunning white masterpiece!
Now you know how to paint brown furniture white, here's a quick recap of the main points we covered:
Sanding your furniture before applying primer is crucial for achieving a smooth and even finish.
Using a stain-blocking primer is essential for preventing bleed-through on dark-stained furniture.
Applying 2-3 coats of primer before painting with white paint is recommended for optimal coverage and durability.
Chalk paint and spray paint are excellent options for achieving a modern look on brown furniture.
Always remember to clean and prep your furniture before painting, and apply a top coat for extra protection.
I hope you found this article helpful in your quest to update your boring brown furniture into beautiful white pieces. Don't forget to check out my blog post on updating old furniture for more inspiration and tips.
Also, the tutorial on how I created the driftwood finish on the tabletop will be coming out soon too so watch this space if that's something you're interested in learning about.
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Answers to your questions on how to paint brown furniture white
While you can technically use white paint as a substitute for primer, it's not recommended. Primer is specifically designed to create a surface that paint can adhere to while also sealing the surface and blocking stains.
Alternatively, paint is designed to add color. So while white paint can provide a base coat, it will not offer the same adhesion and stain-blocking properties as a primer.
In most cases, it's best to use a dedicated primer before applying paint for a more professional and durable finish.
Before diving into your furniture painting project, you might be wondering whether you need to sand your furniture before applying primer.
I talked about this in my ultimate guide to furniture prepping, so definitely check out that post for more information on prep work.
Sanding your furniture before applying primer creates a smoother surface for the primer. Sanding also removes any existing finish or paint, which can affect the final outcome of your project.
Without proper sanding, you might end up with a rough and bumpy surface that won't look as sleek and professional as you want it to.
Here are some tips for sanding your furniture effectively:
Use fine-grit sandpaper (120–220 grit) for the best results.
Sand in the direction of the grain to avoid creating scratches or swirls.
Make sure to remove all dust and debris before applying primer.
By taking the time to sand your furniture properly, you'll be setting yourself up for a successful painting project.
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