I’m sharing how to paint wooden chairs the quick and easy way while still getting a gorgeous finish that will last.
I have a confession. Last year when my mom asked if I could paint a set of 4 wooden chairs black for her kitchen, I was less than excited.
In fact, I was dreading painting those chairs so much, that I put off doing it for weeks.
I’ve painted enough chairs before to know that painting wooden chairs with all their spindles and turned legs can be incredibly time-consuming and not particularly fun.
In fact, they may just be my least favorite thing to paint.
But once I stopped doing my best to ignore this task altogether, I started putting together a plan to make painting these chairs as quick and painless as possible.
There are three major methods you can use to paint wooden chairs.
- Use a paintbrush and paint roller. I’ve painted dozens of chairs this way (like these and these) and it is the worst! It takes so much time to brush paint around each and every leg and spindle of the chair. And then once you finally finish, you have to go back again for the next coat! Even worse, when painting with a brush around curved surfaces, it is even harder than normal to get a smooth brushstroke-free finish. This is definitely not my first choice.
- Use spray paint. Since using a paintbrush is so crazy time-consuming, why not go for spray paint? I’m talking about the cans of spray paint you can buy for a few bucks from any home improvement store. Spray paint makes painting chairs much, much faster. But it comes in a pretty limited range of colors and if you need to buy a lot, the price can add up quickly. If you are only planning to paint chairs this one time, spray paint is a great option.
- Use a paint sprayer. With a paint sprayer, you can use whatever furniture paint you like best and get an absolutely flawless finish. There is a lot more set-up involved when you use a paint sprayer, but even counting the set-up time, painting chairs with a paint sprayer is so much faster than using a paintbrush. Seriously, it probably takes less than 25% of the time it would take using a paintbrush. If you haven’t used a paint sprayer before, it can seem really intimidating, but it’s actually pretty straightforward.
You can probably guess which of the three methods I chose for my mom’s chairs. Spray paint would have been fine (and I have a tutorial all about painting chairs with spray paint if you’re interested), but I wanted a beautiful finish and I wanted to get it the fastest, least soul-crushing way possible. And since I already have a paint sprayer, it seemed like a no-brainer.
Today I’m going to break down exactly how to paint chairs the easy way, including how to prep your chairs, how to use your paint sprayer, and how to make sure your paint job is going to last for years to come. I’ve also included a video tutorial below.
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- Wooden chairs in need of paint
- Cleaner – This is my favorite cleaner for furniture painting and one bottle lasts a really long time.
- 220 grit sandpaper – You may be able to skip the sanding depending on what type of chairs you are painting.
- Oil-based primer – Depending on what type of chairs you are painting, you may not need this.
- Paint – I am using General Finishes Milk Paint in lamp black. This is one of my favorite furniture paints.
- Topcoat – I am using General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in satin finish.
- Paint sprayer – I use this Homeright paint sprayer and I love how easy it is to use. Here’s another option that looks similar and is a bit cheaper. I don’t have personal experience with this sprayer, but it has great reviews.
- Drop cloths or spray shelter – You need something to protect the area around where you will be painting. I love my spray shelter, but you can also create a simple spray paint booth using drop cloths or tarps. Or even better, if you are able to paint outside, you can just lay a large drop cloth down to protect your grass.
How to Paint Chairs
Protecting the area where you will be painting
One of the biggest downsides of using a paint sprayer is it can get messy.
You really need to protect the area where you will be painting from overspray.
But even though there is more setup before you can begin, using the paint sprayer still saves a ton of time in the end.
If you have room to paint outside, that is ideal. I usually end up painting in my basement because then I don’t have to worry about the weather messing with my painting times.
I have a large spray shelter that I usually use for spraying furniture.
Setting it up is a lot like setting up a small camping tent and it can be a bit of a pain, but it really helps keep the paint contained nicely.
Alternatively, you can rig up your own simple paint area using tarps and drop cloths.
Prepping your chairs for paint
The first thing I did was remove the woven chair seats since I wouldn’t be painting them.
I also recommend removing cloth seats if possible. If your chairs are all wood, you don’t have to worry about this step.
Then I cleaned the chairs well using this cleaner to remove any dust, dirt, and grease.
A good cleaning should be the first step of pretty much any paint project.
Most of the time you don’t need to sand furniture before painting, but in certain cases sanding is helpful.
If your chairs have peeling paint, be sure to sand off any loose paint before painting. Also if your chairs have a shiny, slick surface, you should sand them lightly.
Roughing up the surface a bit will help give your paint something to stick to.
The chairs I was painting had a pretty slick finish, so I started by lightly sanding them all over with 220 grit sandpaper.
You also don’t always have to use primer when painting furniture.
If you are painting dark wood chairs white or another very light color, primer is a good idea.
A good oil-based primer can seal in the wood tannins so they don’t bleed through later and yellow your paint.
It’s also a good idea to start with primer if you are painting raw wood chairs or if you are using a paint that requires primer (like latex paint).
I know primer can be confusing so I have a whole post answering all of your primer questions if you want more info.
I was able to skip primer for my chairs because I was painting light wood chairs a dark color and the paint I used doesn’t require primer.
Painting Furniture with a Paint Sprayer
To paint these chairs, I used the Homeright Super Finish Max Paint Sprayer. I really like this paint sprayer for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it plugs right into an extension cord, so you don’t need an air compressor. (Which I don’t have, so that is a big bonus.)
I also like that it can handle most paints and sealers without thinning them with water.
Not having to worry about figuring out the right amount of water to add to your paint really simplifies things.
This sprayer comes with a few different spray tips and nozzles to work with different types of stains, paints, and sealers and the instruction manual makes it very easy to figure out which you need to use for your paint.
I used General Finishes milk paint to paint my chairs and it sprayed beautifully.
General Finishes milk paint is one of my favorite paints to use for furniture because it gives a really nice, durable finish.
It’s really easy to work with, goes on smoothly, and doesn’t require a separate primer.
When you are ready to paint, just stir your paint well and add it to the reservoir of your paint sprayer.
When you’re using your paint sprayer, make sure that you hold it facing the furniture you’re painting head-on and then slowly move it back and forth across the furniture, slightly overlapping each paint stroke.
first coat of paint
Painting each coat of paint takes less than one minute which is magical.
Once your first coat of paint has dried to the touch, you can turn your chairs around to more easily reach the sides and the back.
second coat of paint
Then turn them upside down so that you can paint the underside of all of the rungs and legs.
When you’re painting any furniture you should expect to need at least two coats, sometimes three, to get really nice, even coverage.
Just remember to let the paint dry completely between coats.
Sealing your Chairs
Once your last coat of paint has dried, it’s time to put on a coat of sealer or topcoat.
You don’t always have to seal painted furniture but it is usually a good idea unless your furniture is just going to be sitting in the corner, purely decorative.
A good sealer will keep your paint job looking good for a long time. (I have a post with lots of good sealer options if you want more info.)
I used one of my favorite sealers for these chairs – General Finishes High Performance Top Coat in satin finish.
Before spraying on the sealer, I did need to change out the tip on my paint sprayer.
This is really easy to do using the little wrench that comes included with your sprayer.
If this part makes you nervous, you can see how this process looks in the video below.
It’s really quite simple.
You’ll need at least two coats of sealer to make sure that your paint finish is really protected.
Once your sealer has dried, be extra careful handling your furniture for the first few weeks.
My last step was reattaching the chair seats and then the chairs were ready to go.
The painted chairs
I’m so happy with how these chairs turned out. The black paint looks beautiful and the finish is absolutely flawless. And it was so, so much easier and faster using the paint sprayer than trying to do it with a paintbrush.
I’d love for you to subscribe to my Youtube channel!
If you are looking for more furniture painting help, I’ve got you covered!
Any of the posts linked below are a great place to start.
How to Paint Furniture for the Perfect Finish Every Time
What is the Best Paint for Furniture?
Painting Furniture White: Secrets to the Perfect Finish
The Best and Worst Sealers for Painted Furniture
I’d love for you to pin this project on Pinterest!
How to paint wooden chairs the easy way
How to paint wooden chairs the quick and easy way. See how easy it is to get a flawless finish on painted chairs.
- Wooden chairs in need of paint
- 220 grit sandpaper
- Oil-based primer
- Drop cloths or spray shelter
- Paint sprayer
- Protect the area where you will be painting with a spray shelter or drop cloths.
- If the chairs have a cloth or woven seat, remove that first.
- Clean the chairs well to remove any dust, dirt, and grease.
- If your chairs have peeling paint, be sure to sand off any loose paint before painting.
- If you are painting dark wood chairs white, or another very light color, you should prime the chairs with a sealing primer before painting. Let dry.
- Stir your paint well and add it to the reservoir of your paint sprayer.
- Hold the sprayer facing the furniture you’re painting head on, and slowly move it back and forth across the furniture, slightly overlapping each paint stroke.
- Once the first coat of paint has dried to the touch, turn your chairs around to paint the sides and back.
- Turn them upside down so you can paint the underside of all of the rungs and legs.
- You will need at least 2-3 light coats of paint.
- Once the final coat of paint has dried, add 2 coats of sealer or top coat using your paint sprayer.
- If you removed the seats before painting, reattach them.
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HomeRight Large Spray Shelter C900038 Portable Paint Booth for DIY Spray Painting, Hobby Paint Booth Tool Painting Station, Spray Paint Tent, Spray Booth
General Finishes Water Based Milk Paint, 1 Quart, Lamp Black
Rust-Oleum 3554 Zinsser High Hide Cover Stain Primer and Sealer, White
Fandeli 36027 220 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets, 9" x 11", 25-Sheet
Google Web Story: The Best Way To Paint Wooden Chairs
D Drew says
Your posts are really helpful! Thx. Regarding spray paint, I too found it a big pain and couldn’t get a decent finish. However a graphic designer friend of mine suggested Liquitex. I started to use the flat ‘coal black’ and have had really positive results with projects, especially the frames and mirrors I upcycle/redesign. I get a flat, smooth finish and no ‘wet spots.’ But like with any spray paint, it should be shaken really well, not be cold and the nozzle has to be kept clean. It’s now a staple in my DIY stash of paints.
Thanks so much for sharing! I will definitely have to check that out – it sounds like it solves all of my pet peeves about other spray paints!
Gretchen L. says
Love this article! How much paint and top coat did you use? I have 6 chairs I’m trying to do, and wondering if I need more than a quart…
I did four chairs and used most of a quart of paint, but only about half a quart of sealer. For six, I think you will probably need more than one quart.
Love this. Do you know where these chairs were purchased? I just picked up the same set from CL, and was looking to ad two more.
I believe they were from a consignment store – sorry that doesn’t really help you!
If I dont plan on using a paint sprayer, what would you recommend as the next best way to apply the sealer? Regular paint brush vs sponge?
My favorite is this little blue sponge applicator – https://amzn.to/3xeqdA7 The paint goes on really smoothly, almost as smoothly as with a sprayer. The downside is it takes a lot longer to apply than a sprayer, especially to chairs. When using this, just apply the sealer with long, even strokes and do several thin coats rather than one thick coat.
Carol Wright says
How long does it take each coat of paint to dry. If I paint the back and front of the chairs how long will it be before I can flip them over and do underneath. First time painting them with the sprayer.
The exact time it will take your paint to dry really depends on several factors including the paint you are using, how thick each coat of paint is, and the weather/humidity where you are. But in general, as long as you are applying thin coats of paint, you should be safe to flip your chairs over after two hours. At times, one hour is enough time but not always.
Just wondering.. if you had needed to use a primer, can you also use the sprayer for that?
Yes, you can spray primer with a paint sprayer as well. I typically don’t because I usually use oil-based primer and it is much more difficult to clean out of a paint sprayer. But if you are using a water-based primer, there is no reason it can’t be sprayed.
Hi! Is it hard to clean a paint sprayer when finishing with one job to then add another color to paint another job? Thank you!!
No, it really isn’t hard. This is one of the things I was most concerned about when I first started spraying furniture, but it is actually quite easy. You just unscrew a few parts and rinse it all thoroughly with water. Altogether it takes less than five minutes.