I’m sharing everything you need to know about spray painting furniture including the steps to getting a flawless finish, tips for preventing those dreaded drips, and the one type of furniture you should never spray paint.
It’s easy to see why you might choose spray paint for your next furniture painting project. Spray paint makes it easy to paint all kinds of materials with a perfectly smooth, flawless paint finish. It sticks to almost anything, goes on super fast, and comes in lots of gorgeous colors and finishes.
In this post, I’m breaking down everything you need to know to decide if spray paint is right for your furniture project along with lots of tips for getting a gorgeous finish.
Can you spray paint furniture?
You can spray paint almost anything, but maybe the better question is should you spray paint furniture?
And the answer really depends on what type of furniture you are painting.
Spray paint really isn’t the best choice for all furniture.
Spray paint is a great choice for:
- Metal furniture
- Wicker furniture
- Outdoor furniture
- Furniture hardware
Spray paint isn’t the best for:
- Wood furniture including tables, desks, dressers, and bookshelves
Not everyone agrees about this. You can certainly find people who spray paint wood furniture.
But after years of painting all kinds of furniture and also paying attention to other’s painted furniture results, I stand by my opinion that spray painting wood furniture does not give great results.
The biggest issue is that it is incredibly difficult to get a nice even sheen on large flat wood surfaces when using spray paint. Some areas end up looking extra shiny and other areas look duller.
No matter how many thin, even coats of paint you spray, table tops, dresser sides and other flat surfaces often end up looking uneven. This cheapens the whole paint job and can be incredibly frustrating.
If you are painting wood furniture and want a flawless finish, you will get much better results using a paint sprayer. You can use a paint sprayer to paint your furniture with any high quality furniture paint.
A paint sprayer is perfect for when you want to paint furniture fast, when you are painting fiddly pieces like wooden chairs, and when you want a perfect finish with zero brushstrokes. Paint sprayers can seem intimidating the first time you use one, but they aren’t nearly as scary as they seem. This is the paint sprayer I use and it is incredibly user friendly (and doesn’t require an air compressor).
If you want more info, I have a post all about using a paint sprayer to paint wooden chairs. And even though the post is specifically about painting chairs, the methods are the same for painting other types of furniture.
And you can also get a great paint finish on wooden furniture using a high quality paint brush and paint roller. Yes, paint brushes and rollers can leave brush marks, but you can still get a very smooth, beautiful finish. This step-by-step guide to painting furniture will walk you through everything you need to know to get started.
Also keep in mind that while cans of spray paint are very inexpensive, they don’t go very far. If you are painting a large piece of furniture, you are going to need several cans of paint. In the end spray paint isn’t usually a huge money saver over other types of furniture paint.
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- Furniture to be painted
- Spray paint of your choice – I have used both Rustoleum and Krylon spray paints with good results.
- Respirator mask – if you are going to be doing a lot of painting, it’s probably worth it to get a reusable paint respirator mask. If you are only planning to do one or two spray paint projects a disposable respirator mask like an N95 mask will work.
- Drop cloth – to protect the area around the furniture you are painting, you can use a paper drop cloth, a canvas drop cloth, or even old sheets. If you are going to be doing a lot of spray painting, you might also consider getting a spray tent.
- Painter’s tape – to protect any parts of your furniture you don’t want to paint.
- Spray paint handle – this is totally optional, but if you are using a can of spray paint with an old school push down trigger, this handle will save you from many finger cramps and make your paint job much more pleasant.
How to Spray Paint Furniture
No matter what type of furniture you are painting, this method will give you a beautiful finish.
It’s important to always wear a mask when spray painting. You are literally spraying tiny chemicals and particles into the air you are breathing and a good mask will keep them out of your lungs. A reusable or disposable respirator mask is the best choice.
(I didn’t always wear a mask in the past, because I was in a hurry to get started and didn’t plan ahead well. Now I’ve realized how dumb that is. When you buy your paint, just remember to grab a mask too.)
When spray painting, it’s also important to work in a well-ventilated area. If you can take whatever you are painting outside, that is the best option. But if it is something that can’t be moved, be sure to open windows and use fans to provide as much ventilation as possible.
Protect the surrounding area
When painting with spray paint, it’s important to cover everything in the surrounding area before you start. No matter how careful you are, there will be overspray and spray paint is very hard to remove from just about any surface.
Use dropcloth or old sheets to cover the ground and anything else nearby.
If there are parts of the furniture that you don’t want spray painted, either remove them or cover them well with painter’s tape.
Clean your furniture
Start by cleaning your furniture well. Paint won’t stick to dust, dirt, or grease. You can use a special cleaner, but I often just use Dawn dish soap mixed with warm water.
Read the instructions on your spray paint
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t usually read the instructions when I’m painting with furniture paint or wall paint. But spray paint is different.
Each type of spray paint has very specific instructions as far as how far away to hold the spray paint, what temperature you can use the paint in, and how long to let each coat of paint dry.
Following these instructions can make or break your spray painting project, so before you get started, take a quick look.
Shake your paint well
Before you start painting, shake your can of spray paint really well for at least a minute. This will help mix everything well so the paint comes out evenly.
You’ll also need to stop and shake the can every few minutes during the painting process as well as before each new coat of paint.
Use thin coats of paint
Now you are ready to start painting. When using spray paint, it is really important to paint several thin coats of paint. It can be tempting to paint one or two thick coats of paint to speed up the process, but that will only lead to lumpy uneven paint and drips.
Instead, start with a thin coat of paint. This first coat will look very uneven with lots of areas where the paint doesn’t cover much. That is what you want.
Building up several thin coats like that will give you a beautiful finish in the end and actually still goes really quickly.
Follow the instructions on your spray paint as far as how long to wait between coats.
Pay attention to the time, because for many spray paints, there is a very specific window for adding more coats of paint. For most spray paints, you can spray the next coat after only a minute or two but if you wait longer than an hour, you can’t add more coats of paint until 24 hours later.
It is confusing and specific and slightly different for different types of spray paint, so be sure to read the instructions on your paint.
Don’t hold the spray paint too close
Remember not to hold the spray paint can too close to the piece you are painting. Your spray paint will have specific instructions for how far away to hold it, but in general 6-12 inches is a good distance.
Holding the spray paint too close will lead to drips and holding it too far will lead to lots of overspray and wasted paint.
Keep the spray paint moving
As you are spray painting, it’s really important to keep the spray paint can moving and not pause too long in one spot. Holding the spray paint in one spot can cause a build up of paint along with drips.
Start by pointing the spray paint right beside the furniture you are painting. Press the trigger button and then start slowly moving the paint across your furniture piece.
Move the paint from one side to the other, slightly overlapping each ‘stripe’ of paint you add.
It’s important to begin and end each spray of paint off the piece of furniture you are painting – start the flow of paint next to the furniture piece and then don’t stop it until you have moved past the other end of the furniture. This will prevent a thicker blast of paint on your furniture when you first press the trigger or depress it.
How to keep spray paint from clogging
Spray paint tends to clog easily between projects. I have been frustrated so many times because a can of spray paint became completely clogged and unusable even though there was still plenty of paint inside.
Thankfully, there is a simple trick that can prevent this.
If you still have paint left in your spray paint can when your project is finished, simply turn the spray paint can upside down and press the trigger for around five seconds or until only clear gas comes out.
This will clear any excess paint from the nozzle so it can’t dry in place and cause a clog.
How to fix spray paint drips
Following the tips above should prevent drips in your paint finish, but mistakes can always happen. If you do end up with spray paint drips, they are fairly easy to fix.
Use a piece of high grit sandpaper (300 grit is ideal) to very lightly sand the drip smooth. This isn’t the time for aggressive sanding; you don’t want to remove all of the paint, you are just gently bringing everything back to the same thickness for a smooth finish.
Then remove all dust and spray a couple more very light layers of paint to blend the area with the rest of the paint job.
How to touch up spray paint with a brush
If you notice your project needs a little touch up, you can always spray another thin coat of paint.
But sometimes you may not notice a problem until you’ve already brought your item back inside or removed all of the painter’s tape. If that happens, there is a way to touch up your paint without the mess of spray paint.
Hold a small paint brush over a drop cloth and spray paint onto the bristles. (Small artist’s brushes work well for this.)
You want a good coating of paint on the bristles but not a huge glob. If you accidentally spray too much paint, just wipe off the excess. Then use the paint brush to carefully touch up your paint finish.
And that’s it! Just like any other painted furniture, be sure to handle your spray painted furniture with care for the first few days after painting. Many paints take a few weeks to fully harden and during that time they are especially vulnerable to chipping.
Check out these posts for more info on spray painting specific types of furniture
Even more spray paint projects:
- How to paint a shower door frame on the cheap
- How to paint aluminum windows and door frames
- How to completely transform an ugly light fixture
- Quick tip: The easiest way to paint screws
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- Furniture to be painted
- Spray paint of your choice
- Respirator mask
- Drop cloth
- Painter’s tape
- Spray paint handle
- Start by wearing a mask for any type of spray painting.
- Work in a well-ventilated area.
- Cover everything in the surrounding area with drop cloth.
- Clean your furniture well with Dawn dish soap mixed with warm water.
- Follow the instructions on your spray paint can.
- Shake your can of spray paint really well for at least a minute.
- Shake the can every few minutes during the painting process.
- Start with a thin coat of paint then build up several thin coats to give you a beautiful finish.
- Read instructions for how much time to wait in between coats.
HOW TO SPRAY PAINT FURNITURE
HOW TO FIX SPRAY PAINT DRIPS
- Use a piece of high grit sandpaper to smooth down any drips.
- Remove all dust and spray a couple more light layers of paint to blend the area.
HOW TO TOUCH UP SPRAY PAINT WITH A BRUSH
- Spray another thin coat of paint.
- You can also hold a small paint brush over a drop cloth and spray paint onto the bristles.
- Then use the paint brush to carefully touch up your paint finish.
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