How to Paint Anything: Yes, You Can!

Can I paint _____?      How To Paint_____?      How do I paint ____?

These are the  most frequently asked questions I receive in my inbox daily.    My answer is  - Yes! Anything can be painted.  With technology and paint formula improvements that have been introduced in the past decade – painting just about anything so that it has a lasting finish is possible.

Here is a guide that will explain the steps on how to paint the most common surfaces and some not so common questions that readers have asked me about.  I also included the products that I use and that can be easily found at your local hardware, paint, or home improvement store.   You can also paint anything using DIY chalk paint. Click here to learn more about making and painting with DIY chalk paint.


How to Paint Anything

The most important thing to know about painting anything – it is not just about the paint!

The most successful paint finishes are those were the surface was prepped correctly, manufacturers directions followed, and the paint applied under the right temperature and conditions.  The only way paint should be applied is in light coats. It is better to have more light coats then fewer thicker ones.  This has to do with the chemistry of paint, thin coats wear much slower than thick coats, because they dry harder.

Before you paint anything. Keep these three things in mind: 

1. Prep correctly and take the time to sand. No need to sand it to the bare wood with an electric sander. A 5 – 10 minute going over with medium grit sandpaper on a sanding block will do the trick. It can never hurt and will only help with adhesion.  Sanding briefly over the surface before will save you hours of frustration later when you find the paint has not adhered.   Sanding in between coats with a fine grit paper and cleaning the surface off with a tack cloth before applying the next coat will ensure a smooth finish.  

2. Only apply paint and primers in thin coats and let each one dry before applying the next coat.

3. Be gentle with your painted piece the first few weeks.  Paint takes time to cure.  Curing brings the paint to its maximum hardness and durability. Depending on the weather, temps, and thickness of the coats – it could take up to 3 weeks.    

Following these steps will ensure beautiful painted surfaces that will last a life time.


How to Paint Wood Furniture that has Paint, Stain, or Polyurethane on It.

Rough the surface with 60-100 grit sandpaper on a sanding block.  Clean off with a tack cloth.  Go over piece with a damp rag or if it is very dirty, clean with dish soap and  or TSP,  rinse well. Let dry and go over with a tack cloth again. Roll or brush on two light coats of a bonding or stain blocking primer. (Stain blocking for bare, dark, or old wood.  Gripping primer for glossy surfaces.) Let each coat dry before applying the next.   Then roll or brush on two coats of latex paint. Thin coats. Let each coat dry before applying the next.  If the piece is going to see some action or for table tops – protect the finish with non- yellowing polyurethane – 1 – 2 light coats.   I painted the dresser in my guest room following these steps.

Products I Use:  Glidden Gripper Primer for bonding over slick or shiny surfaces. Kilz Original or Kilx Maxx for bare wood or when wood knots are present. Any brand of latex paint in the sheen you desire. To protect – Minwax Polycrylic. It comes in 3 sheens

Products Needed to paint wood furniture


How to Paint Laminate Furniture and Cabinets

Sand with 180-grit or fine sandpaper.  Sand it gently to rough up the surface, but don’t gouge it.  Clean the surface with a cotton rag, water, and mild detergent such as dish soap.  Let dry.  Apply a  bonding primer suitable for laminate surfaces to increase paint’s adhesion. Let dry according to the manufacturer’s directions. It may take up to a week to cure.  Let it cure before rolling or spraying paint on -you will be rewarded with a lasting finish for your patience.  Apply light coats of paint, let each one dry before applying the next. To ensure a very smooth finish – sand in between coats with very fine grit sandpaper and clean the grit off with a tack cloth. Protect it with a coat or two of non-yellowing water based polyurethane.

How to Paint Laminate Furniture

How to Paint Cardboard Backdrops in Inexpensive Furniture 

If your furniture has cardboard or even foam boards as backdrops you can paint them,  but you need to make sure they are secure or else they will curl up when paint is applied.  It is best to make sure all the staples/nails are being held holding in place and then paint. If you removed the backing board to paint - you need to tape it down flat with low tack painter’s tape so it does not curl.  Use a paint and primer in one formula or one coat of primer and one coat of paint.  Don’t remove the tape until it is dry.  Either a brush or roller will work.

Products to use to paint foam core and cardboard in furntiure

How to Paint Upholstered Furniture Fabric

Mix 2 parts acrylic paint with 2 parts fabric medium with 1 part water. Mix well.  Fill a spray bottle with water and saturate the upholstery, this will make painting easier.  Use a stiff paint brush to paint the paint mixture on the fabric.   You will need at least 3 coats for good coverage.  Let each coat dry before applying the next.  You can buy fabric medium at the crafts store.

How to paint upholstered furniture fabric and products to use


How to Paint Fabric

Tape preshrunk fabric to plastic covered cardboard. Place cardboard inside a pillow cover so paint doesn’t soak through. Use fabric paint or an acrylic paint mixed with textile medium. Apply the paint in several thin coats to work it into the fibers with a stiff paint brush.  Heat-set if required according to paint manufacturer instructions.  Your piece can be laundered with mild detergent after 10-14 days.

How to paint fabric


How to Paint Drywall

Remove dust from walls and wash over them with a rag dampened with a  TSP and water mix. Scrap off loose paint and fill any holes with surfacing compound. For new drywall, apply wallboard sealer. For existing drywall, use a stain-blocking primer to help hide water stains. Apply two coats of latex paint, let dry between coats.

How to paint drywall


How to Paint Fake Wood Paneling

Paneling usually has a sheen that needs to be scuffed to prepare it for paint. Use a pole sander with 80 grit sandpaper followed by a good cleaning with TSP or detergent, rinse well. When dry, roll on two light coats of bonding primer – let the first coat dry before applying the second.  Then roll on your paint.  2 light coats should give good coverage.  Use a good quality 1 -2  inch wide angled brush to paint the vertical grooves in the paneling.

How to paint paneling


 How to Paint Brick and Brick Fireplaces

Scrub bricks with a stiff brush, water, and mild detergent, and then rinse well. For tough grime, use muriatic acid and rinse with 2 tablespoons baking soda per gallon of water.  Apply masonry sealer and then use a long nap roller to apply paint.  Use a good quality 1 -2 inch angled brush to get paint into the grout lines and crevices. If you have newly installed brick, wait 30 days before painting it.

Before I added AirStone to my fireplace, I painted the bricks white.

How to paint Brick

How to Paint Ceramics and Ceramic Tile

Ceramic is not porous and to paint it right so that it lasts for a long time you  need to use a paint  that has epoxy in it or primer/paint that are specially formulated for tile.     When working with these paints – you must make sure to get adequate ventilation in the room and wear a mask as the chemicals have a very strong smell.  You need to sand the surface with 120 – 150 grit sandpaper. Clean with water, let dry. Sand again. Clean.  Taking the time to prep the surface is what will make the paint adhere for a long time without scratching off.    Apply two coats of  primer with a high density foam roller, then two light coats of paint.   Allow paint to dry for several days or cure according to the manufacturer’s directions.

How to paint tile

How to Paint Concrete

Scrub with TSP, then bleach and water solution.  Degrease oily spots using a concrete degreaser, and repair cracks with concrete filler. Etch the surface with a 10 percent solution of muriatic acid and water. Apply a  concrete sealer and two to three coats of paint designed for concrete surfaces.

How to paint concrete

How to Paint Metal

Clean the surface with a stiff wire brush, or steel wool to remove flaking paint or rust.  Run fine to medium grit sandpaper over the surface to rough it up just a bit.  Rinse well with  a damp rag and let dry. Prime with metal primer and let dry. If metal is rusted, use  spray paint with rust inhibitors. Let dry. Apply several thin coats of paint. Let each coat dry before applying the next coat.

I like to use spray paint on pieces that have rounded metal parts. See the bed frame I painted for my daughter.  If using spray paint, hold the can 1—12 inches from the surface as you spray. Shake the can during the application to keep the color mixed. Spray lightly to avoid paint runs.  Let each coat dry for about 30 minutes or until it is dry to the touch before applying the next coat.

How to paint metal


How To Paint Outdoor Light Fixture

It is best to paint exterior fixtures when they are not in direct sunlight, if you are not removing the fixture, wait until a cloudy day or paint when the fixture is in the shade.   Scour the surface with steel wool and detergent to clean off rust and peeling paint. Rinse and let dry. Use a stiff paint brush to apply an exterior oil-based metallic paint. Apply light coats and work fast. Let each coat dry before applying the next coat.  See how I transformed my outdoor light fixtures with a hammered paint finish.

How to paint an exterior metal light fixture

How to Paint Glass

Start with a clean, dry surface. If you use a pattern, tape it to the outside of clear glass. With an artist’s brush, apply a thin layer of glass paint.  For a more opaque finish, apply an additional coat after the first is dry. Paint slowly to avoid bubbles.  If you want the look of frosted glass or mirrored glass use a specialty paint made to achieve the look.  I used Looking Glass Mirror paint on the back of my fireplace screen.

How to paint glass


How To Paint China

Wash item well with detergent and let dry.  Use craft paints made for ceramic and china painting or paint pens. Use a foam brush to apply.  Paint pens are super easy to use when you want to only paint on parts of a piece or paint a design.  Let each coat dry before adding the next coat.  Do not use before the piece until it has time to cure and  follow paint manufacturers directions that may include sealing it with a clear non- yellowing sealer or baking it in the oven to set the finish.

How to paint china

How to Paint Plastic

Sand the surfaced lightly to increase adhesion. Wash with TSP and then rinse well with water.  Be careful not to touch the clean surface, leaving oil behind. Apply spray primer and then spray paint, both designed for plastic.  Apply multiple thin coats according to the manufactures direction and let dry between coats.  I painted my desk chair from basic office black to bright and cheery white using this method.

How to paint plastic

How to Paint a Wood Floor

Scour the surface with 150-grit sandpaper, then wash the floor with TSP to remove dirt and dust.
Allow floor to completely dry – it may take a few hours to a day.  When the floor is dry, apply oil based primer and let it dry overnight.  Lightly sand with 220 grit sandpaper.  Wipe the floor clean with mineral spirits using a tack cloth.  Apply the first, thin coat of paint with a natural-bristle brush ( this will create a smoother finish as nap from a roller can create a stippled finish).  Allow paint to dry 24 hours.  Apply two more thin coats, allowing 24 hours in between coats.

After the final coat of paint, only walk on the surface with socks on. If you want the finish to last – don’t put the furniture back on right away.  Oil based paint dries overnight, but takes 28 days to cure to maximum hardness.  If you must put the furniture back in, do not drag it in, pick it up and carefully place back down.

How to paint a wood floor


How to Paint a Vinyl Floor

You can paint vinyl, but it may not last forever, that is why I put this last.  Sand the vinyl with 220-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface and dull the shine.  Wipe it clean with a liquid deglosser. This will improve bonding.  Let it dry. Prime the floor with a gripping primer. Let dry. Roll or brush on one or two coats of porch and floor enamel, let each coat dry overnight before applying the next.






  1. Roz says

    Just discovered your site–LOVE it! I’d like to paint some white-washed wicker furniture to look more like pecan or natural. Any suggestions?

  2. Jamie says

    Thanks so much for taking the time to create this amazing guide. It’s so informative, I’m going to print & laminate it to keep with my painting supplies!

  3. says

    Can terrazzo floors be painted? Our 1930s cottage has badly damaged terrazzo flooring and the cost to remove would be prohibitive. We do not want to make any major decisions about what to cover it with so I would like to paint it for the time being. Can it be done, and if so, what should we do?

    • says

      Hi Anne -

      You can paint it, but it will require a few steps. Floors in general are the hardest to paint since everything has to be removed from the room and you have to get down on your hands and knees to do most of the work. I just started repainting a wood floor in my mudroom and it is hard to keep everyone out while I paint and allow the paint to dry. I would try painting the floor in one small room first and see how it adheres and holds up – then proceed to another room.

      The prep work is crucial and is where you need to put the most effort. Is the terrazzo sealed or waxed? You would need to strip this first or sand it off. Once the finish is removed and it is bare floor, sand it well to rough up the surface. There are stone etching products and garage floor paints made for painting over stone, but they are for exteriors, not for indoors since the fumes would be toxic.

      I would try making DIY chalk paint with Plaster of Paris and Calcium Carbonate powder. This makes into a very hard and durable paint finish. If I were painting a stone or tile floor, this is what I would use.

      Once the floor is sanded and roughed up, roll or brush on one very light coat of gripping primer (Glidden and Benjamin Moore both make one)-let it dry, then apply one more very light coat. Let dry. Then apply one to two coats of paint, but again – light coats only and let each coat dry at least for 8-12 hours, before applying the next. This will help with adhesion. Once the paint is dry, you can seal it with a non-yellowing polyurethane. I like water based poly. Zinsser Ultimate Polyurethane is a good one for floors. I used it on my wood staircase steps – over 2 years ago and it has held up wonderfully.

      The key to making the project a success is the making sure the surface is free of a wax top layer and sanded well so the paint has something to adhere to. In high traffic areas, you may want to place a throw rug or runner down to help protect the finish even more.

      You can find the DIY Chalk Paint recipe in this post:

  4. Nan says

    I appreciate your website so much. I was hoping to find an instance of applying some sort of plaster finish over a wooden coffee table top to mimic stone. Have you done this?

    • says

      Hi Nan – I have not done it, but it could probably be done with one of the stone making forms they use to make concrete walkways. I think Quickcrete or one of the big cement companies makes the plastic 16 – 18″ square forms. Ed and I used a brick pattern for a base under our deck to store outdoor items when we first moved into our house. Home Depot and Lowes sell them. It may not work on a tabletop, but could give you an idea of how to do something similar with plaster to look like stone. I would also look in the crafts store in the tile aisle. There are many cool new products that mimic the look of stone.

  5. krista says

    Hi, Love your site,very in depth…I was wondering if I could chalk paint my stainless steel fridge,I can`t take the finger print marks any longer.

    • says

      Hi Luz-

      It can be painted… anything can if you prep correctly and use the right products. There are a few Tub and Tile types of paint products out on the market that will do the trick. All paint stores carry them -Homex, Tub and Tile, Rustoleum for countertops are a few that I know of. They smell awful so be prepared to ventilate well when painting. You could also rough up the surface well with a medium grit sandpaper, clean it well and let dry, then roll on a thin coat of oil-based primer like Kilz Original or Zinseer 123. Let it dry well and then roll or brush on another light coat. Let it dry. Then use a high quality paint made for high water areas like Advance by Benjamin Moore in a high gloss or semi-gloss. It does not need any poly over it. It is highly durable alone.

  6. Valerie says

    How do I paint over concrete sealer (walls are painted with it) and how do I paint over concrete sealer that has been previously painted (on the floors)? Thanks! Love your blog!

    • says

      Hi Valerie -

      It can be painted over successfully with an epoxy paint, but that is pretty toxic and the smell overpowering especially if you have a large area to paint over. I know that paint companies come up with many new innovative products every year that I am sure would do the job for you in a less toxic way. Most floor and porch paints on the market now may do the job. I think no matter what type of paint you use, you will have to sand and/or prime the surface so the paint really sticks.

      I would go to a brand name paint store in your area like a Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore. They will know exactly what products to use and how to do it since they specialize in all things paint. Home Improvement stores may sell a non-epoxy product for painting over sealed concrete too, but I find not all the workers in the paint department are as knowledgeable as the people that work at stand alone brand paint stores are.

  7. Cindy says

    My daughter wants to use a wood bench as her guest book for her wedding. Can you tell me what type of paint pens I should use and a sealant that will not smear the paint pens. I have read that many people did not use the right products together and ended up with a smeared mess on what should have been a wonderful memory piece. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Carol says

    I am using chalk paint for the first time on a wood bookcase. I used your ‘favorite’ chalk recipe (plaster of paris and calcium carbonate). Paint goes on nice and smooth, but thickens rapidily as I paint. Do I just keep adding water to maintain the consistency?

  9. jan gartside says

    I have a beautiful step ladder in bare wood. I would like to give at as a wedding present, to be used as a pot stand for the garden. I would like to decorate this with details of the wedding, date. venue. flowers worn etc etc….I do not want to paint the whole steps just decorate them . How do I go about this. Do I seal the bare wood first and then paint on the decoration and then polyurethane. I would like it to be weatherproof. Help please????

    • says

      Hi Jan -

      You do not have to seal the bare wood first. I would lightly sand the areas where you want the decorations and then paint them on – make sure not to apply the paint too thick. Apply a second coat if needed. Let the paint dry for about 24 hours and then use a water based poly for exteriors. Minwax Helmsman Urethane- the water based one would be good to use. It should not yellow the paint. Any poly or sealer that is not water based will yellow the paint colors.

  10. Joe says

    Hello Diane – Question re “How to Paint Wood Furniture that has Paint, Stain, or Polyurethane on It.” I’m going to repurpose my old office furniture (the same polyurethane type finish as found on basic big box oak kitchen cabinets – but more unique and in very good condition). I essentially plan to tear it down and strategically place pieces as wainscoting at various spots in a retirement cottage (just can’t let go completely). I intend to use one of your DIY chalk paint recipes. My question is whether it’s preferable to “Roll or brush on two light coats of a bonding or stain blocking primer. (Stain blocking for bare, dark, or old wood. Gripping primer for glossy surfaces.) … as you suggest on this page re how to paint anything? Or, should I just follow your chalk paint instructions (i.e. sand, clean, thin coats, etc.)? I have the time and desire to do whatever will get the best results, but don’t want to waste effort or overdo the process, as there are a lot of pieces.

    BTW – I’ve read a lot of blogs and website articles on chalk painting. Despite what my question might suggest, I find yours is by far the most thorough and easy to understand. You’ve made me anxious to get started. Thanks. Joe

  11. Suzi says

    Hi – great info !!
    I bought a stainless steel light base from Ikea but
    sadly it doesn’t look right with the decor. Can I transform
    it so it looks like dull brass ?!

    • says

      Hi Suzy – Look for spray paint that say antique brass or gold, not Brite Brass. Some brands are naturally more brown than yellow. Rustolem makes one in their metallic line. I believe it has a primer already in it. Just clean the base well and lightly go over it with 220 grit sandpaper. Clean off the grit and spray one very light coat on. Keeping the can about 10- 12 inches away from the base. Wait about 5 minutes and repeat. Continue painting with 5 mins in between each coat. Then let it dry in a dust free area for a few days.

  12. says

    I need to paint my foam inserts, for my jewelry trays. I am a jewelry vendor, at festivals, and the sun is a killer on my white, foam inserts. I have researched, and the only thing I come up with is, use a water based paint or spray paint. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank You

    • says

      Hi Angel – Spray paint will eat the foam. I would use water based acrylic craft paint. Brush or roll on light coats letting each one dry before applying the next. To seal the paint, you could use a decoupage medium. I like Martha Stewart Durable Matte Decoupage medium – it is not as thick as Mod Podge. I used it over these cardboard box organizers.

  13. Toni B. says

    I’m painting a metal plant stand, using Clark + Kensington Paint & Primer in One and I’ve made chalk paint using this paint plus calcium carbonate. (2 Parts Paint and 1 Part Cal. Carbon.)

    I’ve read I can do this, rather than using the more expensive brand of all-ready prepared Chalk Paint. (done that). Everything I’ve read indicates that home-made chalk paint can work on any surface.

    I’ve tested my HMCP on a small picture frame. It hasn’t dried yet and it looks alright. Doesn’t seem as chalky as projects I’ve made with expensive Chalk Paint but I’m trying to conserve.

    My questions to you are:

    Am I throwing away good money by trying to make my own chalk paint? Would you use a paint with a primer such as the one in the above-described application? Should I use a non-acrylic latex flat paint? Is there one paint brand you prefer to others?

    Would really appreciate your comments.

    Love what you’ve done with many projects, and I’m inspired by your talent and tenacity.

    Thank you for giving this query your attention.

    • says

      Hi Toni – I make all my own chalk paint and will never ever paint a piece of furniture with any other formula. I love how the pieces come out, so much better than just painting it with latex that leaves a rubbery sticky feel to the finish as well as cost saving. The Calcium Carbonate Powder with a little Plaster of Paris makes up one very durable painted finish. You can always add more for a more chalky finish. Just mix it in water first to dissolve, then add to the paint.

      I like a little distressing, but not too much aging. I like my pieces to look bright. Any time you use a paint and primer in one paint formula you run the risk of the paint turning to sludge. That is when you waste money. I always use plain ole latex.

      My go to when painting furniture is to use Glidden Premium in a satin finish. It mixes up into a great consistency every time I make it. You can use any finish as it will all go flat once you add the CCP and PoP. I just like the way the satin looks when mixed. Just make sure the paint label does not say Paint + Primer in one formula.(They have updated a few labels recently) I stay away from any paint with a primer or acrylic in it when making chalk paint. Some brands don’t mark it and use words like “Plus”. When you see this it usually means it has a primer or acrylic in it.

  14. Ida says

    Hello Diane, Thank you for sharing! What brought me to this page was the caption “how to paint ANYTHING” since I have been struggling with painting dried pandan leaves (close to plam tree leaves). I know… wrong deparment. But given your knowledge and experience I was hoping you could have tips. The leaves are dried and the surface looks and feels like laminated bamboo with a thin layer of resin on it so you can feel the parallel fibers under your fingers and a waxy surface. Except that dried pandan is supple. I tried to clean the leaves with acetone, let dry, applied a primer (acrylic resin), let dry 3 hours, applied an acrylic paint, let dry 18 hours. A gentle scratching will rub off the paint and the primer underneath. Intuitively, what would you try? Thank you again.

    • says

      Hi Ida – You may just have to wait a few weeks for the paint to cure. In paint drying land – paint may feel dry to the touch after 18 hours, but it has not cured. That could take a few weeks depending on the dryness of the air.

      You could try a water-based gripping primer. Glidden makes one called Gripper and Benjamin Moore’s is called AquaGrip. You may also want to look into a Melamine paint. They are a bit pricey, but it is made to adhere to shiny smooth surfaces. Chalk paint may work very well also. It is a flat finish, but you could add soft wax over it once it is dry and buff the leaves with a soft cloth to bring up the shine. Once you paint the leaves – you may simply just have to wait for the paint to cure so it won’t scratch off. It could take up to a month on a slick surface.

  15. Shelley says

    I want to know if I can use artist’a acrylic paint for some small work on a porcelain sink?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *