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 – you can paint 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.  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. Use high quality brushes  they may cost a bit more, but you will be rewarded with a smoother finish, plus if you take care of them, they can last for years. 

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 a Mirror or a Mirrored Wall

To paint mirror successfully you need to use a good “Bonding Primer”. One that I like is called,  Stix. It is in a blue can. It will do the trick.   Follow the directions on the can, but basically you will want to clean the surface well and let it dry, then roll it on.  After it is dry, paint over it. I would use a high quality roller that has rounded edges so you do not see roller lines in the finish when it is dry.  

Stix bonding Primer

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.

 

How-to-Paint-Anything!-Step-by-step-instructions-with-photos-of-the-products-to-use



Comments

  1. megan says

    Hi! I recently purchased a display shelf from Hallmark. I am not sure what the surface is but it is smooth and light in color. I am hoping to paint it in a fun whimsical pattern. I was thinking I could use the little acrylic paint bottles sine I am am probably going to have 8-10 different colors. Would I need to use a primer for acrylic paint? Also, should I seal it with something when I am finished? Thank you!

  2. Randy Cain says

    Good morning Diane,
    your step by step information process on painting a stained chair will be followed as I have a few to finish.

    Thank you very much in sharing your process and explanations.

    Randy

  3. Bobbe says

    I have a bathroom pedestal sink with painting in the bowl. A cleaning person put Clorox in the bowl and part of the paint faded. Can t be repainted??

    • says

      Hi Bobbe – I know you can change the color of a sink with epoxy paint that comes in neutral colors, but it sounds like you want to use colors to paint over a design to bring it back. I think I would try using model airplane paint that you can buy at the crafts store. I would sand over the areas with a little piece of sandpaper first, then paint. Light coats only. More lighter coats of paint are better than one or two thick ones. Once it is painted, I would let it cure for a week before using the sink.

  4. says

    Thanks for the information. Great post. I am wondering…I have a rocking chair that I purchased at an Estate sale. Someone painted it white over the stain/lacquered original finish. The white paint is just peeling off and the original finish is still shiny underneath. Do I need to sand and prime the piece? Strip it with stripper? I am so confused but it cant be left like it is.

    • says

      Hi Brenda –

      If you want the chair to last for a long time, then yes you need to sand and prime it. I would use 100 grit sandpaper to loosen any peeling paint and to rough up the shiny surface so the paint has something to adhere to. If the paint has peeled off in some places and not other and the finish is uneven, I would strip the chair so the entire surface is even and smooth.

      I would use a gripping primer. Glidden Gripper is one that I use. You can get it at Home Depot. Two light coats, letting the first one dry before applying the second. Once that is dry you can paint. Apply thin coats. If you want extra protection, you can seal the paint with a water-based polyurethane like Polycrylic.

  5. Julie Orchard says

    Please can you help me. I have a black granite sink which has been covered with white gloss paint by a decorator. The white paint has now entered the grains and we have tried everything to remove the white paint. Is it possible to paint the black sink back to its original colour (black matt?)

    Thank you.

    Julie

    • says

      Hi Julie – You could use epoxy paint to do this. It is rather smelly as it dries, but once it is, it provides a very shiny and durable surface that can get wet. I know Rustoleum makes one as does a brand called Homex. If you do a search on Google for “Bathroom tile and or shower paint” – the brands and images will come up in the search. Home Depot and Lowes sells a few of the brands.

  6. Carolyn says

    Hi,
    I am in Australia so a lot of the brands you talk about are not available.
    What I want to know, is whether I can paint Polycarbonate suitcases. I am wanting to put logos (Cars, Batman etc) on them for my kids.
    Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Carolyn – to paint the polycarbonate (mostly acrylic plastic) you need to prime them first with a good gripping style primer and then paint. Ask at your paint store for a “bonding or gripping primer”. Let it cure for a few days before brushing on paint. Light coats are better than one or two thicker ones. You can also use chalk paint. It grips to just about any surface.

  7. Shil says

    I cannot find anything online that answers my question, hopefully you can. I have an upholstered chair that i don’t want to take apart but I want to paint the frame. How do I protect the fabric while painting ?

    • says

      Hi Shil – I would use painter’s tape to protect the frame. Clean the fabric as well as you can before placing the tape over it. Tape won’t stick to dust or oily spot. You can buy Painter’s tape at any paint or home improvement store. It comes in different widths. I would get a wider width. When placing the tape over the fabric you want to protect, make sure it runs right along the edge of the wood. You may need to cut the tape into little pieces to cover any tight or intricate areas. Smooth the tape down. I would use a small paint brush to apply the paint right where the paint will meet the fabric. This will allow a more concise application. A larger angled brush for the rest.

  8. Sandy Stimers says

    Would like to chalk paint some furniture and then paint designs to personalize the piece. Would I use acrylic paint for the design work? Can I wax over the design too? Thanks

    • says

      Hi Sandy – You can use the acrylic paint to make chalk paint if you used the Calcium Carbonate recipe. It may bind with the other chalk paint recipes. After the paint is dry, you can definitely use plain acrylic paint to paint your design. Let it dry well before applying wax over it. Don’t use Briwax, that will remove the paint. Fiddes and Sons and Miss Mustard Seed clear waxes are two that I have used that will not take the painted designs off.

  9. Betty Jernigan says

    I would like to use artist acrylic paint to paint a scene on a vinyl chair seat.is that possible ? if so please tell me what to do.thanks for your help

    • says

      Hi Betty – To successfully paint on the vinyl you would first need to prepare the vinyl for paint. You would need to rough up the area where the paint is going to go so that it has something to adhere to, then use a spray primer for vinyl or plastic. Rustoleum 2X is a good one. The vinyl is too smooth and the paint would chip off if you did not sand/prime first. Once the the primer is dry, you can use the acrylic paint to add a design.

      It might be hard to sand and prime just that area where the design is going to go if it is detailed. If your design would look OK with a solid color background behind it, then I would suggest you tape off a shape that will accentuate your design. Paint it the same color as the chair vinyl or a color that goes with your design first. This will give you a canvas on the chair to paint on. Sort of a frame for your design.

  10. Marya says

    Hello and thank you for this fabulous info!!

    Not too unlike the above question – but perhaps not similar enough: I’m having an artist friend paint a white spare tire cover (a flat vinyl I believe, though I also can buy a more supple “pleather” material as well though that’s probably also vinyl). She asked me to do the research as she’s never done this before. It will be watercolor style though not necessarily watercolor. It will have a realistic face painted on it (haha don’t ask). I live in a rainy climate so obviously it goes without saying that I’d like it to be protected from the weather as much as possible.

    I’ll be sure to either paint it with the cover already on the tire for accuracy or else use some method so it doesn’t change its shape too much if that makes sense. I thought of using alcohol or TSP first to prep it though I could sand a bit first (or both?) and I assume I should paint or spray paint on a gripping primer first, based on your other comments?

    I also seem to be seeing to use lighter multiple layers rather than fewer thick layers though this might be tricky when it’s essentially a portrait (?). What about spraying it with something afterward – like a day later or so?

    Any specific paints re. any of this that you’d recommend – or methods?!

    Thank you so much!

    • says

      Hi Marya – Painting on vinyl is tricky since it moves and the paint can crack off. Being that is for a car even makes it harder since it will be subject to the elements.

      Using the gripper primer may help the paint adhere, but only apply a thin coat of it. Using acrylic crafts paints for your design you may not even need the primer. You could use a spray vinyl primer from Rustoleum to fill in a large area, say a circle. Once this is dry, paint your design on the primed circle. Try to use thin coats of paint.

      Once the design is how you like it, it will need to be protected from the elements with a brand name clear spray protective finish. You can spray this on or use a brush-on formula. Rustoleum makes one for vinyl as do a few other brands. You would need one for exterior application that is also for vinyl. Read the labels to find which one says vinyl. When using spray sealer, make sure you wait whatever time it says on the paint label and the sealer before using over your painted design. If you spray over it too early you may cause the paint to wrinkle.

  11. Karina Villarreal says

    Hi Diane,

    Wow you definitely know your stuff!
    I want to paint my kids toddler beds from IKEA to change things up a bit. It’s made out of fiberboard, particleboard with an acrylic paint. Here is the link to the exact beds. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40274352/
    Which one of the above processes should I take? The fake wood paneling directions?

    • says

      Hi Karina – Yes I would use the directions for painting wood paneling or painting over laminate. The prep is key. Sanding and gripping primer and light coats.

  12. Sally says

    Hi Diane

    What a wonderful site, so much useful info on here which I’ll be referring to for future projects – I normally take the short-cut with a lot of my painting, hence why I don’t always get the desired results!

    Just a quick bit of advice please – I’m making a modern piece of art for our kitchen using aluminium foils and possibly other types of metal. I would like to paint some of the metals in order to get a ‘stain glass effect’ or even a ‘thick glossy’ effect on them without the transparency would be preferable.. is this possible using the type of paint used for glass? If not would you have any idea what I can use for this project?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

  13. Sally says

    Hi, apologies, I wasn’t clear in my previous message!

    I’m actually still debating whether to go for transparency or not, so would be useful to know what I could use to create either a transparent effect or thick glossy, 3d paint effect – if you have any ideas that would be great.

  14. Janelle says

    I want to paint the inside of a kitchen sink. I have in mind something similar to the Talevera hand painted bathroom sinks. I was thinking about a plain white porcelain sink using Porcelaine and heat setting it,, but am open to any suggestions. I understand that once complete any surface cleaning would likely need to be light and non-abrasive. Really appreciate your thoughts on this.

  15. Valerie says

    What type is sealer should I be using for furniture that is painted matte black? I want it to stay matte.
    How do I not get brush stroke marks when sealing?

    I’ve tried to seal my pieces three different times and it’s turned out terrible every time.
    First I tried using a matte finish polyurethane. It dried white and left brush strokes. Second I tried a matte finish spray can sealer. It dried white and left spray marks. This last time I used satin finish polycrylic. It dried clear but turned my furniture shiny and left bad brush strokes. What am I doing wrong?

  16. JP says

    Hi Diane,
    I chanced upon your site and enjoy your step-by-step instructions. They seem simple, though i have yet to apply them. I do have a question though. I have small picture frames (2″ x 2.5″, 4″ x 6″…) that were hand-crafted out of malachite stone. They have ‘openings’ in the front of course, where a little photo could be slipped in. However, i would like to have a mirror fit inside instead. That being said, custom-made small mirrors for several frames would be costly. I went to a hardware store today and asked for other alternatives in lieu of a mirror, but something that would have the same/similar effect. The salesperson mentioned Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect spray. I don’t know the next step to take. Ideally, i’d like to spray paint onto an inexpensive material that i could cut by myself with a scissor and then insert into the open ‘window’ of frame, perhaps glue it inside the frame, so it would be a recessed mirror. Is this possible? If yes, what inexpensive material could i use? (i think paper/cardboard would be too porous for spray paint).

    Any other solution comes to mind?

    Forgive me for lengthy description, but i felt it best to give you as clear an idea as possible :).

    Thank you in advance for your time and input.

    • says

      Hi JP – For the mirror paint to work, it needs to be used on glass since you spray it on the back so the front looks and feels like a mirror. For an inexpensive alternative, cut up a sheet of clear acetate. You can buy acetate sheets at the office supply or printing store. You can also cut flat pieces from packaging and the clear lids that Christmas cards come in and many other boxed items. If you look around your home, you may already have something like this sitting in a drawer. Spray the back of the aceate with the mirror paint and then cut to size to fit into your frames.

  17. Wendy says

    I would like to paint photographs into my patio floor. There is only limited wall space, so we want to take all the fishing photographs and place them on the floor and clear coat over. Any suggestions?

    • says

      Hi Wendy – You will need to clean the floor well to make sure there is no dirt or grease on it. Mark off where each photo will be and use a gripping primer in those areas. Two thin coats, let the first one dry before applying the second. After the primer is dry, then I would use craft paint to paint the photos. Once the paint is dry, seal the floor with water-based poly. If you use oil-based the colors will darken and turn orange over time. Look for an outdoor water-based sealer.

  18. Painterman UK says

    Hi this post is an excellent guide to paint and preparation. Some of those more unusual surfaces can be really tricky for people doing DIY. A lot of the products featured are only available in the USA, in the UK we have similar products one of which is Hammerite which I don’t think is available in the US, it’s a really wonderful product and has a range of finishes from a hammered effect to gloss.

    We have just recently started to see Rustoleum in the shops and have a range called Plasticote too, so anyone reading this in the UK check out your local DIY shed and ask we do have some great paint products too.

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