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How To Get the Perfect Paint Finish

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Furniture Painting Tips

Last weekend one of my friends came over and wanted to see what I was working on. Right now my garage is filled with hand-me-down furniture that I am transforming with paint, production-line style for my daughter to use in her apartment.   Two of the items are metal and my friend was surprised that you could paint metal. She didn’t think you could.  “Yes, a big yes, I told her – you can paint ANYTHING and get the perfect paint finish at the same time.   Over the years I have painted quite a lot of things and have figured out what the right products are and what formulas work to give me professional results every time.

Here is a daybed frame that is getting painted. It has both metal and wood parts. It is in great shape, but the black and wood tone color are not in my daughter’s decorating scheme.  I know with the right products that I can paint this to look brand new – like it came directly from the factory.


Furniture Painting Tips

My secret – any of these products.  I would not even think about painting this bed or any piece of furniture without one of these primers on it first. They are my go-to products – tried and true and have never let me down. Normally I use a brush or roller, but for this bed I used the Kilz spray primer since the bed has all round surfaces – hard to paint evenly with a brush or roller.


I didn’t always know to use these products and learned the ins and outs of painting surfaces the hard way when I was younger.

Learning The Hard Way #1:  The Need For Gripping Primer

When Ed and I were newlyweds in our first house we were given the armoire that is now in my Studioffice.   We used it in a breakfast room as a pantry back then  – it was orange.  I was 24 at the time and very excited to put my style on it and paint it.  Easy peasy – right?  Wrong!  When the paint was dry – it rubbed right off. I was horrified!  What a big HUGE mess – all the detailing and curved top.  Yikes!  I had to go over the entire surface with a wet rag and scrub until it all came off. It is a big piece of furniture and I had to stand on a ladder to do most of it. Not fun.  Off to the paint store I went to find out what I needed to do.  Gripping primer was the answer.

What I Use It On:  Anything that has a bit of a shine or gloss finish, even after sanding – I use 2 light coats of gripping primer first letting each coat dry before applying the second. Then I paint.

It now comes in a grey color which helps when using deep paint colors. It will bring out the color and lessen the need for more coats of paint.

I painted my kitchen cabinets over 10 years ago using Glidden Gripper primer before putting on 2 coats of semi-gloss Sherwin Williams latex.  They still look newly painted. Benjamin Moore also makes a good gripping primer called Aqua Grip. 

Learning The Hard Way #2: The Need For Stain Blocking Primer

Around the same time – being newlyweds in our first house we were eager to make it ours and built a built-in bookcase in our living room. We stained it and after a week I didn’t like the dark color and decided it would look better white. “Just roll on some white paint”, I thought – and I did.  It looked great and I was one happy homeowner.  Fast forward to a week later and it was no longer white – it was pink – Egads!   Back to the paint store I went and learned that stain bleeds through paint.  I needed a stain blocking primer and Kilz Original formula was what they gave me.

Kilz comes in many different formulas. I have tried them all and the Original is the best – two light coats and everything is sealed and bonded to the surface.   Don’t let the oil formula scare you. It smells just a little, but unlike most oil-based paints – it dries in 30 minutes.  You will have to clean your brush out with mineral spirits or use a disposable one if you don’t want to clean it.

I used the spray Kilz for the first time on a lamp a few years ago and was not expecting the same results – but I was pleasantly surprised with smooth excellent adhesion – which is the most important factor when painting over furniture.

What I Use It On:  I use Kilz Original when I am painting over a piece of furniture that has a stained or polyurethane finish.  It will block any stain, resin, or oil from knots in the wood from bleeding through.  It can be tinted if you are going to use a mid-tone or dark paint color.

I have used one of these products on every piece of furniture I have ever painted since.

Sneak peek of the daybed frame After

See the nice smooth finish on the wood and metal parts.   That is the result of Kilz Original spray primer and Rustoleum semi-gloss white. I only had to lightly sand over the wood posts with a piece of medium grit sandpaper to rough up the surface just a bit. Not even 5 minutes of sanding.  The primer does the rest.  Bonds and allows the paint to adhere better so that 10 years from now – the finish looks just as good as the day you painted it.  The smooth finish is also the result of patience – light coats only and letting each coat dry before applying the next.   I have been rewarded with a factory-like finish and a big hug from my daughter for my efforts.

Spray painted furniture tips

When using the spray formula of any primer or paint wear a paint mask and/or respirator and do it outside or in an open area with lots of ventilation. I use plastic sheeting to place large objects on so the overspray doesn’t get on everything.

Best Spray paint primers for furniture

I thought I would be able to get an “after” photo of the day bed once it was set up in my daughter’s apartment, but the room was small and dark and I could not get a good photo of it.  It did come out beautifully and she was very happy with her like new bed.

Click here to find:  The steps on how to paint anything.

How to paint any surface





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  1. Great tips, I am looking forward to seeing you daughter’s new place. She sounds like a wonderful young woman. I am sure you are extremely proud of her, and so glad to have her close by!

  2. I have that same bed and love what you did with it! I’ll be moving soon so this is a great idea to change the look! Thanks for the perfect paint job tip!

  3. These are great tips! I have an old dresser (it looks a lot like your giftwrap and Mod Podge dresser) that I want to update for my tween daughter but it has a formica looking top with a high polish. Do I just sand and use the gripping primer on that?

    1. Hi Loa – Formica can be painted. :) Sand it first with a fine grit sandpaper – you don’t want to leave scratch marks in it. Clean it with TSP (sold in the paint aisle) or detergent and rinse well. Let dry. Roll or spray on 1 light coat of the bonding or gripping primer. I use Glidden – but any “bonding primer” will work. Let dry. If you see any dust or paint lines – gently go over with the fine grit sandpaper and then use a tack cloth to clean the surface before applying another light coat of the bonding primer.
      (Tack cloths are sold in the paint dept. It is cheesecloth with a sticky finish that picks up dirt and dust from a surface.)
      Once that is dry, apply 2 -3 light coats of your paint – let each one dry before applying the next and check in between each coat that nothing is sticking in the paint – like a bug or piece of hair. Just go over gently with the sandpaper to remove it, clean with the tack cloth and then apply the next coat. Let dry and cure for a few days before using the dresser. If the dresser has any angled areas and you are rolling and brushing the paint on – get the best paint rollers/brushes. Purdy makes the best. A low nap or foam roller and a 1 – 2 inch angled Purdy paint brush. I think the green label is for ultra smooth surfaces. It will say right on the label. Wooster makes good brushes, too. :)

      1. Thanks, Diane! This is just the extra bit of information that I needed to take on this project. I knew it could be done, but I was hoping to get it right the first time since it will be in my 11 year old’s room. Now I need to go shopping and get my supplies!

  4. Thanks for the wonderful tips – very timely as I am hoping to paint our dining room table soon!

  5. What great tips! I didn’t realize stain would bleed through. Glad you told me! I shared this post on Facebook (such good advice)! I look forward to your “how to paint anything” page!