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How to Paint FAQ’s Answered

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Can I paint wood?  How Do I Paint Metal?  What kind of paint should I use on plastic?   These are the most frequently asked question I get asked about decorating a home, but the number one question I receive about painting is…  Can you paint over varnished or sealed wood without sanding?

How to Paint Any Surface - Metal, Glass Fabric Wood Plastic and more

These are the most frequently asked how to paint questions I receive in my inbox daily. My answer is  – Yes! anything can be painted when you know how and what paint and products to use.

With technology and paint formula improvements that have been introduced in the past decade – you can paint just about any surface so that it has a long lasting finish.

Your Paint Questions Answered – How to Paint Any Surface

Here is a painting 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.

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

Kilz Latex primer

The most successful paint finishes are those where 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 than fewer thicker ones.  This has to do with the chemistry of paint, thin coats wear much slower than thick coats, because they dry harder.

a pile of used paint brushes on a table

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.

What is the Best Way to To Get a Smooth Painted Finish?

If you want a smooth, sleek finish but don’t want to use spray equipment, buy mohair rollers. Unlike standard rollers, mohair rollers don’t lift the wet paint and create a bumpy texture as it is rolled on. Use mohair rollers to paint doors or anything where you want a very smooth finish. You can find mohair rollers at paint and home improvement stores.

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

I have painted quite a lot of furniture and there are three methods to use. I would suggest reading a few of my furniture makeover posts first.

I recommend one of these 3 furniture painting methods:

No matter which you choose, sanding is key to make sure the paint will adhere to the surface and also give you a very smooth finish for the paint. Start with 100 grit sandpaper and then finish off with 220. You do not have to go to the bare wood, just sand enough to knock down the sheen and rough up the surface a little to provide some tooth. Clean off the grit well and then begin to paint using your choice of paint.

Option 1. Prime and paint using traditional paint products.  I would use KILZ primer or Glidden Gripper first – 2 light coats, letting the first coat dry completely before adding the second light coat. then paint. Two light coats, again letting the first one dry completely. Sand in between coats to smooth brush strokes. 

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

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.

Option 2. Chalk paint and poly. In this post, I distressed the finish and used wax, but you don’t have to distress and can use high gloss urethane or poly. How to Paint a Piece of Furniture With Chalk Paint 

I like using chalk paint as the dried surface can be sanded really smooth very easily before you add a wax, poly or urethane finish. Chalk paint is not only for making furniture look old. It can be used as a modern finish when it is not distressed to expose bare wood in the finish. For a modern look, simply sand the dried surface of the paint to smooth the painted surface to remove any brush strokes. It will give you a factory like finish. To create the glossy finish, apply high gloss urethane or poly over it or apply wax and buff it with a soft cloth to produce a sheen.

Products I Use:  You can make your own DIY Chalk Paint using any latex paint. This is my go to since I usually can’t find the color I want in most chalk paint lines. Find out how to make chalk paint in this post:DIY Chalk Paint Recipes

If going with the chalk paint method to paint a piece of furniture, the most budget friendly would be to use Waverly Chalk paint sold in the craft aisle at Walmart.  It comes in a few colors. Next would be the KILZ brand of chalk paint sold at Target with the Joanna Gaines Fixer Upper line. 

Option 3: Black Stain and Poly  – Read how to do this in this post. How to Stain Furniture Black  Instead of Using Paint

The last option using black stain looks really nice, but a few readers have told me that the formula of the black stain I used has changed since I painted wood furniture a glossy black a few years ago. I would test the product out first to decide if it still works the same way and provides the right sheen. 

Option 4: If you don’t want to use sandpaper to prep your piece of furniture, you can use liquid sander deglosser.  To get paint to adhere to wood, you usually have to sand it to provide some “tooth” for the paint to adhere, especially with anything that’s varnished or has a clear shiny finish.  Liquid sander deglosser removes the finish, giving it a rough texture without the effort.  You can find it in the paint aisle.  One to try is made by Klean-Strip.

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 de-glosser. 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

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    1. Hi Susan – You can successfully paint bathroom floor tiles using oil based primer and paint or epoxy paint. You need to thoroughly clean and if they are glossy – sand them. There are a few companies that sell kits especially made for floor tiles. I think Rust-oleum makes one. Do a Google search for Bathroom Floor Tile paint. I think they are kind of pricey, but cheaper then replacing tiles.

  1. Oh my gosh……I’ve been on your site for over an hour. You are amazing! I’m sitting in my kitchen thinking about how badly I would LOVE to paint my “oak” cabinets! Have you always been so brave? I’m so scared to start! You have inspired me tonight…..

  2. i really liked everything u made… actually i wanted 2 decorate my room in artistic way.. i want 2 make it as vintage room bt i dnt knw excatly how 2 start… so pls help me if u can… :D

  3. I really enjoyed finding your website I too am a do it yourself paint sew garden etc. I am redoing a large secretary for my daughter who has contemporary taste and grappling with going white or off white loved loved your white desk redo thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Hi, I want to brighten up my new apartment with paint, but have no idea how to get started! I would love to hear your experiences with painting! What was your process of deciding on a color? Did you try lots of samples or just match something in the room? Where do you buy paint? How long do you think it will take an inexperienced painter like me to do each room? Thank you for your help!