The DIY Designer: Types of paint to use on wood surfaces

Authored By rainonatinroofblog

Continuing the series on what types of paint can be used on various surfaces, this week we’re talking about wood.

I think wood surfaces generally tend to be the most widely painted surfaces in the midst of this furniture painting craze that has taken over. And for the most part, you can use just about any kind of paint on wood surfaces.

(read more: navy end table painted with Velvet Finishes/coral end table painted with latex paint)

Latex paint
Basic latex paint that you find at local home improvement stores is usually fine to paint wood furniture with. It tends to be one of the easiest paints to work with when it comes to painting furniture. That being said, though, the durability of a latex paint isn’t as great as an oil-based paint’s. If you paint something with a semigloss or gloss sheen, you can probably get by without a topcoat, depending on how much action the surface you are painting will see. But if you use a flat, satin or eggshell latex paint on a surface, I recommend finishing up your project with a polycrylic topcoat for added protection. For a little sheen on your finish, use a satin polycrylic; for more sheen, use a semigloss or gloss polycrylic.

When using latex paint with just a roller and brush, you will risk more brushstrokes in the paint’s finish than when using oil-based paint or a paint sprayer. To minimize the brushstrokes, always use a good, high-quality paintbrush and mix in a little Floetrol.

Latex paint can easily be cleaned up with soap and water.

Oil-based paint
Oil-based paint is great for furniture makeovers in terms of durability over time. The finish won’t chip as easily as some latex paints do. On the other hand, though, oil-based paint isn’t as easy to work with as latex and some specialty furniture paints are.

With oil-based paint, you must make sure you use a high-quality paintbrush that will work with oil-based paint. I’ve found that oil-based paint goes on better when just brushing it on, rather than rolling it on. This means it will be more time-consuming. Oil-based paints are also known to have fewer brushstrokes, if any, after they dry.

You’ll need to use mineral spirits or paint thinner to clean your brushes and any paint off yourself when using oil-based paints.

The beauty of oil-based paint is that it doesn’t usually require an additional topcoat.

Specialty paints
In the past decade or so, since furniture painting has really taken off, there have been quite a few specialty paints created specifically for painting furniture. Most of these make painting furniture easier in one way or another.

  • Velvet Finishes 

It’s no secret that I often use Velvet Finishes for my furniture projects. It’s the one specialty paint for furniture that I’ve really come to love. Velvet Finishes has a built-in topcoat and usually does not require sanding or priming unless the piece has a shiny or glossy finish on it before painting. If your piece is glossy, you can use their Ready product, which is a primer that you just spray on, let it sit and then wipe it off before painting.

  • Chalk paint

Many people love chalk paint. Personally, I’m not a huge fan just because the look it gives isn’t really my style. Most chalk paints don’t require you to prime or sand your piece before painting, which is great. Most chalk paints do require you to give it some sort of topcoat, though. Many people use wax to seal it.

  • Milk paint

Like chalk paint, milk paint doesn’t really give a finished look that I like, so I’ve never personally used milk paint. But I have heard good things about it from others. I think most people go with milk paint when they are looking to achieve a farmhouse effect on their furniture.


Need to know what paint you can use on other surfaces? Check these out:

You can also get lots of furniture makeover ideas here.

Jenna LaFevor rants on at Rain on a Tin Roof about DIY projects, junk décor, thrifty finds, crafty creations and other decorating dilemmas. She went to UTC, where she got a teaching degree that now collects dust. When she isn’t trying to keep her kid from climbing out of the circus ring or making sure her husband’s shirts are taken to the dry cleaners so she gets out of ironing, she can be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cheap beer in the other. But if you’re buying, she’ll have a cosmopolitan. You can email her at [email protected] or you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter @raintinroofblog or at her blog. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.