I have been furniture painting for years, obsessively so. I don’t think there has been a problem I have not come across. There is no mistake I have not made myself in my 10+ years of painting furniture especially at the start.
Anyone can read information of a spec sheet. Using paint and working with it is the best way to learn from your mistakes.
Here are the top 5 mistakes people make when painting furniture to help you avoid them and save you time.
I know some paints say you don’t need to prep, just go straight in with the paint. Im not a fan of the chalky style paint. But even when using it I would prepare the piece because it will help with the durability of the piece. Its like washing you hair and skipping the shampoo and going straight in for the conditioner! It may look ok for a little while but you it wont stand the test of time.
Priming the piece, gives you longevity. Its also flags any areas that may need extra attention. For example that dreaded yellowing on the surface, this will need to be blocked in with a shellac primer. It also shows up imperfections like dents and marks that might need some filler.
Also the mistake I see all the time is, sanding and then going in to clean. You must clean first, to remove all the dirt and grime. Then sand to prep for the primer. I know you may think that the cleaner will remove the dust after sanding. But spraying a cleaner will add moister into your piece as you have exposed the wood surface of the furniture. This will cause it to swell a little (not quite noticeable, but you may have trouble with doors closing and drawers getting stuck) and will also lift the grain.
2. Too Much Paint
One mistake I see all the time is putting way too much paint on the surface. I know you might think you will get the job done faster, if you can get as much paint onto your brush as possible. But it leads to many problems. It can cause dribbling. It can really effect your drying time.
If you load a layer of paint thick, it is going to need a lot longer to dry and your finish may be uneven as a result. If you lay a blob of paint in one area and use that to drag the paint around your piece to paint it. The paint is going to begin to dry around the edges and you will be dragging wet paint along with paint thats drying giving you a gritty finish in areas.
I always reference painting nails as an example of the benefit of leaving paint dry in between coats. If you are in a rush and put one thick coat of nail varnish on your nails, it never dries properly for what seems like the whole day. But if you give your nails a few thin coats, it builds up the colour and leaving it dry in-between coats makes it durable for a few days. Paint will dry faster if you leave it dry in-between coats
3. Not using the right tools
This is actually so important. Even more so than the paint. A cheap bristly brush is going to show in your finish no matter what you do. Also a cheap brush is going to shed and you will be picking bristles out of it forever. If you spend a little more on a really good brush (€10 approx) its going to last you through loads of projects and you can have it for years to you look after it. Same goes for rollers. A cheap roller isn’t going to make your job any quicker or easier. What you save in money you will doubly make up for in time and frustration. My go too rollers are the two fussy blokes microfibre rollers. I know I always mention them but they are the best out there.
4. Not Picking the right colour
Colour is the difference between loving a piece you painted and liking a piece. If you just put a colour on because you have it in the shed, your finish might be absolutely perfect but if you kinda like the colour you wont appreciate all the hard work you put in. Colour really is everything. At my workshops I see people always going to the safest option of creams and greys but when they push themselves a little in their colour choice, they enjoy the painting process even more.
You need to also be aware of the finish, wall paint wont be durable on furniture and visa versa. The little sample pots of paint also need to be checked if your painting furniture. The majority of them are a matt finish for walls, making them unsuitable for furniture.
5. Paint curing time
A lot of people don’t realise that paint needs time to cure.
What is paint curing? Its the length of time that paint needs to fully dry and harden. It may be dry to the touch, but it needs extra time to cure.
Once its cured it becomes durable to clean and use without worrying about damaging it. Curing time depends on the brand. On the tin it there should be a guide to how much cure time you need. It could be from anywhere from a few days to weeks. It will dry enough for a a second coat but just with general use you need to leave it cure.
If you want to know the importance of sanding I have a blog post about it HERE
Would love to know in the comments if you had any of these problems or if you had a different one?
Thank you so much for sharing these invaluable tips. You have taught me so much. Your book is like my furniture bible. Adore your work. Thanks again
Aw that’s brilliant Ailsing, so delighted to hear that