How to Choose Paint When Redoing Furniture

A mom and son painting a wood rocking chair.

Projects with furniture are always fun and exciting, as they’re usually a great way to spruce up your home. However, when it comes to painting different pieces for your house, it can get confusing! Because of the different materials that furniture can be made of and the differences in types of paints, it’s important to carefully choose which paint you use for each project. Luckily, choosing the correct paint for each furniture project is feasible, and this guide makes this part of the process an absolute cinch.

Latex Paint

Painting a piece of wood furniture with white paint.

Latex paint is an inexpensive option that's easy to come by. When it comes to painting outdoor furniture with raw wood in particular, this is a solid option. One pro of latex paint is that it comes in a range of colors and finishes, giving you options. Another pro to these types of paint is that if you want a glossy look, you likely won’t need a top coat on your furniture.

There are also a few cons to using latex paint on furniture. As mentioned above, latex paint is best used on unfinished wood, meaning it’s not a great choice for interior pieces. For latex paint to look its best on any piece, it has to be sanded and primed well, which could be time-consuming. Additionally, latex paint may not be as durable on furniture as other options would be, chipping or peeling more easily than other varieties.

If you choose to use latex paint for your furniture project, stick to using it on pieces that will be outside and opt for exterior grade latex paint to ensure that it adheres to the raw wood well and will be able to stand up to the elements.

Milk Paint

A dresser painted in a shabby chic style.

This is a different type of paint that is all-natural and made with milk protein. This paint variety has been around for centuries and is known for an ability to create a natural look when it’s used; some may call it “chippy.”

One of the benefits to this type of paint is that it comes in a powder form, allowing you to use only the amount you need for your project. Additionally, you have the option of adding a bonding agent to this paint to ensure that it will properly adhere to the furniture it’s used on.

There are a few downsides associated with milk paint, too. Since it’s meant to provide a “chippy” look, it’s hard to tell just how much the paint will chip until it’s actually on the furniture. Furthermore, if a bonding agent isn’t applied, this paint could end up chipping more than you may want it to over time. Finally, once the paint is mixed, you’ll need to use it right away and it won’t be able to be stored for later use.

This type of paint is perfect for use on unfinished wood as it does a great job showing off the grain of the material. This substance goes well with pieces that you want to have an antique or vintage look, so if that’s the vibe you’re going for, this paint is a must.

Acrylic Paint

Painting a table with yellow paint.

Acrylic paint is water-based and has a similar finish to milk paint. This variety can be used for both indoor and outdoor pieces of furniture, making it versatile. A benefit to using this type of paint is that it doesn’t require a top coat as it has a naturally strong finish. Additionally, this paint goes on smoothly and is predisposed not to show brush strokes, making it an easy paint to work with. The last strong point to this substance is that you don’t need to sand items before you apply it, leaving you without a worry that it will properly adhere to the wood.

If you’re aiming for a matte finish, this paint is not the one for you as it gives off a slight sheen. This is also not an easy paint to give a distressed look to, so keep that in mind.

Acrylic paint can be easily used over latex or milk paint, giving a flat and slightly shiny look as an effective topcoat. The truth of the matter is that this paint can be used basically anywhere, and it’s a great choice if you’re just getting started painting furniture. You won’t need to prep the piece much to successfully apply acrylic paint and it's easily applied onto cabinets in both the kitchen and bathroom.

While it’s not always crystal clear which type of paint is best suited for furniture, it sometimes comes down to preference and what will hold up better. Use this general guide to make furniture painting easier and your work last longer, and you’ll be on your way to one successful home improvement project after another!