Painted furniture is a popular home decor trend right now. It is an easy and inexpensive way to update your home with the hottest looks—and it doesn’t take an interior design degree or years of artistic experience to do a good job.
With a little practice, anybody can paint furniture—and paint it beautifully.
You can too.
We teach a Learn How to Paint Furniture Class every month here at All Things New Again in Leesburg, Virginia. We jam-pack one afternoon with dozens of techniques, tips, tricks and new products to try. It’s a lot of fun.
We’ve been teaching our class for several years now and we see the same mistakes pop up again and again. We’re going to point them out here today—and tell you how to fix them—so your next paint project will look stunning.
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You are using WAY TOO MUCH paint!
Seriously. Way. Too. Much.
Hold your paintbrush up like this.
Now draw an imaginary line around the bristles about halfway between the top and the metal part.
Try not to load any paint onto your brush below this line.
We see people dunk their paintbrush into the paint and swish it around until all of the bristles—and even that little metal part—are glopped over with paint.
When you have too much paint on your brush to start with, you apply it too thick. That’s when you get drips, uneven coverage and an overall sloppy look.
To paint like a pro, it is much better to start with “just enough” paint on your brush to apply a thin coat.
You will probably need two (or maybe three) thin coats of paint to get full coverage, but your paint will stick better, dry faster and look more fabulous in the end.
And you won’t waste paint.
2. You are not allowing enough dry time.
(Or cure time.)
[FULL DISCLOSURE: I am so guilty of this. I am impatient.]
If you are painting and you have a bare spot that seems to move around from place to place, please stop. You are just aimlessly pushing paint around at this point. It isn’t sticking.
Let your paint dry—all the way.
Paint usually takes about 30 minutes up to an hour to dry to the touch. Wait it out. Then come back with a second coat of paint, which will fill in any areas needing coverage. Your second coat will go on much better if you wait for your first coat to dry thoroughly.
(Remember: thin coats!)
Let everything dry really well before sealing. We always recommend letting your paint dry overnight before applying wax or other top coat. We have no Official Scientific Explanation for doing this. My mom and I just think our projects look better in the end when we wait overnight before sealing.
Now lets talk about dry time vs. cure time.
Your paint will feel dry to the touch within about an hour or sooner depending upon things like how thick you applied it, humidity, etc. However, it could take up to 30 days for the paint to fully cure.
There is an Official Scientific Explanation for this. Basically, during the cure time, your paint is continuing to dry — and more importantly — it is bonding to the surface that you painted.
The reason cure time is so important is because this is the time when your amazing paint job is most vulnerable to scratching or other damage. Your project looks great, it feels dry and you are ready to decorate. Please wait.
Waiting is hard, but it is really important to let your work cure for up to 30 days before placing heavy lamps or décor that could scratch the surfaces.
3. You are afraid to make a mistake.
Being afraid to make a mistake is the Worst Painting Mistake you can make.
(It may even be one of the Worst Life Mistakes you can make.)
I’m not even joking about this one.
We see this all the time.
Nobody wants to mess up. I get it.
But let me tell you a few secrets …
- You’re going to mess up. It’s OK. Don’t let that stop you from trying. That’s how you learn.
- It’s just paint. If you totally hate it, you can always paint over it.
Here’s another secret… a Super-Duper-Secret that nobody else will tell you.
The only difference between a Professional Furniture Painter and you … is that the pro has MESSED UP more times than you have even tried.
Think about that.
I have messed up more projects than you have started yet.
But I keep going. Every time.
I love how this little nightstand turned out, but I’ll tell you … I repainted the top three times.
The colors just weren’t swirling together pretty the first time. The second time, I swirled them too much and it looked like a blob.
But I kept trying and I learned a lot—and I love how it looks now.
Don’t be afraid to try a new product or a new technique—or even to just get started.
You know that ugly or outdated piece will look pretty again with a little TLC and a fresh paint color. It might take you a few tries to get it to look amazing, but that’s the nice thing about painting.
If you mess it up, you always get another do-over.
(Just let the paint dry all the way first!)
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All Things New Again is a family-owned furniture and paint boutique in Leesburg, Virginia (about an hour or so west of Washington, D.C.) We offer our own eclectic brand of painted furniture and several lines of paint for your next DIY project, and painting classes and workshops.
Please stop by the next time you are in town!
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Learn How to Paint Furniture Class
Click here for details about our class and a link to sign up.
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This post is linking up with:
Friday’s Furniture Fix #96
Go check out some of the best furniture makeovers on the Internet!
18 thoughts on “3 Big Mistakes Beginner Furniture Painters Make–And How To Fix Them”
This was very helpful, I am the one with the brush completely dipped in the paint bucket and complaining about the results!! 🙂
Thank you! I really had to train myself that less paint is better. It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? 🙂 ~Courtney
100%, It’s hard learning new habits, but you have to 🙂
Thx Courtney, maybe sometime soon I can come try xo
Hi Sue! Thanks for reading the blog this week. Stop by and see us soon. <3
Three very wise tips Courtney. I am guilty of all three. Today… cause I’m in such a rush to finish the dresser. Thanks for the reminder to slow down!!
Thank you Mary! I’m guilty too. I think I wrote this to remind myself as much as anybody else! 🙂 Good luck with your dresser. I’m sure it will be BEAUTIFUL when you are finished with it! ~Courtney
I really wish we weren’t thousands of miles apart. I’d love to attend a class or two! Thanks for this great post.
Thank you Betty! Take a road trip to Virginia! Wouldn’t that be fun? 🙂 ~Courtney
Thank you I found this very helpful
Thank you Linda!
I loved your advice and encouragement Courtney! xx
Thank you Kate! <3
How do you guys feel about rollers (small and foam) vs the normal paintbrush? I’ve experimented with both and found for different types of materials/prior top coats one sometimes works better than the other.
Hi Maggie! I use both. I think the small foam rollers are a great option, especially for top coats or painting large surfaces like the tops of long dressers. You don’t see brush strokes with them! Dixie Belle Paint Co. recently came out with these new blue sponges. You hold them in your hand and dip into the top coat and apply. We sell them at our shop and you can find them on Dixie Belle’s website. I haven’t tried the sponges to apply paint yet, but they are awesome for applying top coats. I think they are even easier to use than a roller and leave a very nice, smooth finish. ~Courtney
What a great post! I so agree that it’s in the “messing up” that we actually become good at what we do. The more the experience, the more the success!! Love how your pieces turned out!
Thank you Michele! It can get frustrating when it doesn’t turn out as originally planned … but if you keep going, it always looks pretty in the end! Thanks for stopping by… 🙂 Courtney