Hi there! Welcome back to DIY Week at Flawed yet Functional! As I showed on Monday, I am one step closer to a finished master bedroom refresh by painting the nightstands next to our bed. Today I’d like to take that a step further for those of you interested in spray painting by showing you how to spray paint wood furniture like a pro.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links which just means if you purchase from the links provided, I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you! At Flawed yet Functional, I only reference products that have real value that I actually use.
Invest in the Right Tools
First off, every DIY project requires tools. A spray paint gun is necessary for a smooth, professional finish; however, some can be quite pricey. There are less expensive options out there though, and I would like to show you one of them today. As with all inexpensive options, there are limitations and drawbacks, which I will point out. However, you can get a great finish for any small furniture painting project with these few tools.
- Pancake air compressor
- Critter spray gun
- Quality paint
- Stain blocking primer
- Sandpaper (120, 220, 800 grit)
- Tack cloth
- Wet/dry vacuum
- Painter tripods
- Dropcloths (canvas, disposable)
There are many tutorials out there claiming to give you a smooth professional finish with a specific kind of paint while still using a paintbrush and roller. In my experience, a paintbrush and roller can never give you a perfectly smooth finish. You need a paint sprayer. I have used two different paint sprayers one high-end and one much more economical. There’s definitely a difference between the two. However, if you are only looking to do small surface areas like nightstands, and tables, mirrors, or chairs then the Critter spray gun is a worthwhile investment. If you are looking to paint the trim in your whole house, or tackle a larger piece of furniture or cabinetry, invest or rent a professional sprayer. Your arm muscles will thank you!
Now that you’re set up with proper tools, let’s learn how to spray paint wood furniture like a pro!
Set Up a Spray Paint Station
First things first, set up a spray paint station that will protect your project from wind and dust. Use a canvas drop cloth to protect the floor. Drape and tape disposable drop cloths behind the work area to protect the area around the spray zone. I like to spray paint in my garage. It’s not totally wind/dust-free but it’s as good as I can do.
Always Sand and Clean
Don’t believe those “no sanding” tutorials and paints. If you want your project to look smooth and professional, you need to sand.
Sanding isn’t a difficult process, but it can be time-consuming. Begin with the lowest grit (coarsest, 120 or so) sandpaper to rough the whole surface up. Then use a higher grit (smoother, usually 220) to smooth out the whole piece. Reserve the highest grit, 800, or steel wool for sanding between coats. (Enlist willing helpers if you can!)
Make sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain so as to not scratch the wood.
Use a shop vac to remove the biggest piles of dust then make the piece perfectly clean with a wipe of a tack cloth.
Use Primer Before Painting
How to spray paint wood furniture like a pro always begins with the proper base: primer. Primer is not a marketing sham. It is a legitimate product that will help your furniture last longer and look better once painted. Depending on your furniture piece and its intended use, you may want a stain-fighting primer or even an oil-based one.
Oil-based primer is the strongest, most durable option, but is also the hardest to apply and clean-up. If your furniture is getting light to moderate use, go for a water-based primer. However, if you are painting kitchen cabinets that have seen grease and food stains, an oil-based primer would be the best option.
Apply primer with the spray gun or with brush and roller. Since primer sands smooth very easily, I usually apply primer with a brush and roller to save one time of cleaning the spray gun.
Sand In Between Every Coat
A smooth coat of paint cannot happen over a lumpy coat of primer. You must lightly sand in between each coat of primer or paint.
Use an 800 grit sandpaper or #0000 steel wool to lightly sand away any bumps, air pockets, or uneven application. Completely remove all dust and dirt with a tack cloth before proceeding with the next coat.
Apply First Coat of Paint Using Critter Spray Gun
The key to a professional paint job is a smooth, even coat of paint. No amount of additives or self-leveling qualities in paint compare with applying paint by using a spray gun. So if you want a truly smooth, brush stroke-free finish, invest in a paint sprayer.
Paint sprayers can be expensive, but if you primarily do small projects around the house, the Critter spray gun is more than adequate. I have used it to spray our buffet, and when I got to the back, a 3’x5’ area, I found the spray gun to be too small. However, for the cabinet doors and my most recent nightstand project, this handy dandy spray gun was perfect.
Tips for Using the Critter Spray Gun
Filter the Paint
It is very annoying to clog the straw or have dust particles spray onto your perfect paint job. Do the extra step and filter the paint as you pour it in.
Also, don’t be like me. I knew to filter the paint but chose to skip this step on the first coat. Bad idea. I had to stop to unclog the straw within a few minutes.
Test Spray First
Before beginning to spray the piece of furniture, spray into a box or spare piece of wood. The pressure from the air compressor and height of the fluid tip at the top of the straw will likely need adjusting. If the paint is over spraying or splattering, decrease pressure from the air compressor or decrease fluid tip height. I kept my air compressor at 80 psi and my fluid tip just under halfway up the air nozzle.
Keep Spray Gun Upright
Well, keep it upright as much as possible. Remember that the bottom of the straw needs to be in the paint, so you’ve got limited ability to tilt the sprayer. Listen to the spray if you do need to tilt the gun and watch the flow when you return it upright. You may find a lag in coverage as the straw refills.
Keep a Steady Hand While Painting
For the best, even coat the spray gun must stay the same distance from the object the entire time painting. Practice in the cardboard box or on scrap wood before beginning to paint. Practice a smooth, even back and forth motion until you are able to coat the wood without striping the paint.
Clean Parts Thoroughly
Build-up can happen if the parts are not completely cleaned after each use. While you can store paint in the glass jar if you screw a lid on tight, never store the paint with the gun handle still attached to the jar. Clean all the pieces every time when you finish.
How to spray paint wood furniture like a pro means treating your tools like a pro too. Take good care of them. Always clean them after every application. I clean the parts with soap and water then run a bit of mineral spirits through the gun to make sure it is completely clean.
Overlap Spray Lines by Half
The spray swath is quite narrow for this sprayer which is why I only recommend it for small projects. The room for error is very small. Keep the gun the same distance from the piece as you go back and forth, then make sure to overlap each line by half of the following line. This will allow for a smooth, even finished surface.
Apply Second Coat of Paint Using a Spray Gun
Check the paint can for the recommended time to recoat for your specific paint. I used Sherwin Williams Pro Classic on my bedroom nightstands which had a 4 hour dry time before recoating. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. They created it, and they know best! When painting my kitchen cabinets, I used Benjamin Moore’s Advanced which had a crazy long recoat time, 16 hours! It took FOREVER to finish that paint job!
Once the allotted time has passed, sand with an 800 grit sandpaper, clean thoroughly with a tack cloth then break out the spray gun for the second coat of paint!
Allow Sufficient Dry and Curing Time
We do not use air conditioning in our home. I know, we are weirdos! So in the summertime, I have to watch the humidity outside and account for that in my drying and curing time for my projects. The higher the humidity, the longer the cure time. In my experience, I err on the side of a long cure time because I don’t want all my hard work to get ruined by bumping the wall as I move the furniture around or as a child runs a toy over the top.
Always check the manufacturer’s directions to see what they recommend figure. As a rule of thumb, I give each project a week of curing before I put it back in the house. Like I mentioned with Benjamin Moore’s Advanced line, the cure time may be much longer.
A professional finish on painted furniture is possible when working on a budget. Invest in the right tools, and take care of them so you can use them over and over in any project you choose around your house. An air compressor, a Critter spray gun, and a can of paint are really all you need to revive an old piece of furniture and bring new life to your furniture. Learn how to spray paint wood furniture to create a cohesive home you love, even if your furniture is used!