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What Is the Best Paint For Furniture?

Revamp a headboard, buffet or Adirondack chair into a colorful work of art. With the right furniture paint, anything is possible.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Painting A ChairGuido Mieth/Getty Images

What Is the Best Paint for Furniture?

There’s a creative and simple way to revamp and renew your home décor: Paint a piece of furniture! Let’s walk through choosing the right paint first, because if you get that wrong you probably won’t be happy in the end.

There are two main types of furniture paint: Alkyd (oil-based) and latex/acrylic (water-based).

Oil-based

  • Offers good staying power;
  • Dries to a hard finish;
  • Ideal for metal;
  • Takes longer to dry;
  • May yellow with age;
  • Contains solvents harmful to the environment.

Water-based

  • Best for wood;
  • Needs priming first,
  • Easy to apply;
  • Less durable;
  • Dries quickly;
  • Low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Things to consider when choosing furniture paint

Surface

Is the furniture you’re painting made of wood, metal or laminate? This is the number one consideration when determining which type of paint to buy.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Use

For indoor furniture, latex or oil-based paints work well and there are plenty of color options available.

When working with patio or bathroom furniture, where humidity is often an issue, Mulholland Works, Inc. owner Shawn Mulholland recommends prepping any mold- and mildew-infested surface by washing with a solution of bleach (20 percent) and water (80 percent). After an adequate dry time, lightly sand and prime if needed.

Mulholland also suggests choosing paint with a mold-resistant additive. “Mildewcide will aid in preventing mold and mildew from returning in the future,” he says.

Sheen

Both oil- and water-based paints offer matte (flat), satin, semi-gloss and gloss finishes. Flat finishes aren’t as washable, making them less than ideal for high-use furniture. If you do decide to opt for a matte paint (see chalk paint below), adding a low-sheen protective topcoat will greatly improve the durability and lifespan of your piece.

Pro tip: The glossier the paint, the easier it is to clean.

Application Method

  • Brush: Creates a hand-painted, textured effect. Best for precise or detailed painting.
  • Roller: Less time-consuming and ideal for painting furniture with large, flat surfaces such as cabinet doors, tabletops and benches.
  • Spray: Delivers even coverage without brushstrokes. Easier to apply on furniture with spindles, rungs, etc.

Cost

There’s little doubt that investing in a higher quality paint pays off. Premium brands go on smoother, cover surfaces better (requiring fewer coats) and excel in hiding surface imperfections when compared to lower quality paints.

A quart of water-based acrylic paint will run you from $15 to $30. For oil-based enamel paint, expect to pay between $20 to $40 per quart.

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Best All-Purpose Furniture Paint

Majic Paints DiamondHard RePurpose Enamel is perfect for any piece of furniture because it sticks to virtually everything — metal, PVC, plastic, masonry, brick, glass, tile, vinyl and more. DiamondHard is also easy to apply, leaves a smooth, satin finish, works indoors and out and is available in 10 gorgeous colors. Plus, it does it all without sanding or priming. Amazing!

Fun Fact: DiamondHard RePurpose Enamel was used to paint the Big Bat project at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. How cool is that?

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Best All-Around Oil-Based Paint for Furniture

Rust-Oleum’s Stops Rust Protective Enamel Paint is the brush-on version of the company’s classic spray enamel, oil-based formula. It creates a protective coating to make tables, cabinets and end tables look new again.

A quart covers up to 90 sq. ft. and takes two to four hours to dry on any surface, from wood to metal. Durable and hard as nails, it combats fading, chipping, dings and abrasions while delivering long-lasting rust-prevention.

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Best Paint for Outdoor Furniture

Valspar Duramax Exterior Paint and Primer bonds and primes in a single step and provides an excellent shield against weather, UV rays and nasty mold and mildew. This paint also resists cracking and peeling, can be applied by brush, roller or airless sprayer, and cleans up with soap and water.

One Lowe’s reviewer loved how it performed, writing, “This paint is wonderful. It covers great and does not run. I painted beehive boxes and was impressed by the low odor. Bees are very sensitive to smell and there was no problem.”

Duramax comes in a tintable base to render a protective and decorative coating that will turn your outdoor furniture into backyard masterpieces.

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Best Spray Paint for Furniture

Promising a satiny smooth finish and supreme indoor/outdoor rust protection, Krylon COLORmaxx Spray Paint and Primer delivers outstanding coverage for multiple home improvement and craft projects.

Much more forgiving than many brush-ons, Krylon is formulated for use on wood, metal, wicker, plastic, canvas, foam and more. The big aerosol applicator tip gives painters the flexibility to spray at just about any angle for fast and precise coverage. It leaves behind a robust, hard finish that can withstand rough-and-tumble use.

A trusted producer of spray coatings since 1947, Krylon COLORmaxx offers various bright, brilliant hues to help you restore, refresh and recolor any furniture painting project.

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Best Chalk Paint for Furniture

To add a distressed, homespun vibe to bare or finished vintage furniture, Rust-Oleum Ultra Matte Interior Chalked Paint is a beautiful and versatile choice.

Made from calcium carbonate, talc and pigment, this chalk paint offers high adhesion to most surfaces — wood, metal, glass, ceramic, laminate and canvas. It requires little prep time or priming. Applied by brush, roller or sprayer, this product offers excellent coverage in one or two coats, max.

This chalk paint also dries quickly and sands easily to create that popular lived-in look. And it’s available in lots of trending colors to create a one-of-a-kind piece that could become a family heirloom.

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Best Milk Paint for Furniture

Often confused with chalk paint, what makes Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint different is the way it absorbs into the surface of unfinished wood, making it unlikely to chip or peel. It contains five simple, natural ingredients: milk protein (casein), limestone, clay, chalk and pigments. It’s ideal for color-washing porous wood surfaces, plaster and drywall.

Lending a less opaque quality to furniture, Miss Mustard Seed milk paint delivers a subtle depth and blush of color (not unlike stain) that lets the natural wood grain peek through. It’s available in powder form so you can mix, with equal parts water, as much as you need for the painting task at hand. Once it’s blended, it stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Toni DeBella
Toni DeBella is a freelance travel, lifestyle and digital content writer based in a medieval hill town in central Italy. Her work has been featured in such publications as Fodor's, The Telegraph, Walks of Italy, Italy Magazine, Frommers.com, Touring Bird (via [email protected]) and more. Most recently she authored the 2020 edition of DK Eyewitness Sicily travel guide. When Toni is not roaming around Europe, you'll find her tending her alley-side container garden or honing her clay-court tennis game.