Best Paint For Wood Furniture

There is nothing more satisfying than upcycling an old piece of furniture, whether that is something you have owned for years, or have just acquired from a local yard sale. 

Whilst you might have the sanding paper and a can of paint ready, where exactly do you start? This is especially true if you realize that the paint you have decided to use might not be suitable for the job.

Fortunately, we have put together a few suggestions to help you get the project finished. Not all paint is created equal when it comes to using it on furniture, because you will need it to be durable. 

Also, you need to consider whether you need to sand the wood, or paint straight over the old paint and varnish – it can be done with the right paint!

With all this in mind, take a look below at our top 5 paint for wood furniture. Hopefully you will find something to use. And why not use our handy buyer’s guide for information and inspiration too?

Let’s get to it!

Country Chic Chalk Style Paint

Chalk Style Paint - For Furniture, Home Decor, Crafts - Eco-Friendly - All-In-One - No Wax Needed (Midnight Sky [indigo blue], Pint (16 oz))

If you are looking to minimize any prep work, then chalk paint is going to be your best friend. Firstly, it applies smoothly and can be used on wood that has not been sanded first, minimizing initial prep work. 

Not only that, chalk paint provides a matte finish, or it can be further worked on with something like a brush or a cloth to create a distressed look to the finish.

The Country Chic brand is known for their eco-friendly products. Unlike some of their competitors, they have absolutely no chemicals such as formaldehyde or phthalates included in their formulas, and have an ultra low VOC (volatile organic compounds which are harmful to humans).

The Country Chic chalk paint is able to dry within 30 minutes. This means that it can be manipulated via a cloth to cause it to look distressed, or if not, it can be left as is for a wonderful matte color.

You can also blend other colors from the range to create something completely unique to use. This makes painting with the chalk paint so much fun. 

However, you will need to buy something to topcoat it such as wax. So despite it being quick to use, unless you want to find chalk marks on your furniture or carpet, you will need to seal it in. 


  • Very easy to use
  • Produces a beautiful color
  • Each tin (or jar) is enough for most projects
  • Eco-friendly


  • Needs a topcoat as the chalk can rub off onto stuff

Rust-Oleum Milk Paint Finish

Rust-Oleum 331052 Milk Paint Finish, Quart, Eclipse 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)

It gives a beautiful brushed finish, and can bond to most surfaces making it ideal for those who have varnished wooden furniture. Milk paint is a type of paint that can easily bond to a varnished surface, so it means no sanding is required.

The finish is matte with a light texture, and you can build the color up by using more than one layer – however, you may need a couple or so cans for that. In fact, the first layer will be semi-transparent, so building the color may be necessary for some projects.

Just like with the chalk paint, you can distress it once it is dry. So basically, if you want a different alternative to chalk paint, especially if you have pre-treated and varnished wood, then milk paint is a good choice to go for. 

Drying time takes about one hour, which means after that time you can paint another coat, and then another, all depending on the desired finish you are after. 


  • No chalk finish, but you can distress it like chalk
  • Can be used on top of varnished wood
  • No need for any wood prep like sanding
  • Buildable coverage


  • First layer is semi-transparent, so on dark wood will need extra coats

Majic Paints Interior And Exterior Satin Paint

Majic PAINTS Interior/Exterior Satin Enamel,Acrylic Paint, RePurpose your Furniture, Cabinets, Glass, Metal, Tile, Wood and More, White, 1-Quart ​, 32 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)

The Majic Paints Silk Paint is even more versatile. 

It can also be used without any prep to the wood, so no sanding or primer needed. Not only that, it can stick to a whole plethora of different surfaces from wood and glass, to metal and brick. Whilst you may not need it for that, the options are there.

Made from acrylic satin, it is a little more toxic than the others, so bear this in mind if you are planning to paint a lot. It can cause skin reactions, so do think about wearing the right clothing, and maybe even a mask if you are using it all day.

And just like the milk paint, you can use it over varnished wood. This means you have another choice when it comes to not wanting to sand away the varnish off a prized piece of furniture. 

The finish is wonderful on wood, and gives it a very smooth overall finish. Also, you can use it on both indoor and outdoor projects, making it extra versatile.


  • Can be used both indoors and outdoors making it extra versatile
  • Gives a smooth satin finish
  • Works on so many surfaces from wood and brick, to metal and glass
  • One or two coats is all you need
  • Can be painted over varnish
  • No prep needed – no sanding or primer


  • Can cause reactions to the skin, so be safe

Rust-Oleum Brush On Latex Paint

Rust-Oleum Brush On Acrylic Paint 1980502 Painters Touch Quart Latex, Flat Gray Primer, 1 (Pack of 1), 32 Fl Oz

The Rust-Oleum latex paint can be used for a variety of projects both in the home and outdoors. Whilst you are looking for paint to use on wood, if any paint is left, you could use it elsewhere.

The latex paint is great to use on furniture and will leave a glossy finish. Due to it being an acrylic and water-based formula, it can resist scratches, and provides the wood with all-round protection.

Not only that, the paint itself is low odor. It can be terrible to paint and then have the odor from it take over a room for a few days. You will not have this here with the Rust-Oleum latex paint.

However, for those who don’t want to prep the wood first, move on. Unfortunately, you will need to prep the wood first, and this includes sanding and removing any old paint and varnish. The surface will then need to be cleaned and dried before the paint can be applied.


  • Can be used both indoors and outdoors
  • Gives a wonderfully glossy finish
  • Will not scratch over time
  • Is relatively odor free
  • Easy to apply


  • Will need prep which includes sanding and cleaning

Retique It By Renaissance Chalk Paint

Retique It Chalk Furniture Acrylic Paint by Renaissance DIY, 32 oz (Quart), 32 Fl Oz, White

We’re back to chalk paint again. Why? Because it is a really good option when it comes to painting wood furniture if you are looking to do minimal prep work to the wood. The difference between the Retique It by Renaissance and the Country Chic chalk paint is the amount of colors available.

However, like all chalk paint, you can mix and match to make your own colors. This is also useful if you can’t find the exact color you want to use.

The finishing will either be matte which you can go on to distress if you would like, or you can use a wax to give it a more silky and smooth finish. This will also seal the color in.

It is low odor, and is also low VOC (volatile organic compounds). Not only that, you can use it both indoors and outdoors, making it a pretty versatile paint. 

All of the paint is made in the USA, and it cleans up very easily with soap and water, so don’t worry about accidentally getting some on your clothes. It is also said to be hypoallergenic, so shouldn’t cause a reaction. However, always do a test first!

Not only that, because it is chalk paint, it can be used on a variety of different surfaces, so if you have any left, you can also paint something else. 


  • A quick drying time of 30 minutes
  • Safe to use both indoors and outdoors
  • Little prep required – just clean the wood
  • Lots of colors to choose from
  • Made in the USA


  • Will need a topcoat to secure the chalky paint in

Buyer’s Guide

Now that you have taken a look at the top 5 paints to use for wooden furniture, it is time to have a gander at our buyer’s guide. 

In it you will find focused information on what to look for when it comes to furniture paint to help you on your way to finding the right one for you and your project.


When we decide to upcycle some old furniture, we think about the desired look, rather than what paint will actually work on its surface. You might be surprised to find out that chalk paint, which is commonly used on furniture, can stick to most surfaces.

Well, not every surface, but when it comes to the wooden furniture, it can be difficult to beat. This is because it can go straight onto the furniture, whether it has been painted, or even sometimes varnished.

Before you decide that all chalk paint is amazing, do your research first. Just because one might be able to paint over a stain or paint, another one might not. 

There is nothing worse than wasting time and money because research wasn’t done in the first place, so don’t make the mistake!


Not all paint has the same finish, so before you buy, make sure you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. For example, most chalk paints provide a matte finish, but there are furniture friendly paints which provide a glossy finish.

However, when it comes to chalk paint, you also might want to include a top coat to seal in the paint. Again, make sure the finished look is exactly what you were expecting. If not, you will have to paint it again – argh!

Prep Work

This is going to be music to your ears. Most furniture paint doesn’t require any prep. Yeah, you heard that right.

Most furniture paint doesn’t need you to sand or prime, which can save a lot of time. In fact, there are paints that work wonderfully over varnish. This is useful if you don’t want to take some sandpaper to a lovely piece of furniture – perhaps it’s an heirloom.

However, you might want to prep the wood first, which would mean sanding any residue from old paint and varnish, and use a primer to give it a white base to work on. This is true with latex paint which is easy to apply to wood, but you must put in the prep time first.

Though if what you are doing is a quick project, don’t feel ashamed to be excited about skipping this step. 

Odor Free

Paint can seriously smell up a room, and it is never nice, especially if you suffer with respiratory issues. Fortunately, something like chalk paint has little to no odor.

This makes it suitable to paint and have in the room to dry – which, by the way, should only take 30 minutes. 

Not all paint used for furniture is odor free, so do your research first. It might be best not to expect it to be odor free, and then you can be utterly surprised when it actually is.

Distressed Look

You might remember when the distressed look was all the rage. Whilst its popularity has waned in interior design magazines, it still just looks as good today.

All chalk paint, and even milk paint, are great options if you want to add that distressed look to pieces of your furniture. The latter can be painted over varnished surfaces too.

You also don’t have to do this to chalk paint. The matte finish is also what draws people into this type of paint, however, you do have the option if you feel like making your cabinet look a little vintage. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few common questions asked when it comes to paint for wooden furniture:

What Paint Should Be Used On Wooden Furniture?

Whilst you might want to immediately reach for the oil-based paint – stop! Whilst they are somewhat durable, the best will be either latex paint or chalk paint.

You will find that these two types of paint are great for painting wood, and will last a lot longer than an oil-based paint.

Can You Use A Type Of Regular Paint On Wooden Furniture?

Whilst regular paint is fine to use on wood generally, it shouldn’t be used on wooden furniture. This is because it is much less durable, and you may find painting with it a hassle.

For the best options, go for latex or chalk paint. These have been designed to be the most durable paint to use on wooden furniture.

How To Make Regular Paint Work On Wooden Furniture?

If you really want to use regular oil-based paint on furniture, you will need to prime the wood first. This includes both sanding and adding a white primer. 

It might be a labor of love, but also oh-so worth it. 

Is Chalk Paint Good To Use On Wooden Furniture?

Chalk paint is highly popular to use on wooden furniture because it can give an aged appearance, and is an easy one to distress. 

It also means you don’t have to prime or sand the wood, so it is perfect for those who are quite short on time. 

What Is So Good About Chalk Paint?

Whilst it does help to create a good finished look, and was at the forefront for the shabby chic trend, it also requires absolutely no prep to the wood before applying.

Whilst it can’t be used on laminate or metal, it can be used to cover most surfaces that are clean and dry. 

So, if you want to skip the step of sanding the wood, then why not consider using chalk paint?

Is There Paint I Can Use With No Sanding Needed?

If you really don’t want to sand wooden furniture then fear not, there is a solution. You can either choose chalk paint, or on the more expensive spectrum, mineral paint. You will need to apply a top coat, however.

Can You Paint Over Varnished Wood Without Having To Sand It First?

It is never recommended to try and paint over varnished wood. If you find that you really don’t want to sand the surface and keep it as is, you can always opt to use chalk paint.

There are also specialized bonding primers that will prepare the wood’s varnished surface to allow for painting without the need to sand. So, there are options!

Paul Brenner

I'm your guy for any type of electrical installation or plumbing repair. I'm a jack of all trades. You name it, I can do it. I've seen it all and I'm not scared.

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