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8/26 Best Paint for Furniture

Monday French Country Crafts

· French Country Craft,French Country Decor,Country French Decor

When I say that there are a million blogs about how to paint furniture and the proper paints to use in painting furniture - I'm not kidding.

This can be extremely overwhelming. Because I've been refinishing antique furniture for over 30 years, I know all about the types of paint to use, how to refinish furniture and a lot of the different finishes that can be used.

However we're only going to be talking PAINT today.

These are the different types of paint we're going to look at.

Latex Paint


  • It’s the least expensive option for painting furniture.
  • It’s tintable to pretty much any color you can imagine.  If you don’t love any of the paint swatches, you can bring in a paint swatch from another company, or have the store color match it to an item you bring in.  Yes, you can paint a dresser to match the color of your favorite shirt!
  • It comes in many different sheens (flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, gloss) which allows you to choose the amount of shine you’d like on your piece.
  • The glossier sheens (satin, semi-gloss, gloss) don’t really need a top coat.


  • You definitely need to prep your furniture piece well before painting.  I would recommend sanding and priming with a good, strong primer (this one is my favorite primer for furniture!) which is time consuming.  Here’s an entire post devoted to priming furniture before painting.
  • The finish never seems as durable to me as I’d like.  I often find pieces at thrift stores and garage sales that have been painted with latex paint and they are peeling, chipping, and scratching like crazy.  Now, this could be a result of poor preparation, but either way, it’s important to note that latex paint requires correct preparation.

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is really cool stuff and can be used over anything without primer. Nice right? The one draw back is that you HAVE to apply a protective layer – either a wax or polyurethane. 

I wouldn't suggest using polyurethane because it does yellow regardless of what the label reads.

Valspar Chalk Paint

What is especially unique about the Valspar Chalky Finish Paint is it can be tinted into ANY color from their rack or one you want to match.

If you decide to try this paint on your next piece of furniture, then you'll need the following:


  • Prep work really is minimal.  I always sand anything I’m painting, but chalk paint really does stick well even to glossy finishes.
  • It dries really quickly, allowing you to re-coat sometimes in an hour or so.
  • It’s very easy to distress, so if you’re looking for a shabby-chic look, chalk paint is great.
  • It really is silky smooth to the touch once it has dried.


  • It dries very quickly, which means that brush strokes show up more more easily.  Keep reading for my tricks on how to help with this.
  • It’s thicker than other types of paint, almost too thick for my liking.
  • I’ve read you don’t need to add a top coat, but I’ve found that if I don’t use a top coat, it distresses, in other words, it can be scratched off, too easily.


  • I always sand all of my furniture pieces, and I would recommend doing the same, even with chalk paint.
  • I’ve found that if I add water to the paint (at about a 5%-10% ratio) it’s the perfect thickness.
  • In order to avoid brush marks, leave the paint alone once you’ve painted it on.  Sometimes, it’s tempting to go back to a spot that’s already been painted to perfect it.  Don’t do it with chalk paint!  It dries quickly, and if you go back, you’ll feel your brush dragging through the paint, and it will leave more brush strokes than were there before.

This dresser shows Chalk Paint layered.

Milk Paint

Overview: Milk paint is an all-natural paint made with, you guessed it, milk protein! It’s been used for centuries and creates a natural, old-world look. Milk paint is known for creating a chippy look, but it actually is fairly versatile and can be used to create different finishes.


  • It’s made with all-natural ingredients (from the earth, not scientists!) with no VOCs or chemicals.
  • It comes in a powder form, so you only mix up the amount you plan to use.
  • You can add a bonding agent to the paint that ensures it will adhere to furniture that has already been finished.
  • It penetrates the pores of unfinished wood.  If you strip a piece of furniture or find an unfinished piece, milk paint won’t just sit on the surface, it will actually penetrate the wood.  It gives a beautiful look!


  • It can be a tad bit unpredictable if you’re applying it without the bonding agent on pre-finished wood.  It’s difficult to know just how much it will chip until you actually apply it.
  • It may chip more over time if the bonding agent is not used.  Now, this creates a time-worn look that mimics the look of antique furniture (because milk paint was used to paint a lot of those pieces!), but when I’m selling those pieces, it makes me a little nervous.  If you apply additional wax or topcoats it will slow down the chipping, but I always feel bad telling customers that they’ll need to upkeep the finish or the paint will continue to chip.
  • After it’s mixed, you need to use it.  There’s no storing the paint on the shelf to touch up the piece in a couple of months.  Remember, it’s made of milk protein…  You’ll have a smelly, sour milk mess if you try to keep it.


  • If the thought of chippy paint scares you, use the bonding agent.  You can apply less than the suggested amount and you might get a little bit of chipping.  But then again, you might not.  (Remember, it’s unpredictable!)  If you apply the suggested amount of bonding agent and sand your piece, you won’t have any chipping.
  • I always sand pieces before I paint, but especially if I plan to use milk paint without the bonding agent.  I’ve found that if I don’t sand and don’t use the bonding agent, the paint does not adhere.  The paint sticks to the places you sand more.  If you miss a spot, you’ll see chipping in that area (without the bonding agent).


I love using milk paint to make washes for unfinished wood. By adding extra water when I mix the paint, it shows off the grain of the wood beautifully. Milk paint is also my go-to paint for antique furniture pieces. If I know a piece is 100 years old or more, I love to use a paint that would have actually been used back then!

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