How to Spray Paint Furniture

So you have an awesome piece of furniture that needs a serious makeover. And you are just itching to grab a can of spray paint and go at it! But you’re not so sure if spray paint is right for your piece of furniture? Well, Jen is here in Part 3 of her “How to Paint Furniture Series” {see Part 1: Prepping and Part 2: Distressing} and teaches us when to use spray paint and how to spray paint furniture! Jen is a pro at painting furniture and a fab addition to our Creative Team!

how to paint furniture

Today we’re talking about spray painting furniture.  I should probably mention right off the bat that I’m not a huge fan of spray painting furniture in most situations, and I’ll get to why in a minute, but if you’re like me and don’t own a paint sprayer, there are definitely times when it’s actually a better option than a brush.  So today is all about when spray paint is best and some basic tips to make sure you get a beautiful finished piece.

How to Spray Paint Furniture

how to spray paint furniture

A while back, a friend offered me this cute spindly table that she was getting rid of (the beauty of friends knowing you’re sort of a hoarder).

When to use Spray Paint on Furniture

furniture makeover

I knew it would be perfect for a nightstand for my daughter’s room that I’ve been working on for about a year, and while it may seem a little odd for furniture, I knew this was going gold–I have a slightly unhealthy obsession.   This is the PERFECT type of furniture to spray paint.  Why?

-It’s small.  I almost NEVER spray paint large furniture pieces because it can be difficult to get an even finish when you’re going back and forth over the piece with a spray can.

-It has tons of spindles and nooks and crannies.  Trying to paint all of those spindles with a brush is a NIGHTMARE and can end up in a brush stroke mess.  Spray paint gets right in there with no problem, in no time flat.  I actually made an exception to my “no big pieces” rule with a bright pink armoire for my daughter, because of the nook and cranny issue.

pink armoire

-The gold factor.  Metallics are the one instance where I think it’s actually easier to get an even looking finish because metallic paint + a roller or brush, well… just use your imagination on that one.

So, HOW to spray paint.  Clean and sand the piece (you can find instructions here).  When spray painting,  I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, prime!  In my experience, you just get a harder, more even finish with spray paint when you do.  You can find spray paint primer in grey and white, so as we discussed in Part 1, use the color primer that’s appropriate for the paint color you’ve chosen.  In this instance, I probably could have gone with either color, but I chose white.  Oh, and I recommend painting in a MUCH cleaner space than mine!  We’re still recovering from renovation aftermath at my house.

how to spray paint

You’ll notice above, I also removed the other two shelves from the table.  The more pieces you can disassemble the furniture into, the better.  Avoiding reaching in between things, like shelves, is key to avoiding dripping and, again, the uneven finish.

Next comes paint.  It really is as easy as the instructions on the can: hold the can about 6 inches away from the surface, and spray in a back and forth motion.  You should start and end each stroke OFF the surface of the furniture.  Also, the shorter the strokes, the better, so you want to go across the width of the piece, not the length as the direction of the arrows in the picture suggest.

arrow table

You’ll also notice that there are still some white spots peeking through.  This is after one coat.  I am like thee most impatient person on the planet, so it takes every ounce of willpower to not just keep painting until it’s all covered.  LET EACH COAT DRY!  THOROUGHLY! Spray paint also tends to leave dust, so in between each coat, I suggest wiping the surface down, letting it dry, then doing the second coat.  Believe me, you don’t want to see what happens when you spray over a little pile of dust.  And fixing it means sanding everything down again.  Just trust me.

Really, that’s it.  So let’s quickly review:

-Clean & Sand


-Paint in thin coats with a wipe down in between each coat.

Now, in the spirit of full-disclosure, this is what I mean by the “unpredictable finish” thing.  I prepped everything, but on some furniture, there are just spots that pick up the paint differently than others, so the finish on the top of this table is actually pretty rough and uneven.  I ended up leaving it alone since it will be hidden by what’s sitting on top of the table, but this isn’t the only time I’ve had it happen.  Consider yourself warned on this downside of spray paint.

spray painting tips

While we’re on the subject of downsides, here are my others:

-I actually think spray paint is more expensive.  It’s rare that a piece takes less than 2 cans of paint and primer each (this one took 1 can of primer and 1 can plus a teeny bit of a second one), and at $3-$4 a piece, spraying an entire piece can get pricey.  I can paint most medium sized pieces of furniture with a $3.00 sample of paint and have some to spare.

-Color choices are extremely limited.  A lot of companies are getting better about coming up with a wider variety of more current colors, but I find that most of the time, the colors just aren’t what I’m looking for and, unfortunately, you can’t custom color match spray paint like you can latex.

-Spray paint, in my experience, does not distress well.  I find that the finish seems to be somewhere between latex and oil based and forms a pretty hard bond to furniture which makes it difficult and leaves a lot of scratch marks from the sandpaper, which doesn’t look like natural distressing, so I would suggest not choosing spray paint if you’re planning on distressing your furniture.

gold tableThere you have spray painting in a nutshell.  Happy painting!


Jenn Menteer

Jenn Menteer

Jenn Menteer

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  1. 1

    Thanks for the article! I was debating whether to spray or brush a piece and you helped make my decision! Your table looks great- as well as that beautiful armoire!

  2. 3

    Really good tutorial. You definitely covered all the details. Thanks!

  3. 4

    Great tips Jen!! I think my problem is not waiting long enough between coats. I can’t help it, I’m an instant gratification girl. Ugh!!

  4. 5

    Thanks for the honest opinions Jen. :) I have always found using spray paint to be more difficult and just as if not more expensive so I was curious to see your take. I do agree though that spindly pieces are hard to paint with a brush without getting clumpy/stroked areas!

  5. 6

    Thank you for the write up! :~) What do you suggest for a dinning set? The base of the table and the backs of the chairs have a lot of detail, so it makes me lean towards spray paint….but it’s a 7′ long table and an uneven finish on the top would be unattractive…it is advisable to combine the use of spray paint and regular paint on one project? I’m wanting it to be just solid black and then plan on recovering the chair seats in a really colorful pattern. :~)

  6. 7
    Shane Painter

    What an excellent piece on rehabiliating old furniture, the older furniture is is usually built so much better and many people throw it out without a thought to spray painting or painting it,

  7. 8

    I liked the gold,very impressive.

  8. 9

    I’m doing some research on painting.Thank you so much in making me want to finally decorate my home how i visioned it. I just came in from doing my first project. I want to paint my daughters small bookshelf in grape purple, so i primed it first. Is it normal to finish a WHOLE can of primer on a small bookshelf or did i go overboard?