Everything you Need to Know About Painting Wood

Everything you Need to Know About Painting Wood

Proper technique in painting wood helps you produce high satisfaction on your wooden projects. Otherwise, you would end up with those rough finishes or even bubbly paintings on your wood. Worst of all, you’d end up wasting your materials. To avoid it from happening, we’ve listed everything that you need to know about painting wood.

The methods involved in painting wood are all about accurate smoothening or sanding of its surface. Then, use a quality brush, rollers, sprayers, and paint to achieve the best results. The stroke that you do when painting wood is also a deciding factor. Finally, the seal and finish that you apply to protect your paint on the wood, depending on its surface and type.

Painting wood may sound like a simple and easy job, but there’s more to it. If perfection is your thing, then make sure to read further and know everything about wood painting. It takes some time to learn how to master the techniques of high-quality wood surface paint. You can turn yourself from an inexperienced weekend painter into a professional-quality painter in just a few hours.

How to Paint Wood?

Apart from walking and maybe riding a bike, you would think painting wood would be a near third in the “stuff that’s very easy to do.” As you set out to paint wood, you have a few options: do it well, or messily. Of course, you should always try to do your best to paint wood. To do it, here are the steps on how to paint wood beautifully.

Step 1 – Prepare Your Wood

Take the time to paint out the wood. It is perhaps the most neglected aspect of wood painting, but it’s the most critical in several cases. Your work is just as good as the canvas. The paint will not fill in the wood with cracks, dents, holes, or other imperfections and keep them hidden after it dries away. Such flaws are likely to be much more noticeable.

How Can You Prepare An Unpainted Surface?

When painting unpainted surfaces of wood, start by sanding its surface with 280 to 320 grit. Remember, it is a crucial step if you want to achieve smooth painting, and as a preparation for the first coating. Then, you can apply to paint thinner to remove sanded particles altogether. The lint-free cloth’s humidity will help you pick up all loose sand and achieve a smooth surface on the wood.

How To Remove Old Paint On The Wood?

If your wood has existing paint on it, it is also essential that you remove it before adding a new coat. Most newbies will not remove it, but it will only lead to ugly surfaces. You can start by using a putty knife to scrape away as much paint as you can. Don’t worry if you can’t get all those tiny parts because you can still sand leftover paints afterward. Take these notes with you when removing existing paint on wood. 

  • You should not use chemical strippers unless the current surface is an oil-based stain or a polish. Scrape off as much as possible and then use trisodium phosphate (TSP) solution to scrub the leftover loose paint and grime off. 
  • If the area has color or a finish on your wood, add TSP on the surface. Instead of attempting to remove the stain or finish, focus on cleaning and sanding. It will give the paint a porous surface to adhere.
  • It’s not always appropriate to stripe the color. You will also paint over existing coats. However, if the paint doesn’t adhere well to the previous layer, it may require a primer.

Step 2 – When Necessary, Fill In Dings And Deep Fouges With Wood Putty

Whenever you see dents, dings, and deep marks, apply wood putty to cover it up. Choose a lightweight knife for putty, and fill all areas that need care. Using too much in that step is better than not enough. Once it dries and hardens, you can sand down the area, so at this point, it doesn’t need to be great. To fill in small or shallow scratches, use a regular spackle or joint compound. Try to use spackle, which includes a primer. Then, wait to dry before sanding down entirely before sanding the affected area.

Step 3 – Sanding The Wood Surface 

After preparing your wood, you need more sanding. Start by sanding down the area where you used putty or filler before moving to another surface. Using fine-grade sandpaper sanding the wood with 80 to 100 grit sandpaper is your best option for this job. It makes sure that you can remove any paint or roughness left on the surface. 

Then, finish with fine 150-grit or higher to smooth out the surface and prepare it for priming. Remember to use wood grain to work the sandpaper, not against it, and keep power sanders moving. You can use several sanding tools like Random Orbital Sander, sheet sander, and a sanding block.

Each sanding tool has its pros and cons. For example, the Random Orbital Sander is the most powerful, but it requires sanding disks. On the other hand, sheet sanders are the cheapest and best on flat surfaces, but it is also the least efficient compared to their counterparts. Finally, the sanding block is very labor-intensive but perfect for finishing touches.

Step 4 – Clean Dust And Residue On The Wood

Removing dust and residue on the wood is essential because it would cause rough surfaces once you include it in your painting. If you have a vacuum, thoroughly vacuum off the wood, followed by a brush with a tack towel. When you have no vacuum, wipe the dust or dirt with a tack cloth and finish off with a damp cloth. Allow for the wood to dry out completely. Paint or prime do not correctly stick to dirty surfaces. Paint does its best when the surface to which you are applying is clean.

Step 5 – Tape Areas That You Don’t Want To Paint

If you want a wood section to stay unpainted, or put a different color, you’ll want to use tape to cover the wood sections. You can get specially treated tape made for latex paint at most hardware or home repair shops, such as Frog Tape. These tapes stick well to the wood to prevent paint seeping into the wood’s pores. 

Step 6 – Prime The Wood

Primer helps paint on top of the wood to achieve a uniform, vibrant look. Apply one coat to your end product for an even look. When priming increases the wood grain, consider sanding with fine-grit sandpaper before finishing with the priming coat. Be sure to brush away any residual dust before applying your priming paint.

You can use a grey primer for darker paint coats, while white primers are suitable for brighter coats of paint. Between the oil-based and latex-based primer, it is all about preference. Some professionals use an oil-based primer on wood and top it with latex-based color.

Oil-based priming adheres better to wood but is also less flexible than latex priming. It means that this type is more susceptible to cracking. On the other hand, the longer-lasting of the two is usually an oil-based primer. If you paint wood outdoors, your best option is an oil-based primer.

When it comes to applying, you can do it by brushing or spraying the primer. The latter is easier and faster, but it requires several coats for you to get good coverage. As a result, you may also end up spending more money on prime paints. On the other hand, brushing is quite slow but creates even layers of primer. 

Step 7 – Choose Quality Brushes

With all the hardships in preparing your wood, sanding, and priming, you can now start adding color to your wood. However, make sure that you choose quality brushes. Some people may feel tempted to use a foam brush for their designs, but it gives you less penetration than bristle brushes and more air bubbles. A high-quality bristle brush should blow out the water with a foam pad.

Being cheap with paint doesn’t help; any savings you get from choosing more inexpensive paint will get wasted when the paint is underperforming, so you need to purchase materials for a whole new project. Load paint into your paintbrush. Submerge about one-third of your paintbrush into the paint you have chosen.

Tap the paintbrush at the edge of the paint bucket, turn the paintbrush 180 degrees, and tap against the bucket on the other edge of the paintbrush. You will have a paintbrush wholly filled with just the right amount of paint for good coverage.

Step 8 – Choose The Right Paint For Your Wood

Pick the type of paint that is suitable for your project. Today, most home paint jobs are either latex or water-based paint. Apart from a couple of examples, it is usually the kind of color that you want to use in wood. Oil-based paint is a lasting coat that is good for heavily used items. It slowly dries, however, leaving fewer brush marks.

On the other hand, to slow down drying and reduce brush marks, you should apply Conditioner or Extender to the latex paint. Can you use metal paint on your wood? Find it out here.

Choosing the best kind of sheet for your paint also plays a crucial role. Sheen or some call it gloss, is the amount of light your paint reflects. When exposed to light, high-gloss paints appear to shine while matte paints absorb light and conceal imperfections. Look for sheen details when choosing a color, and buy accordingly. Here are some of the most common types of sheen.

  • Flat Sheen – It is a non-reflective finish good for concealing defects. More depth of color, and easier to reach
  • Matte – Reflective paints are easier to clean than flat but not as much.
  • Eggshell And Satin – It has more reflective features that appear differently depending on the fabricator.
  • Semi-Gloss And Gloss – It is the sheen with the most transparent and strongest appearance.

Step 9 – Paint It Smoothly

Start from the top of the wood with a loaded brush, and push down. Brush uniformly with slightly shorter strokes. Do this three to four times until entirely covered by one piece of your wood. Seek not to let the paint linger between coats for too long.

Using an empty brush to bring the paint tips through. This method is called tipping, which lets you get decent coverage while reducing the presence of brushstrokes. The brushstrokes flatten out as the paint dries, which is why it is essential to slow-dry the color.

Wait for the paint to dry out completely before repeating the cycle one or two times more. You will want to add more than one coat, depending on the color you are using and the finish you want to achieve. Run gently over the dry painted surface with fantastic sandpaper until the final coat of paint. It will offer a soft surface for your final coat to hold.

Painting Wood With A Brush

When painting with a brush, you mustn’t load too much paint on it. Then, brush with the grain and with complete strokes – from edge to edge. Brush in light strokes and one direction to eliminate the appearance of the brush. Two light paint coats are better than trying to save time by putting one heavy coat on.

You can prepare it by running water over it when you start painting with a dry brush. When you are using oil-based paint, use paint thinner. It will promote brush cleaning. Remember to reshape a brush while washing. Storing the brushes by hanging them, bristles down, when not in use, is helpful.

Painting Wood With A Roller

A roller is another tool that you can use to spread the paint. Smaller rollers are suitable when painting such items as furniture. An inexpensive roller creates problems. Invest in a roller coated in suitable material such as wool. A gentle brush eliminates noticeable marks on rollers.

Don’t feel tempted to use pressure to get the final roll paint off. Running a roller which is nearly dry, gently over the surface. However, it can reduce marks and help remove excess paint. To save time, properly storing a brush or roller will let you miss cleaning every day.

They will be kept moist by placing the brushes and rollers in a sealed plastic bag and putting the bags in the fridge. It is particularly useful when using oil-based paint, as cleaning is more complicated and time-consuming.

Painting Wood With A Spray

Spray painting provides an alternative to brush or roller. If you establish the correct technique, it prevents the presence of brush strokes and roller marks. It is a good idea for proper ventilation. Cleaning up too is better. You should use the right kind of paint. The painting that works on metal, for example, won’t work on wood. Exterior paint is a poor selection.

A satin or semi-gloss finish is an excellent option for wooden furnishings. A degree of gloss will make cleaning simpler. A flat paint reveals a bit of dirt and every mark. You don’t want to get too thick a coat. Penetrol keeps it smooth and more stable with oil-based paint. Meanwhile, Floetrol is for water-based paints.

Stop painting in a fan-filled area or direct sunlight, and stay away from heaters. That sort of setting will thicken unused paint. A spray bottle can produce a mist that can control the color’s moisture on the brush and in the pan.

Step 10 – Seal Your Painting

Determine whether a sealer or clear topcoat is required to maintain the paint over the wood. Most colors nowadays contain protective elements that shield the paint from water and damage, for example, which means you don’t have to waste any extra time adding protective materials to your dried wood surface. 

Nevertheless, some people may want to add an extra layer of protection between the wood and the weather, mainly if the wood is outdoors. Some types of sealers or topcoats do not work well with other types of paints. For example, latex-paint is supposed to breathe, and some sealers hate it. 

Stain-Blocking Primer

For your wood, use a stain-blocking primer, no matter what the project. Suppose you’re painting unfinished or painted wood. It’s important to prime it before painting because tinted organic compounds in the wood called tannins will otherwise bleed into any water-based paint applied on top — especially when painting over dark, tannin-rich woods such as knotty pine. Primer establishes a barrier between wood and paint, preventing bleed-through of this tannin.

Although oil-based paint is less susceptible to bleed-through tannin, under all colors, priming is still a must to ensure an even foundation that will help you achieve a more uniform finish. Pick one that suits the type of paint you are using: stain-blocking latex primers for latex paint and oil-based stain-blocking primers for oil paints.

As oil-based primers do a better job of penetrating and sealing the wood and blocking tannins more effectively than water-based primers, how knotty your wood is can direct you in deciding which types of primers and paints you use.

Step 11 – Apply Finish On The Wood

The final move is to finish your project in wood. The finish or topcoat is some sort of final cover that will protect your wood. If your wood does not endure any significant exposures, you can miss this stage. Here are some options that you can choose for your wooden object.


You can use it to create a polished look on bare wood, and paint using a brush or paint. It has a powerful odor as an oil-based product that needs an adequately ventilated area. When a piece needs refinishing, it poses a dilemma. You can’t remove it with a solvent, but sanding or scraping will do the job.


You can apply waxes with a brush, but you have to rub it on the surface using a rag. The result is shiny and provides a unique finish because of its wide range of colors. It is best to use on pieces of furniture and after applying a polyurethane sealant for a warmer look.


Polycrylic is water-based and has low-VOC (volatile organic compounds). As a result, it is useful for protecting children’s furniture. Sealant looks whitish when wet because it becomes clear when it dries. You can use it to achieve an artistic look for frames and jewelry boxes.

How to Paint Smoothly On Wood?

If you want to get the smoothest surface after painting, Paintbrushes, and rollers have essential roles. Rollers quickly cover broad areas but are unable to reach around corners. Using a high-density foam roller for the smooth surfaces. Paintbrushes are perfect at painting corners and edges, but they take a long time when painting large areas. Brushing after rolling is a professional technique known as back-brushing, to eliminate lines and drips.

High-quality primers are as essential as the paint, too. This material helps in bonding the surfaces and paint for a more consistent look. Moreover, you can prevent flashing or the condition where areas of the painted surface come with unwanted glosses. Finally, you can consider using paint additives to achieve smoother results. 

If you take too long when painting, paint can get tacky and cause brush-drag. You can either speed up the pace or purchase an additive, which extends your working hours. Penetrol and Floetrol are common additives that help you make brush strokes smooth. Avoid painting under a fan or heating vent or in direct sunlight, which will speed up drying time and result in tacky paint.

The Best Paints For Wood

Wood is highly adaptable to obtain either water or oil-based paint, as long as you pre-coat it with primer. Even within these two categories, the various styles of color and sheen will provide you with a dizzying array of choices at the paint store. The best type of paint and sheen to use ultimately depends on the wooden surface.

Water-Based Paints Vs. Oil-Based Paints

When referring to whether the paint oil or water-based, we are merely thinking about the type of solvent used in the paint, which is the paint’s liquid portion that evaporates as the paint dries. Oil-based paints, often mistakenly referred to as enamel, make up the color using an organic solvent, usually mineral oil. The solution used in water-based paint (also known as acrylic paints) is, as the name suggests, almost all water.

Oil-based paints are usually more challenging to apply than water-based paints, as the color has a more gritty and dense feel. Oil-based paints are responsible for high VOC emission during the painting process, which produces the intense “fresh scent of paint.” It is because water-based paints provide substantially fewer VOCs, the odor after the painting isn’t as fierce.

Until application, water-based paints can withstand small amounts of moisture on a surface, because the color can absorb the moisture. It will dilute the paint ever so slightly, but will not affect the ability of the paint to create a bond of adhesion to the surface. Since oil-based paints repel water, the color can not create a tight bond of adherence to the surface. 

Water-based paints perform beautifully on external applications because they are much more resistant to UV radiation. As a result, it allows long-term preservation of shine levels and color. The flexibility in the paint makeup means that the paint can move with the substrate as it expands and contracts in various weather conditions. Hence, it is the perfect choice for outdoor use.

In outdoor conditions, oil-based paint does not perform well as it breaks down in UV light and develops a chalky surface. It is because it is little or no versatility within the color, the paint can not expand and contract with the substrate under varying weather conditions, making cracking more evident.

Techniques In Repainting Wood

When you repaint a place, the first thing you need to do is assess the surface paint condition. If the paint is stripping, you have to scrape it to remove old coats of paint. The surface will then need to be smoothed with 180 grit sandpaper to form a smoother surface. Never attempt to paint a coating of existing wood without having to plan the composition. 

Applying a direct paint coat over the old coating will not work, and will eventually begin to peel, particularly if it has a glossy finish. This technique of painting requires first to prepare a wooden board. To make the surface follow these necessary steps.

  1. Sand the wood gently to establish a grip on the painted wall using a 280 grit.
  2. Remember to check if the paint that you want to remove is lead-based or not. You need to do specific and additional measures to clean and dispose of the lead-based paint according to federal regulations.
  3. Remove dust and wood residue.
  4. Apply one undercoat of alkyd and let it dry according to the recommendations of the manufacturers.
  5. Finally, remove the topcoat, let it dry. Then, add the first layer of polish, satin, semi-matte, or matte. For a cleaner finish, sand in between coats.

Proper wood painting techniques lets you achieve a high degree of satisfaction with your wooden designs. Otherwise, you’d end up with those rough finishes on your wood or even bubbly paintings. What is worse, you will end up wasting your resources. We hope that this guide helped you with everything that you need to know about painting wood.

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