The Basics of Painting Woodworking Projects

Woodworking and painting go hand-in-hand, so it’s important to understand how to prepare your project properly. Otherwise, your paint job could look unrefined and the paint may not adhere to the surface.

Start by sanding the wood and cleaning it to remove any dust particles, says Lowe’s. Then, apply a primer and let it dry before starting the final coats of paint.


A good sanding is a must for any piece of woodworking before it gets painted. This makes sure that the paint will stick and doesn’t come off later on. It also helps make the surface smooth, which will allow for better results. Start with a lower grit of sandpaper to get rid of any scratches or marks on the surface and move up to a higher grit as needed. It is important to always use a lint-free cloth or tack pad between sandings and to vacuum the area afterward to remove any loose debris.

The next step is to thoroughly clean the area you will be painting to make sure it’s free of dust, debris, and other contaminants. This will help the paint stick and ensure it looks great. Also, make sure to have a large bucket of water nearby to wet the wood as needed for cleanup and resanding. This will help reduce the amount of sanding required later on and will keep the woodwork from drying out prematurely, which can cause problems when painting.

Once you have sanded the surface and cleaned it, it’s time to start painting! It’s important to use a high quality brush and paint designed for woodwork. Cheap brushes can leave streaky marks and may even fall apart during the painting process, which will ruin the finish. Look for a brush with nylon or natural bristles, and avoid using an acrylic paint for this project.

Some woodworkers may skip the sanding process altogether and simply apply a coat of primer to the piece before moving on to the final color. While this is an option, it’s a good idea to sand between coats of primer to ensure that the final product will be a good match for the original woodworking.

It’s also a good idea to mask off any areas you don’t want to paint, such as the wall or other woodwork around it. This will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run as you won’t have to worry about touch ups or cleaning up mistakes. Also, be sure to pick up some blue painter’s tape from a home improvement store as this will come in handy when it comes to painting woodwork and other surfaces.


Before you paint, it’s vital to prime your project. This step will help your wood take the paint and cover any blemishes, so you don’t end up with an ugly patchwork of colors or a blotchy finish.

There are many different types of primers available, and the best choice depends on your needs and surface type. If you’re painting over a surface that’s prone to mold, for example, you’ll want to pick a mold-resistant primer like KILZ. This product will kill any existing mold and prevent it from growing in the future. It also dries quickly, so you can get to painting without any delays.

Shellac-based wood primers are another option. They can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, including wood, MDF, concrete, and metal. They’re ideal for highly porous materials and they’ll help your topcoats last longer. This type of primer is more expensive than other options, but it’s worth the extra cost for its versatility. It can cover various stains, such as those caused by smoke or water damage, and it can even seal in odors.

Oil-based primers are another good option for blocking tannin bleedthrough on raw wood. They’re thicker than water-based primers, making them effortless to apply and requiring minimal effort to create an even coat. They can be used on either oil-based or water-based paints, and they’re great for creating a strong base that will prevent your topcoats from chipping or peeling. They’re more expensive than other primers, however, and they can take a long time to dry.

When choosing a primer, always check the label for compatibility with your chosen paint. If you’re unsure, try a small test area. Dampen a rag with alcohol and wipe it over a section of the surface you’re priming. If it turns white, your primer is oil-based and you should use a different kind of product. You should also consider ventilation, as the fumes given off by some oil-based primers can be hazardous to your health and well-being. If you’re working in a poorly ventilated space, open windows and turn on a fan to minimize the amount of airborne fumes.


Getting the surface ready to paint is a critical step. It’s not just about making the wood more susceptible to the coats of paint you’ll be adding, but it’s also about ensuring that the paint will hold. This means sanding down the entire piece, even the ends and edges that aren’t visible. Rough surfaces can cause the paint to flake and peel later on, so it’s worth taking the time to get them smooth before you start. The lumber at Alderfer will provide you with a smooth and easy surface to work on.

Once you’ve sanded down the whole surface, it’s a good idea to wipe down the entire piece with methylated spirits. This will remove any dirt, grease and wax that may interfere with the adhesion of the paint. You can also use a small amount of sugar soap to help clean the wood if you don’t have methylated spirits handy.

It’s important to choose the right type of paint for your project as well. Milk and other water-based paints are usually very thin and will require a different brush than oil or latex paints. A slanted synthetic bristle brush will give you the best results with milk paint or any other water-based paints.

Acrylic paints are another option that are ideal for woodworking projects. They’re typically easy to mix and dry very quickly, which makes them ideal for adding a quick pop of color to an existing piece. Acrylics are also great for highlighting specific elements of your project, such as handles or hinges.

When painting, make sure to apply long, even strokes. Avoid dabbing small areas as this can leave lines and streaks in your finished product.

Before you decide to purchase paint for your next woodworking project, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place. This can help you stay on track and ensure that your finished product will match the vision in your mind. Having the right tools lined up ahead of time can also save you a lot of frustration and last-minute trips to the store. And don’t forget to protect your workspace and any furniture that may be in the way of spray guns and other equipment by covering it with a plastic sheet or tarp.


Before applying the final coats of paint to your wooden project, it is a good idea to apply one or two coats of sealer. This will protect the raw wood from water and help prevent the wood from warping in extreme temperatures or humidity. It also helps the acrylic paint adhere better and reduces the chances of SID, Support Induced Discoloration, which occurs when the natural impurities in the supports of your piece of wood are absorbed into the acrylic paint and turn it amber-yellow over time.

The sanding sealer will need to dry completely before applying the final coats of paint. You can speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer on low heat. Before doing this, however, make sure the sanding sealer is not tacky to the touch.

It is important to note that wood stain cannot be applied over a sanding sealer, because it needs to penetrate the surface of the wood in order to work effectively. Instead, if you plan to stain your finished product after the painting is complete, then you should remove the sanding sealer and start from scratch.

When choosing a sealer, it is important to read the label carefully and understand the differences between an oil based and latex product. While many professionals still rely on the superior performance of an oil based product, it is important to realize that today’s latex formulas cover and brush out well. They also dry much faster and require no harsh solvents for clean up.

Before you begin to apply your paint, it is a good idea to pick up some rolls of blue painter’s tape and apply them to any areas that you do not want to get painted, such as the wall next to your trim or any hardware on your piece. This will save you a lot of time and frustration when it comes to cleaning up and touching up any areas that you do not want paint on.

In an effort to finish a project quickly, many homeowners will skip the primer and jump straight to the coats of color. This shortcut is often a mistake and can end up costing you in the long run, as it will take more coats of color to achieve full coverage. The primer is specially formulated to bond to the porous surface of raw wood, and it will help your acrylic paint stick to it more effectively.

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