Home » How To Paint Wood? A Step-by-step Complete Guide

How To Paint Wood? A Step-by-step Complete Guide

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Finishing is usually the last thing on a woodworking project before it is ready. One of the most popular ways to finish wood is through painting, and the good thing about painting projects is that it does not require a lot of experience.

Beginners with little to no experience can take on painting projects and deliver seller results. However, their results will rely on the kind of guidance they have when painting.

Wood in its natural form can be great in the right circumstances; however, it is limited in several aspects, including aesthetics.

Painting offers so much more than leaving the wood plain; surprisingly, woodworkers are not utilizing painting enough to revitalize their wooden projects.

DIY lovers who love painting but don’t know the steps to follow or those who have tried without success would find a concise painting helpful guide.

This article contains all you need to paint wood, even without prior painting experience. But before we see these steps, let us see why painting is essential.

Why Paint Wood?

Why Paint Wood?

Why should anybody consider painting wood? There are many reasons why painting wood has become quite popular. Here are some of the reasons people paint wood:

  • Aesthetics: One of the most oversized pulls to painting wood is the improved aesthetics it brings. Painted wood looks highly pleasing to the eyes and generally commands a higher value than unpainted wooden projects. You can vary the paint color on the wood, thus increasing diversity.
  • Water resistance: Oil paints have strong water resistance qualities that prevent moisture from entering the painted wood. The water resistance qualities in paint are especially important when dealing with outdoor wooden structures. Moisture is bad for wood and can cause damage and reduce its lifespan.
  • Pest proof: Pests can be a menace in the wood when left plain. Painting protects the wood from pest attacks, thereby increasing its durability. Painting with anti-fungi will also prevent fungi growth which is a massive problem for wooden structures.
  • Hide flaws: Wood with flaws like old and dirty surface get a new lease of life with painting. Painting wood hides the imperfections and revitalizes its look.

Types of Wood Paint

Types of Wood Paint

There are several types available in the market today when it comes to painting wooden surfaces. The types of paint are classified based on their properties and structure when applied to wood.

  • Latex paint: It is the most popular type of wood paint because it is quick-drying and easy to use. Latex paint is also affordable and easy to clean but with limited durability.
  • Oil-based paint: oil-based paint have the most robust durability on wood as it sticks to the surface without peeling. It takes a long time to dry while offering the perfect coating for exterior surfaces.
  • Chalk paint: chalk paints for wood have a superb matte finish and are easy to apply. It is not the most durable but versatile enough to cover indoor and outdoor structures.
  • Water-based paint: Water-based paint dries fast and is easy to use on wooden surfaces. This paint type is environmentally friendly with less odor but is too thin.
  • Acrylic paint: Acrylic wood paint is similar to water-based paints in its ease of application but offers better durability and has a longer drying time.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Paint on Wood

While many other wood finishes have strong points, they do not have paint color options. You can match your wood to other structures with paint to create a more enchanting appeal. Here are steps to paint wood:

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

Gather Materials and Tools

While Painting wood does not require special equipment that costs a lot to purchase, you still need some tools and materials to paint that wooden structure.

These tools are typically easy to get and may vary depending on the type of paint and wooden project. The first thing you should do before painting wood is to put together all the tools and materials you’ll need.

Here are some tools you’ll need to complete that wood paint job. Remember that depending on certain factors, you may only need a few of these materials.

  • Paint
  • Primer
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint rollers
  • Paint tray and liner
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Bucket
  • Protective gear (eye goggles and rubber gloves)
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • !80-grit and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Paint additive
  • Random orbital sander
  • Shop vacuum
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Two and a half inch paint brush

Step 2: Cover the Work Area

Cover the Work Area

Working with paint can be messy, leaving difficult stains around. Covering the work area will reduce the extra cleaning you must do after painting the wood.

Use plastic sheeting to cover the workspace, including other tools in the area, to prevent spills from touching their surfaces.

A canvas drop cloth in an open area where the painting will take place. This drop cloth will provide a non-slip surface to prevent accidents.

The work area should be well-ventilated as paint usually has a strong smell while wood needs air. While covering the work area, ensure eye goggles, dust mask, and rubber gloves.

Step 3: Remove Old Paint

Remove Old Paint

Removing old paint from the wood surface is only valid when repainting old wood. For new plain wood, this step is not required. Instead, use a putty knife to scrape old paint from the wood surface.

Remove as much paint as possible but do not spend time trying to remove every bit of paint. Depending on how durable the old paint is, you may not need to scrape off it if it is not peeling off.

Painting over old paint is possible when the paint is still in good condition.

Step 4: Fill Holes and Sand

Fill Holes and Sand

You can use wood fillers or wood putty to fill dent and gouges on the wood. Generously apply the putty using a putty knife, ensuring all holes are covered.

You can also use caulk for some areas to cover long and deep cracks. Adding a primer before applying any fillers will help it stick better. It usually takes a few hours for the wood filler to dry, after which you can then sand the surface.

Use a random orbital sander to lightly sand all the flat surfaces on the wood. The paint will stick to the wood better when you lightly sand the wooden surface.

The aim is not to remove all the finish on the surface but just enough to smooth any rough parts. Use sandpaper to sand corners and bends. Switch from the 150-grit sandpaper to the finer 220-grit sandpaper.

Step 5: Clean the Wood

Clean the Wood

Firstly, use trisodium sulfate to clean the wood, ancient wood, with scrapped-off paint. The next step is cleaning the wood surface to remove sand, dirt, grease, and dust.

But before that, place the wood on the canvas drop cloth in the workspace. Painting a dirty surface will leave so many imperfections on the wood.

TSP will remove loose paint and grime on the wood surface. Next, use a shop vacuum with a collector bag and filter to draw in all the dust and small wood particles on the wood.

After working with the shop vacuum, use a slightly damp tack cloth to clean any remaining dust on the surface.

Step 6: Apply Primer

A primer helps to prevent any tough stain from the wood from reaching the top of the paint. The primer will also help the paint stick to better and improve its durability.

Use a roller or paintbrush, depending on the size of the surface. Ensure to apply an even layer of primer all over the wood.

If the first layer looks transparent, you may need to apply a second primer layer. Wait for the primer to dry and lightly sand the primer with a random orbital sander and fine sandpaper.

Also Read: How To Fix And Secure Polyurethane Mistakes? (14 Foolproof Ways)

Step 7: Paint the Wood

Paint the Wood

Select the right paint for your project by considering the position of the wood and its exposure to moisture and sunlight, among other things.

Grab a small bucket to mix the paint and apply with your choice tool. A roller is more effective and faster on broad, flat surfaces. On the other hand, a paintbrush is ideal for tight corners, uneven surfaces, and curves.

Put a small part of the paintbrush in the paint and transfer it to the wooden surface making long strokes. Using a roller is slightly different as you have to pour some paint into the paint tray with the paint tray liner inserted.

Dap the roller in the paint and roll it to spread it all over the foam. You can then transfer the paint to the wood by following the same long strokes application pattern.

Cover all the wood surfaces with a thin paint layer instead of a thick layer. Thin layers reduce defects like air bubbles trapped under the paint and enforce a smooth surface. Alloy the first paint layer to dry.

Drying time varies depending on the type of paint and its exposure to air. For example, the paint will dry faster in hot weather than in humid conditions.

Step 8: Sandpaper


Use the fine 220 sandpaper for sanding the first layer of paint. This sanding will remove any bumps and level uneven paint areas.

You can sand by hand or use the random orbital sander. However, ensure to only sand lightly, so you do not remove the paint layer. Use the tack cloth to run the wood’s surface to remove dust gently.

You do not want to press the cloth down to prevent cloth marks from appearing on the paint.

Step 9: Paint Repeat

Paint Repeat

Paint a second layer by following the painting steps above. Ensure to keep the layer thin to prevent paint defects.

If you notice the wood is not covered correctly, repeat the process of sanding and painting.

How to Paint With Spray Painting Gun?

How to Paint With Spray Painting Gun?

Aside from rubbing the paint on the wood surface, you can also spray paint on the wood. Spray painting is not as famous as rubbing the paint directly with a brush, but it is an effective way of covering wood, especially corners and curves.

The type of paint for spraying differs in its composition and form. Spray paints are the easiest to apply on wood since you do not need an applicator like a brush. To use spray paint on wood, you may adopt the following ways:

  • Tape off areas you do not want to paint, including locations where you would prefer a different paint.

Taping off areas is especially important for spray painting as it is harder to maintain precision when spraying. In addition, some spray paint comes in spray cans, and all you need to do is to press the nozzle, while others will require you to connect spray nozzles first.

  • Clean the wood surface as you would with brush painting, sanding rough edges, and filling gouges with wood putty. Add primer to help the spray stick to the wood.
  • Shake the paint properly, then position the spray nozzle 10 to 12 inches away from the wood and at an angle. You want to maintain an even surface as the spray does not fill holes.
  • Open the spray by pressing the nozzle while moving your hand in a consistent straight motion. You d not want to stop the spray on the wood or linger on a particular spot, as it can cause pools and drips.

Overlap each spray slightly and ensure you keep applying thin layers. You can coat two to three times to achieve the desired finish.

Wood Painting Tips For You

Here are some extra tips that can help you paint wood better.

  • Spray painting is a great way to paint small uneven surfaces.
  • Allow each paint coat to dry properly before sanding.
  • Paint only in well-ventilated spaces.
  • Priming is necessary to ensure paint sticks and prevent stains from showing under the paint.
  • Use paint additives to get smooth brush strokes.
  • Use tape to cover areas like hinges, door handles, and corners you do not want to paint. The tape will prevent paint from reaching those spaces and keep your final work clean.


The durability and aesthetics of your wooden project will immediately see a boost when you paint it. The versatility of wood paints makes them highly attractive when finishing wood. You can select from so many paint colors and types to cover your wooden project.