wood paint guide

Ultimate Guide to Wood Painting: What is it & How its done?

 Wood painting is a wonderful experience! 

Whether you are a hobbyist or looking for the basic information to start wood painting.

This wood paint guide will cover all your questions related to wood painting.

 Let’s get started 

FAQsGeneral InfoEssential Info
What type of paint is best for Wood?Preparing Wood for paintingPainting the wood
Types of Wood PaintsSurface CleaningChoosing the right paint
Wood SandingSome Top Brands
Patching WoodWood Sealing
Best Products to Patch WoodFinishing your Wooden project
Priming WoodSome Finishing options to choose from
What's the best Primer for wood?Conclusion
Can you paint wood without priming?

What type of paint is best for Wood?

wood painting

If you coat your wood with primer beforehand, it becomes adaptable to water and oil-based paints. You have various options at the paint store, but the best ultimate paint for your wood depends on its surface. The most common types of paints and sheens include latex paints, chalk paints, milk paints, alkyd based paints, and plant oil-based paints.

Similarly, alkyd-based and oil-based paints come with the sheens that include matte, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, and high-gloss paints.

Oil-based primers work best with knotty wood type i.e. helps in sealing (Strengthening) the wood perfectly. While water-based primers are for smooth-surfaced wood.

Use latex paint on rare-used furnishings, milk, and chalk paint for distressed furnishings, for everyday furnishings, washroom cabinets, and kitchen, standard trim, latex, and floors, use alkyl based oil paints, while for latex and ornate trim, in dry areas of the home, use latex-based oil paint.

Types of Wood Paints:

types of wood paint

There are different types of paints, depending on their composition. Types include Water-based paints, oil-based paints, paint finishes (matte paint, satin, and eggshell paint, semi-gloss, and gloss paints.

Now, let’s talk about their usage.

Water-based paints are easy to use and do not require any pre-treatment of the wood before application. They have low toxic emissions and less drying time. They can be used on all surfaces and does not fade easily. On the other hand, oil-based paints are best for kitchen and bathroom cabinets because they resist moisture. Also, they create a smooth finish with an attractive gloss.

Sheen paints differ from each other but have some common properties. They are the least reflective and have a variable texture. They offer good depth and are standard for walls. Similarly, eggshell and satin paints are also reflective in nature and have the ability to withstand. They are a good option for kitchens and bathrooms where you need a clean finish look.

Gloss and semi-gloss paints are durable and are used on doors and baseboards.

Also check our picks for the best wood lathe worth the money.

Can I paint directly on Wood?

wood paint tpes

You can paint directly on the wood if it is smooth (finished), but if it is unfinished, you cannot paint it without applying primer to it. Primer fills the wood providing it a smooth texture.

Primer allows the paint to stick better and give it a clean finished look.

Preparing Wood for painting:

wood paint

Before starting the proper process of wood painting, you should decide the technique as well as the necessary tools you need to start with. And definitely these tools depend on the material you are going to paint. Another important factor you need to decide before starting wood paint is the “paint” you are going to use. Whether it’ll be oil paint or water-based paint, and the primer you want to use for your wood.

Additionally, you have to be vigilant while painting because these are chemicals and can react to other things laying nearby. Take care of the things and environment in which you are going to start wood painting.

Be sure to check out our detailed guide to a wood sander.

Surface Cleaning:

surface cleaning wood

Wood must be cleaned before applying paint to it. Trisodium phosphate (potent cleaner)  is used to clean the wood.  It’s called little sanding i.e. making its surface smooth by filling holes and cracks. Also, cover the areas you don’t want to paint on (with the help of a painter’s tape). And the external surfaces can be cleaned by pressure washing.

Old paint in good condition usually gives an excellent result when newly coated. So you can use old paint for finishing.

Wood Sanding:

wood sanding

Wood sanding is another important step before starting wood paint to remove unnecessary particles. If it needs the removal of heavy particles, you should use 40 to 60 grit sandpaper. If you want to repaint the old wood piece, 80-grit sandpaper works well. It will remove all imperfections leaving the wood surface smooth and clean.

Remove the remaining dust with the help of a piece of cloth or sponge.

Wood should be treated with fungicides and preservatives before painting. i.e to prevent it from the damage caused by fungus. But different preservatives act differently, so you should know its benefits and side effects before using it.

You can use various products to fill the wood from colored wood patches to oil-based fillers and latex caulks. One important thing to consider before choosing any product is to check whether it is designed for external use or internal use i.e. if you want to varnish the surface, use filler that is not visible after the final finish.

You may also like our comprehensive guide to wood planers.

Patching Wood:

wood patching

Patching wood plays an important role in wood painting if you want to paint it professionally. Follow the following steps to patch the wood that will be unidentifiable.

Take out the nails and screws with the help of the nippers.

Nail boards around the area to fence it.

Use a router equipped to remove the old damaged wood from the area. Produce straight cuts with the help of guiding bushing.

Square up the corners using a hammer and a chisel.

Indicate the poplar patch and cut it using a miter box and backsaw.

Apply glue to the back of the patch then nail it using the finishing nails.

Now fill the holes with wood putty.

Once it dries, make it smooth using a random orbit sander.

Now, apply one coat of primer and two coats of paint over the whole area.

You might also like Best Wood Polish for Floors

Best Products to Patch Wood:

wood patching products

Sometimes you don’t have a ready smooth wood to start painting, it needs patches at its damaged areas. And for that purpose, there are various options available in the market. But it’s hard for you to test all, so we have enlisted them in this article to make that easier for you.

If the wood has some scratches and small issues, you can use a ready patch. It does not work like epoxy but fills small patches perfectly. Also, it takes only half an hour to dry.

The second option is to use liquid wood and wood epoxy filler- it is the best product to fill larger as well as smaller gaps. It will act as the wood and has no effect of water on it. Epoxy fillers are the strongest ones out of all fillers.

Another product you can use as a filler is Durham’s, Water Putty- use it after mixing it with water, making it thinner or thicker in consistency according to your project. If you want to repair your wood in your available budget, go with it. It will give you an excellent strong finish.

Other than these three fillers, you can also use these fillers: Kwik Wood, MinwaxWood filler, sawdust, and super glue filler, and Dap Painter’s putty.

Priming Wood:

wood priming

It is said that the wood paint is as good as its preparation. Picking and applying the right primer definitely plays a role in painting the wood piece. It hides stains and small damages, that result in a smooth surface. Primer prevents stains from seeping into the wood. It should be used according to the given directions i.e. prepare it according to those recommendations to get better results.

If you are repainting a furniture piece, make sure to apply an undercoat instead of a primer. This will seal the paint and the new paint will not be affected. Paint wood after applying primer (do not leave it as primer coated).

What’s the best Primer for wood?

exterior primer for wood

There are various primers available in the market to apply on wood, but what paint primer is good for your wood piece? Let’s start by discussing some top picks of primers with their characteristics.

KILZ Premium Primer is the best paint primer for beat boards and for almost all other wooden pieces. It is the top pick out of all primers and creates a smooth surface ready for wood paint. It is the best primer to fill gaps and hide all imperfections of the wood.

It is better than other water-based primers and can also act as a color change option due to its adhesion properties.

BIN Primer sealer is another good option for covering stains with odor sealing properties. It dries fast and has VOCs in it.

Another excellent option among primers is KILZ Restoration primer- it fights against stains and odor-it can also be used underneath floors. However, it has a shorter life span and offers thin coats. Besides these primers for wood, other options are also available: Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch latex Primer (best for furniture), Zinsser Cover stain Primer (Maximum shine primer), KILZ stain-blocking Primer (the best primer for shelves), and INSL-X Stix waterborne primer (Hardboiled primer).

Be sure to check out our ultimate guide to wood lathes.

Can you paint wood without priming?

The answer depends on whether it is new wood or an older one (i.e. repainting). If its raw wood then definitely you need a primer to coat it with. But if you are just applying paint of darker color, you may not apply any primer before starting wood paint.

You also need a primer if you are going to paint bare wood. Because primer will hide all smoke damages and patches leaving its surface smoother than before.

Painting the wood:

wood paint

Before start painting, you should choose the right paintbrush and other tools needed for painting. Buy a brush that is comfortable to use and is easy to handle. Try to buy tools that are smaller in size, so can be handled easily. Don’t apply pressure on the brush while applying a stroke of the brush on the wall or furniture.

Another important factor to keep in mind before applying paint is, choosing the product wisely (that helps in maintaining the consistency of your paint) i.e. penetrol (used with oil-based paint), and Floetrol (used with water-based paints).

Light strokes will result in smooth paint i.e. no stain will be there after strokes. Also, avoid loading too much paint on the brush as it’ll not give a cleaner look.

Try to apply from edge to edge, as it will bring neatness in your paint. Additionally, if you’re using a new paintbrush, dip it in water especially if its an oil paint. As water will help in removing the paint easily. Hang the brush with bristles down when not in use.

Another tool that can be used with the paint is a roller. Avoid purchasing a cheaper roller as it will not make the surface smoother. Invest in the roller especially buy the one with the wool material roller.

Do not apply pressure while painting with the roller as it will result in different shades (thicker and thinner) surface. Apply light strokes with the light hand to make the surface look smoother.

After finishing painting, roll the dry roller over the surface to remove excess paint. Also to store brushes and rollers, you should seal them in any plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator so you can use easily use moist brush/roller next time.

You can also use wood paint spray on the surfaces of the furniture. It is an excellent alternative to brush and the roller if you learn the technique ones. Because while spray painting, you need not worry about the strokes and stains marked by the brush/roller.

You just need to pick up the best paint for your furniture or wood piece and start with it.

Avoid painting in the direct sunlight or under a fan as it will cause the paint to thicken at some points.

Choosing the right paint:

There are different types of paints for woodwork that includes Water-based paints, oil-based paints, paint finishes (matte paint, satin, and eggshell paint, semi-gloss, and gloss paints.

Now, let’s talk about their usage according to their characteristics.

Water-based paints are easy to use and do not require any pre-treatment of the wood before application. They have low toxic emissions and less drying time. They can be used on all surfaces and does not fade easily. On the other hand, oil-based paints are best for kitchen and bathroom cabinets because they resist moisture. They create a smooth finish with an attractive gloss. They are the best paints for wooden chairs and other furniture materials.

Sheen paints differ from each other but have some common properties. They are the least reflective and have a variable texture. They offer good depth and are standard for walls. Similarly, eggshell and satin paints are also reflective in nature and have the ability to withstand. They are a good option for kitchens and bathrooms where you need a clean finish look.

On the other hand, sheen paints are also available, more the sheen, the surface will look shinier. Gloss paints are stain-resistant and are very easy to remove and wash. This property makes them useful for bathrooms, kitchens, and dinings.

Also check our picks for the best mini wood lathe.

Some Top Brands:

top wood paint

Now let’s discuss some top brands selling paints.

Overall the best wood paint is Rust-Oleum painter’s Touch Ultra cover Latex Paint. It is highly versatile as it can be used for multiple purposes, also comes in various wood colors. It has double technology formulae and gives you a glossy finish.

Another well-known brand is the KILZ porch and Patio Floor paint. It protects wood flooring, also hides scratches and marks. It is also considered as the best paint for wood crafts.

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch 2X Ultra cover paint is also an excellent option for painting outdoor pieces. It dries within 20 minutes, giving a smoother finish. Other than, you can also choose KILZ Exterior Siding, Fence, and barn paint (good for painting fence and sidings), but it may take a long time for its application and can result in uneven coverage.

Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Satin is considered to be the best paint for furniture pieces. It offers a satin finish that is suitable for high traffic areas. Additionally, it is easy to use and clean i.e washable with the soap only.

Another option is Prestige Lifetime paint. It is comprised of paint and primer both, making it more useful for the wood paint dealers. it offers a smooth finish with a clean look i.e. leaving no blemishes or marks on the wood surface. Montage Signature is another friendly pain option counted in the top paint brands. This water-based wood paint offers a smooth semi-glossy finish after drying.

Another important feature of this paint is, it is long-lasting (does not fade over time) and fights mold and mildew.

New York Botanical Gardens is another exterior paint for wood pieces/products. This paint is the best choice for those who want to keep their place’ theme light. This wood paint comes in a wide range of colors in a tropical theme.

It’s not the one wood paint that you can use everywhere, you need to pick a paint that’s suitable for your project i.e. whether you’re going to paint indoor or outdoor, which wood products you want pain on, and its longevity.

Check our pick for the best wood lathe for beginners.

Wood Sealing:

wood sealing

After painting the wood, an important step is to maintain its paint for a longer period of time. Wood paint looks more professional after the process of sealing. Sealer does not work like paint, it should be applied lightly-removing the excess paint with the cane side.  Apply sealer and make your wood piece look more professional.

Wood sealing is different from wood staining and basically increases the longevity and strength of the paint on the wooden product. It acts as a water barrier i.e. does not allow the water to damage the paint and rot the wood. Especially in the winter season, water seeps easily underneath wood and causes cracks, so sealer does a better job in preventing it.

Moreover, its plus point is that it can be used on all types of wood whether bare or stained. It just makes the wooden piece a little darker and nothing else.

One thing to keep in mind while stirring the sealer is to avoid making bubbles. Because bubbles will not allow your wood piece to look smoother and cleaner.

Finishing your Wooden project:

wood finishing

The last step of wood painting is known as wood finishing. You may skip this step, but if you want to seal your woods’ paint for a longer period of time, consider it.

You can use different finishing products for your wood piece. Some of them are Polyurethane, stencils, raised stencil, aged patina, jeweled tones, faux marble, whitewash, wax, and polycrylic.

Some Finishing options to choose from:

You can finish/age your wood paint process with various products including polyurethane, waxes, stencil, raised stencil, aged copper, aged patina, faux marble, whitewash, jeweled tones, and polycrylic.

Polyurethane is an oil-based product and can be used on bare wood. It offers a ventilation area and a powerful odor. It cannot be removed by using any solvent, instead, you need to scrap it in order to remove it.

Waxes are rubbed with the help of a rag. They are available in different colors in the market, so gives a softer smoother look to the entire wood surface. But extra wax should be removed after applying.

Another finishing product is polycrylic. It has a low VOC quantity making it useful for kids’ furniture. Initially, it looks like the white color but becomes transparent after drying.


wood paint techniques

Whether you are a hobbyist or a beginner in the field of wood painting, the above-mentioned steps will help you get a smoother beautiful finished wood. You just need to choose primer, paint, and sealer wisely. Because they play a vital role in the overall look of the wood piece and entirely depend on your wood product and on indoor and outdoor products.

Great wood projects are those which require little maintenance to keep their beauty intact, so paint professionally by following these steps in the same sequence.

Do not use anything additional without recommendation, as it may react to the surface. Also take necessary safety measures before starting the process, as it can cause harm sometimes.

Doug Mahoney

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