For years, I had an antique furniture painting business and painted hundreds of pieces of furniture. I spent a lot of time figuring out an easier way to do it.
This tutorial is for painting old furniture and keeping an old feel to it, with NO sanding and NO stripping. Ugh, who wants to work that hard?
Of course, having an assistant helps.
Since this cabinet had glass doors, I covered the glass with newspaper before starting, and set up the piece in an area where I could spray paint and not worry about the mess.
Old furniture comes with many defects time has added to its finish. Personally, that is what I love about it. If I wanted something to look new, I'd buy a brand new piece. I want my antiques to keep their flavor! So, I don't want to sand away any alligatoring of the old varnish, or any other interesting bits on it.
By using a bonding spray, you do not need to sand or strip the furniture and you preserve those crackly spots in the varnish.
This BONDING primer (bonding is the key word, here, it will stick to any clean surface without sanding) covers the old varnish, but doesn't change the look of the finish underneath. SHAKE WELL or you'll get a bumpy grainy finish.
We've already skipped sanding, and now here is where another short cut comes in.
If you plan on painting the piece with a brush after priming, you can leave it the way this cabinet looks right now, kind of shadowy, that is good enough coverage for the paint to adhere.
But, if you are going to do what I do and skip the step where you brush on paint, then you need to use plenty of spray primer.
It took me 2-1/2 cans for this piece. After it was at the shadowy point in this photo, I sprayed over any darker areas and made sure there was good coverage.
Did I mention how much it helps to have assistants? I gave this one an empty can to help with. I'm glad it was empty, because she tried to spray paint the world with it. If she ever gets hold of a full can, I might be in trouble.
Primer MUST NOT be left without a top coat. But, who says you have to use just plain paint over it?? I use water based glaze, which is mixed with latex paint. It covers the primer just like paint would, but is semi-transparent, depending upon how much color you add.
You can buy it pre-mixed like this kind, which is handy for large projects, but can be pricey.
Or you can buy glaze by the can, and mix your own color. I use those cheapo 2 oz craft bottles of acrylic paint. There are a ton of color choices that way.
This is really too much for the cabinet, but I liked this color and wanted to make extra to store for something else. It never hurts to make up a bit extra, because you'd hate to run out in the middle of glazing your furniture.
I'd say 2 cups of glaze and 1 ounce of craft paint (any color, any brand) is plenty.
I love these cheap-o brushes, they a good for getting down into the crevaces.
The color I chose was a dark brown. Notice how it looks more like chocolate milk after it is brushed on? Well, that is because the glaze is milky. But you have to remember that the glaze will dry CLEAR. So the color of the small acrylic craft paint you chose is what you end up with, not the milky version it is while still wet!!
Start at the top and work on one small area at a time. Paint the colored glaze on thickly, and get it down into all grooves. After one section is painted, wipe it off with a wet, soft rag.
I use old tee shirts, and keep a bucket of warm water nearby for rinsing. Not that warm water is better than cold, but it just feels better when you wring the rag out.
And rinse often!! Your rag will fill with glaze fast. If you don't keep rinsing and wringing it out, you'll have a soppy mess and will just be pushing the glaze around, not removing it.
Don't worry about perfection. Some areas will be more heavily glazed than others, that makes for an interesting finish. And if you were lucky enough to have a piece of furniture with lots of crackled finish to start with, then the glaze will really look nice when it settles into those cracks!
While the glass is still covered with paper, spray a can of satin finish clear coat over the project to seal it.
Or you can brush on a water based top coat.
After you take off the newspaper and tape, you might have to scrape a little paint off the window here and there with a razor blade, if you tape as badly as I do.
I chose not to paint the interior of mine, instead I lined it with vintage wallpaper.
- You can skip the paint step, IF- you are fine with using bright white as your base color under the glaze. Spray primer doesn't come in tinted colors. You can also use paint on bonding primer, and have it tinted, or use the gray it comes in, and that can be your base coat.
- You MUST cover every inch of the primed areas with painted on glaze! Primer is not meant to be left uncovered. But glaze is quicker and easier to brush on than paint, because you are just slopping it on heavy and will be wiping it off.
- Top coats are important, for durability. You can quickly spray one, or brush it on. If I am brushing it on, I like to use Min-Wax Polycrylic. It is water based, no smell.
- Make sure the piece is clean before you paint it. Wipe it down with a damp cloth, and if it is greasy use Windex.
- Only use BONDING primer!! Be sure the label says something like "will stick to glossy surfaces". I buy this brand at Home Depot. If I am brushing on primer instead, I use "The Gripper" by Glidden.
- Primer can be painted over soon after using it, but sometimes it takes days to "cure". So, if you have painted something with an extremely high gloss finish, try to leave it set and don't mess with it for 3 or 4 days. The finish hardens, and won't scrape up after that.
- Its nice to paint the inside of drawers, for a clean finish, but NEVER, ever paint the sides of the drawers, on the outside, or the bottoms. They must be kept clear of paint so the drawers won't stick. For an old, sticky piece, wax the outside of the drawers for a good slide.
- If you get over spray on the glass, like I did, scrape it off right away, or it just gets harder to do. Bonding primer bonds!
- If you have plans to "distress" the piece, by roughing the edges up with sand paper, do it before your top coat. And don't wait too long, like I mentioned before bonding primer bonds! When the furniture is dry, sand away, but don't wait days and days or you'll have trouble sanding through the primer to the wood underneath.
It was pointed out to me that spray paint is dangerous to inhale and I didn't mention safety precautions. Please, use proper ventalation! I use the garage, but am right inside the open double doors. Also, the baby only was playing with an empty can, she was not actually involved with spraying or breathing in the spray. I treasure each and every one of her brain cells!