How to Paint Black Furniture - One of the Hardest to Get Right

4 Materials
2 Days

If you’re looking for a smooth solid paint finish, brush free finish, the perfect satin sheen, easy to use, water based product for thrifted, old, worn out furniture, we finally found the perfect product.

This is totally not a bash on chalk style paint whatsoever! I love chalk paint and use it all the time. But in times where I just want a solid finish without having to use a poly or wax to seal it in (I could talk for hours about top coats gone wrong), this new paint is coming to the rescue.

See, I love me a good chalk paint finish, but sometimes I or my clients, just want a solid colored finish, no problems or extra steps with sealing the paint, and high durability.

I started to wonder what other products were out there and I knew that there had to be an easier way to get that finish.

I started to hear about General Finishes Enduro Pigmented Poly and I was super intrigued. I’m happy to say that I’ve finally tried it out for myself, and I’m in love with it!

Obviously it’s not going to be the right answer for everything. I’m definitely not jumping ship from chalk paint yet, because there are things that chalk paint can do that this pigmented poly can’t do. They each have their own specialty!

Head over to our blog (click the button at the bottom of this post) to read about the major differences between General Finishes Enduro Pigmented Poly and Chalk Paint.


  • General Finishes Enduro Pigmented Poly in Black
  • General Finishes Stain Blocking Primer
  • Sandpaper (220 & 400 grit)
  • Orbital Sander for the Top of the Dresser
  • Watered Down Latex Paint in Brown for the Top of the Dresser

How to Prep the Furniture

We started out this dresser makeover just like we do any other furniture project.

We scrubbed off the dirt and grime, filled in any larger blemishes with wood filler, and then scuff sanded the whole piece with 220 grit sandpaper.

Since I was using the black poly, I didn’t prime for bleed through, and I wanted to test out the adhesion of the Enduro Poly. (More on the results of that in a bit!)

I also taped off the drawers with painters tape and plastic to prevent overspray.

Painting the Dresser

Painting the dresser was pretty straight forward.

We sprayed the black poly on with our new pro paint sprayer. We recently upgraded from the hobby paint sprayer that we used for 3 years. Either one would work!

The poly is pretty thin when fresh from the can, so I didn’t need to thin it at all. If you’re using a hobby paint sprayer you might need to thin it down just a bit.

Then we sprayed on the first coat and let it dry for about an hour.

Then we lightly sanded the whole thing down with 400 grit sandpaper to get a super silky smooth finish.

Once we got rid of the dust with a vaccum and a tack cloth, I sprayed on another thin coat of black poly.

I repeated this process for 3 coats of paint, which is the recommended minimum coats for durability.

Troubleshooting the Black Poly

After the first coat of paint was dry I noticed that one leg had a little bit of a different finish.

It was splotchy and definitely not the same sheen.

I knew then that something wasn’t right. But I kept on painting to test the product and see what would happen.

After 3 coats of poly the spots were still there.

So after the last coat was dry, I applied one coat of  General Finishes Stain Blocking Primer. And then I let it dry for at least 2 hours.

After the Stain Blocker was dry, I went back and painted another 3 coats of Black Poly in that area.

Painting with a Paint Brush

This time though, I painted it on with a quality paint brush, just to see what would happen if I used a paint brush instead of the paint sprayer.

The black poly went on a lot thinner with the paint brush, but I followed the same process of

  • brushing the black poly on
  • waiting an hour
  • sanding with 400 grit sandpaper
  • and then painting another coat of black poly until I had 3 coats.

I was worried that it would leave brush marks, but to my surprise, the poly leveled really well, and I can’t see any brush marks at all!

Do you need to prime??

The primer did it’s job too and completely blocked whatever was making those splotchy spots!

Just from this one experience I would definitely recommend using a primer, even with the black poly.

It’s super frustrating to have to go back and fix something that could have been avoided in the beginning!

We sanded down the top, gave it a super light stain and sealed it with poly for durability.

Once the paint was completely dry we updated the hardware.

You can learn more about the top and the hardware over on our blog (click the button at the bottom of this post to head over).

This was seriously the easiest possible way to get a super smooth black finish with no dust, lint, or uneven topcoat coverage!

Suggested materials:

  • General Finishes Black Poly
  • Paint Sprayer
  • General Finishes Stain Blocker
See all materials

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Jane
    on Feb 3, 2019

    Love this, great job! What is source for the label pulls? Thank you!

    • Natalie
      on Feb 19, 2019

      Hey Jane, I know this is late, but if you go to my blog post (link is at the bottom of this post) I have a link to the hardware in the original blog post.

  • John Biermacher
    John Biermacher
    on Feb 3, 2019

    First of all- a very nice project and professional technique.

    I have experience with getting a smooth black finish. Several projects are posted on HT. This project has a great look, but I don't have a sprayer andI generally incorporate used/salvage furniture or architectural salvage in may projects. Therefore I am never really sure what existing finish I am going over, nor if someone might wish to repaint. Therefore I pretty much stick to oil base products.

    The steps are:

    1) Prime and sand;

    2) black base coat with a brush and sand smooth;

    3) overspray with aerosol spray black to cover sanded area, and

    4) top coat with rub-on (diluted varnish (dilute) to achieve uniform gloss.

    This process works quite well in a small shop and step 2) greatly reduces the amount of spray cans required in step 3.

    There is also an optional intermediate step and that is the base of my question. Often a client wants some edges sanded to expose wood tones. Sometimes after this edge sanding, I color the exposd edges with stain. This is usually done between steps 2) and step 3, sometime between 3) and 4 .

    The problem (finally after this long prelude) is that the primer must be black, because gray, white, or red primer shows as a ring around the sanded edges.

    The only oil base black primers I have found are:

    • an automotive product (which I suspect has a lacquer base) and is very hard to apply and really smelly.
    • black primer in a spray can and a lot of cans be required, if doing something like a dresser.

    Do you (or anyone who had the tenacity to read through this lengthy quest) know of a black oil based primer that can be applied with a brush?

    Thanks for everyone's patience.

    • Carey
      on Feb 3, 2021

      When I was refinishing furniture, I like you, found that it was almost always better to strip and then put on the new finish. I started to do that on the arms of an antique chair. I tried strippers, started trying to sand, but when neither option had absolutely no effect, I have come to the conclusion that this is one chair that the better part of valor is to just finish recovering it and leave the wood as it is. I has a few small nicks but not anything that is worth destroying a finish that is that a tenacious! Sometimes the original finish is worth keeping! I have no idea what might have been used to give it that kind of a lasting finish, but I would sure like to know! I have a strong suspicion that the chair is around 100 years old.

  • Claudia
    on Dec 31, 2020

    Why do you have to sand it after each coat?

    • Jeanne Martin
      Jeanne Martin
      on Jan 2, 2021

      Those are very light sandings and they smooth everything out (any brushes strokes, little bumps, etc.).

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