Tips to Paint Furniture White

9 Materials
6 Hours

If you've ever painted a dark piece of furniture white, you know that it can be quite the process. Especially when you get the dreaded bleed through from wood tannins.

Learn how I make the process go a bit quicker and avoid bleed through ruining your paint job.

I started with this gorgeous empire dresser. It had beautiful details and was solid wood.

But see how the wood tone is red? That's a pretty good indication that it's going to bleed through.

I always start a furniture makeover by cleaning it and then sanding it.

To seal in the tannins, I painted it with a shellac based primer. If I think it's going to be really bad, I use plain shellac first.

Shellac based primer is great because it's white, so it gets you a little closer to your desired white paint color.

After the shellac based sealer, I paint 1-2 coats of regular primer. Primer is much cheaper than paint and self levels, so I prefer my first few coats to be primer instead of pricy paint.

If this sounds like a ridiculous amount of paint, it typically takes 6-7 coats of white paint to cover a dark dresser. I've yet to find a magical brand that works better, so if you know of one, please let me know!

After the primer, I add 1-2 coats of white paint. I've started using white latex paint in an eggshell finish because it covers better than anything else I've tried.

After it dries, lightly distress the edges of the dresser with sandpaper. This really brings out the details that get lost in a solid paint job.

I would say this dresser was worth the many coats of paint!

Want to skip all these steps? Paint it gray or black instead. So much easier...

If you like this post, be sure to check out my blog where I share furniture makeovers, creative home improvement ideas and easy home decor ideas.

This photo is from my post about using milk paint to get a chippy look.

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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 4 questions
  • Joan Kubancek
    on Jun 17, 2019

    Why not use a high gloss oil based paint. A little more work but very professional looking. Also lasts longer.

    • Patsy47
      on Jun 2, 2020

      unfortunately, oil base paint yellows over time..and in order to repaint there is more prep work in order to change over to non- yellowing latex paint....

  • Patti Cullen
    on Jul 12, 2019

    Is all the priming necessary if I use chalk paint?

  • Kc Nordquist
    on Jun 4, 2020

    I have a red tinted dresser that I want to sand then stain a light brown. Do you know if the red will tinge through the stain?

Join the conversation

2 of 14 comments
  • Linda
    on Jun 20, 2020

    I Used Chalk Paint, Didn't Have 2 Sand Down. I Love The Way Mine Came Out .

    It Only Blead Very Little So I Just Added A Little More Pain & Taa Daa!! Lol 😁🥰

  • Linda
    on Jun 20, 2020

    This Is Using Chalk Paint, Blead Only A Little So Just Added More Paint..

    I Love The Way It Came Out!


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