Tips to Paint Furniture White

9 Materials
$25
6 Hours
Easy

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.

tips to paint furniture white

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.

tips to paint furniture white

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

tips to paint furniture white

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.

tips to paint furniture white

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!

tips to paint furniture white

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.

tips to paint furniture white

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...

tips to paint furniture white

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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Have a question about this project?

2 questions
  • Mary
    2 days ago

    Did you give it finish coat. If so with what

  • Joan Kubancek
    30 minutes ago

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

Join the conversation

2 of 10 comments
  • Joanie
    on Jun 7, 2019

    This dresser is an inspiration to good, solid wood.......I love it! Probably an old piece.

  • Giselle
    on Jun 9, 2019

    I’m so glad you didn’t over distress it! The dresser is gorgeous and now her details can easily be seen.

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