Best paint for furniture: quick and easy upcycling

Give tired furniture a new lease of life with the best paints for furniture
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • The best paint for furniture can easily transform tired or dated wooden furniture, giving it an instant uplift. In fact, upcycling is a quick, affordable and sustainable solution for revamping your interiors on a budget; all without having to buy brand new furniture!

    Whether you want to spruce up an old table, chest of drawers, or a wardrobe, the best paint for furniture will enable you to get creative and craft your own one-of-a-kind pieces.

    But with so many different types of furniture paint on the market, it can be tricky to know which option would best suit your DIY project. From the choice between eggshell and satin finish, to whether you should opt for an oil or water-based type, choosing the best paint for the task at hand will make all the difference to your overall look.

    You can even give your kitchen a budget makeover with some of the latest paint options; if you’re up for a bigger job check out our guide to the best paint for kitchen cabinets to undertake an affordable transformation.

    But if it’s an upcycling job you’re looking to do, read on to find the Ideal Home team’s pick of the best paints for furniture…

    An upcycled wooden sideboard with geometric pattern painted in Annie Sloane paint

    What is the best type of paint for furniture?

    There are two main base types of furniture paint and they both have their pros and cons:

    An oil-based or alkyd type is more hardwearing and durable, and you can use it on most surfaces and usually won’t need a primer or topcoat. However, it takes a lot longer to dry and contains harmful solvents.

    Acrylic or water-based paints are easy to apply, dry quicker, and have far fewer strong chemicals. However, you may need to use a primer before you paint and as they’re less tough you’re likely to need several coats, and accept the finish may be less durable.

    How much should I spend?

    The cost of furniture paints can start from as little as £10 right up to £50, but how much you decide to spend really depends on what you’re upcycling. Premium paints tend to have better coverage and require fewer coats. You’re also likely to find a wider range of colour options with the more expensive paint brands. But if you’re only doing some touching up on a smaller job or just looking for a basic colour like white, then there’s probably no point spending a fortune on expensive paint.

    The best paint for furniture 2021

    1. Ronseal One Coat Cupboard & Melamine Paint White Gloss 750ml

    Best paint for furniture: satin or gloss finish

    A tin of Ronseal One Coat Melamine and Furniture paint in Gloss White

    Finish: Satin or gloss
    Base type: Solvent
    Capacity: 750ml
    Colours: 9

    Reasons to buy:

    • Affordable
    • No primer needed
    • Smooth finish
    • One coat

    Reasons to avoid:

    • Takes a long time to dry
    • Contains VOCs
    • Limited colour options

    If you want to spruce up furniture that’s made from melamine – as well as wooden furniture – then Ronseal One Coat Cupboard & Melamine Paint is a great option. Specifically formulated to adhere to melamine surfaces, this paint is easy to apply with a brush in just one coat. While you don’t need a primer, it’s best to apply two coats if you are painting over a dark colour with a lighter tone.

    It’s worth noting that we found this paint takes a lot longer to dry than other paints, and you need to allow between 12-24 hours drying time before applying another coat. But the smooth coverage and professional-looking sheen make it worthwhile. Best of all both the satin and gloss options are hardwearing, durable and scuff resistant, so your furniture will look in top condition for a long time to come. Overall, we found this the best furniture paint to give upcycled furniture a stunning finish.

    The downside is that it’s solvent-based, meaning it contains VOC chemicals and has a slightly strong smell. Make sure you follow the instructions for use on the tin to use it safely, ensuring you have proper ventilation by opening all windows and avoiding using it in enclosed spaces.

    Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    2. GoodHome Flat Matt Furniture Paint 500ml

    Best paint for furniture: matt finish

    B&Q GoodHome Flat Matt Furniture Paint

    Finish: Flat matt
    Base type: Water
    Capacity: 500ml, 2litre
    Colours: 26

    Reasons to buy:

    • Affordable
    • No primer needed,
    • Washable
    • Good range of colours

    Reasons to avoid:

    • Long drying time

    If you don’t fancy a gloss or satin sheen to your furniture makeover then B&Q’s GoodHome Flat Matt Furniture Paint is a durable and hardwearing matt option. It’s formulated to be resistant to water and household cleaners, which can be rare in a matt paint, so is useful for furniture that’s likely to be in need of a freshen up from time to time.

    It’s a self-priming paint, so you won’t need to buy a separate primer, and offers good value for money with excellent coverage – although just note the price shown is for a 500ml tin rather than 750ml like most of our other options.

    Although you can use just one coat, we would advise you to use two coats to get the full flat matt finish. You do need to wait between 12-24 hours before painting the second coat, but we think the results are worth the wait.

    Ideal Homes rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    3. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint 1 Litre

    Best paint for furniture: chalky finish

    A tin of Annie Sloan chalk paint

    Finish: Chalk
    Base type: Water
    Capacity:  1 Litre
    Colours: 42

    Reasons to buy:

    • Popular chalk finish
    • No sanding required
    • No primer needed
    • Wide range of colours

    Reasons to avoid:

    • Chalk paint isn’t wipeable or stain-resistant
    • Expensive

    If you’re after a shabby chic look, then Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint has become one of the go-to brands for a distressed or vintage look. Hugely popular for furniture upcycling, the thick paint formula creates a rustic look where brush marks are welcomed, and the bonus is it’s incredibly easy to use.

    This paint’s thicker viscosity hides a multitude of sins, and there’s no need to sand or prime your surfaces before use – music to the ears of those of us who want to upcycle but are pushed for time! Simply add a little water to make the paint consistency smooth and you can easily apply in just two coats.

    And perhaps the best part of all is the carefully curated palette of 42 paint shades, offering you a wealth of on-trend colours to choose from.

    The only downside – alongside the fairly high price point – is that chalk paint isn’t stain-resistant and can be prone to chipping, so it’s great for painting items that won’t get much wear, but furniture that’s used every day may need some extra protection; although you can apply a protective wax topcoat for added durability.

    Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    4. Wilko Quick Dry Chalky Furniture Paint 750ml

    Most affordable chalk paint for furniture

    A tin of Wilko chalk furniture paint in Soft Putty

    Finish: Chalk
    Base type: Water
    Capacity: 750ml
    Colours: 11

    Reasons to buy:

    • One hour drying
    • Hardwearing
    • Affordable

    Reasons to avoid:

    • Strong smell
    • Limited colour options

    If you love the look of chalk paint, but don’t have the budget for our best-in-class option, then the Wilko Quick Dry Chalky Furniture Paint may be for you.

    The paint is formulated to leave a tough, matt finish on melamine, interior wood and MDF, making it the perfect choice for upcycling a variety of furniture around the home.

    Water-based and very easy to apply, this paint gives excellent coverage in just one or two coats. What’s more, it’s quick-drying, with the painted surface dry to the touch in just over one hour – although we’d recommend waiting a little longer before applying another coat for better results.

    The downside is it only comes in 7 colours, but if one of those 7 is a shade you’re happy with then this is a good value chalk paint that achieves a very successful transformation.

    Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    5. Old Fashioned Milk Paints

    Best eco-friendly furniture paint

    A sachet of Old Fashioned Milk Paint powder

    Finish: Chalky
    Base type: Water
    Capacity: Pint Bag, Quart Bag, Gallon Bag
    Colours: 32

    Reasons to buy:

    • Eco-friendly
    • Non-toxic
    • Rustic finish

    Reasons to avoid:

    • Takes time to prepare
    • Only available online

    If you’re after an organic paint that does less harm to the environment and won’t bring toxins into your home, then Olds Fashioned Milk Paints are a great choice. Based upon ancient recipes, the formula is comprised of milk protein (casein), lime and natural earth or minerals, making it 100% non-toxic, VOC-free, food-safe and eco-friendly, and ensuring its much safer for babies and young children – so a good option for upcycling nursery, playroom or bedroom furniture.

    There is a little more labour involved with this option, as the paint powder comes in a bag which you need to mix with an equal amount of warm water before stirring thoroughly. After a few minutes of stirring to remove all the lumps you let the mixture stand for around 15 minutes so it thickens, then give it another good stir to ensure a smooth consistency and not foamy.

    The chalky results are impressive, leaving a rustic, distressed finish that totally transforms dull furniture. It’s best to use two or three coats though, to get a more vibrant sheen. And there are a brilliant 32 colours to choose from, so you’ll have plenty of options.

    While the mixing process can be a little time-consuming compared to just cracking open a tin, the results are impressive and we think the effort is worth it for the peace of mind this option provides, and its far gentler impact on the planet.

    Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    Buy now: £5.95 from Old Fashioned Milk Paints

    How to choose the paint finish for your furniture?

    Once you’ve chosen your colour, the next step is deciding which finish or sheen you prefer.

    Gloss: If you want a high sheen finish then gloss paint is ideal. This paint works well on doors, skirting and window sills but will also lend a modern feel to upcycled furniture. Gloss is also easy to clean, wipe down and maintain.

    Satin: This leaves a semi-gloss finish and remains brighter than a gloss finish.

    Matt: If you want a rustic finish, matt can add a chalky, distressed style to your old wood furniture. Bear in mind, it is less durable so you may need a protective topcoat.

    What type of furniture can I paint?

    With a little imagination, most homeware can be upcycled to give it a new lease of life, but paint is a quick and easy solution for transforming wooden and even melamine furniture with the right paint formula. For inspiration check out our upcycled furniture ideas and start assessing that old sideboard you’ve been wanting to get rid of with new eyes… For an easy dining room update repainting an inherited dining table and chairs is always a great way to instantly change the feel of a room. See the effects you could achieve in these budget dining room ideas.

    How to prepare for painting furniture?

    While it’s tempting to rush in with a paintbrush in hand, preparation is key with most paints, although there are exceptions as with the Annie Sloan chalk paints. Before you begin, make sure you clean your surfaces with a cleaning agent to remove any dirt or grime build-up. Once dry, it’s advisable to lightly sand down to get a smooth surface which will make painting easier. If your chosen paint is not self-priming, then apply a coat of primer before you start your upcycling project. Then have fun painting!




    All the latest from Ideal Home