How to Paint Over High Gloss Paint Without Sanding

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You may have tried painting over a high-gloss surface but failed terribly.  Well, you’re not alone in this dilemma. Many in the woodworking field share this sentiment. 

If you’re keen on learning how to paint over high gloss paint without sanding, I’ll help you navigate this process with tried-and-true techniques to ensure a finish you can be proud of.

High-Gloss Paint: What is it and Why It’s Hard to Paint Over?

This paint provides a shiny and smooth finish on the wood surface and gives an extra layer of protection. It is ideal for frequently used surfaces, such as floors and countertops. However, due to its glossy and reflective finish, it can be difficult for paint to adhere to it.

Steps to Painting Over High-Gloss Painted Surfaces Without the Use of a Sander

It can be challenging to paint over a high-gloss painted surface, but with the proper techniques and materials, you can get the job done faster. 

spray painting cabinet drawer

Essentially, it requires meticulous preparation to provide the top paint coat with the right surface texture it can grip onto. 

What You’ll Need

Step #1: Prepare Your Workspace

To start, tidy up your workspace and remove anything that can hinder you while painting.  If you’re painting a wall, you should take down anything hanging on it and move the furniture away from the wall. 

preparing work area for painting

Also, it is necessary to cover the floors or anything you can’t move with plastic sheeting or drop cloth. More importantly, ensure that your work area is well-ventilated. If you’re painting an object that can be moved, I’d recommend relocating it to an open space or perhaps your garage.

However, if you’re tackling a fixed item or area inside the house, always remember to open doors and windows.

Step #2: Ensure Your Safety

Your health is of most importance. Since paint contains chemicals that release harmful fumes and can be toxic when inhaled, it is necessary to wear a face mask or a quality respirator mask for better protection. Specifically, you must wear a face mask when priming, de-glossing, and painting. 

Also, these chemicals may irritate or damage your skin, so make sure to wear a pair of rubber gloves to safeguard your hands. To protect your eyes from the fumes while using the de-glosser, you must wear a pair of safety goggles.

Step #3: Prepare the Wood Surface You’ll Paint

It is important to clean the surface before you start painting. Remove any protruding hooks and nails. Clean the surface with water and sugar soap. Soak a sponge into the mixture of sugar soap and water, then squeeze it to remove the excess liquid. 

applying wood filler

Use the sponge to wipe the surface that you will paint. It’s best to follow a circular motion, starting from the bottom and working your way up. This technique helps achieve a seamless look.

If there are stains that you can’t wipe off, apply more cleaning mixture on it and allow it to sit on the stained spot for 10 minutes, then scrub it with the sponge. 

Once you have thoroughly removed the dirt and stains, rinse the entire surface with water from the top to the bottom. Use a clean cloth to dry the surface. 

Step #4: Seal the Parts You Don’t Aim to Paint

You must ensure to cover the area that should not be painted like electrical sockets. If you are painting a wall, you must also cover skirting boards and ceiling lines. Put the tape on the ceiling lines and skirting boards before painting to achieve flawless and clean lines.

Read Next: Guidelines to Choosing a Skirting Board

applying wood sealer

Step #5: De-gloss the Paint

Using a de-glosser will to mimic the effects of sandpaper. Without using a de-glosser first or painting directly onto a high-gloss surface will result in peeling paint down the line.

Essentially, de-glosser gives the paint something to grip onto. I recommend applying one or two coats of liquid de-glosser to ensure the paint remains durable and long-lasting.

Using a Liquid De-Glosser

Alternatively, you can use a de-glosser instead of sandpaper. Follow the steps below

cleaner and stain remover

I’d strongly recommend applying the primer almost immediately after the de-glosser – ideally within 10 minutes. This quick transition ensures that dirt or dust doesn’t have the chance to settle on the surface, which could compromise the finish.

Aside from de-glosser, you can use a liquid sandpaper for this step. Here’s a quick guide to get this done effectively!

Step #6: Coat with Primer

It is necessary to determine the appropriate type of primer you can use depending on the type of paint. If you will use an oil-based paint, you must also use an oil-based primer. Likewise, if your paint is water-based, your primer should also be water-based. 

Essentially, primer helps the paint to adhere properly. I suggest using a roller when applying the primer on a flat surface. However, if the surface has grooves, a paintbrush is a better choice. 

Start with a thin layer from the top, then move your roller or paintbrush downwards for better adhesion. Allow the first coat to fully dry before applying the second layer. Make sure to apply at least two coats of primer.

Step #7: Apply the Paint

Once you are sure that the primer is fully dry, you can now start painting. You may use a paintbrush or a roller like how you applied the primer. Likewise, using a paint sprayer is a good option. Spray the paint from the top downwards for a seamless finish. 

antique furniture painted with Rust-Oleum 285140

Ensure that each coat is even and thin. You may apply at least two coats, depending on the coverage and color intensity you want. 

Step #8: Allow the Paint to Dry

Let the prior coat dry first before applying the next layer of paint. Follow the drying time between coats indicated on the label of your paint. 

You may also touch the surface lightly with your fingers to test if it’s fully dry. If it no longer feels sticky to the touch, then you can apply the next coat. 

Painting Over a High-Gloss Surface: 3 Methods

Typically, gloss paint is suitable for surfaces that require frequent cleaning and washing, such as countertops, kitchen cabinets, outdoor furniture, and doors. 

It is easy to maintain due to its sleek and smooth finish. But its downside is the paint can’t adhere easily to a high-gloss surface, especially if you don’t sand it.

dresser with chalk paint

However, there are several methods you can do to paint over high-gloss paint without sanding the surface. Below are some of my recommended methods.

Method #1: Utilize Bonding Primer

Bonding primers are most suitable for slippery surfaces, such as high-gloss painted surfaces. Essentially, they make the new layer of paint adhere to the old coat while filling any imperfections like scratches.

For the best results, I’d advise coating the surface with a bonding primer, using either a roller or paintbrush. Once that’s done, you’ll be all set to paint it with your chosen color.

Method #2: Use Latex Paint

Alternatively, you may use latex paint to paint on a high-gloss surface. It is easier to apply since it is water-based paint compared to oil-based, which may take longer procedure. Latex paint can also fill any damage on the surface. 

painting furniture with black paint

Apply latex paint on the high-gloss surface using a roller or paintbrush, then paint it over with your preferred paint color.

Method #3: Using a Paint Spray

Paint spray is ideal for painting large surfaces. It is also helpful to achieve even layers of paint which can be difficult using a paintbrush. 

Using a paint sprayer can make your job easier. Simply fill it with the new paint and spray it from the top, then slowly work your way down. You may apply more than two layers to get a smooth and even finish.

Choosing the Best Paint For Your High-Gloss Painted Surface

Ideally, you must use the same type of paint as your base. Therefore, you must consider the type of base you used when choosing your new paint. 

cans of paint

For instance, if the surface you need to repaint is painted with a water-based tint, opt for a water-based paint. Meanwhile, if the surface is painted with an oil-based formula, then repaint it with oil-based formula. 

How to Tell if the Paint is Water-Based or Oil-Based

You can make a simple test to determine if your high-gloss paint is oil-based or water-based. For this test, you will need a clean cloth and methylated spirit. Pour a generous amount of methylated spirit on the cloth, then rub it on a portion of the painted surface. 

Observe if the cloth picks the paint color. If the paint stained the cloth, your paint is water-based. On the other hand, if it does not stain the cloth, your paint is oil-based.

Is Priming Required to Apply Paint on High-Gloss Surfaces?

Generally, you do not have to apply a primer before painting over a high-gloss surface. If you want to repaint the surface with gloss paint, you must only clean the surface and it’s ready for painting.

applying paint primer on cabinet

Meanwhile, if you want to paint a high-gloss surface with satin or flat paint, you only need to sand the surface before applying paint. 

Is it Okay to Use Spray Paint on Top of High-Gloss Paint?

The answer is yes, it is possible to use spray paint on high-gloss paint, especially if you use oil-based paint. 

Essentially, oil-based paints can adhere to high-gloss surfaces effectively. However, I suggest you sand the gloss surface and remove the debris and dust before you spray the paint.

Is it Okay to Paint Flat on Top of the Gloss?

Yes, you may paint flat on a high-gloss surface, but you must lightly sand it first to roughen it and create the right texture the new paint can grip on. Scuff off the top glossy layer to remove the slick sheen, then apply the flat paint coat.

Proper surface preparation ensures a longer-lasting and more professional-looking paint job.

Can I Use Satin Paint Over Gloss Paint?

Yes, you can also use satin paint over gloss paint once you have scratched off the glossy sheen with sandpaper. While sanding does the job, I often lean towards using a liquid de-glosser for a more efficient preparation. Either way, with the right prep, you can ensure that the satin paint adheres beautifully over the gloss paint.

spray painting chair with purple lacquer paint

Semi-Gloss Paint: How to Fix Peeling

  1. To start, lightly sand the peeling paint.
  2. Apply a coat of an oil-based primer over the water-based paint or latex paint.
  3. Lightly sand the primer coat to achieve an even and smooth surface.
  4. Apply at least two coats of semi-gloss enamel after priming the surface.

Tip & Tricks for Painting Over a Glossy Painted Surface + How to Avoid Mistakes

Painting over a high-gloss surface without sanding requires a lot of patience and hard work. But to help you achieve a seamless finish efficiently, here are some tips I swear by that can aid you in the process.

Opt for the Right Paint

It can be tricky to paint a glossy surface, especially if you are not using the right paint. 

Therefore, before you start painting, it is important to know the type of paint that is appropriate for your glossy surface. Choosing the right paint can make the process more efficient. 

Always Prepare the Surface

It is essential to clean the surface before you start painting to achieve a flawless finish. Also, you must apply a de-glosser to roughen the surface and help the paint to adhere easily.

preparing Rust-Oleum 284470

Don’t Forget to Use High-quality Primer

Applying a primer before painting your glossy surface can help you achieve a smooth finish. Ensure to use only high-quality primer and should be the same base as your paint.

Apply Paint in Thin Coats

Apply the paint in thin layers to get an even finish. Always drain excess paint on the roller or paintbrush before applying it on the surface to avoid drips or any runs in your paint. 

Let the Paint Dry Completely

Ensure that the first coat is fully dry before applying the next coat. The drying time depends on the type of paint you use, but it typically takes at least one hour to one whole day.


Can you paint directly over high-gloss paint?

No, you can’t paint directly over high-gloss paint because the paint will not adhere properly on smooth and slick surfaces. It is necessary to sand the surface first for the paint to adhere effectively. But, how about painting over glass windows? How will you do it? Read next!

Can you paint over gloss without sanding?

Yes, you can paint over gloss without sanding, but you must ensure to clean the surface properly with water and soap. You may apply a de-glosser and let the surface dry before you start painting.

What primer to use over gloss paint?

The primer you should use over gloss paint should be the same base as your paint. So, if the gloss surface is painted with a water-based formula, use a water-based primer. Meanwhile, you must use an oil-based paint over an oil-based primer.

Is it okay to sand semi-glossy paints between coats?

Yes, it is possible to sand a semi-glossy painted surface, but ensure to use fine-grit sandpaper. Let each coat fully dry before you sand them.

How much do you need to sand the semi-gloss finish before painting?

Semi-gloss finish only requires light sanding. You may use sandpaper [1] with 220 to 320 grit to roughen the surface before painting.

Is undercoating necessary on old gloss?

Yes, undercoating is required on old gloss to help the paint adhere easily. Also, applying a solid layer of primer can make the topcoat more durable.

Is it okay to apply matte paint over gloss paint?

Yes, it is alright to apply matte paint over gloss paint, but you must sand the surface first. You must also apply primer before applying matte paint to make it more durable.

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Painting over a glossy surface can be tricky and you may encounter many mistakes before you can successfully finish your woodworking project. 

But now that you know how to paint over high gloss paint without sanding, you’re well-equipped to achieve that flawless, shiny finish on your woodworking project.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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