Woodworking Painting 101

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Completing a woodworking masterpiece is something to be celebrated, but what can really set it apart is a paint finish. Understanding the type of paint, materials you need, and how to do it will be the difference between highlighting your workmanship and ruining your project. Our team is here to help by teaching you how to do woodworking and painting right. 

Woodworking and Painting

Before our team breaks down how to paint woodwork, let’s first prepare the tools, materials and area.

Tools and Materials

Of course, you need high quality brushes and the right paint for the job. As a rule of thumb, if you are using latex paints, brushes with nylon bristles are unbeatable. As for oil paints, you will need to go for brushes that have natural bristles. Don’t worry as all of these tools are available at the paint store. You can even look into rollers for jobs with a lot of flat surfaces such as tables and touch up the finer details with the brushes. 

paint brushes and tools

The size will depend on the surface area, so use your best judgement to determine the best purchase. Also, don’t cheap out when it comes to the quality of the rollers and avoid foam covers.

Next come the paints. You will have a choice between putties, paints and primers, so assess your masterpiece and decide what kind of finish you want. There are three main types of paints — oil, latex and acrylic. Oil paints tend to be tougher, but they are also harder to clean up.

Prepare and Cover Work Area and Wood

The next step is to get the area ready and prepare the wood during the woodworking and painting process. Our team will dive further into the step-by-step instructions in a bit, so this section will focus on preparing your environment.

spray painting a photo frame with Rust Oleum 280711 American Accents Ultra Cover

Keep the area free of any tripping hazards and unnecessary fixtures. Remove everything you don’t want potentially covered in paint. Once you have a clear designated area, cover the floors, furniture and even walls if spray guns are involved with plastic covering or tarps.

Also Read: Are Spray Paints Waterproof

Steps to Paint Woodwork


First, we are going to prep the wood by sanding the surface so it’s more susceptible to coats of color. You can do this with sandpaper but also have a sanding sponge for curved surfaces. You can skip this step if you have already done this or have a pre-sanded piece from the store.

If there are cracks or flaws, it’s advisable to patch them up using a high-quality wood filler for painting later on.  

Remove Dust

You will notice that sanding creates a lot of dust, which is unavoidable. Having dust all over the surface of your project will prevent the paint from sticking, so you need to clear the area. You can do this with a damp cloth or a tack cloth. Even if you didn’t sand your creation, this step is a good idea for surface dust removal as well.

cleaning the surface of a table

Priming the Wood

When you have a clean piece of wood on your hands free of any debris, we can move on to the primer. A primer is used to enhance the painting and woodworking job and it can be sprayed or brushed on using a spray paint for wood. Just a light coat will do, work from the front and sides then wait for them to dry before starting on the back.


Once the primer is all dry, you can start in on the paint [1] job. Start by choosing your colors and squeezing enough onto a paint palette. Aside from picking the best paint for your wooden piece, you also need to use the correct type of brush in correlation to your paint and coat your project. If a second coat is needed, wait until the first coat dries before starting in on the second one.

If there are any designs you would like to apply, they should be implemented after all the base coats have dried. When you are finished with the paint job, apply a coat of sealer and you’re done!

Filling in Gaps and Sparse Areas

To prevent any gaps or sparse areas, you can go over these tough to reach places with different tools such as smaller brushes, rollers and even a spray gun for a more even coating. Sometimes a tool that’s shaped differently can solve the problem of a difficult to reach spot.

applying wood filler to gaps

Painting Wood Trimming

If you are looking to paint just wood trimming such as your door frame, cover the surrounding walls with protective tape. This will make sure that even if you do color outside the lines, your walls are safe. 

You need to first degloss the trimming, clean the area free from any dust and debris, cover the surroundings with painter’s tape, prime the trim, and then you’re good to go!

You Might Want to Know: How Much Does a Gallon of Paint Weigh

Tips for Painting Woodwork

Our experts have some important suggestions for painting and woodworking to help you achieve the best results. 

For starters, make sure you always keep the area clean before you begin. Protect the surrounding areas from overspray and paint splashes. Sand down all the surfaces to help the paint stick better, don’t press too hard with a brush or opt for a roller for a smoother finish.

painting a bedside table with acrylic paint

One of the most important tidbits of information is to wait until each coat is completely dry before applying the next one. Otherwise, you will be looking at ripples and uneven surfaces.

(Must-Read: Tips on Painting Burnt Wood)


Can you paint directly onto wood?

No, you can’t paint directly onto wood without prepping the surface. This is true whether you are painting outdoor furniture or indoor furniture. This will result in paint that will peel and flake off easily down the line. The purpose of preparing the wood surface before painting is to make sure the paint sticks.

Do I have to sand wood before painting?

No, you don’t have to sand wood before painting. Although it’s recommended, you won’t need to sand your project if you aren’t painting the piece a very contrasting color, if it’s pre-sanded, or if the original finish is clean, flat and not damaged.



Woodworking and painting go hand in hand for many DIYers, so understanding how to properly prepare your piece for color is important. Without taking the proper steps, the paint could end up looking unrefined, unprofessional, and not sticking to the surface. It’s vital to keep your toolbox stocked with different types of brushes and accessories fit for any painting job.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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