How to Paint Furniture WITHOUT Sanding in 4 Easy Steps

It sounds like the promised land – beautifully restored and painted furniture, minus the sanding….There are a number of terrific tutorials out there on how to paint furniture without sanding; we picked this tutorial below as an example because it’s easy to follow, with just 4 basic steps: Prep; Prime; Paint; Protect.

Can it be done?

We dug in to find out, and have some really great tips and a four-step guide to share.

There are a number of terrific tutorials out there on how to paint furniture without sanding; we picked this tutorial below as an example because it’s easy to follow, with just 4 basic steps: Prep; Prime; Paint; Protect.

Also, we know some of our readers prefer video while others prefer written tutorials, so we’ve included both! Here is the video below followed by a step-by-step tutorial that you can read and implement:

Source: hellocrisst on YouTube

The Tutorial in a Nutshell:

white refinished bedroom vanity no sanding
How to Paint Furniture WITHOUT Sanding in 4 Easy Steps

What you’ll need:

Zinsser Cover Stain oil-based primer

Floetrol paint conditioner (optional)

Elmer’s wood filler (optional)

Paint brushes/roller/sprayer

Paint of your choice

Minwax water-based Polycrylic

Screw driver/tools to remove hardware

Lint free rag to wipe and dust

Excluding the cost of the piece of furniture, all the supplies should run you about $100 or less if you already have any of the materials at hand.


1) Prep

First thing to do is to make sure furniture is clean and remove any hardware. Wipe down the surface thoroughly with your lint-free cloth.

Pro Tip: Don’t use a paper towel! Achieving a lint-free surface really does matter!

unfinished vanity for painting
How to Paint Furniture WITHOUT Sanding in 4 Easy Steps

Remove all of the hardware and set aside. You may choose to replace the hardware with new fixtures, or recycle the hardware you have. If you plan to use new hardware, check that the existing holes are the right size and location.

Pro Tip: If you are changing hardware, you might need to fill in the previous holes and dents as frequently modern hardware is a different size from antique.

If there are major nicks/gouges/scratchs, you may choose to fill them in with putty or Elmer’s wood-filler. You want something that is moldable, paintable, and easy to both use and clean. Keep in mind that if your end goal is a distressed piece, you can simply leave most minor imperfections and call it “character.”

2) Prime

A great bonding primer is the magic potion that lets you skip sanding. Zinsser Cover Stain Primer is by far the favorite candidate – depending on if you’re painting laminate furniture or wood furniture without sanding, you can tailor your choice from there.

Zinsser cover stain primer bonding coat

Pro Tip: Like a good primer, good brushes are worth their weight in gold. You may need to experiment to find out what works best for you with the primer as well as the paint – you may end up using a combination of foam brushes, foam rollers, regular brushes and, if you have it, a sprayer. The goal is avoiding loose paintbrush hairs getting stuck to your furniture.

refinishing vanity ready for primer

Make sure to mix the entire can thoroughly, and do several light coats, allowing the piece to dry thoroughly (half an hour to an hour) between coats.

refinishing bedroom vanity second coat of primer

Pro Tip: Be prepared to apply plenty of coats of primer. On an older piece, especially, the wood is likely to just suck it up. Start with two coats, and don’t be surprised if you need three or four.

3) Paint

Like the primer, give the piece several light coats of paint, with plenty of time to dry. Since paint is generally thicker than primer, give it at least an hour between coats. Zinsser primer is oil-based, but you can use any paint you choose. We suggest an acrylic water-based paint or latex to avoid having to clean your brushes repeatedly in paint thinner.

bedroom vanity interior satin enamel behr premium plus paint

Pro Tip: Don’t worry about sheen when picking your paint. The gloss on the piece will be determined by your protective coat, not the paint.

Here is where you might end up using the Floetrel. This is a conditioner used exclusively with latex paint – it slows drying time, eliminates drag, and minimizes roller or brush strokes.

Floetrel isn’t a paint thinner, and won’t change the color of your paint. Even more good news: it’s inexpensive (un.der $10 a bottle, usually) and a little goes a long way. It’s a great little tool to have on hand for any painting project.

white bedroom vanity ready to paint

After you’ve painted and let the last coat dry (plan on at least two to three thin coats), take a NEW lint-free cloth and clean the furniture again. You want to make sure there is no dust before the next step.

Pro Tip: Skip painting the inside of furniture if it’s not going to show. For example, don’t paint the outer sides of any drawers if possible to avoid sticking, and be careful when painting the inner edges of doors for the same reason. Make sure you have plenty of wiggle room before painting!

4) Protect

Pro Tip: If you’re adding new hardware that requires filling old holes and drilling new ones, do it before you apply any protective coating.

white vanity painted ready for sealant

This is the step that keeps all your hard work looking good. You have a few choices for a polyurethane coat, like Minwax or Varathine. Here is where you want to consider the type of sheen you’d like in order to pick the appropriate sealant.

Pro Tip: Like with the paint, don’t use an oil-based protectant. They tend to yellow over time.

Your other option for protectant is to use a glaze or paste wax to create a hand-rubbed finish. Just like with the other types of sealant, make sure the piece is clean of any dust, and use thin coats. The paint may appear a little darker as you apply the wax, but as it dries this becomes minimal.

Pro Tip: The more wear you expect your piece to get, the more protectant you need to apply. A desk or table might need 4-6 coats.

Give the piece at least over night, or even a day or more to cure, then buff the piece with that lint-free cloth again. Your new (old) piece of furniture is ready to go!

finished painted vanity no sanding white bedroom

Source for Tutorial Images: hellocrisst on YouTube

Some More Ideas:

If You Want Distressed

The shabby chic/vintage look is both fashionable, and really easy and fun to create. If that’s what you’re going for, leave some of the minor cosmetic scratches, if the piece has any, and then be prepared to do a little scuffing once it’s dry as well.

Give Deglosser a Go

Deglosser can change your life. If you want to avoid sanding, but aren’t quite ready to go straight to primer, try it out. It’s essentially a form of liquid sander. All you need to do is use a paint brush to apply it, wait about 15 minutes, then wipe off. It’s a great shortcut.

Pro Tip: To check if deglosser is the right choice for your piece, test it on a small area, then paint that spot. Once the patch of paint is dry, use your fingernail or a coin to try and scratch it – this will tell you if the paint adhered properly.

Try Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a little pricier (around $50 per can) but a little goes a long way. You might even be able to get away with only one or two coats of chalk paint vs. two to four coats of regular paint.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that chalk paint dries more quickly than other paint. It will feel cool to the touch when wet, then room temperature when dry.

So You Really, Really Want to Sand

Maybe you love sanding and find it therapeutic  (if so, we’re not judging 🙂 ) – If that’s the case, try 150-grit sandpaper (or 80-grit if the piece has an existing varnish), either by hand or an orbital sander.

Be gentle! You want to avoid gouging or serious scratching; all you need to do is to rough up the surface enough that the paint will adhere well.

Another reason you might end up needing to sand is if your piece is especially shiny, glossy or slick. You can always test a section with primer and see if sticks. If not, a quick going-over with 220-grit sandpaper is usually enough to get a surface that will grip primer. You’ll also need to do this if the surface has previously been waxed.

That’s it! Prep, Prime, Paint and Protect – 4 simple steps on how to beautifully paint furniture WITHOUT sanding. Take your time when applying both the primer and the paint. More thin coats will definitely serve you better than a few thick coats. Give plenty of drying time as well, to avoid marring the surface.

Finally: Be sure to read labels and do all painting/priming in a well-ventilated area for safety. Please let us know if you use this tutorial, and how it works out for you. We love seeing pictures of your projects so keep them coming, and do let us know your thoughts.

Happy painting!














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