Best paint for furniture: 7 picks to get your DIY projects started

Transform cast offs and hand-me-downs with the best paint for furniture. Quarantine DIY projects, check.

Best paint for furniture
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(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

The best paint for furniture is a must have if you're looking to give an old piece a second chance. Whether it's transforming a family hand-me-down, refreshing a weather-worn patio set or giving a flea-market find a facelift, there's a furniture paint for any project you have in mind. (We should know, we've spent many a weekend with an old sheet in our backyards painting furniture we found on the side of the road and could see the potential in ... even if no one else could).

Of course, when it comes to choosing the right paint for the job, it all depends on the project. The style you're going for, your level of experience (and patience) and how you plan to use the piece will all help narrow down the right can of paint for your job. So which paint should you pick? From farmhouse-inspired chalked paint, to modern high-gloss and durable outdoor picks, we've rounded up all of the best paint for furniture, broken out by how we like to use it, below.

First time painting furniture? Check out our article, How to paint furniture, for the full how-to.

How to choose the right furniture paint

As we mentioned, the best furniture paint for your job will depend on what the piece is made of, your skill level (and patience), and the look you're going for. 

In general, there a few different paint types available for furniture.

Chalk paint is a water-based paint with a matte finish that's ideal for painting wood pieces. It's beloved by DIYers because it's incredibly easy to use: chalk paint requires no sanding or prep work before use, and because it's low or no-VOC, you can DIY indoors. Chalk paint can also be easily distressed, so if often used by those who want an antique finish. At the same time, because it's water based, chalk-paint is only suited for indoor projects, and if you plan to use it in a high-touch situation (like a dresser) you'll likely want to seal it with a polyurethane or wax before use. 

Spray paint is another easy-to-use furniture paint, but it's more durable than chalk paint. Spray paint will adhere to nearly any surface: metal, wood, plastic, ceramic, glass, and more, and there are varieties suited to indoor and outdoor use. It's also inexpensive, and the easiest paint to use if you want a smooth look with no brushstrokes. The one drawback to spray paint is that it produces a lot of fumes, so it needs to be used outside and with a respirator and goggles. Spray painted pieces can also smell like chemicals for a few days, so you'll want to give them some time to offgas before bringing them indoors.

Latex furniture paint can also be used to paint a range of surfaces, including wood furniture, cabinet doors, metal, masonry, plaster, and unglazed ceramic. It's more durable than chalk paint, but also requires more prep work and dry time between coats. You'll need to sand down and prime old wood furniture that already has a finish or coat of paint on it. If you're working with unfinished wood, you'll need a coat or two of primer before painting. If you want a lasting finish, or are planning to use your furniture outdoors, go for a latex paint, followed up by a few coats of polyurethane. 

For more tips on how to choose the best furniture paint, skip to the bottom of the page. 

What is the best furniture paint?

We think the best furniture paint you can buy is the Rust-Oleum Chalked Furniture Paint. It requires no sanding or priming before use so it's great for all skill levels, it's available in nine different colors and it's easy to apply and low-VOC. 

However, if shabby chic isn't your thing or you want something more durable, then a furniture pain with various finishes is the best way to get the look you want. Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover Paint comes in satin or gloss finishes, which are better suited to more contemporary or formal interior design styles.

Rust-Oleum isn't the only option for durable, high-quality furniture paint, though. Read on to find out which other options we love for transforming old furniture, including top picks for spray paint fans, and an option for those looking for custom-color paints.

The best furniture paints you can buy

chalk paint

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

1. Rust-Oleum Chalked Furniture Paint

Best furniture paint you can buy: achieve optimum shabby-chicness with this chalky paint

Specifications
Best for: Ease of use
Type: Water-based chalk paint
Finish: Flat
Colors: 9
Reasons to buy
+Nine colors to choose from +No priming or sanding required+Easy to apply+Doesn't have a strong smell
Reasons to avoid
-Chalked paint isn't wipeable or stain resistant  

If you want to give a DIY project a go but don’t have loads of time to spend on it, then this Rust-Oleum Chalked Furniture Paint is a great go-to for easy furniture painting. No sanding or priming is required before application, and it’s a water-based product, which means it doesn’t smell too potent or give off strong fumes, so this could easily be applied indoors with just a few sheets of newspaper laid down for protection. 

It does, however, mean that it can only be used on interior furniture, as the paint would not fare very well in the elements. With nine colors to choose from, including coastal blue, linen white, blush pink, and and aged grey, there is a range of possibilities for transforming your old furniture into something truly unique. The matte finish also makes it a great pick for those who love a farmhouse or shabby-chic look. However, this paint also works for projects that won't live in a modern farmhouse -- to give it a more contemporary vibe, simply add a topcoat of a glossy polyurethane. This will also improve the durability of the product, too. 

valspar paint

(Image credit: Valspar)

2. Valspar Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss Latex Interior Paint

Best furniture paint for cabinets: get those cabinets looking brand new with this glossy paint

Specifications
Best for: Cabinets
Type: Latex
Finish: Semi-Gloss
Colors: Custom
Reasons to buy
+Dries hard+Durable and scratch-resistant+Hundreds of color options
Reasons to avoid
-May require multiple coats-Not suitable for outdoor use

Do your kitchen cabinets look a little worse for the wear? If so, then Valspar's Cabinet Enamel Semi-Gloss Latex Paint can quickly and easily make them look brand new again. This is a durable paint that goes on smoothly and leaves a smooth, hard finish that won’t show any signs of brush marks. The paint can be custom-colored, so you can choose from Valspar's extensive color library. Note that this paint works best with sanded or de-glossed cabinets, and you may require a primer if you're going from a dark to a light color. 

Check out our guide to how to paint kitchen cabinets if you're looking for an affordable way to upgrade your space.

paint

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

3. Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover Gloss Paint

Best furniture paint for coverage: a thick and glossy paint for a modern finish

Specifications
Best for: Thick
Finish: Gloss
Colors: 10
Reasons to buy
+A little goes a long way +Sleek, shiny finish+Can be used for outdoor furniture
Reasons to avoid
-Not a huge range of colors

This Rust-Oleum Gloss Furniture Paint is for use on a multitude of surfaces, including wood, metal, plaster, masonry or unglazed ceramic, and it's durable enough for outdoor use, too. You’ll find it’s hinier than the standard satin paint, which gives refinished pieces a more professional-looking finish. It comes in 10 colors ranging from classic neutrals to bold brights, like hunter green and apple red. We've used the red, navy, and white shades, all to great success. 

We love this paint because a little goes a long way (we've use a quart to cover an entire dresser, which we primed first), and it dries to the touch in just 30 minutes, so you don't have to wait long to apply a second coat.

A few things to note: Gloss paint can be a bit trickier to work with that matte, since if you go back over your brush strokes too many times, the finish won't look even. If you're a DIY newbie, chalk paint with a gloss topcoat might be a better option, but DIY veterans should have no problem. We've also found it works best with a primer on wood pieces, especially items that were previously stained. Also, while it's a water-based acrylic paint and has a mild odor, we still recommend using it in an outdoor area or well-ventilated room.

behr furniture paint

(Image credit: Behr)

4. Behr Interior Chalk Decorative Paint

Best furniture paint for a vintage look: a delicate, chalky paint for creating a distressed look

Specifications
Best for: Vintage look
Finish: Chalky
Colors: 8
Reasons to buy
+On-trend rustic, vintage look+Easy to use+Low VOC +Tintable to 500 colors+Less expensive than other brands
Reasons to avoid
-Often requires two coats

Like other chalk paints, Behr Interior Chalk Decorative Paint is a breeze to use since it adheres to most pieces without the use of primer. It's ideal for DIY newbies, and painting furniture pieces like sideboards, dining chairs, and table legs. This paint glides on to give a flat, matte finish that is strong enough to withstand wear and tear and will not rub off with general use unless you have specifically distressed it that way. 

If you prefer a more contemporary look or want a little more durability, you can pair the paint with Behr's sealing wax to achieve a satin finish. The wax comes in clear, white, and brown, which you can use to create a whitewashed or antique look.

One of the best parts about this paint, however, is the number of color options. It's tintable, so you can choose from virtually any color in Behr's library. That's 500+ options for finding the perfect shade.

furniture paint

(Image credit: Rust-Oleum)

5. Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2X Spray Paint

Best furniture spray paint for those on a budget: affordable for those budget DIY jobs

Specifications
Best for: Small jobs
Finish: Various
Colors: 40 +
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+40+ shades+Widely available+Quick and easy
Reasons to avoid
-Requires a well-ventilated areas-Strong fumes

If you want to give a small piece new life, and fast, spray paint is the way to go. Our favorite is Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2X Spray Paint, which we've used on everything from old planters, to thrifted nightstands, to inexpensive picture frames. 

We recommend this for small jobs for a few reasons. One, there are lots of fumes, so small jobs minimize exposure. Plus, after a while, your finger will get tired from holding down the spray trigger, which is when drips and smudges tend to appear. Spray paint is also super quick to use, so there's no need to get out (and clean) a paint roller, brush, and tray for a small project.

You'll find this paint comes in tons of color options, from subtle blues and neutrals, to fire-engine reds and mustard yellow. Many of the neutral shades come in varying finishes, like high gloss or matte. If you can't find a color in your desired finish, you can simply spray your project in the 2X clear paint, which comes in gloss, semi-gloss, or matte.

One final note on spray paint: If you use it, you must wear a respirator, even if it's done outside. We like this option from 3M, which you use with cartridge filters.

arborcoat exterior paint

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

6. Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Stain - Solid

Best furniture paint for outdoor use: durable outdoor paint in thousands of colors

Specifications
Best for: Outdoor use
Type: Acrylic
Finish: Matte
Colors: Thousands
Reasons to buy
+Outdoor furniture+Tintable to most Benjamin Moore colors
Reasons to avoid
-Use with primer

This matte-finish paint, part of Benjamin Moore's Arborcoat line, is perfect for painting outdoor furniture like wooden swings, Adirondack chairs, and picnic tables. It's durable, mold and mildew resistant, and can be tinted in any of the thousands of colors Benjamin Moore offers. One thing to note: there are a number of Benjamin Moore Arborcoat products, but only the solid stain is tintable in all colors. 

Find Benjamin Moore paint at Ace Hardware. 

country chic chalk paint dark green

(Image credit: Country Chic)

7. Country Chic Chalk-Style Paint

Best chalk paint for color variety

Specifications
Best for: Easy wood furniture makeovers
Type: Chalked
Finish: Matte
Colors: 55
Reasons to buy
+Ultra-low VOC+Comes in 55 colors which can all be ordered online
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than other paints on this list

True, Behr's chalk paint can be custom ordered in hundred of colors. But, if you're looking to save yourself a trip to your local hardware store, check out Country Chic Chalk-Style paint. It can be ordered online in 55 different colors, including multiple shades of white, 10+ shades of green, gorgeous pinks, black, and more.

Like other chalk-style paint we've tried, Country Chic paint went on easily and smoothly, dried quickly, and was virtually odorless. We used a gray-blue hue called Elegance to paint an antique wooden desk chair, and after two coats of paint it looked good as new. We also used Country Chic's Hemp Oil to seal the piece and make the finish more durable, but note that doing so did darken the color a touch. 

How to buy the best furniture paint

Choosing the type of furniture paint that will work best for your project will depend on a few key factors:

The function of the piece you're painting

Different paints offer different levels of durability, so it's important to consider the way you plan to use a piece before choosing a paint. 

Chalk paint, for example, is easy to apply and low-VOC, and makes a great paint choice for decorative accents like mirrors or accent furniture. But, it can tend to chip and wear over time on surfaces that'll get a lot of everyday use, like the top of a coffee table or a cabinet door. If you love the look of chalk paint but need a more durable solution, you can either seal the paint with a wax or polyurethane, or opt for a more durable paint in a matte finish.

Acrylic paints, like Rust-Oleum's Painter's Touch line and Benjamin Moore's Arborcoat, are typically more durable than chalk paint because they can be wiped and scrubbed, and cure to a hard finish that's more resistant to scratches. 

The finish you're going for

The finish of the paint you choose will impact both the look and the function of your furniture. Gloss paints feel more contemporary, while matte paints are suited for farmhouse or shabby-chic decor. Satin or semi-gloss finishes are versatile enough to suit any design style. 

As far as function goes, gloss, semi-gloss, and eggshell paints are wipeable and easier to clean than matte, flat, or chalk finishes. Different paints come in a different range of finishes, so you'll want to look for one that offers the level of sheen you want, or be prepared to add a sealer or top coat to achieve it. 

The range of colors

Color is typically the biggest reason people paint furniture in the first place, so you'll also want to be sure the paint you choose comes in a color you love. Tintable paints, like Valspar's cabinet enamel, come in hundreds of color options, and most can even be color matched to a shade from a different manufacturer (say, if you had your heart set on a Benjamin Moore color but wanted to use a Valspar paint, or vice versa). 

Spray paint and chalk paint, on the other hand, are generally offered in a set range of colors. 

The amount of prep work you want to do

If you're looking to do a simple refresh on a piece that's in good repair, and don't want to spend a ton of time on your DIY project, chalky paint is the quickest, easiest way to go. That's because chalk paint doesn't require a sanded or primed surface (although you'll often get longer-lasting results if you complete those steps), or a sealer.

With acrylic and oil-based paints, deglazing, sanding, and priming are recommended, and you may need a coat of polyurethane depending on how you'll use the piece and how long you want it to last.

For all things paint related, check our dedicated hub page.

About this review & reviewer

Kaitlin Madden Armon is the editor-in-chief of Real Homes, and no stranger to a can of furniture paint. Some of her favorite pieces of furniture have been found on the side of the road, at the Goodwill, through Facebook marketplace, and yes, even at the dump. She's used just about every type of furniture paint that's on sale at Home Depot (and then some), including spray paint, chalk paint, outdoor furniture paint, and latex furniture paint to give these pieces new life. Check out her furniture upcycles on Instagram at @kaitmadden

Kaitlin Madden
Kaitlin Madden

Kaitlin Madden Armon is a writer and editor covering all things home. In addition to Real Homes, she's written for Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living, Refinery29, Modern Luxury Interiors, Wayfair, The Design Network, and lots more. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons, and black lab.