Looking to update an old dresser? Find out how to paint a wood dresser the easy way for a gorgeous, smooth finish.
I love a good furniture makeover; there’s something about the mix of creativity and restoration that – at the risk of sounding overly dramatic – stirs my soul. So a recent painted dresser makeover for our master bedroom was both cost effective and therapeutic. 😉
Rather than show you a simple before and after, though, I wanted to give a step by step tutorial on how to paint a dresser. In today’s climate of long lead times and high cost, I think it is especially sweet to be able to restore an old piece to new life. Whether it’s a family heirloom, a new-to-you antique, a fun vintage find, or simply a high quality new-ish dresser that needs a fresh look, being able to restore an outdated dresser is such a helpful skill!
Finding a Quality Used Dresser
First, here’s a quick look at the piece I recently painted. After a couple of years of living with furniture that didn’t really fit the layout of our master bedroom, I finally decided to move my beautiful empire dresser out to the ranch and get a long, low dresser that fit our space better.
I found this dresser on Facebook Marketplace locally, and with dovetail drawers, smooth glide drawer slides, and velvet lining, I was thrilled with the quality I got for the price.
It’s a more modern shape and style than I often choose for furniture, but I knew I wanted a painted dresser that was a bit stately and yet simple to complement the wood grain on the more ornate antique washstands I restored for bedside tables.
Also, just wait on that blank wall around the window… I’ve got big plans! For the dresser, though, I was looking to achieve a smooth, modern, matte finish in a deep moody blue. Let me show you how.
This is not sponsored, but a special thanks to Fusion for providing the paint. All opinions are my own!
How to Paint a Dresser
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Tools and Supplies:
I’ve put together a video tutorial for you. For more details and written instructions, keep reading below.
1. Remove drawers and hardware
Pull each drawer all the way out of the dresser body and set it aside with the drawer front facing up. Then remove all knobs, pulls, and decorative hardware. Store these safely in a cup or bag so you don’t lose them.
As you do so, inspect the dresser for any serious damage to the previous finish. If there are significant chips or deep scratches in the finish, take a moment to fill those with wood filler before the next step. Trust me, the prep work is worth it!
2. Lightly sand
Using medium grit sandpaper (I like 150), give the dresser a light sanding. If it needs more smoothing, go over a second time with 220 grit paper.
You do not need to remove the previous finish entirely since you are going to paint the dresser. You just want to scuff up the previous finish and smooth out any inconsistencies. If the previous finish was glossy, be sure to sand enough to remove that sheen, as this could make your paint not adhere very well.
It is important to remove all sanding dust as well as any leftover grime, grease, or dirt. I suggest a quick wipe down with an old rag to remove the majority of the sanding dust. Then spray the dresser with Krud Kutter or Simple Green and wipe with a lint-free cloth to ensure a clean, oil free finish.
4. Paint first coat
My goal for this dresser was a smooth and durable finish free of brush strokes (if you want a textured chalk paint finish, then this is not the right technique for you.) Using a high-quality synthetic brush or a small foam roller made for trim paint, apply the paint in smooth long strokes, being careful to avoid paint drips. Let it dry completely.
5. Paint second coat
Repeat step 4 for the second coat.
6. (Optional) Apply top coat
Fusion mineral paint does not require a top coat, and our dresser will simply hold decorative items, a lamp, and my clothes when I fail to put them away ;)… so I did not seal it. But if you know your dresser will receive significant traffic, then you might choose to seal it with a polyurethane or water-based top coat (scroll down to see related posts for more tips on top coats!).
7. (Optional) Update hardware
While your paint dries, you might consider updating your hardware. I gave these drawer pulls a little facelift with Rub ‘n Buff, which is my favorite gold wax product. I just wiped it on with a paper towel and rubbed off the excess.
8. Install hardware
Once everything has fully dried, reinstall your hardware. Then use the dresser carefully for at least of couple of weeks to allow the paint to fully cure to its hardest finish.
Painting Furniture FAQs:
Can you paint a dresser without sanding?
You can, if you use chalky paint or mineral paint, but I would advise against it. A very light sanding (not to remove the finish, just to scuff it up a bit) will smooth out imperfections and increase your paint’s adherence and therefore durability.
Do I need to prime my dresser before painting?
That will depend on the previous finish and type of paint (and color) you are using. As you saw above, it is possible to paint without primer if you prepare the wood properly (a light sanding to remove any glossy finishes) and use a paint made to adhere, such as mineral paint or chalky paint.
However, if you are planning to use latex paint or oil based paints, I advise priming. If you are trying to paint a very dark wood dresser white, then you might want to prime just to cut down on the number of coats of paint required. If the wood is especially dark or varied and you want a clean, light color, then I advise an oil based primer.
What kind of paint do you use on a dresser?
My favorite paint to use on dressers (and most small furniture pieces) is Fusion mineral paint. However, I have also had success with chalk paint, latex, and even oil-based paints. The important thing is that you prepare the dresser to receive the paint properly. If you choose latex or oil paint, you will want to use satin, semi-gloss, or gloss for durability.
Can you paint a dresser with spray paint?
I love using spray paint on outdoor furniture and accessories, but I would not advise using it on a dresser since spray paint does not always give you a very even finish. And most dressers have large flat areas that would be difficult to spray paint without some inconsistencies in the finish.
Alternatively, you could use a paint sprayer, with mineral or latex paint like I did on our murphy bed, but I find that taping off all the drawers and openings of a dresser is very tedious and hardly worth the work since dressers are simply not very large.
Can I follow these instructions for other wood furniture (like chairs, beds, tables, etc.)?
Yep! These same instructions could be followed for most pieces of furniture. However, I do recommend a top coat for a table or desk to give it greater durability.
Other Furniture Painting Tips
Here are a few more posts you might find helpful when painting furniture. Get tips on poly, waxes, stripping furniture, and more!