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paint to use on wooden furniture

Listed under Blog, hand-painted furniture, krudkutter, Mythic paint, Owatrol, paint Posted Aug 04 2012

A multitude of primer / top coat combinations

Professional decorators are constantly having to adjust specifications to suit particular (sometimes peculiar) situations. There are perennial repeat questions and debates over best paint to use on wooden furniture.

Only read this if you have a good grasp of what is on the market and hat constitutes correct preparation. If you have little decorating experience or you are undertaking a DIY project, you should stick to the basic suggestions.

The following combinations of primer, undercoats and topcoats give good results. If you are in the trade it should make sense.

For primers on ANY surface – requiring nominal preparation

a) Zinsser B-I-N shellac based primer, followed by any water-based or oil-based system or

b) Blackfriars Problem-Solving water-based primer, followed by any water-based or oil-based system

c) Mythic Multi Purpose Primer followed by any water-based or oil-based system

(Wax is the fly in the ointment surface here. The recommended approach if using BIN or BFPS Primer or any “conventional” high adhesion stain blocking primer, is that wax should be removed. Quite easy with Krudkutter Original.Update: this has been discontinued, this eco degreaser is well worth trying instead – equally effective for a much more economical price too.

For nominal / no preparation, wax can definitely be over-painted with chalk paint – in fact chalk paint with no prep, adheres to wax, varnish, paint, glass…)

For priming lacquered or varnished wood surfaces – with THOROUGH PREPARATION – I have successfully used

a) Zinsser Cover Stain oil-based primer, followed by any water-based or oil-based system

b) Dulux Supergrip water-based primer followed by oil-based system only

For priming lacquered or varnished wood surfaces – with VERY THOROUGH PREPARATION – I have successfully used

Zinsser Bullseye water-based primer, followed by any water-based or oil-based system

In all these cases, I would seal knots with Zinsser B-I-N aerosol before priming with Coverstain, or after priming with Supergrip or Bullseye

Once the surface has been primed, there are a couple of alternative ways to achieve a satin / eggshell finish

a -1 coat of Little Greene oil primer undercoat or (acrylic primer undercoat) plus 2 coats of Little Greene oil eggshell or 2 coats of Sikkens Satura oil-based topcoat (Sikkens is high specification paint that has been years ahead of Dulux – and are now in the same stable as Dulux!)

b – Dulux, Crown, other modern paint companies – oil based undercoat plus 2 coats of oil based eggshell or 3 x eggshell. (Dulux Satinwood goes on very shiny, but does dull down to a similar sheen to eggshell after a few weeks.) These have more sheen than the “posh” paints oil eggshell.

c – 1 coat of Zinsser Coverstain plus 2 coats of Fired Earth acrylic eggshell, Mythic acrylic latex eggshell or semi gloss. Farrow and Ball acrylic Estate Eggshell seems to work when applied direct over a surface that has been sanded, and coated with a deglosser fluid (See Fluxaf Pro Clean applied neat) or Owatrol ESP). Other approaches have met with varying success, but as yet, I have not had any upset reports about unreliable F&B estate eggshell drying as discussed here etc.

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11 comments to “paint to use on wooden furniture”

  1. David

    Hi just have a question about painting solid wood kitchen cabinets.Would the Zinser bin or cover stain be better for this
    Thanks a mill


  2. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Hi David,

    What type of wood? Is it bare or clear lacquered? What is the topcoat you intend to use?

    As an example, if it is resinous bare oak and you want to apply an oil based finish, then Coverstain would be fine, but if resinous and you intend using a water based topcoat, then BIN would be a safer choice.

    Time and again, new users of Otex oil based primer are blown away. It has mistakenly been labelled or referred to as a like for like or straight choice alternative to Coverstain. It isn’t.

  3. Gary Chippendale

    Hi Andy,
    To paint old pine and varnished kitchen furniture in Farrow & Ball Estate eggshell does the following sound right.
    After prep, spray a mist coat of BIN over knots followed by one coat of Coverstain (easier to apply than BIN). Then one coat of F&B primer/undercoat followed by two coats of eggshell. Will this combination of primers and finish coats work well?
    Many thanks,

  4. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Sounds good to me. The F&B primer u/c covers your bases.

  5. Luke

    Hi Andy,
    First off, thanks for sharing all the great information on your site.

    I’ve been using Little Greene Intelligent eggshell on all trim woodwork in my house. I have a couple of old doors stripped back to timber where stain is creeping through a the johncryl primer undercoat I’ve been using.
    I’ve now got a tin of BIN to prevent any further problems.

    Is there any reason not to just apply apply the LG eggshell on top of the BIN?


  6. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    No reason, the only issue may be coverage over white BIN, which can be eliminated if you have the BIN tinted to match the topcoat

  7. Jake

    Hi Andy

    Are you able to suggest a system for hand painting/ rolling MDF to achieve a flat sprayed like Finnish?
    I have been using johnstones mdf primer X 3 coats with light sanding in between and then 2 X Dulux quick drying eggshell but I am not happy with the raised mdf fibres that are visible on close inspection.

    Would a specific oil based primer fix this issue ?


  8. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Hi Jake, check out this thread on the forum to give you a good start. http://forum.traditionalpainter.com/t/water-bourne-product-to-deal-with-mdf/1363

  9. Ruby Dyer

    There are so many projects I could use this for, but I think the first one would be the chair rail for my all wooden furniture

  10. Mary

    Hi Andy

    I want to paint my maple kitchen units that were waxed when new. Some 30 years old now but wax still there. I’ve heard of using ESP primer or I’m also wondering about using chalk paint just to get the paint to stick. I would then paint oil based undercoat, poss 2 coats and final would be Little Green oil eggshell.So question is would either esp or chalk paint work as a base coat and save masses of sanding that I’m not sure I could even get into all the nooks and crannies? Many thanks

  11. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    I can’t recommend chalk paint as a primer for conventional topcoats, although I have seen some claims it “should work”.

    ESP is a cleaner and adhesion enhancer.

    For removing wax, which is what you need to do, Fluxaf Pro Clean mixed 1:1 with warm water is pretty aggressive. Try that on the fiddly bits with a brush to see if you are going to get it off. Paint will lift off wax eventually. If th ewax comes off, your spec would work.

    If you can’t get the wax off then chalk paint is your only feasible painting option. You then have to weigh up the durability.

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