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Paint Furniture With Latex Paint: 13 Really Good Reasons

You should paint furniture with latex paint, also known as water-based paint. I can give you 13 reasons why and some great tips, such as where to find the best deals on latex paint, what sheen to use, how to mix a custom paint color, and more. Once you learn about painting furniture with latex paint, you can update your old furniture!

French Provincial Furniture Makeover
French Provincial Furniture Makeover

13 Reasons Why You Should Paint Furniture With Latex Paint

Painted furniture makeovers are super easy with latex paint. Some people will tell you differently, and that’s their opinion. Paint shelves at hardware stores and online shops are overrun with specialty furniture paints. I use some of those specialty paints on occasion but I use latex paint more often than not. Disclaimer: My opinions are based on my experience using latex paints. I am not a professional contractor or paint expert.

Speciality Furniture Paints Aren’t Required

white latex paint for furniture

This post probably won’t be a hit with those selling specialty furniture paints. At one time, I sold specialty furniture paints…and more than one kind…but I got out of that business. Furniture paints are on every street corner, in every antique mall, on Amazon, and just about anywhere there is an empty spot on a store shelf.

1. Availability

painting furniture and adding decorative furniture knobs

Latex paint is readily available at hardware, home improvement, department, and paint stores. You can also order latex paint online. Did you know you can even buy latex paint at Target? The paint at Target is premixed, and there isn’t a broad selection.

You can also purchase latex paint at a big discount at Habitat Restores. Some DIY’ers and contractors donate leftover paints or even new cans of paint from home projects to Habitat Restore. Other stores in your area may also collect paint to resell. It would be worthwhile to check listings in your area for this type of shop.

2. Price

oops latex paint

Price is probably tied with availability for the number one reason I use latex paint. Let’s face it: most of the furniture paints are a little on the pricey side. Latex paint is a fraction of the cost of these paints. I’ll let you in on a little secret too. Most stores that custom-mix paint colors have a shelf where you can find “oops” paint at a greatly reduced price.

Oops Paint

Latex paint also known as water based paint can be used to paint furniture

Oops paint is a custom-mix color that a homeowner selected and then decided they didn’t like. The store will mark the paint down considerably. I have purchased quarts of Oops paint for $4, where the regular price would have been $18, and gallons of Oops paint for $8-$10, where the regular price would have been $38+. You can often find sample jars of paint on the Oops shelf, which are as low in price as 50 cents.

You would be surprised how much paint is in those samples, usually enough for a nightstand or vintage wood sewing cabinet. If you don’t see any oops paint at your local hardware store, ask the paint guy where you can find it. 

3. Color Selection

custom latex paint color

There are endless displays of paint color chips in the stores. You can get your own paint deck from the manufacturer for a price. There are thousands and thousands of paint colors to choose from. Sometimes, when taking a break in the workshop, I look through my paint decks for inspiration.

Custom Paint Colors

You can also have your own custom color mixed at your local home improvement store to match wallpaper, fabric, wall color, etc. I mixed a custom color for our bedroom furniture.  And here is a little secret I learned from my friend Karianne, Thistlewood Farms, and I have yet to try it. It’s hard to explain, so I will give you an example.

Great Tip On Custom Paint Mixtures!

paint furniture for the bedroom

Say you paint your cabinets dark gray and want your kitchen island to be just a bit lighter, but the next color on the paint chip is too light. You can ask the guy at the paint store to make 50% formula or any percentage of your color to white paint. This will give you a lighter shade of that dark gray. Genius huh! Kari says they can only do this mix at a paint store like Sherwin Williams.

4. Latex Paint Sheens

Behr paint

Latex paint comes in various sheens: matte/Flat, Eggshell, Satin, Semi-Gloss, Gloss, and Hi-Gloss. My current favorite sheen for furniture is Flat (or Matte, depending on the manufacturer), and eggshell is a close second. I like Hi-Gloss for the retro-modern look that’s trending now.

5. All In One Product

1950's blond table painted with latex paint

Paint & Primer and sometimes sealer (if needed)  combination paint is the norm. For most projects, there is no need to buy an additional primer product. The same is true for a sealer or top coat, which is unnecessary. Win-Win!

6. Wax, Sealant, Top-Coat; Not Required

wood trunk painted Benjamin Moore Hale Navy

Often, a top coat on furniture is not needed for latex paint. If painting a dining room table, I would use a sealer or top coat over any paint type. If you need to seal or wax over latex paint, there are many products to choose from. Specialty furniture paints require their own special waxes and sealers, which are usually pricy.

7. Quality And Durability

scuff defense paint

When buying latex paint, stick with top brands and manufacturers. Paint quality and durability have been steadily getting better and better over the last few years. I’ve used several paint brands that cover in one coat! It all depends on the color you are using and what color or stained finish you are covering. Latex paint is also resistant to fading, cracking, and peeling, which makes it a great option for furniture that will be used regularly.

8. Paint Furniture With Latex Paint: Custom Mixes

red furniture

The best thing about latex paint is having the color of your dreams. Take in a favorite blanket, decorator pillow, rug, fabric, you name it, and the paint guy can match the color to a tee or pretty darn close.

I love to combine my colors at home until I come up with the perfect color for a project. For example, I mixed a fabulous red from different latex colors in my stash. I liked it so well I brushed some on a paint stirrer and had Home Depot color match the paint for me. It’s called Junktion Red!

9. Special Paint Techniques Friendly

gray latex paint for furniture

Latex paint can be distressed, antiqued, aged, white-washed, glazed, crackled, stenciled, decoupaged, etc. You name it—I haven’t found a technique I can’t use on latex-painted furniture.

10. Ease of Use

Kathy painting

Buy the latex paint you believe fits your project best, bring it home, shake or stir, and paint. There is no mixing of powders or painting with lumpy paint. Clean-up after painting the furniture is easy since latex paint is water-based.

11. Paint Samples!

paint samples

I talked about the paint samples earlier but didn’t mention their usefulness. Most specialty furniture paints don’t come in sample sizes. You have to pay the big price for the big jar…..and what if it isn’t the color you thought you wanted? No returns. Most latex paint companies have sample sizes you can purchase for less than $6.

12. Use Latex Paint in a Paint Sprayer

paint a metal glider with latex paint and a paint sprayer

Painting a piece like this metal glider with a paint sprayer is easy. Use a paint sprayer filled with latex paint to paint any furniture. It will make the job go much faster. The latex paint must be thinned with water when using a paint sprayer. I often use my HomeRight Finish Max Sprayer. 

13. Latex Paint is Available in Specialty Finishes

metallic paint

Now, you can get metallic paint in latex paint. At one time, metallic paints were oil-based….and messy. You can buy chalkboard latex paint and dry-erase board latex paint.

Latex Paint For Furniture

13 reasons to paint furniture with latex paint

Do you have any latex paint around the house? Maybe some leftovers from a house painting project. Maybe you have a piece of furniture that needs a little love. Go for it! As always, thanks for being here, and have a great day, Kathy

Kathy Owen founder of Petticoat Junktion
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Author: Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen is the founder of the home decor blog Petticoat Junktion where she shares tutorials on painting furniture and upcycling thrifty finds into unique home décor. Her DIY projects have been featured on the Home Depot Blog, Plaid Crafts, Behr Designer Series, and in numerous magazines. Kathy’s newest website is HappyHomeDIY.com

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  1. I recently used latex to paint shelves and a cabinet and very pleased with the results
    I first researched antique primitive style colors and then matched them at the paint store rather than pay the big prices. I used Briwax on the table top.

  2. How can I grunge up a freshly painted piece? I’m especially interested in dixie belles dixie dirt. I like the look it gives. Or is there a similar product for latex paints?

  3. Jennifer, I’m not familiar with any of the zero voc sealers. I would do an online search and find something that way maybe. I have used Varathane and General Finishes before with good results.

  4. I am going to use leftover latex paint to paint a kid’s table. You mentioned you normally don’t use a topcoat but would for a dining room table. What type of topcoat would you recommend? I’d like to stick with something with zero VOCs. Thank you!

  5. Here in Canada, we recycle latex paint and stain at recycling centres. They in turn give the paint away for free to anyone that wants it. A lot of the paint tins have never even been opened. It is usually not enough to paint a room, but always enough to paint a piece furniture.

  6. Hi Vicky, There are actually latex paints now that are Zero Voc. I updated the post with info on this subject. Thanks for pointing out the chemical issues with latex paint.

  7. thank you, thank you, thank you for your validation! i have yet to take the plunge into chalk paint. i just managed to go through my stash of H4H Restore paints i have – all pints or quarts – and i found so many great colors to choose from! i’ve got a ton of things to get going on now!

  8. As always a great post, I do the same, have mostly given up on ‘special paints and their high prices. I thought of another reason Kathy, the price leaves a bit left over to buy some special touches like knobs etc.

  9. I do like latex but agree with the above comment about vocs. Not everyone has an area to paint that is outside and/or well ventilated. I have a respirator but so uncomfortable to wear while painting. Are there any no voc latex paints? I though behr might have one.

  10. With proper prep I’ve never had a latex peel. But then again, my items are not outside I use latex to be fiscally responsible!? although I love the other paints!!

  11. Kathy, I agree with all 11 reasons why but what about the VOC’s? What about the chemicals and the smell? Layte. Also peels. I have made my own. Half pai t out of laytex. Now you didnt add that to your list. 🙂

  12. I have painted furniture for years also using latex paint for all the reasons you described. I’m not interested in the bazillions of other types of paint out there and researching the best ways to use them. Why bother, when you can get a great latex paint in the desired color and get fabulous results with it. Although prices have risen some, latex is still more affordable and like you Kathy, I always check out the oops and sample paints and keep an ample stash of those. In my opinion you just can’t beat latex.

  13. Kathy, I totally agree. I have been using oops paint for years. I do like my DIY homemade paint too. But latex is easy! I really enjoy your blog!
    Smiles, Alice

  14. Saw this link from “DIY like a boss” and I had to click! Finally some truth out there!!!! I have painted a ton over the years and like you, I love all paint types but the “chalk is the only way” band wagon drives me a bit crazy. Nothing wrong with it but yes you can create a jaw dropping amazing paint finish with good old house paint! And the myth that is wont last isn’t true either. I have a beutiful piece sitting in my entry that my grandfather painted with good old house paint 40 years ago! Good luck with your article. People get pretty defensive of their chalk paint ? But seriously folks, house paint people, it is just as good.

  15. Thank you for posting this. I have an old dresser that I want to paint a darker shade of the room’s wall color, and I was worried that the latex might not go on well or hold up. After reading your post, I’m going to try it! Your furniture example are beautiful.

  16. Great post I haven’t thought of using just latex for furniture. thanks for the tips! Thanks for linking up to Merry Monday! Sharing on Pinterst! Have a great week!

  17. Great tips on latex! Loved it, you’re right it is pricey for some of those brand name chalk paints and I am not a wax person. It is too high maintenance.

    I did try a cheap chalk paint from a local craft store to paint my kitchen table and it turned out pretty good with a coat of poly over it, but some other projects I rely on latex and the usual sprays for outdoors.

  18. I’m with ya! Love latex paint, and I will add that those three dollar samples changed my life!! I just painted an entire twin bed frame for three dollars in paint! I love the durability of latex; I love how when you distress it the sheen wears down, adding another layer of color…it gives depth without added work or treatments. I have used chalk paints and enjoy them, but it is so nice having a a hard finish all in one (and much more cost-effective)! I’m lazy, I guess!