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6 Quick, Easy and Inexpensive tips for Painting Furniture

6 Quick, Easy and Inexpensive tips for Painting Furniture

Getting Started, Tips and Tricks

6 Quick, Easy and Inexpensive tips for painting furniture

In the course of painting furniture, I have found a few inexpensive items that have become indispensable to me and I thought I would share them with you. Some are inexpensive or Dollar Store items and others you probably already have around the house. Some of these tips may seem pretty obvious, but to me they were good discoveries.

1) Camping Style Headlamp:

This is probably the most expensive item on my list, but also one of the most useful. When trying to paint the inside of furniture pieces, I was always trying to juggle flashlights or light sources to get a good interior result. Then I had an “ah ha” moment when I remembered we had headlamps in our camping supplies. What a difference this has made in my ability to see into small corners in the interior of pieces I am working on. You can buy expensive versions of these headlamps, but mine is just a cheapie from Walmart (under $15.00) and it has worked great for me. It’s something I use over and over again, so the cost per use is minimal.

2) Painting Hardware:

One of the challenges I came across early in my travels, was how to paint hardware without having to paint a side, let it dry and then flip it to paint the other side. I have seen some elaborate ideas about ways to “prop” hardware while painting it, but my easy solution was a regular old cardboard box. I poke holes through the cardboard (with a screwdriver if necessary) and then attach the hardware as if I were attaching it to a furniture piece. The hardware stays upright and not touching anything so I can paint (or spray) all sides at once. If I am spraying, I use a second piece of cardboard as a 3 sided tent like structure on top of the first box to avoid “overspray”. I also use shoeboxes for the same purpose if I am doing several small knobs. It works great if you need to paint the head of a nail or screw to match the hardware…just poke it through the cardboard and spray or paint away.

3) Protecting your workspace:

Lets face it, drop cloths and plastic sheeting to protect your work area can get expensive, and bulky canvas drop cloths are awkward to store after use. I now scout out sources for protecting my floors/work surface at the dollar store. I have used plastic table cloths and plastic shower curtain liners that I have found there, in place of a canvas or heavy plastic drop cloths. There are a couple of painting techniques I use often (using Unicorn Spit-details in upcoming posts) that require the use of thin plastic for the technique, so I use these dollar store items for those techniques as well. A large table cloth or shower curtain can be cut to size and goes a long way for a little money.

4) Use baseboarding for samples:

When wanting to try out a new paint/glaze, dry brushing, or paint/wax combination, I head to my local hardware store for some baseboard. I will buy an 8 foot long piece of pre-primed MDF baseboard (for about $7.00) and have the store cut it into 4″ long pieces for me (free cuts). This gives me 24 pieces (so less than 30 cents each) of baseboard to try out different combinations/techniques. I will often try out 2 similar versions of a technique side by side on the same piece, so this brings the cost per sample down to less than 15 cents each. Make sure to write your description of the technique and colours used on the back of your sample for future reference. I refer back to these sample boards constantly and have them available for clients to chose finishes for their own furniture. These small pieces of sample are super portable as well! 

5) Containers:

I admit it, I am a container hoarder, but I am not ready to change! I save every mayonnaise, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce and yogurt container I can get my hands on for various purposes. I use the yogurt containers for mixing colours and for having a lightweight container to hold while painting. When I am finished a project, I always transfer my remaining paint into a smaller, more airtight container (such as a spaghetti sauce jar) for future storage. The closer the size of the container to the amount of paint left, the better. Air is not your friend when storing leftover paint. So often the sides of a paint can are all “mucked up” after a project and you just can’t get a good seal when reclosing the container (no matter how careful you have been). Transfer your leftover paint to a smaller, airtight container and it will still be fresh if you need it again. Be sure to label your containers well in permanent marker with any information you have (e.g.. what it was used for/colour/sheen etc.)

6) Paint cans for propping up furniture:

This may be a no-brainer, but the first piece or two of furniture I painted (my own) was set directly on a drop cloth. Firstly, you have to be very careful that you are getting right to the bottom of your work, and secondly, you may have to “peel” your project off the drop cloth when dry due to stuck and dripping product. I quickly learned to place my drop cloth and then place a paint can under each leg of the project. This allows for complete coverage, less mess and it is a little easier to work on a piece that is not so low to the ground.

I hope you found at least one of these little tips helpful. What tips have you discovered in your creative journey? I am always looking for new tips, so please share YOUR ideas in comments!


  1. Stacey
    January 22, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Laurie, so excited for your new website! I love the tips you presented especially the tip with the cans to prop up the furniture. I have a set of 4 chairs we salvaged that I am looking forward to transforming and will stay up to date with tips and techniques on your website to help me. Stacey

    • Laurie Brennan
      February 5, 2016 at 12:38 am

      Hi Stacey: Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my site. Propping up my furniture to paint was such a simple thing and made such a difference to the outcome. I’d love to see what you do with your chairs!


  2. Judy Ruan
    January 24, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Laurie, this is all so amazing. I am impressed and so proud of you. Good luck, I have no doubt at all that this will be successful.

    • Laurie Brennan
      February 5, 2016 at 12:39 am

      Thank you so much Aunt Judy and thank you for taking the time to visit my site. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. It’s all very exciting.


  3. Marcia
    January 26, 2016 at 2:35 am

    Hi Laurie, this website is fantastic! It is really helping me transform many areas
    in my current home. Thanks for all your tips and tricks! Marce

    • Laurie Brennan
      February 5, 2016 at 12:40 am

      Thanks so much Marcia. You have impeccable taste so I am sure whatever you do will be stunning.


  4. Lorraine Calvert
    February 9, 2016 at 2:06 am

    I loved your easy and inexpensive tips! I’m new at this so it they really helped me and I plan to use all of them.
    I look forward to following you and learning smarter and easier ways to hone my craft.

    • Laurie Brennan
      February 9, 2016 at 2:17 am

      Thanks so much Lorraine..sometimes it’s the easiest little things that I have found make my painting experiences better.

  5. Michelle Leslie
    June 28, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Love these tips, especially the ones about the camping headlamp and the base boarding samples. We used to go camping often so I have lots of headlights but I never thought of using them while I’m painting. Thanks Laurie, I think you just made my life a whole bunch easier 🙂

    • Laurie Brennan
      July 6, 2016 at 2:31 am

      That was a simple (but life changing) find for me too….lol. Not sure why the lightbulb over my head (pun intended) didn’t go off sooner for that one. I was always trying to juggle light sources to get a good result on the interior of pieces I was painting.

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