If you would like to create what I call "functional pieces of art" such as one of a kind furniture, there are products that will help you avoid all the preparation that used to be involved. You can do this WITHOUT sanding or stripping old surfaces!!
I found this chair at a thrift store for 5 bucks. There was nothing wrong with it, and I wanted something in my front entrance to sit and take your shoes off and to look good and show off a bit of my art and whimsical ideas.
It was a light slightly worn varnished chair to begin with. Sorry I don't have a before picture, but these were very common kitchen table chairs. If you would like to paint furniture without sanding, then try this method. I eventually sold this chair to an admirer.
Step 1 Thrift Store or Your Own Wooden Furniture - Once you have found a sturdy chair or actually any piece of furniture that is in solid shape, take it home and find a place to work.
Step 2 - Work Space - Create an area in your home, where you can freely work without interruption and where you can leave it out to dry when done. I personally am not a fan of working outside, although the natural light is better, but bugs and dust can glue so easily to your work.
Step 3 - Clean - This is not sanding, this is cleaning. Take a household cleaner and totally clean this piece to get rid of built up dirt and wax. Then go over it with a wet cloth to get rid of any cleaner residue. Let it totally dry. You don't have to use toxic supplies. You could even use a vinegar/warm water combo.
Step 4 - Gather your supplies. The best product on the market (in my opinion) for covering previously finished furniture is ZINSSER. This product will create a "tooth" between the finished wood and your paint. I like to put 2 coats of this on everywhere. You can then use acrylics, or oils or whatever your favourite paint is over top.
You can get this product in most home improvement stores or online as above with Amazon.
This one is water based which makes limited odor and cleanup much easier. I have used this product for a number of years on all my painted furniture for myself and for selling. It can not only prime bare wood and metal it "sticks to all surfaces without sanding". My only advice is to make sure your piece is clean. You want the original surface whether that is varnish or paint, just get rid of as much dirt and grime and loose bits as you can.
I found this old wooden bread box in a thrift store for 10 bucks. It had old varnish on it, I simply cleaned it with some vinegar and water, let it dry then used 2 coats of the Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer following can instructions, then went ahead and painted my scene in acrylic paints.
Step 5 - Paint 2 Coats of Zinsser - I liked to use an old brush or you can use those foam brushes, but make sure you completely cover your piece and get right into the corners. Remember this will be your new surface you don't want any old varnish not covered or your paint won't stick. Let dry between coats, just follow the instructions. I personally would split this project into two days. First day vacuum it, clean it, Zinsser it and call it a day.
Step 6 - With fresh eyes and optimism, gather your supplies and get creative! I loved to used delta acrylic paints, but on larger surfaces I would just head to my hardware store or online and mix the background larger areas in a water based house paint - small tin. This is much cheaper than going through your art supply paints. If you use oil then you would need oil based. I always preferred water based paints as I do a lot of painting in my house, basement or garage. Try to have as much fresh air coming in as possible.
Step 7- Varathane or Varnish Your Work - Once you have got creative and have done your painting whether its your latest masterpiece or simply painting a dresser a new fresh color, you need to protect your work especially on pieces that will be used.
This is my favourite brand and always will be. You can get this in matte, semi-gloss or gloss, personally I have always used the semi-gloss. I found it gave a nice sheen without being too shiny. If you prefer gloss then whatever works for you. This product really does a good job of protection, but I would put on 2-3 coats, let dry in-between and don't use the piece of at least a week if possible to really let it cure and harden.
Step 8 - Let it Cure To Harden - Follow the instructions on the can, but I personally like to leave the piece out of the way for at least a week if you plan on using the piece such as chairs and dressers. Just my own opinion, but you want to make sure it is good and cured and ready for use.
Step 9 - Take a picture and Admire your Work! - You are done. You have taken that tired piece of wood furniture and you have turned it into something magical. Whether you simply just painted it one colour all over or you added your personal artistic touch, it is your work and now this piece has a new lease on life.
Old Coffee Table got a New Lease On Life. I painted the entire piece in Zinsser first (2 coats) then did my painting in water based house paint on the top and then painted the rest of it a cream colour. I put 2 coats of water based varnish all over and an extra coat on my image. You could also decoupage something to the surface if you wish for added interest.
This piece was destined for the dump when I found it at my local thrift store as the finish was worn.
You can paint furniture without sanding with the right products. I have friends that swear by stripping old paint and varnish, but that can be so toxic! If you are trying to achieve the original wood grain then that is the process you would have to go through, but why not paint it instead??
I get a huge kick out of taking junk and turning it into one of a kind pieces. I would sell them too, or take customers pieces and create one of a kind artwork. Have fun!
Before and After Picture of an Old Dresser I painted for a customer
This customer wanted a mauve color and bold flowers over the drawers. This dresser was very robust but had seen better days as you can see in the first picture.
After cleaning, and using my Zinsser primer, I let it sit a day, then the next day purchased my colours and got creative. I actually sponged the mauve for a marble effect. I then coated the entire piece in semi gloss varathane. I kept it for 10 days to let it totally cure as she was going to use this dresser in her bedroom.
Definintely one of a kind piece now!
As you can see from my above products painting furniture without sanding is totally possible and a lot of fun. Recycling at its best! Functional pieces of art not only bring a piece of furniture back to life, it upcycles and shows off your work!
Although in my online store here you see watercolor paintings, I also work with acrylics. I just hope I have inspired you to get creative and haul that old dresser back out of the garage and turn it into a piece of functional art! Have a great day!
I have added another ink and watercolor in the theme of the "tutu". When my daughter was little, she just loved this tutu. She wore it until it fell apart. She would perform her little dances to anyone that would watch and even when there was no audience she would pretend.
Even helping with household chores wouldn't stop her from wearing the ballerina tutu and dreaming.
I painted this on Canson 140lb watercolor paper measuring 9 x 12 inches. It will be matted behind an 11 x 14 inch (outside dimension) acid free mat and backing board ready for your choice of frame. Enjoy!
When my daughter was quite young she received a pink tutu for her birthday and from that day forward it was worn over everything.
First thing in the morning it went on over her pajamas, and she would perform her little dances to anyone who would watch, or to anyone who was sitting on the couch. She didn't even care if they didn't watch she was in her own dream world and to her this was the stage and she was the ballerina star.
I tried to recapture the little girl in the tutu with ink and a dip pen then watercolor wash, putting the focus on the little girl and her audience fading into the background, because for this little girl she was a star in her tutu.
I do wish as adults we could recapture that fantasy world and try a little harder to dream and have fun as this little girl is doing right now.
This painting is done on a 9 x 12 inch piece of 140 lb Canson watercolor paper, and it will be matted behind an 11 x 14 inch acid free white mat ready for your choice of 11 x 14 inch frame.
As my drawing and especially watercolor painting becomes more and more a part of my life, I decided I want to be able to take it on the road.
At present, I take pics with my cell phone when we are out for a drive, and make a few notes in my notebook, then when I am home I print the picture and then create my ink and watercolors using my picture as a reference. But I was toying with the idea of being able to actually spend an afternoon somewhere in a park and paint "plein aire" which of course means to paint on site.
I don't want a cumbersome setup, I don't really want to stand out too much, was thinking a portable easel that I could sit at a picnic table for example, or in a hotel room, or whenever the mood strikes. I came across this portable watercolor easel that I will be asking for my birthday this year! (a great way to get extra art supplies) This particular one comes with supplies especially for watercolor artists. Check it out:
There are many easels on the market and it really depends on your painting personality as to how large you want or how portable it must be. For example if you rely on public transport you don't want to be lugging around a larger easel. I thought this was perfect as the supplies are designed to fit in the provided drawer space and it comes with a bag so you can also carry your watercolor paper and have everything in one spot.
The only thing I noticed that did not come with the above portable watercolor easel set was a good set of clips to keep your watercolor paper stretched and to actually hold it on the easel especially if you are painting outdoors, you don't need that strong wind taking it away.
I love the idea of things neatly packaged up and everything having its place. This would also make a great gift idea to any creative person on your list.
At home I have a tilted desk that makes it easier to draw and paint, but I am certainly loving the idea of this portable watercolor easel that I could setup super quick (anything that needs a lot of fussing simply doesn't work for me.) You just need to have a source of water if you use watercolor paints and that is it.
Quick set up, and get right down to business. I thought it would be cool to draw and paint the skyline from a hotel window that we recently stayed in, so having this set would have been super handy, this is what got me researching different portable watercolor easels.
Shopping Online for Art Supplies
You may have checked out my previous post on how to find cheap art supplies which should give you some good ideas, but I have also found comparing prices online helps a lot, especially with Amazon. Many of my name brand supplies are cheaper this way. If you love to create then keeping your supplies in check will also keep your budget in check. So this full kit that I don't have to stock works perfect for my next travel date or even a day in the park.
Happy April and Happy Creating my Fellow Artists!
Hi there! My name is Diane Palmer, and I love to draw and paint. I love to try new things, and in this blog and my website you will see the results of my artistic endeavors!