How to achieve a glossy finish on your painted furniture

Snow on March 23.  Depressing.  But try not to let the snow get you down because today's post might be just what you need to get started on this spring project.....painting a piece of furniture.  If you've considered giving a piece of your furniture a face-lift but the task sounds daunting, you have found the right post!  Here is a step-by-step guide for painting a piece of furniture...."glossy style".  Not only do you get a materials list (see link below) to take all your guesswork out of the paint supply shopping experience, but you also get a step-by-step guide teaching you how to tackle your piece!    So go ahead and pick a paint color, and you're off....  

If you haven't seen the full supply list I posted recently, just click this title:   "13 Must-have staples for your Next painting project".       Once you have the supplies you need,  then you are ready for step #1 below!  Each and every step serves an important purpose, so I wouldn't recommend skipping any of them.  Let's get started....

1.  Sand your piece.  This allows the primer and paint to adhere well to the surface.  Some primers will say you don't have to sand before you prime, but it can't hurt to sand lightly before you apply anything to your piece.  Personally, I haven't seen a difference in the final outcome, whether I sand before priming or not.  So, you choose!  (this process should take no more than 10 minutes!)

2.  Wipe off dust and the particles from sanding

3.  Apply Primer (use brush or roller). The photo below shows a piece with the first layer of primer on it.  I used a brush to apply the primer, since it's a smaller piece.  The first layer of primer never looks good, so don't freak out by that!  Additional sanding and priming make all the difference in the world! 

4.  Sand & wipe off particles

5.  Apply second coat of primer. Below is an example of a piece with two layers of primer.  See the difference between the 1st coat above, and 2nd coat?  Much better! 

6.  Sand, and wipe off particles (again!)

7.  Begin your first coat of paint.  I have seen the best results using a "flat" finish paint.  And, I personally prefer how flat paint, paints.  (that one I can't really explain).  So why a flat paint when I want a shiny finish?  Don't I need a high gloss finish?  My answer........the glossy part comes later.  Warning: the first layer won't look that great. There will be streaks and uneven coverage.  That is why you need more coats of paint! 

8.  Let your first paint layer dry for at 3-5 hours.  In fact, I'd probably wait even longer.  If you are not in a time crunch to get that glossy piece of furniture done (I know you're excited but be patient!), than why not wait a whole 24 hours to apply your second coat!?  This is particularly a good idea if the environment is warm, hot or humid.  Longer dry time is needed for these conditions.

9.  Sand and wipe particles (again!)  

10.  Apply second coat of paint, let dry completely. the photo below is the same piece above, with first coat of primer.  In this picture below, the piece is covered in 2 layers of primer, and 2 layers of paint.  Since it was white, it needed an additional coat of paint. 

11.  Sand and wipe clean if you will be applying another coat of paint to your piece.  The next step is where the glossy finish comes in.....

12.  Apply your top-coat.  If you've made it this far, congrats! It can be a time consuming process that requires patience, but the result is amazing!  Use a clean, dry paint brush for this. Light layers yield a nicer result than heavy, thick layers.  You will be doing more than a single layer with topcoat, so do not worry about perfect coverage on your first layer, however, DO take care to cover the whole surface on that first coat, and to watch your brush strokes when applying ALL layers of your topcoat.  You don't want to overlap strokes onto freshly painted strokes because this will create bumps and roughness.   Read the label for dry-time recommendations for your specific product before applying additional layers of top-coat. There are numerous top-coats available. For information on that you can click this link:   

In the photos below I used a "Clear Satin" finish, two layers.  

Other tips and considerations:

  • Depending on what color paint you choose, your piece may require more than 2 coats of paint.  Similar to when painting walls, the darker the color, the more coats are needed.  Lighter colors can also require additional coats.  Sanding between paint layers helps provide a smooth finish.  I typically do not sand after the final coat of paint.  If I'm happy with the result after the final coat has been applied, than I leave it be.  No more sanding.  If you are not happy with the appearance of the final coat of paint on your piece due to rough spots, streaks/uneven coverage, or paint bristles stuck (I hate when that happens!), then you are better off sanding again, and then re-applying another coat.  
  • Once you've completed at least 2-3 coats of paint to your piece, examine your piece carefully for streaking or lighter areas.  If you see this, it means you need another coat, or two. When you are satisfied with your painted piece, and it is completely dry, then you are ready to apply top-coat.  
  • I typically wait at least 24 hours before applying top-coat to a painted piece
  • Always ensure good lighting when you paint and apply topcoat!  You want to be able to see your brush strokes as you paint. This gets tricky when using topcoat, because the topcoat is clear, making it more difficult to see.  Good lighting can prevent you from painting over freshly painted brush strokes already completed, whether you are using paint or topcoat.  (I've done this before, and the result isn't pretty! One-hundred percent of the time this warrants another layer of sanding, and you guessed it.....another layer of paint!  

And that is one way to achieve a glossy finish on your next piece of furniture!  The duration for a project like this totally depends on the size of the piece and the complexity of the painting plan.  Solid color pieces won't take as long as pieces with many colors and intricacies.   I've spent as much as 45 hours on a piece using this method, so patience, planning, and strategy are key.   

I hope you found this helpful!  As always, I'd LOVE to see any projects you tackle!  You can post them at    And remember, as a resource in painted furniture, I'm here to answer your questions and offer suggestions! 

Glossy finish not your thing?   I've got you covered.  Coming soon........How to achieve a distressed finish on your painted furniture