Painting a Piano: Lessons Learned

A while back you might remember seeing my post on my piano and its significance in my life.  My piano holds deep sentimental value to me, and I've always known it is going to be around for many, many years.  Maybe one day it will go to a son of my own, and even passed on to my grandchildren.  For now, I have the privilege of having it in our home.   For a long time I've thought about painting the piano.  Then one day I stopped thinking, and went for it.  

A couple layers of paint later I had a chalk painted piano in a bold blue hue.  I loved the color immediately (and still do!), and the piano wears it well.   However, I made a mistake, and I'm not loving that!   If you've ever considered painting your piano, I highly recommend taking the advice I'm about to give.   Here's how I decided to paint my piano the way I did, what I did well, and what I should have done differently.  Hopefully you can take away a thing or two from this post if you ever tackle painting your own piano (or painting anything!).  

Paint Color:  I chose a color I already had on hand.  A bold blue hue in a flat finish.   For this paint job I added un-sanded grout to the paint to make my own "home-made" chalk paint.  I used a flat finish paint because it recommended for home-made chalk paint.  For this project, my rationale for using chalk paint was to avoid having to prime the piano first.   Priming is a time-consuming step (though a necessary one depending on what type of paint you use).   Since I used chalk paint, no priming was necessary.  This cuts down on time spent on the project.  

Taping:  Using painter's tape I taped off the keyboard well, so as not to get any paint on the keys.  This was an easy and very necessary step.  Sometimes we get tempted to take short cuts with our painting projects, but I wouldn't recommend this with a piano. The tape was effective...  not a drop of paint on those keys.  Success!   If you decide to paint your piano, protect those keys!   

Remove hardware:  I removed the hardware connecting the music stand to the piano itself.  I didn't want to get paint on the hinges.  This simple step made painting the piano much easier, and faster.  When you don't have to worry about paint getting on the hardware, the entire painting experience is so much more enjoyable (not to mention better results achieved!)  I suggest removing hardware on anything you paint.  

Painting: I applied two light coats to the piano, allowing dry time between coats.  Dry time with chalk paint is super fast.  That is another reason I chose to use chalk paint.  There seems to be a pattern here.....I obviously wanted to minimize the time needed to complete this project, yet I was diligent enough to use painter's tape and remove all the hardware.   It's the sanding part.....the sanding (or lack of!) was where I went wrong......   

Sanding:  I sand all my projects between paint layers whether I use chalk paint or not.  This helps create a smooth finish.  For this particular project,  I apparently didn't think I needed to do this important step.  And I'm not even sure I had a good reason for it.  I do remember wondering if sanding would make it appear streaky.  Sometimes on a large painted surface, sanding strokes can be visible.  I not only chose not to sand between layers on the piano, but also failed to sand after the second (and final coat) of paint.   That was a mistake.  And here's why.....

Topcoat:  I used a water-based Polycrylic finish over the second coat of paint.  Fine. No problem. I use Poly often and like the results.   However, since I didn't sand prior to applying the Polycrylic, the surface wasn't smooth...and the surface has been left ever since, in all its roughness.  Though the color remains beautiful and one I love, I cannot get past the rough surface.    Which is why finishing this piano off "right" is on my 2016 "to-do" list! At some point this year, you will likely be seeing the "final" outcome of my painted piano! 

In summary, my advice for any paint project in which you desire a smooth finish is to.....

SAND BETWEEN COATS AND AFTER YOUR FINAL COAT BEFORE YOU APPLY YOUR TOPCOAT!

 So, though I took the time to complete some important steps for this piano painting endeavor, I didn't stick to my guns and sand!  And that made a huge difference in the outcome.   This was definitely a learning experience for me, and hopefully useful to you!

NOTE:  In my experience, the ONLY cases where I do not worry about sanding is for projects such as painted outdoor furniture when I'm going after that rough, worn, and distressed look. Typically after you've prepared pieces like this with outdoor strength topcoat finish, the elements naturally smooth over the surface.   

Do you have a piano but dread the thought of painting it yourself?  Click below and let's talk about your piano and the possibilities!  

See related posts: