When I first started painting furniture, brush marks drove me bonkers. For me, it was the equivalent of having wet toes when they’re supposed to be dry. Yaaa, it’s one of my weird pet peeves. Anyway, I remember trying to get a smooth finish but the more I fussed with the paint, the worse it got. And ironically, once I moved onto using thicker and more expensive chalk and mineral paints, it got even worse.
So, I thought it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane and revisit where I went wrong and what I’ve learned along the way. I hope some of you starting out can learn from the mistakes I’ve made and get that super smooth finish. And for those of you who are veterans of furniture painting, I’m continuously learning from YOU so feel free to chime in and add your tips.
THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS TO PRODUCTS I USE. YOU CAN SEE MY FULL DISCLOSURE HERE.
How To Paint Furniture WITHOUT Brush Marks
Mistake #1: Skipping the Prep
This is one of those things we hear ALL the time, yet it’s hard to follow. When I was starting out, there were times I skipped over properly prepping furniture thinking “the paint will hide it”. It NEVER did! And worse yet, it made it way more difficult to get a smooth finish. I’ve since learned proper prep is key to a professional-looking project.
- A thorough cleaning to get rid of any dust, dirt or grime
- Proper sanding to smooth out any previous paint job or topcoat
- Filling and sanding any deep scratches or imperfections with Wood Fill or Bondo
Mistake #2: Not Sanding Coats
Another step I skipped was sanding between coats. A light sanding after each coat of paint makes a BIG difference… you’d be amazed! It only takes a few minutes to knock down the paint with a high grit paper (220+) and it REALLY helps eliminate the buildup of pesky brush marks.
Mistake #3: The Brush
Over the years I’ve used A LOT of brushes. From cheap dollar store brushes to popular brand names – synthetic bristles to natural bristles – rounded and angled. Here are a few pointers to keep visible brush marks away…
- I use the right size brush for the job (small details = small brush = fewer brush strokes)
- The less coarse the bristles, the less chance of leaving brush marks
- Properly cleaning and reshaping my brushes keeps them in good shape which reduces brush marks
- The more comfortable the brush is in my hand, the smoother my results
- I let the brush do the heavy work and don’t apply too much pressure
I’ve been asked if these rounded chalk paintbrushes are better for chalky paints. I don’t frequently use mine because I prefer painting my furniture with a traditional angled style brush. The brands I’m frequenting most are these Purdy Brushes and this short Wooster Brush… but again, it’s whatever feels more comfortable to you.
Mistake #4: Using Too Much Paint
I used to overload my brush and use WAY too much paint – which causes extra brush marks. Using paint sparingly helps cut down on brush marks. A rule of thumb I use, when loading my brush, I dip and load the bristles about 1/3 of the way up.
Mistake #5: Not Thinning Paint
Thinning thick paint is the BEST way to avoid brush marks because it allows a longer dry time so the paint has time to settle and lay nicely. Here are a few ways I thin my paint…
- Mixing in a little water directly to the paint
- Dipping my brush bristles into the water before I dip my brush into the paint
- Using a water bottle or mister while applying and brushing the paint onto my furniture
Misting my furniture has been my preference lately and this is my favorite brush mark eliminator tool. I’m loving the little mister. It doesn’t spray or shoot the water out…it mists the water beautifully! I find it makes a big difference in the look of the smoothness and it’s really easy to control how much water is applied.
- Focusing on one section at a time allows me to work with the paint while it’s wet
- Painting into a wet edge reduces noticeable brush marks
- A high-density foam roller for larger flat surfaces to create a nice smooth finish with no brush marks
- Light feathery brush strokes are better than too much pressure
- Laying drawers face up allows the paint to lay nicer
- I don’t overwork the paint (unless I’m trying for a textured finish)
- Better to paint a few light coats rather than one thick coat which is sure to show brush marks
This is the guaranteed way of getting a flawless finish. I’ve been using this Husk HVLP Spray Gun for years and it still works great. There is a learning curve for spraying furniture and proper ventilation and equipment like a compressor gun etc is needed, but it’s A LOT of fun. I like switching it up every so often and spraying my pieces for a modern flawless finish.
I HOPE THESE TIPS HAVE BEEN HELPFUL. THE FACT THAT I CAN BE A SMALL PART IN YOUR CREATIVE JOURNEY IS A REAL HONOR! I LOVE CHATTING WITH YOU SO FEEL FREE TO CHIME IN WITH QUESTIONS OR YOUR TIPS BELOW. 🙂
Happy brushing my friends!