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Best paint for furniture 2023: The best chalky and shabby chic paints to buy

Is your home in need of a fresh look? Here are the best paints to add a fresh splash of colour to your furniture

When the weather outside is less than inviting, there’s a tendency to spend more time indoors at home. If you’re in need of a project, now could just be the perfect time to indulge in a spot of long-overdue home decoration, and give that cabinet, bedside table or chair a fresh lick of paint.

But painting your furniture is a job that’s worth doing properly. Cut corners on the wrong paint, and you’ll potentially be stuck with an eyesore of a table or cabinet that will need sanding down and repainting – and you’ll only end up spending another round of cash on the right paint for the job.

Picking the best paint for your furniture is the kind of job that will separate the serious DIY enthusiasts from those armed only with the vaguest memories of Changing Rooms. To help you make the right choices, we’ve put together a guide to buying the best furniture paint. including everything you need to consider before splashing out.

How to choose the best furniture paint for you

Buying the right furniture paint deserves a bit of strategic thinking. There’s more to decision-making than just finding a colour that catches your eye (though that will certainly play a part). Take a look through the questions below before you buy.

How much do I need to spend?

Furniture paint comes in at anywhere between £7.50 and £17 per 750ml, which makes it more expensive than wall paint. But the surface area of what you’re painting is much smaller by comparison, so unless you’re working on a colossal piece of furniture, it’s unlikely you’ll need more than one tin. A couple of manufacturers do make the “one-coat” claim, but that’s almost definitely dependent on the colour of the paint versus the surface beneath. Best practice says you’re better off applying at least two coats.

What about fumes?

All the paints we’ve picked are water-based, so you needn’t worry about toxic odours or the hassle of cleaning your brushes with white spirit. (Though if you find yourself doing any sanding, you should wear a mask and make sure the room is properly ventilated.)

Do I need to prepare or finish the surface?

A lot of manufacturers like to extoll the wonders of their paints needing no prior prep work, claiming the surfaces of the furniture you’re painting won’t need any sanding or priming with an undercoat. This is something you ought to treat with a pinch of salt – at the very least, you need to use a cloth to remove any excess dirt or dust, otherwise the paint won’t properly adhere to the surface. At the other end of the process, you might need to finish your painted surface with wax, lacquer or sealant.

How do I achieve a shabby chic look?

It’s a phrase that’s a few years past the height of fashion, but lots of home decorators are still going for that artfully distressed look. The way to achieve this aesthetic with furniture is to apply two layers of paint of different colours, then to gently set to work with fine-grain sandpaper. With this in mind, you might want to look for paint with a faster drying time.

What about colours?

Some makers have wide ranges, others don’t. If you’re going for that clean Scandi look, you’ll find white across all ranges, as well as a range of pale, muted tones. And if you want to mix your own unique colours? Make sure you buy enough paint, and mix more than you think you need – once that shade has gone, you’ll never be able to make the same one again.

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The best paint for furniture 2023

1. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: Great for getting creative with colour

Price when reviewed: £27 (1l) | Check price at Trouva

Neutrals aren’t for everyone, so if you want to add a splash of colour to your upcycling, look no further than Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. Invented by the lady herself more than 30 years ago, it can be used on walls as well as furniture. There’s minimal prep, too – depending on the surface you’re painting, you might not need to sand or prime at all.

As well as being foolproof, its vast colour palette has won it a legion of fans. From deeply delicious shades of Aubusson Blue and Oxford Navy to glamorous Capri Pink (ideal for hot pink accents), there’s a colour for everyone.

Check price at Trouva

2. Wilko Quick Dry Chalky Furniture Paint: The best budget furniture paint

Price when reviewed: From £4.99 (750ml) | Check price at Wilko

Wilko’s selection of quick-dry paint has more colour options than you might expect from such a cheap and cheerful brand. Dark Duck Egg and Deepest Green are some of our favourite vibrant shades, while the more neutral English Sage is a light green that looks great in traditional-style homes.

If you’re painting melamine, bare wood or MDF, you’ll need a primer. But otherwise, you just need to lightly sand and get right to painting.

Check price at Wilko

3. Earthborn Eco Chic: The best furniture paint for children’s furniture

Price when reviewed: £21 (750ml) | Check price at Wood Finishes Direct

Whether you’re decorating a nursery, playroom or just breathing new life into some children’s furniture that’s seen better days, you’ll need a paint that’s both durable and odourless. Earthborn’s clay-based paint Eco Chic is ideal. Water-based, baby safe, acrylic and oil-free, plus virtually VOC-free, it’s also available in a range of colours that kids will love (and you can live with), such as ochre-toned Humpty Dumpty, pretty pink Rosie Posie and fresh azure The Lido.

It can be used on both unfinished and previously painted timber, and is quick drying, with a recommended 6-12 hours between coats, although it’s touch dry after an hour. There are 72 colours and each one dries to a washable ultra-matt finish. Just slick on some of the company’s Furniture Wax for extra protection from little fingers when you’re done.

Check price at Wood Finishes Direct

4. Ronseal Chalky Furniture Paint 750ml Vintage White: Great for faster results

Price when reviewed: £23 (750ml) | Check price at Amazon

These paints, from a company best known for its sealants, deliver a chalky matte finish across a range of seven muted, neutral colours. Ronseal’s line of paints don’t need sealing with any wax or overcoat, so they’re definitely a good shout if you want to keep your labour to a minimum. That said, you’ll need to treat the surface before reaching for the paint brush, and the makers advise leaving a four-hour stretch between applying two coats, so it’s unlikely you’ll get away with just one coat.

5. Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish Furniture Paint: Great for versatility

Price when reviewed: £14 (750ml) | Check price at Amazon

Rust-Oleum’s main sell for its line of matte chalk paint is that you don’t need to apply a primer beneath it, which saves you time. It can also be applied to a wide variety of surfaces: wood (bare or painted), brick, stone, plaster or any rigid surface such as metal or plastic. It also offers a wide range of colours, with 110 in total. But while you don’t need a primer, you will need to finish with wax or lacquer to protect the finish (unsurprisingly, Rust-Oleum suggests its own products, such as its Furniture Finishing Wax).

6. Johnstone’s Revive Chalky Furniture Paint 750ml: Great for minimal prepwork

Price when reviewed: From £15 (750ml) | Check price at Amazon

Johnstone’s makes a point of saying that surfaces don’t need any preparation before applying the paint. But again, it advises that once the paint has dried, it’s finished with wax or sealant, so there’s that extra step to consider. It stocks a fairly limited range of seven colours: Cloudy Grey, Cushion White, Antique Sage, Dusty Morning, Teal Topaz, Pink Cadillac and Vintage Duck Egg.

7. Evelyn Grant Chalky Finish Furniture Paint: The best for colour variety

Price when reviewed: £25 (1l) | Check price at Amazon

Fussy about the colour you want to go with? Take a look at Evelyn Grant’s range: there’s over 30 colours to choose from, with everything from Bright Autumn to Green Shimmer and Rustic Red. This is another that doesn’t need a primer: these paints can be applied to bare or painted wood without treatment. Again, the makers advise applying two coats.

8. V33 Cupboard & Cabinet Paint: Great for a kitchen makeover

Price when reviewed: From £20 (2L) | Check price at Amazon

If your kitchen cupboards are laminate or melamine, V33’s specialist paint is for you. Once applied, it offers protection against common stains like grease and wine, as well as from scratches and scrapes. There’s only a limited choice of colours – Loft Grey, Soft Grey, Anthracite, White and Cotton – but all of them have a beautiful neutral or satin finish.

Unless you’re undergoing a major transformation, there’s no need for a primer or stripping either. You can even use it on other laminated furniture, such as fitted wardrobes.

9. Dunelm Eggshell Emulsion Paint: The best for coordinating a room

Price when reviewed: £20 (1l) | Check price at Dunelm

Dunelm’s versatile Eggshell Emulsion Paint allows you to embrace the trend for continuous colour. Not only can you use it on walls, but it’s also suitable for primed wood and metal, so you can choose a shade you love and use it everywhere.

There are 47 on-trend hues, ranging from off-whites and neutrals to big, bold colours such as Luxe Navy, Terracotta and Emerald, meaning your furniture can add as much, or as little, drama to your home as you like. The anti-bacterial formula is even resistant to mould, grease and steam, making it suitable for painting a bathroom vanity or kitchen table too. What we especially liked about it is that it’s low odour and low VOC, and touch dry in a couple of hours. It’s best to lightly sand surfaces, especially if they’re glossy, and you’ll need to use a primer.

Check price at Dunelm