Wake up the wood in your home with our guide to the best paint to make it pop
If the time has come to touch up the woodwork around the house, freshen up the furniture, decorate the doors and splash fresh life into the skirting boards, you’re going to need to arm yourself with the perfect paint for each and every task. As with all areas of the paint arena, there are myriad options out there, not just in colour, but also in finish, style and convenience.
Should you opt for an eggshell, gloss or satin finish? Do you want to keep your colour scheme simple and stick to the timeless sophistication of white, or do you want to shake things up with dashes of bold colour? Are you a decorating diva for whom primer equals perfection and one coat is never enough, or are you looking for the least labour-intensive life when it comes to bending the brush?
We can’t guide your individual taste or your unique approach to tackling the timber inside and outside (let’s not forget the wooden fixtures in the garden), but we can at least lead you in the right direction when it comes to where to start and what to consider…
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Best paint for wood: At a glance
- Best for a classic finish: Dulux Quick Dry – Brilliant White
- Best for Shabby Chic: Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish Furniture Paint
- Best for alfresco furniture and fittings: Cuprinol Garden Shades Exterior Woodcare
- Best wood paint with primer: Rust-Oleum Universal Paint
- Best for small jobs: Rustins Quick Dry Small Job
How to choose the best paint for wood
It’s not rocket science: painting wood has very similar rules to painting walls, just with a different kind of paint.
The first thing you need to do is pick your paint. As mentioned, personal taste dictates colour and finish, but as a minor guide to the latter:
Eggshell paint leaves a subtle, soft and very low-sheen finish on wood, and also protects against everyday wear and tear on at-risk areas such as skirting boards.
Gloss paint is a very durable option that gives a high-sheen finish to the likes of doors, window frames and skirting boards.
Satinwood paint is an increasingly popular choice over gloss due to its more mid-sheen finish and the fact that it tends to remain brighter longer than gloss.
Those are your three wood-reviving options, although matt can sometimes come into play, for those seeking a distressed look to furniture… but we’re back to individual taste again.
Can I just start painting?
As always, preparation is key, so gather your dustsheets or newspapers to cover the surfaces you don’t want spattered, get some gloves and safety glasses, and ensure you have the place plentifully ventilated.
Now, take a good look at your surface – does it need stripping? Does it need sanding? Is it clean? In most cases, you’re going to need to make the surface as smooth and clean as possible in order for your chosen paint to take well and dry evenly. So, remove any old flecks of paint, dirt, grease or anything else likely to affect the application of your paint, otherwise you’ve very unlikely to be overly pleased with your finished job!
Unless the paint in question features primer in the mix or self-undercoats (as do a couple featured here), then you’ll want to apply a wood primer to help the adhesion of the paint, to create the durability of the paint job, and to protect the wood itself.
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Any other tips?
Stick to the manufacturer’s recommended drying times, otherwise you may find things stuck where they shouldn’t be. And specifically, newly painted doors and windows shouldn’t be closed until the paint has fully hardened.
Finally, invest in some decent paint brushes so you don’t end up with stray bristles stuck to your skirting boards.
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The best wood paint to buy in 2023
1. Dulux Quick Dry – Brilliant White: Best wood paint for classic perfection
Price: £11 | Buy now from Amazon
When it comes to reviving your woodwork, you can never go wrong with a bit of brilliant white, particularly when the brilliant white in question is Dulux’s Quick Dry Eggshell. Not only is this quick drying, as the name suggests, but it’s also self-undercoating, saving you all the effort of an extra coating.
The paint goes on with absolute ease and with few, if any, drips or runs to inconvenience you, and the viscosity means it covers well and evenly. That said, even though Dulux says that one coat might be enough, we reckon two is the golden number for a truly exceptional finish, remembering to leave six hours drying time in between.
Although Dulux offer a range of colours in their Quick Dry range, Brilliant White really is THE classic, neutral and timeless option for doors, sills, skirting boards, etc., so if you’re somewhat uncertain of your eye for interior aesthetics, keep it simple!
Key details – Finish: Satin, gloss, eggshell; Size: 750ml; Drying time: 6 hours; Coverage: 12m²; Coats required: 1-2; Available colours: 1
2. Rustins Quick Dry Small Job: Best wood paint for the little things
Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon
Leaving you in absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to what this particular paint is for, Rustins states it plainly on the tin: Small Job. Yes, we’re looking at doors, windowsills and other areas that need a modest lick of paint. A hard-wearing number that comes in a range of vibrant colours, the Small Job can be used indoors and out, although whether anyone would want poppy-coloured gloss doors inside their house is questionable.
Obviously, if you’re painting doors or windows, it’s vital not to close them until fully dry. Otherwise you may struggle to open them again without the aid of a crowbar, so make sure you paint on a day when you don’t need to leave the house.
Touch dry in 30 minutes and fully dry in two hours, one coat could well suffice as long as you’ve prepared your surfaces properly, but two coats will give a stunning finish that will go years without fading.
Key details – Finish: Gloss, satin; Size: 250ml; Drying time: 2 hours; Coverage: 3.25m²; Coats required: 1-2; Available colours: 10
3. Cuprinol Garden Shades Exterior Woodcare: Best wood paint for outside the house
Price: £19 | Buy now from Amazon
Stepping outside into the spring/summer sun, it would be remiss of any wood paint roundup not to address the alfresco furniture and features we rely on in the garden. Benches, fences, planters, sheds, tables and chairs could all do with being shown some love after a harsh winter. Which is where Cuprinol Garden Shades comes in.
This range of 13 long-lasting, natural-looking and weatherproof paints created to protect all garden wood (but not decking – take note!) features an opaque matt finish that allows the wood grain to show through. Freshen up your fence panels by brush or, for bigger alfresco undertakings, by spray for the ultimate in convenience (although you will sacrifice coverage for that convenience).
A water-based paint, Cuprinol Garden Shades is a definite two- or three-coat job to get the coverage even and allow the colour to really shine, so with primer paint and drying time between coats, best wait for a nice day.
Key details – Finish: Matt; Size: 2.5 litres; Drying time: 1 hour; Coverage: Brush: 10-12m², Spray: 4-5m²; Coats required: 2-3; Available colours: 13
4. Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish Furniture Paint: Best wood paint for shabby chic
Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon
Understandably, not everyone wants an ultra-modern, minimalistic-looking home; to some, the glare of a gloss or shine of a low-sheen is too much to bear. So, for those who favour a more homely rustic approach to their interior, there’s the Shabby Chic of Rust-Oleum’s Chalky Finish Furniture Paint.
Available in a range of colours running from the muted shades of Clotted Cream all the way up to the positively lairy Pumpkin, this water-based paint can freshen up any wooden furniture with no primer or pre-sanding of surfaces required.
Water-based, with next to no odour, this is strictly for interior usage, and gives very good coverage with just one coat. However, to achieve peak shabby chic, apply a second coat in a different colour, then sand down once dry – distressed 101.
Touch dry in one hour and fully hard after four, Rust-Oleum Chalky Finish is a great way to renovate and revitalise rundown furniture.
Key details – Finish: Chalky matt; Size: 750ml; Drying time: 4 hours; Coverage: 14m²; Coats required: 1-2; Available colours: 16
5. Rust-Oleum Universal Paint: best wood paint with primer
Price: £20 | Buy now from The Range
Aside from the likes of the self-undercoating Dulux Quick Dry and Rust-Oleum’s Chalky Finish, most wood paints – unless they state otherwise – will require a primer. It’s an extra job and an extra period spent waiting for said primer to dry. So don’t bother, get yourself a tin of Rust-Oleum’s Universal instead, as it’s paint and primer in one.
Designed for direct application using a brush or roller, while there is primer in the mix, for stain-blocking we’d still recommend applying a primer first, just to ensure your hard work isn’t blighted by show-through.
Applied evenly, two coats should be ample to achieve an impressive-looking finish. However, even though it’s touch dry in two hours and able to be handled after eight, you’re going to want to wait 16 hours before applying that second coat, and – vitally – being solvent-based, you’re going to need maximum ventilation.
Key specs – Finish: Matt; Size: 750ml; Drying time: 2 hours; Coverage: 6.75m²; Coats required: 1-2; Available colours: 15
6. Wilko Quick Dry Floor Paint: Best paint for wooden floors
Price: £10 | Buy now from Wilko
If you’re looking for a way to give a wooden floor a new lease of life – and ideally without reaching for the orbital sander – then Wilko’s Quick Dry Floor Paint could be just the ticket. Give your floorboards a good clean and a couple of coats, and the results will smarten those boards right up.
It’s relatively easy on the purse-strings at £10 for 750ml, and this provides 6m² coverage, which equates to roughly two coats on a 1.5m x 2m area. The result is a resilient, attractive granite grey (it’s also available in black) finish that can deal with the stains, scuffs and scratches of everyday life.
The paint should be dry enough to recoat in 6-8 hours, but despite the Quick Dry branding, each coat is only fully cured after between three and five days (depending on conditions), so be prepared to be unable to use the room in question for that amount of time.
Key details – Finish: Matt; Size: 750ml; Drying time: 6-8 hours; Coverage: 6m²; Coats required: 1-2; Available colours: 2