Best paint for furniture 2018: The best chalky and shabby chic paints to buy

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You want your furniture to look its best in your home, so painting it 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 spending another round of cash on the right paint for the job.

Picking the right paint 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, though, 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 £16 to £17 per 750ml, which makes it more expensive than wall paint. But then, 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 the 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.)

Prepwork versus finishing?

A lot of manufacturers like to extoll the wonders of their paints needing no prior prepwork - ie. 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.

Shabby chic?

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. Only one range does anything brighter. And if you want your mix your own unique colours? For goodness sake buy enough paint, and mix more than you think you need - once that shade has gone, you’ll never make the same one again.

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The best paint for furniture 

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

Price: £12 for 750ml | Buy now from Amazon

Rust-Oleum’s main sell for their line of matt 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 like metal or plastic. They also stock a fairly wide range of colours: there are 16 in total. But while you don’t need a primer, you will need to finish with wax or lacquer (unsurprisingly, Rust-Oleum suggests their own products).

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

Price: £9.96-£16.28 for 750ml | Buy now from Amazon

These paints, from company best known for its sealants, deliver a chalky matt finish across a range of eight 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 paintbrushes, 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.

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

Price: £10.44 for 750ml | Buy now from Amazon

Johnstone’s make a point of saying that surfaces don’t need any preparation before applying the paint. But again, they advise that once the paint has dried, it’s finished with wax or sealant, so there’s that extra step to consider. They stock a fairly limited range of five colours: Cushion White, Antique Sage, Dusty Morning, Little Beau Blue and Vintage Duck Egg.

Evelyn Grant Chalky Finish Furniture Paint: Best for colour variety

Price: £17.95 for 1L | Buy now from Amazon

Fussy about the colour you want to go with? Take a look at Evelyn Grant’s range: there’s a staggering 39 to choose from, with everything from Bright Autumn to Soft Apple to 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.

V33 Easy White Poplin Satin Furniture Paint: Great for kids’ furniture

Price: From £10 for 1L | Buy now from B&Q

While all the previous ranges specialise in almost exclusively muted colours, V33 is the one range that also does bright primaries - which makes it perfect for decorating things like children’s furniture. There are 25 colours to choose from, including Lipstick Red, Blue Whim, Lemon Zest and Sixties - all bold and saturated. V33 also pride themselves on the durability of their paint, so it should survive the sorts of scuffs and knocks that kids’ furniture tends to endure.

Buy now from B&Q

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