Sunset staffer Joanna Linberg puts three different types of paint to the test


Painting a piece of furniture is one of the easiest DIYs there is. But what type of paint will give you the best result? We put acrylic, alkyd, and spray paint to the test. Acrylic, the same paint you put on walls, can be mixed in any color. The paint is thin, so it’s easy to work with but might require quite a few coats. Brush marks are really visible with acrylic paint, even when using a sponge brush. After multiple coats of paint, imperfections in the wood came through, and since you can see the brush marks, corners and joints became increasingly noticeable. Unless you are working with a very simple piece of furniture or are only painting a tabletop for instance, it’s best to keep this paint on the walls only. Alkyd paint, which is also labeled gel paint or gel formula, is very thick. This may hide imperfections in the wood, but it also makes it tricky to get an even coat without buildup in the joints or wood grain. The buildup becomes more noticeable with multiple coats, but the upside to alkyd is that it smoothes out as it dries, leaving you with a high-gloss, lacquered look. It’s a good option if you have a steady hand and a lot of time. However, it can’t beat how easy it is to apply spray paint and get an even coat. In our test, one pass was all it took to get solid coverage and a flawless finish. The end product is beautiful. The lines are still crisp and there’s no buildup. The only downside is that spray paint still only comes in fairly limited colors and some of them aren’t very sophisticated. Still, this is a painless way to transform furniture, especially if it has a lot of detail.

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