Empty paint cans and brushes.

Best Type of Paint for Your Furniture

Originally contributed by • last updated 6/2/2021

Nataliya Vaitkevich

Refreshing your existing furniture doesn’t always have to require a hefty injection of cash. Instead, sometimes a simple coat of paint is enough to do the trick! Imagine transforming a beat-up side table into a rustically charming hallway console. Or even revamping a plain white dresser into a bright, colorful cabinet that adds a burst of vibrancy to an otherwise neutral room.

Sounds like something you’re interested in, but not quite sure where to start? Fortunately, you’ve wandered upon the right place. We’ve gathered the best type of paint for furniture on the market, along with a breakdown of why each is so popular. From milk paints that will naturally distress to eggshell latex that produces a low-luster finish, explore the array of paint options below.

Chalk Paint

For as long as chalk paint has been stocked on retail shelves, the furniture paint has been a popular choice among avid DIYers and professional designers for its matte, chalk-like appearance. Although chalk paint is recognized as one of the best types of paint for furniture, the term ‘chalk paint’ isn’t the broad term that most people refer to it as. 

Instead, Chalk Paint is actually a trademarked brand coined by British artist Annie Sloan. The decorative paint made for indoor and outdoor uses was developed in 1990 and is adored by many for its easy-to-use nature and versatility — everything from wood, metal, glass, plaster, melamine, and even concrete can be painted with chalk paint. As a result, many other companies developed their own versions of chalk paints that follow a similar suit. 


Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

Antoinette Chalk Paint
Annie Sloan

When using the original Chalk Paint, there is often no need for sanding or priming before chalk paint is applied to surfaces. 

All that’s required is sealing the final coat of paint with Clear Chalk Paint Wax for a velvety finish. Chalk Paint is offered in 42 shades, and each can be blended for a custom color unique to your home. 

Tins of paint are available in two sizes: one-liter and 120 ml, with the largest of the two retailing for $27. While the Annie Sloan website only ships to the United Kingdom, Chalk Paint is sold all around the world in small, independent shops. You can get your hands on Chalk Paint by browsing Annie Sloan’s international network of stockists.


Rust-Oleum Chalked 

Chalked Blush Pink Ultra Matte Interior Paint
The Home Depot

With eight colors to choose from, each of which can be mixed together to create unique colors, it’s not hard to see why Rust-Oleum’s Chalked paint is a bestseller. Much like Annie Sloan’s original Chalk Paint, Rust-Oleum Chalked requires very little prep or priming and can be applied to nearly any surface. A tin of Chalked, containing 887 ml of paint, retails for $20 at The Home Depot.

Oil Paint

Oil paint, commonly referred to as Alkyd paint, is another popular type of paint for furniture. It is different from other paints on the market in that most oil paints penetrate surfaces instead of just coating the top. Furthermore, the paint is bindable to nearly any surface, including those previously painted with both water-based and oil-based paint. 

Now on the contrary, there are also several cons of oil paint to be aware of. Not only does it take up to 24 hours to dry, oil paint often emits a high level of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), which is produced by chemical additives. Thus, proper ventilation is needed when oil paint is applied to surfaces.


Linseed Oil Paint

Pure linseed oil paint
Sage Restoration

The Allbäck Linseed Oil is one such oil paint that maintains its ability to absorb into furniture surfaces and create a protective film that does not crack or peel, which in turn, promises greater longevity. Allbäck Linseed Oil is available online at Sage Restoration and comes in three sizes: 200 ml, one-liter, and three-liter. The smallest of the tins retails for $23.


Behr Oil-Base Semi-Gloss Enamel

White Oil-Base Semi-Gloss Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint
The Home Depot

Behr’s oil-based enamel is another paint that penetrates surfaces and attains durability with long-lasting protection from scratches, household chemicals, and rust. The oil paint — which has proven to be the best type of paint for furniture with both indoor and outdoor uses — comes in a semi-gloss finish and can be tinted to any conceivable color. Behr is exclusive to The Home Depot, where a quart of oil-based paint can be purchased for $14.

Milk Paint

Thinking of giving your furniture a rustic, worn-down look where each chip and peel reveals plenty of character? Sure, you could go ham on your cabinetry and scuff it up yourself. Or you can travel down a much simpler route and apply a layer of milk paint to your furnishings. 

Milk paint, which naturally distresses, is often composed of organic ingredients, like milk, lime, and pigment. It is non-toxic, VOC-free and compostable. While some milk paints are liquid-based, most come in powder form that mixes with water to create a liquid that can be thinned or thickened as needed.


The Real Milk Paint

The Real Milk Paint

The Real Milk Paint is sold as a powder in a variety of different sizes, including a pint, quart, and gallon. Real Milk Paint, which is offered in 54 colors, can be applied to most surfaces but works best over raw, unfinished materials. While other paints — namely oil and alkyd — can take up to a day to dry, milk paint dries within hours. Want to purchase one of these bad boys? You can do so at Real Milk Paint, where the smallest can of powder starts at $16.


Old Fashioned Milk Paint

Old Fashioned Milk Paint
Milk Paint

Old Fashioned Milk Paint is another paint sourced from natural ingredients that comes in powder form and can be applied to plenty of surfaces. Much like its competitors, this powder is VOC free, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly. The paint is offered in a variety of colors and package sizes, including a pint, quart, and gallon. The largest sells for $61 and is purchasable on Milk Paint.

Latex Paint

The final best type of paint for furniture is latex. The water-based paint is the most easily accessible as it is available at any hardware store and can be tinted to nearly any color. Latex paint is offered in a variety of sheens — flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Each sheen dries to a different finish, which ranges from low-luster to shiny. 

Unlike chalk paint, latex requires significant prepping before the paint can be applied to surfaces. This preparation often includes sanding and priming. While the paint can be used both indoor and outdoor, it's important to note that latex tends to be less durable than oil paint when it comes to chipping and fading. That said, latex paint can still be a good choice for your future home projects as it is often VOC free and can take only a few hours to dry. 


Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover Latex Paint

Ultra Cover Gloss Almond General Purpose Paint
The Home Depot

The multi-purpose latex paint by Rust-Oleum is arguably the best type of paint for furniture that is adored by DIYers for its ability to be applied to most surfaces. We're talking the whole ensemble — wood, metal, plaster, masonry and even unglazed ceramic. Even though it is recommended that only metallic and wooden surfaces be primed before the paint is applied, the paint's end result on any material is still a smooth finish with your preferred choice of sheen. Sounds like something you're interested in? The Home Depot sells a case of two quarts (946 ml each) for as little as $19.


Beyond Paint All-In-One

Why is the Beyond Paint All-in-One rated so highly? Perhaps it’s because unlike traditional latex, this water-based paint requires very little preparation before application as it bonds, primes and seals all in one to two coats. The paint is offered in 16 colors and can be tinted to achieve different shades when purchased at hardware stores. The only downside of an all-in-one paint is that it tends to be quite expensive. A quart of Beyond Paint retails for $49, which is quite costly for latex paint. But none-the-less, it remains a sought-after item that can make giving new life to your furniture a total breeze.