Budget DIY: How to paint / upcycle furniture for beginners

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Renovating your home on a budget? Here’s how to paint / upcycle furniture for beginners. I love a bit of budget DIY and upcycling is one of the easiest ways to get great quality furniture without spending a fortune. When buying new, a hundred quid will probably get you something cheaply made or wood veneer, whereas a hundred quid spent on second-hand furniture could get you some well-built solid wood pieces, which will last for years to come. You might even want to take up upcycling as an extra way to make money, as it could be a profitable side-hustle too.

On top of this, it’s great for the planet to save preloved furniture from going to landfill, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too! The best bit about upcycling is that when it starts to look tired, or you fancy a change, you can sand and repaint to give it a new lease of life again! You might have fab pieces in your home already, just waiting for a facelift!

A fresh lick of paint can transform what you’ve got with very little expenditure, and make mismatched pieces of furniture feel more uniformed. I recently transformed an old solid wood sideboard that I picked up for free on Marketplace – what a difference a lick of paint can make!


frugal mum photo, pink sideboard, before and after, budget renovations, DIY, how to paint upcycle furniture for beginners


frugal mum photo, pink sideboard, upcycling before and after, budget renovations, DIY, how to paint upcycle furniture for beginners

I love the colour so much I’ve since painted a mirror and some photo frames in the leftover paint – transforming them too without spending any more pennies!


Ready to get started? Here’s what you’ll need:


Which paint should I choose?

Check out my detailed pros and cons review of these paints in my article – What is the best paint for upcycling furniture? (A pros/cons review).

But for a quick glance, here are some of the different options that I came across on my travels; to suit a wide range of budgets, colours and requirements…

Wilko Cupboard Paint

wilko furniture and cupboard paint, how to paint upcycle furniture for beginners


Dulux Satinwood

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Farrow & Ball Eggshell – Estate (20% sheen) or Modern (40% sheen)

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Dulux Cupboard Paint

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V33 Cupboard and Cabinet Paint

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Johnstone’s Cupboard Paint

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Frenchic Alfresco Paint

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Don’t forget to read the reviews, hunt for the best prices, use cashback websites and look for voucher codes! I saved 10% by signing up as a new customer on a paint website.


A beginner’s guide: How do I upcycle furniture?

Step One

Remove any handles etc and store safely. Then clean the furniture well with sugar soap, rinse and allow to dry.


Step Two

If the furniture you’re going to upcycle has been previously varnished, sand really well with a coarse sandpaper to dull the shine. For previously painted furniture, a gentle sanding will usually be sufficient, but if the paint is in poor condition you may want to strip it first. If you’re going to be doing a lot of projects invest in an electric sander – mine was just 20 quid and I wish I’d got one years ago! It’ll save you so much time and effort!



Step Three

Clean the sanded wood to make sure that you have a fresh surface to paint on. Fill in any knocks and scratches at this point too, if you want a ‘new’ look, or leave them if you like the character it adds to older pieces.


Step Four

If you’re not painting the backs of the cupboard doors, or inside of the furniture piece, put masking tape around the edges to make sure that you get a nice clean line and avoid any mess on the areas that you don’t intend to paint. This takes a bit of time but it’s so worth it and a step that shouldn’t be skipped if you want a tidy result.


Step Five

Paint the wood with primer, allow to dry (see instructions on the tin) and then do a second coat. You don’t need to sand in-between coats of primer. Make sure that you buy a product which will block the knots in the wood, if you don’t want these to come through the finished paintwork, and choose a primer suited to the type of surface that you’re painting.


Step Six

Paint the wood with your chosen paint – I like to use a brush for the cutting in and fiddly bits, and a mini foam roller for the main areas, to avoid brush strokes as much as possible. A tiny children’s / artist style paint brush will also come in really handy for corners and little crevices.

To avoid patches and roller/brush strokes, be sure to apply the paint quite liberally (avoid spreading too thinly) and don’t keep going over what you’ve previously done. Once a section is covered, simply run the roller in straight lines from top to bottom very lightly, to ensure an even finish. You do need to sand between coats, but only lightly and with a less coarse sandpaper at this stage.

I used leftover Dulux Satinwood, from when I did the skirting boards, for the kids’ beds. As they were previously unpainted, the kid’s beds needed three coats but each coat was pretty quick. I didn’t paint the slats, so apart from 6 hours drying time in-between, they were straight forward to paint.


Lola’s bed before…

how to paint upcycle furniture for beginners, frugal mum DIY guide, childs pine bed before photo


And after…

frugal mum photo, pine bed, upcycling before and after

It makes such a difference, so buy second-hand and give it a go! You’ll get much better quality, long-lasting furniture for a fraction of the cost!


Not sure which paint to use? Check out my post on: What paint is the best for upcycling furniture?

green painted cabinet, what is the best paint for upcycling painting furniture, frugal mum review


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How to paint your kitchen cupboards – a step by step guide and the mistakes to avoid!

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