How to Paint Wood With Latex Paints Properly

Table of Contents

Affiliate Disclaimer: is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to also participates in affiliate programs with CJ, ShareASale, and other sites. is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Latex paint is very easy to apply and it´s easy to get great results out of it. However, there are still a few things, that you have to look out for when using latex paint and it can be a little harder to get a smooth finish with it compared to using oil paints, for example. Latex paint will stick just fine to most materials but it should be sealed with a topcoat and the surface should be prepared properly before painting it with latex paint to ensure the longevity of the paint. In this article, I will tell you everything, that you need to know when it comes to painting wood with latex paint. So lets get started.

Latex paint can be used on wood without any issues. The wood surface should be prepared by sanding it, cleaning it, and applying a primer before painting the wood and the latex paint should be sealed with a topcoat to ensure the longevity of the paint job afterward. Using a paint roller instead of a brush will contribute to a smoother finish.

So latex paint is a great paint for wood but, just like with any other paint, the surface has to be prepared before painting it and the paint job has to be sealed afterward.

If you don´t prepare the surface correctly or if you don´t seal your paint job then the paint will peel off or chip off or maybe even change it´s color because of the sun sooner rather than later.

How to Prepare Wood for Latex Paint

Before you start painting any wooden surface it is very important to prepare the surface of the wood for the paint. If you don´t do that properly, then your paint job will have a very short life. I personally have had issues with paint because I didn´t prepare my wood surface at all or not correctly and I always regretted it down the road. So don´t do it as I did back in the day and prepare your wood surface no matter if the finished project will be indoors, outdoors, or protected in a drawer for the rest of its life.

There are three major steps for preparing wood for latex paints. First, you have to sand the wood surface. Then you have to clean the surface with some soapy water. And finally, you have to apply a primer to the wooden surface to ensure, that the paint has the best possible conditions to stick to the surface permanently.

Sand the Wood With Some Fine-Grit Sand Paper

It doesn´t matter what kind of wood you are using you should almost always sand the surface, that you want to paint, at least with a fine-grit sandpaper.

Sanding the wooden surface will ensure, that the primer has enough grip to adhere to the wood properly and you will see if the wood has any uneven parts to it, that you might want to fix before applying any paint to it.

It the wood has holes or dents in it, then you can use a wood filler to even the surface out. I would recommend using the wood filler from Elmer´s.

It’s great for big and small holes, easy to apply, and it is quite cheap too. You can get it at your local hardware store or right here on amazon.

To fill holes with the wood filler simply apply a small amount of the filler directly on top of the hole. Then use a plastic spatula, your finger, or a scrap piece of wood to press the filler paste inside the hole and to spread it evenly on the surface.

Don´t worry, if it doesn´t look perfect when you applied it, it rarely does. You can just wait until the filler is completely dry (the drying times varies from product to product so check the instructions on the package to get an accurate drying time) and then sand the uneven parts down with a fine-grit sandpaper.

It´s as easy as that.

Clean the Surface With Some Soapy Water

This is a very important and often overlooked step in preparing the surface of your wood for painting.

You have to make sure, that no dust, dirt, or debris is present on the surface of the wood when applying the primer.

Even if there is just a small amount of dust left on the wood then the primer might not stick to the surface of the wood properly resulting in the paint chipping off at the slightest impact.

So use some soapy water and a piece of cloth and clean the surface of the wood from any dust and dirt.

Then you have to leave the wood to dry for a couple of hours. I would recommend to leave it over night just to be sure.

Depending on the type of wood and the surrounding temperature it can take between a few hours and up to a week before the wood is completely dry.

You can test if your wood is dry by dripping a few drops of water on its surface. If the drops get absorbed right away by the wood, then the wood is dry enough for the next step.

If the drops are absorbed very slowly or not at all then the wood is still not dry enough.

Make sure to store the clean wood in a place, where no dust or dirt gets to it easily, or you have to clean it again.

Apply a Primer to the Wood

The final step is applying a primer to the wooden surface to ensure the longevity of your paint job.

This is a very important step as well. You don´t need to apply a primer if you don´t want to but I always highly recommend to use one.

A primer will create a very strong bond with the underlying wood and, at the same time, it will create the perfect conditions for a paint application.

There are two in one paints, that is paint and primer in one but these are, most of the time, only available in basic colors like white or grey.

So I rarely use them, to be honest. But if you want to paint your wood white or grey, then these two in one paints are probably your best choice. Mainly because you only have to paint the wood once.

I usually use either the Primer from Rust-Oleum or the Kilz Premium Primer for preparing my wooden projects for painting.

The Primer from Rust-Oleum is slightly cheaper, you can check the price here on Amazon. But in my experience you will also need to apply at least two layers of this primer in order to get a optimal result.

The KILZ Premium Primer is a little bit more expensive but I usually only need to apply one layer of it and, in my experience, it will accept the latex paint slightly better and you won´t need to worry about stains as this primer in stain blocking.

You can get it on Amazon right here.

All you have to do is simply apply the primer as evenly as possible. You can use a paintbrush or a roller if you have a larger surface to cover.

Make sure, that the primer is applied in a thin layer. If you can still see some wood grain through after the fist layer then you can simply apply another one.

Generally, it’s better to apply multiple layers that one thick layer.

Let the primer dry for a couple of hours and then you can apply your latex paint to it without any issues!

Using Latex Paints to Paint Plywood

Plywood is often cheaper and easier to work with than regular wood. But most plywood has ben sealed in production and it has been glued as well. So how well does latex paint stick to plywood?

In short, latex paint can be used to paint plywood without any issues as long as the surface has been prepared properly. Plywood has to be sanded, cleaned, and, most importantly, the surface has to be prepared with a latex-based primer before painting it. Otherwise, the paint will chip or peel off after a short while.

So the process of painting plywood is pretty much the same as with painting regular old wood.

Only, that the primer is mandatory for painting plywood in order to avoid any paint chipping or peeling off.

Because the plywood has been glued the surface is, most of the time, not ready to accept paint right away, and even after sanding it, it will still be quite hard to get any paint to stick well to its surface for long.

So a good primer is mandatory in order to ensure that the paint job has a long life.

You can refer to the top of the post if you are searching for an in-depth step by step guide on how to prepare the surface of the wood for painting it with latex.

How to Get a Smooth Finish With Latex Paint on Wood

New crafters often struggle with getting a silky smooth finish on their paint job.

Latex paint is quite easy to use and to apply as well but it is also known to leave a lot of brush marks on the surface after it drys.

To get a smooth finish with latex paint on wood you have to use high-quality non-synthetic brushes to apply the paint. A paint thinner can also help with avoiding annoying brush-marks. The cheapest way to get a smooth finish is to use a paint roller to apply the paint evenly.

So to avoid brush marks you can either use a paint thinner or you can use a roller to apply the paint more evenly.

High-quality brushes can also help you to get a better result because they are often softer and the hairs of the brush are denser. This will result in an even spread of the paint.

A topcoat, like a mat varnish or a satin varnish, can also help with a smooth finish.

I personally like to use a paint roller instead of using a paint-brush or paint thinner, because it is the cheapest and easiest way to achieve a nice and even spreading of the paint. And I usually use a thin layer of satin varnish to seal my paint job.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.

Leave a Comment