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The Best Paints to Use on Wood that Yield Great Results

Wood is one of the most versatile materials that you can work with and starting to work with it is really easy. Sooner or later you will come to the point where you want to paint wood either because you build your own project out of wood or you want to paint over already painted wood. In this article, I will tell you exactly what kind of paint is best for your specific project.

As a whole, the best type of paint for wood is latex paint, chalked paint, or acrylic paint for indoor projects and oil-based paint or enamel paint for indoor or outdoor projects that need to survive the elements or have to be able to take a beating.

As is often the case, the choice of paint depends on the project.

PaintBest Suited forAdvantagesProduct Link
Latex PaintIndoor wood projectsEasy to use and available everywhere.Rust-Oleum Painters Touch
Chalked PaintIndoor wood ProjectsEasy to use. Very vibrant colors.Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint
Acrylic PaintIndoor wood ProjectsEasy to apply. Good for painting details.Acrylic paint
Enamel PaintIndoor and outdoor wood projectsVery durable and suited for outdoor projects.DecoArt Enamel Paint for Furniture
Oil-Based PaintIndoor and outdoor wood projectsDurable and well-suited for outdoor projects.DecoArt Enamel Paint

I will go more into detail about the advantages and disadvantages of each of these paints down below. I will also list examples of when to use them and what they are best used for.

The Most Durable Paint for Wood

You obviously don´t want to use a type of paint for an outdoor project or a project that will be used a lot that gets scratches easily or doesn´t survive one night when exposed to the elements. But what kind of paint is the most durable?

As a whole, the most durable paint for wood is oil-based paint like enamel paint for outdoor furniture, fences, and cabins. Oil-based paint is naturally water-resistant and special oil-based paint for outside use is also UV-resistant, scratch-resistant, and if the paint was applied correctly then it won´t peel off either.

One of the best exterior paints for wood is KILZ exterior paint for wood in my opinion.

You need to prepare the surface for painting first before you apply the paint, however, or you might have to deal with paint peeling in the future.

So start by sanding the surface to rough it up and then apply a good primer that ensures that the paint adheres properly.

I would recommend using a primer from KILZ as well that is especially well adhering and it is especially good for oil-based paints.

Apply one layer of the primer and let it dry for the recommended time. It will usually take around 4 to 8 hours for an oil-based primer to dry fully.

Then you can apply the KILZ exterior paint for wood in thin and even coats. One coat should be enough if you applied the primer correctly.

Let the paint dry and the final result will be very durable and able to survive the elements and even take a little beating with ease.

Do You Need Special Paint for Wood?

There are special paints for plastics, metals, and for wood. But do you actually need special paint for wood or can you use any paint on wood?

As a whole, no special paint is needed for wood. Wood can be painted with enamel paint, acrylic paint, latex paint, chalked paint, and more. But wood that is outdoors or has to be able to take some beating should be painted with enamel paint while wood that is indoors can be painted with chalked paint, latex paint, or acrylic paint.

While there are a lot of paints that are sold as being especially for wood you don´t need those. It´s just easier to market paints this way.

You can paint wood with a variety of paints but you should always sand and prime the wood first to ensure that the paint adheres well to the surface of the wood.

Painting Wood with Latex Paint

Latex paint is probably one of the most frequently used types of paint for wood. You can get latex paints in many different colors at your local hardware store.

Latex paint is good for painting wood. It is easy to use, quite cheap, and can be used to paint furniture or other interior wooden objects. Once the latex paint has dried it is easy to clean it with water and soap and it is quite durable.

But the surface should be sanded and primed before applying latex to ensure that the paint adheres properly to the wooden surface.

Latex paint can be applied with a paint roller or a paintbrush but I personally get the best results when using a paint roller for larger surfaces and a good paintbrush for hard-to-reach areas or small surfaces.

While latex paint is perfectly fine to paint interior wooden objects like furniture, it is not so great for the outdoors. Latex paint won´t survive being exposed to the elements for long.

Painting Wood with Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint can also be used to paint wood but I personally only recommend it for smaller projects or for painting details.

As a whole, acrylic paint works on wood but for best results, the wooden surface should be sanded and primed before applying the acrylic paint. Acrylic paint works for indoor projects only as it won´t survive the elements for long.

As I said, I usually like using acrylic paint for adding details to my projects and not for painting the whole thing. You can, however, use acrylic paint to paint smaller wooden projects if you want to.

Acrylic paint can be applied directly to untreated wood and it will adhere quite well but if you want to apply acrylic paint to already painted or sealed wood it is best to sand the wood first and apply a primer to the surface before you apply the acrylic paint.

This will ensure that the acrylic paint adheres properly and doesn´t come off or chip off easily.

Once the acrylic paint has dried the surface can easily be cleaned with a wet cloth but I usually recommend applying a top coat to further protect it. You can use a clear matt acrylic sealer for that I prefer using a spray-on acrylic sealer as the application process is easier and faster than brushing a sealer on.

I especially like the acrylic sealer from mod podge. It is easy to use and relatively inexpensive.

Painting Wood with Chalked Paint

Chalked paint is my favorite kind of paint for painting furniture. It is available in very vibrant colors and it is easy to use.

Chalked paint will give you an insanely even finish that I personally like a lot. It is very similar to acrylic paint but it has a chalk finish giving the surface a very interesting appearance.

Just like with acrylic paints you can apply the chalked paint directly to untreated wood and it will adhere just fine but if you want to paint sealed or already painted wood then you have to sand the surface first and then apply a primer before you paint it with the chalked paint.

I especially recommend chalked paint if you want to give your projects a very unique matt and potentially even colorful look.

You don´t have to seal chalked paint which makes it even better for painting furniture or other objects that have to be cleaned regularly.

Chalked paint is not recommended for outdoor projects as it won´t survive the elements for long.

Painting Wood with Enamel Paint

Enamel paint is an oil-based paint that can be used to paint outdoor projects as it will survive the elements for quite a long time.

Enamel paint is often high gloss but it can also be matt. So be sure that you get the correct enamel paint for your project. I personally prefer matt enamel over the glossy one but either will be fine for outdoor projects.

Enamel paint has a very strong odor to it so I would highly recommend only using it outside or in a well-ventilated room.

Enamel paint adheres very well to most surfaces but I still recommend at least sanding wooden surfaces before applying the enamel paint.

A primer can be used before applying the enamel paint but it is often not necessary. It will give the surface a more even appearance, however, so if you plan on painting over old paint then I would still recommend sanding and priming the wooden surface first. Just to ensure that the final result looks good.

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