6 Steps to a Perfect Paint Finish

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

1. Prep the Wood Sand any bare wood to 120-grit and no finer. This will give the primer good “tooth” to hold on and create the right base to start with. Clean all dust. I use TSP, but sometimes I run out and make my own solution. If you rub your hand on the wood and feel even just a little dust, then it is not clean enough.

2. Sand Your Primer Without a smooth base you can’t get a smooth finish. Use 220-grit paper or fine sanding sponges (I use 400 grit) to sand everything down once the primer has dried enough that it generates dust when sanded. Clean off dust will dry cloth. Touch with your hand to feel for dust.

3. Strain Your Paint The first pour out of the can is usually clean and clear of boogers, but every pour after that has a good chance of globs scattered throughout. You likely won’t see them until they are on your beautifully prepped surface at which time it’s too late. Paint stores have lots of cheap strainers in stock for good reason. Don’t kid yourself that this step doesn’t apply to you.

4. Use Additives and thin

(Painting with brushes) Floetrol and Penetrol are additives for your paint that slow down the drying process and make the paint less gummy. Thinner paint lays down better and helps hide brush marks. Thick, gloppy paint will look…thick and gloppy. Fast drying is not a positive thing for paint when you want a silky smooth finish. If you’re not using these already look into them.

(Using paint sprayer) Thin your paint with water (water based paints) by 10% Adjust gun and test before painting your project.

5. Buy the Right Paint Don’t skimp on paint. It truly does turn out that the more you pay for paint the better it is. And for finish work like we are talking about, don’t buy bargain paint. For woodwork and cabinets consider Enamel paint which dies harder than regular paint. Oil-based paints along with water-based options both have their place here depending on your comfort.

6. Put it On, Leave it Alone Put the paint on and once it’s smoothed out leave it alone. Don’t go back and work the paint relentlessly. The quicker you can get the surface covered and “tipped off” the more time the paint has to smooth out (level out) as it dries. Don’t go back and mess with drips that you notice while things are drying. You’ll have to fix it later with the next coat. Put it on, smooth it out and leave it alone. Don’t go back.

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