02 November 2010

PIY Pointers: Q&A on Avoiding Brushmarks, Brush vs. Spray and Why Finishing is Smart

Happy Tuesday friends, I hope you're all doing well!  The weather took a turn for the better here and we're enjoying unusually warm temps!

Today's PIY pointers is actually a question that reader Alison sent to me about furniture painting.  I decided to turn my response into a post, in case any of you had similar burning questions!  

Here's what Allison had to say...

"This past weekend, I decided to tackle a project that's been needing some attention. I took an old wooden half moon side table, from a dark red, to a creamy white. I sanded, primed and painted (3 coats). It looks good...a lot better than what I started with, but I'm not completely happy with my painting job. I used a brush and you can still see the brush lines. I've read that to get professional results the best bet is to use spray paint or spray lacquer. I had a look at various stores and I wasn't really happy with the colour selection so I opted for the brush. Can you give me any tips on how to avoid the brush marks? Also, do you use a lacquer as a top coat? Is it meant to give the piece extra durability or just a nice shine?"

Now, I personally prefer to use a brush or a small foam roller to spraying (spray paint that is...I don't have a sprayer).  Spraying is super tricky, you have to be really patient about doing short, light sprays and it takes several coats (one false move and you have drip marks).  The colours are very limited and it's a lot more expensive since you usually need a few cans to do the job well.  So if you want to take that on - it does make a nice finish if you like that look - but I would recommend practicing on something first.

For brushstrokes - the bottom line is the better the quality the brush, the fewer the brush strokes.  Home Depot has a neat chart that shows you actual painting samples using different brushes and you can see fewer strokes with the better quality brushes.  They are more expensive - but result in a better finish.  If you're using a really good brush and still having issues, it could be your coats are too thick?  When you use less paint on your brush but do several thinner coats, I rarely have obvious brush marks (although some are always inevitable with a brush so you do have to like that look).

For top coat, I use a water-based polyurethane.  It's a clear 'diamond' coat finish that dries quickly and hardens.  I choose satin finish to minimize sheen.  Not only is it a protective coating, but it 'smoothes' out a lot of the paint imperfections.  Again, I use a brush and/or foam roller to apply, it does come in spray but it's more expensive and the same issues with drip marks.  I can't stress enough to use as little product as possible on your brush or roller, once I apply I do light sweeps with my brush or roller to soak up any excess as well.

I know I didn't give you a definitive answer, it's really about what works best for you - but hopefully this helps a bit.  Good luck Allison and the rest of you!  


  1. That is a great post! I always worry about the brushmarks:)
    Happy Tuesday,sweetie

  2. Thanks for this! I'm finally getting around to working on the headboard I'm trying to refinish and was getting nervous about the next step: painting.

  3. Excellent tips. I need to bite the bullet and invest in a better brush, the strokes kill me. I have actually SMOOTHED OUT PAINT TO PERFECTION WITH MY BARE HANDS to prevent them. It works. Good thing I was painting a small area!

  4. Hello! I found your post from google alerts in my google gmail inbox. Just wanted to throw in the easiest way to deal with brush marks is to thin down your paint! Yes you will need more coats to cover properly but thin paint will level it self out much better then just paint. Use a ratio of 3 parts paint to 1 part water (75%/25%) and give that a go. Even if you use a dollar store cheap brush thin paint is easier to paint but harder to cover with. =) I hope that helps you and good luck to you and your project!

  5. These are great tips, I'll definitely use this advice, thanks!

  6. I always have brush stroke mayhem, haha :)

  7. Good information. Thanks for sharing!

  8. thanks for the tips Lenore. I'll be refurbishing an old hall table this month with bright orange!
    ps you guessed correctly shhh...

  9. Great info and tips! Very helpful.

  10. Lenore, this is one of my favorite posts yet! I needed this - just the other day I was thinking about a painting project I've been planning and wondering how to make it look really professional. This is so helpful.

    So the top coat is just like the clear final coat of nail polish that makes everything look so professional? Brilliant!

  11. Thanks again for your help with my questions Lenore! You gave me such great tips. I'm hoping with your advice, my next project (coffee table) will look stunning!


Thanks so much for stopping by, I love reading all your comments! If you have a specific question, please email me at lhume1@mts.net. XO Lenore