When you paint as many chairs as I have, you get to know which water-based paints work best and which do not. There are some paints that do not adhere well and some that are more work to apply than others. After all the trial and error over the past several years, I’ve been able to find, in my opinion, the best water-based paint for chairs.
Maybe this post should be titled, The Second Best Paint For Chairs. Oil-based paint is actually the most durable and probably the very best choice for chairs, but with the volume of furniture I paint, I prefer to use and now most often paint with water-based paints.
You may have tried using spray paint on chairs. Spray paint is an oil-based paint, but it can be difficult to work with, apply unevenly, drip when applied, and it scrapes off wood fairly easy. Do not use spray paint on wood furniture.
When painting chairs, latex paints require a bonding primer, even if the paint can is labelled “paint and primer”. Trust me on this. If you were to paint a wood chair with a latex paint and then leave it out it outside, then after about a year you would be able to peel that paint off in strips. It would be like strips of plastic wallpaper peeling from the chair because the paint didn’t properly adhere to the wood.
General Finishes Milk paint is a better option than latex and you wouldn’t get the plastic-like paint peeling, but milk paint still requires a primer.
Chalk paint is advertised as the paint that “sticks to everything and does not require a primer”. I’ve painted with chalk paint many times and do not agree with these claims. It requires several coats (3-4) to get good coverage and scrapes off very easy. Chairs around a table bang against each other all the time and I think you’ll also find the paint to chip off the wood easy.
So what is the best paint for chairs?
The Best Water-Based Paint For Chairs
The best water-based paint for chairs (and benches and table bases) is acrylic enamel paint.
Enamel paint is unlike latex, milk, or chalk paint in that it hardens really quickly. It dries in about an hour and seems to be cured within a week or less. Unlike those other paints which take 30 and some 60 days to fully cure – and even after that time are still soft enough to scape off when two wood chairs bang against each other.
The enamel I use does not require a primer. The only time I use a primer with with this paint is when I’m painting a chair a light color (i.e. white) to block any bleed-through. Otherwise, this enamel paint adhere’s incredibly well.
To see the the exact brand and type of acrylic enamel paint I use, please refer to this ebook, Painting Furniture.
Here, I explain all of the different types of paint, including my go-to paints for each type of project. I also explain how to manipulate the paint to minimize brush marks.
These chairs were painted with a Benjamin Moore color called Stonybrook. It’s a grayish green-blue or blue-green. You can see in some photos here that it looks more blue and some it’s more gray depending on how the light was hitting it.
If you are planning to paint wood chairs to transform your dining space, enamel is an excellent choice.
You can also see this higher gloss version of this paint used in THIS post.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products I’ve used myself.