Painting your kitchen chairs is an easy and budget-friendly way to give your kitchen a fresh new look. Whether you want to update the color, conceal scuffs and scratches, or give some secondhand chairs new life, painting kitchen chairs is a satisfying DIY project that can be customized to suit your style and skill level. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to paint kitchen chairs, from prep work to final protective finishes.

Getting Started with Painting Kitchen Chairs

Before starting any painting project, it is important to do some preparations to ensure the paint adheres properly and provides a professional-looking finish. Here are some tips on getting your kitchen chairs painting-ready:

Choose the Right Paint

There are many options when it comes to paint for kitchen chairs:

  • Latex/acrylic paint – Water-based and easy clean-up. Good for indoor use. Offered in various sheens like matte, satin, semi-gloss.
  • Enamel paint – Solvent-based and more durable. Good for high-traffic indoor areas. Provide a glossy finish.
  • Chalk paint – Made specifically for painting furniture. Doesn’t require stripping or sanding. Easy to distress.
  • Spray paint – Offered in all-purpose, lacquer, enamel, and acrylic options. Provides an ultra-smooth finish.

Consider the look you want and how much wear the chairs will endure when choosing paint. Gloss and semi-gloss are good options for frequently used kitchen chairs.

Prepare the Surface

For the best paint adhesion:

  • Remove any existing paint with a paint stripper.
  • Sand the chairs with 120-150 grit sandpaper to scuff up the surface.
  • Clean with a tack cloth to remove any dust or debris.
  • Apply a primer made for the type of paint you’ll be using.

Priming ensures better paint coverage, especially when painting over stains, bare wood, or going from a dark color to a light one.

Protect Your Space

Cover surrounding surfaces with painter’s tape and drop cloths. If spraying, do it in a well-ventilated area and hang plastic sheeting to minimize overspray. Wear old clothes and safety goggles.

Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Kitchen Chairs

Follow these steps for best results:

1. Apply First Coat

Using a high-quality trim brush, apply the first coat in smooth strokes following the wood grain. Work methodically from top to bottom, painting the back first before the seat and legs. Let dry completely.

2. Sand and Clean

Gently sand the first coat with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth any drips or rough areas. Wipe clean with a tack cloth. This creates a surface “tooth” for the second coat to adhere properly.

3. Apply Second Coat

Apply a second smooth coat to achieve complete coverage and your desired color depth. For extra protection, consider a third coat on high-traffic seats and armrests. Allow each coat to dry fully before adding another.

4. Remove Tape and Reattach Hardware

Once the final coat is dry, carefully remove any painters tape and reattach any hardware that was removed. Fill any holes with wood filler before touching up paint if needed.

5. Seal and Protect

For added durability and stain resistance, apply 1-2 coats of a polyurethane sealant in the sheen of your choice (matte, satin, gloss). Water-based options offer easy cleanup.

Painting Kitchen Chair Styles

Kitchen chairs come in many styles, from vintage wooden ladder-backs to sleek modern metal stools. Here are some tips for painting popular kitchen chair designs:

Ladder-Back Chairs

  • Tightly woven rush or cane seats can be left as-is or painted for a unified look. Use spray paint and thin coats.
  • Sand curved spindles by hand instead of machine to avoid rounding edges over.
  • Use painter’s tape to protect the intersections of the back/legs from drips.

Spindle Chairs

  • When spraying, rotate the chair and spray opposite sides in quick succession to prevent paint build up.
  • Painter’s tape around spindles helps maintain crisp edges.
  • Use a tapered trim brush to paint spindles by hand for best control.

Upholstered Chairs

  • Remove seat cushion and use drop cloths to protect the rest of chair.
  • Apply paint in thin, multiple coats to prevent bleeding through fabric.
  • For vinyl or leather, use specific vinyl/leather paint or spray paint.

Metal Chairs

  • Clean and lightly sand the surface to rough it up before priming and painting.
  • Use a bonding primer made for painting metal.
  • Thin coats of spray paint provide the smoothest finish on metal chairs.

Wicker Chairs

  • Apply paint quickly and gently to avoid pooling in the weave.
  • Back-brush paint into the crevices of the weave with a small craft brush.
  • Spray paint formulated for wicker and rattan will flex as the wicker moves.

Painting Chair Cushions

Along with the chairs, consider painting chair cushions for a cohesive updated look:

  • Use a small foam roller to apply paint smoothly and evenly on cushion surfaces.
  • For a crisp line, use painter’s tape at the cushion piping seam.
  • Acrylic craft paint is flexible for painting fabric cushions.
  • Add multiple thin coats for coverage and to prevent bleeding.

Distressing Painted Kitchen Chairs

For a vintage shabby-chic style, distress your painted chairs using these methods:


  • Focus on areas of natural wear like edges and corners.
  • Use 100-150 grit sandpaper to rub away paint gradually.
  • Distress between coats for the rubbed-away look or after final coat dries.


  • Use a flat head screwdriver to gently chip away paint along worn edges and crevices.
  • Work in small sections and rotate chair to vary distress pattern.
  • Apply light pressure for small chips and increase as needed.

Antiquing Glaze

  • Apply a heavy brushing of antiquing or gel stain over dried paint.
  • Immediately wipe away excess using a lint-free rag in a rubbing motion.
  • Multiple layers and buffing builds up aged, timeworn look.

Protecting Painted Kitchen Chairs

To extend the life and look of your painted kitchen chairs, follow these maintenance tips:

  • Allow paint to cure fully before using chairs (usually 1-2 weeks).
  • Apply multiple thin coats of polyurethane for added protection and washability.
  • Hand wash chair seats with mild soap and water to remove dirt and grease that can degrade paint over time.
  • Periodically inspect chair legs and joints for drips and touch up paint as needed.
  • Consider slipcovers or cushions to protect chair backs and seats from scratches.
  • Avoid harsh cleaners, scouring pads, or scrubbing that can strip away paint.

Painting Kitchen Chair FAQs

Still have some questions about painting kitchen chairs? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should I remove old paint and varnish before painting kitchen chairs?

  • If the existing paint is in good shape with no cracking or peeling, you can paint over it after scuff sanding for adhesion.
  • For damaged paint or thick build-up, stripping is best to ensure the new paint job adheres properly.

What type of primer should I use?

  • For painting bare wood, an oil-based primer seals the wood grain best.
  • Latex/acrylic primers bond well for already painted surfaces.
  • Metallic chairs need a specifically formulated metal primer.

Is it ok to paint over stained or varnished wood chairs?

Yes, as long as the existing finish is in good shape. Scuff sanding provides the texture needed for paint to adhere to slick varnish. An oil-based primer will block wood stain bleed-through.

What mistakes should I avoid when painting chairs?

  • Skipping proper surface prep and priming often leads to peeling or chipping paint later on.
  • Rushing through coats can create drips, uneven coverage, and brush marks. Allow each coat to fully dry before adding another.
  • Mixing paint sheens, such as pairing a glossy paint with a matte topcoat, results in a cloudy muted look.

Can I use regular acrylic craft paint on chairs?

Yes, craft paint will adhere to wood chairs effectively, although the finish may not be quite as durable as formulated interior paints. Add a topcoat for added protection.

How soon can I use the chairs after painting?

It’s best to allow the paint to cure for 1-2 weeks to prevent scratching or staining. Immediately using a painted chair can result in tacky sticking or imprinting from contact before it fully hardens.

Get Your Chairs Painting Ready

Painting tired kitchen chairs is an inexpensive way to refresh your space with updated color or a distressed vintage look. With the right preparations and technique, you can end up with durable, professional-looking painted chairs that complement your kitchen decor perfectly. Refer to this comprehensive painting guide when tackling your kitchen chair painting project for success from start to finish!