Painting Tips from Cassie at Primitive and Proper

When I think of painting furniture, I think of Cassie at Primitive and Proper.  She has so much painted furniture eye candy it’s nuts.  She even sells it.  I asked her to share some of her expertise with us today!

Hello, Hyphen Interiors readers! I am so excited to be here today sharing my secrets painting tips! I am Cassie from Primitive & Proper. I blog about my home and my business, which is furniture painting, and you will find other random crafts and design related posts there as well. Kristy was kind enough to send me a list of questions to use as a guideline, but I thought I would go through and answer all of them to the best of my ability.


- What is the best way to remove finishes (paint, clear coats, etc)?
Answer: If I will be painting a piece, I just sand it with my orbital sander. An electric sander will save you tons of time and energy. I typically use around 120-160 grit if I am going to be painting the piece.

If I will be refinishing the piece, I use Citristrip, which is a safe to use, eco-friendly furniture stripper. It is not as strong as other strippers, but with the environment and my children’s health in mind, it is the best product out there. I have used it to strip finishes as well as paints and it works beautifully. Please bear in mind that any time you strip paint, you are going to be doing a lot of work. It does not simply come off…. you have to use special tools, scrapers, steel wool, and odorless mineral spirits to get every last bit.

- Is it always necessary to sand?  To prime?
Answer: If you are using a latex paint, it is definitely necessary to both sand and prime first, using a tinted primer as necessary. If you are using an oil-based paint or milk paint, most of the time you can sand the piece and skip the priming step. And of course there are paints that are the exception to this rule, such as Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, which can be applied without sanding. However, the finish of this paint is very particular in style (in my opinion) and doesn’t work well for “modern” looks. Here is a piece I painted with chalk paint…

- What is the most important step when painting furniture?
Answer: I firmly believe that priming properly is the most important step…. Primer will help with durability. And sanding in between coats of primer will affect the smoothness of the piece. Also, some pieces have a tendency to “bleed” and choosing a good stain blocking primer on those pieces will affect the final outcome.

- What do you prefer to use to avoid stroke lines – roller, foam brush, regular brush, etc?
Answer: If I want the smoothest finish I can achieve by hand, I use a foam brush. However, I firmly believe that hand painted pieces are hand painted and have character, and frankly a little brush stroke is not a big deal. I do use high quality brushes which certainly will minimize the stroke lines.

- Any tips on getting paint off of your hands?
Answer: As long as it is latex paint, warm soapy water should do the trick! If it is oil based, I use a scrubby sponge with warm soapy water and that works well.


- Any tips on cleaning brushes?
Answer: With latex paints, I use warm soapy water. I take the bristles of the brush between my hands and roll them vigorously to get all the paint out. Then I hang them to dry them. With my oil based primer, I wrap the brush in plastic and put it in the freezer until the next use. Then when it finally gets too cruddy to use I toss it and use another, but it generally will last me about 4-6 months.

- Oil or water based? How do you choose?
Answer: Oil based paint is much more durable. However, I prefer water based for its eco-friendliness (I try to always use low VOC paints) as well as its ease of use. It has much easier cleanup and the dry time is much faster.

- Tips on painting with glossy finishes?
Answer: If you are using a bold or bright color such as red, yellow, orange, bright blue, I would strongly encourage you to use a tinted primer and use 2-3 coats of that. Glossy paint tends to be more translucent and goes on thinner. If you skip the proper priming, you will be applying several coats of paint and probably not be happy. I used a white primer on this yellow piece, and ended up having to use 6 coats of paint.

- When aiming for a glossy finish, do you choose glossy paint or a glossy clear coat?
Answer: You can do either. You can use a glossy enamel paint, or you can finish the entire piece with a glossy polycrylic or polyurathane to add the gloss and protect. I generally prefer to use the enamel paint because it is highly durable and does not require the top coat.

- What wood filler do you use when patching hardware holes?
Answer:  I use Minwax or Elmer’s wood filler. I am not too picky! I do two coats of filler. I fill it once, sand it down, and then fill it again and sand it down (when it is dry). That is ow to achieve a smooth finish. Wood filler shrinks as it dries, so if you only fill the hole once, it will most likely still be slightly noticeable.

This is a piece where the holes were filled twice…

And here is the after, which shows the smoothness….

- What kind of primer is best?
Answer: I prefer to use Kilz Clean Start because it is zero VOC, safe, and environmentally responsible. I typically use 2 coats as it is a little thinner than standard primer. However, in some situations, a stronger primer is needed to better adhere and block stains. In those cases, I prefer Zinnser stain blocking oil based primer, or Kilz oil based primer. Both work beautifully, but both stink equally.

- Is it important to add a protectant layer when finished?
Answer: It is definitely important to add a protective layer (however, if you are using an enamel paint, you can probably skip this step). I prefer paste waxes on satin or eggshell finishes because it is low lustre and will not shine or yellow. I use polycrylic when I want a hard glossy finish, but it does tend to yellow, so I do not use it on white or light colors.

- How do you know when to spray and when to brush?
Answer: I never spray because I do not own a sprayer, and I don’t believe in using spray paint on a piece that can be easily painted by hand. I reserve spray paint for the pieces that have hard to reach areas that require spray paint. My reasoning for this again is the environmental concerns as well as the finish. I feel like you can tell when a larger piece has been spray painted from a can.

- How do you get a smooth finish?
Answer:  Sand between coats of primer for sure! And use a high quality brush such as Purdy. And don’t put too much paint on your brush…. a little goes a long way!

Thank you so much Kristy for having me here today to share some tips. I hope you have found it helpful! I will leave you with one of my all time favorite pieces I have finished…

Thank you, Cassie!  I learned so much.  I will probably keep this as a reference for the next time I paint furniture!  Be sure to visit her blog for more inspiration!



  1. Great tips! Cassie is so darn talented and I’m always jealous of her awesome transformations!

  2. Awesome advice as usual! Cassie is my furniture painting guru!!! Ha ha!!

  3. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co.

    Wonderful advice from a real pro!

  4. thank you so much for having me today, kristy! hope you are feeling better!

  5. As far as furniture refurbishers* go, I love Cassie. She has a great style and I absolutely love her LOVE of furniture. I am one of her biggest fans and aspire to create pieces beautifully as hers!

  6. Thanks for having Cassie today. She does amazing work and is the sweetest blogger. These are great tips too!

  7. Thanks for having Cassie. She does awesome things. I know all her tips will definitely be coming in handy.

  8. Great tips, Cassie! She has the most amazing furniture projects *EVER*…I love that yellow piece…come to mama!!! I’m a rookie furniture revamper and I can use all the advice I can get my grubby little hands on! (c;

  9. Thanks for the tips Cassie! You know I love everything you do!

  10. Great blog, I think, Painting furniture is the not a difficult. Just one more thing…what is the best way to apply the polyacrylic…a certain kind of brush or spray it on? Mine is never as smooth as I would like. Thanks for nice post.
    painting toronto

  11. Randi Michelle

    Beauty!! Some of these tips are things I definitely do. Some are new — I so appreciate you sending me the links! :)

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