Spray Paint Wood Furniture Without Sanding

Did you know you can spray paint wood furniture without sanding it? There are so many incredible options for refinishing furniture.

hero image for how to spray paint wood without sanding.

Jamie here!! Ever wondered if you could spray paint wood furniture without sanding? Good news – you can! Here’s a great DIY project to tackle over the weekend that can turn your Goodwill duds into handsome pieces of furniture.

I have been looking for a desk for my son’s room for a while without much luck. He has just this one little nook where I can put one, and so it needed to be slim but also tall and able to hold books (since I was putting this where the bookshelf used to be).

desk makeover before and after picture


Where Can I Find Refinishing Furniture Ideas

When I looked for tall desks with bookshelves I about gave up –  MERCY, they cost an arm and a leg!  So I hit up Pinterest looking for ideas. After I bought a couple of sets of bookshelves and a solid piece of wood and paint and put it all together (fingers crossed it would be sturdy) – I’d still be looking at $70 – $90.

Find Great Furniture Deals at Thrift Stores

I headed to do some thrift store shopping and get some ideas – and on my very. First. stop. I got lucky. I found this monstrously ugly computer desk at Habitat for Humanity Home Store for $30, and it just had “project” written all over it.

bookcase in garage to be painted


PLUS – it OPENS y’all! (And more importantly, closes.) How nice to be able to close the door on a messy desk…. it’s my favorite way to clean. 😉

Steps to Spray Painting Furniture Without Sanding

After taking all the drawers out, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a piece of Thomasville furniture – which is some good stuff! And – I don’t even know how I missed this while helping the Habitat worker heft it into my van – there’s a built-in light in the desk part!

I wasn’t sure if you could spray paint wood furniture without sanding it, but I picked up a couple of flat black spray paint cans that have primer in them and hoped for the best.

As it turns out, not only can you spray paint wood without sanding – you can also spray paint pressed wood/particle board (which some parts of this desk were) and even that papery cardboard panel on the back. All of it, you guys. Just spray paint ALL of it. Then let it dry and do it again.

IMPORTANT: You’ll want to spray-paint a light/medium coat twice (or even three times) and let it dry between each coat. The excited part of your brain will insist that you can coat it heavily one time and be done. IGNORE IT!! If you spray everything soaking wet the first round, you’ll watch while the paint drips everywhere and ruins your finish completely.

Tip: Chalk paint is also a fantastic option for this kind of project and some come in aerosol cans, check out chalk paint best brands for more information.

pottery barn black spray painted desk without sanding


I had some drawer pulls that I also picked up at Habitat for 2/$1, and I had my wonderful husband install those for me to class it up a little. I think that’s what REALLY made the difference. I wanted to put one in the middle of the desk cubby, but he pointed out that the screw would get in the way of writing on the desk.

The only thing I would do differently is spray on a clear coat at the end. There have been some times opening and shutting the desk I got a smudge of black paint on my finger, and while it’s not the end of the world, a clear coat would’ve taken care of that problem.

While some spots on it aren’t as beautiful as a Pottery Barn finish – for instance, the places where stickers and scotch tape were stuck on for decades – I’m delighted that this desk will serve us well for many years and looks nice enough to be proud of. 🙂

NOTE: If your piece is heavily varnished, I’ll pray for you. I once painted my heavily varnished kitchen cabinets after sanding them and then using about 5 coats of primer/paint – and that darn orange varnish STILL bled through. It was a nightmare – in that case, sand the HECK out it before you ever begin!


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  1. Great work on the monster piece. Two years ago I wound down my life in Seattle and moved to Ecuador. I had close to the same piece in my apartment (Yep, the light, even a mirror on the inside, and it was a solid-wood expensive piece, which I bought as a thrift store find for peanuts.)

    I had the idea of doing exactly what you did: paint it. (Spray painting would have been impossible so it would have been a brush job.)

    It was my colored pencil painting station and it was super-wonderful. All my painting books fit on the shelf above. Everything else fit inside. I could close up my work until it was time to resume and that was that.

    But, I couldn’t take it to Ecuador, where I live now, and believe it or not, I couldn’t even give it away, as I offered before I left. So it went to Value Village.

    So, readers, have vision. If you need a spot to call your own to write, to paint, to do whatever, and you see a piece like this, grab it and get creative. It would make a wonderful desk for anyone.

    1. Hi Katy! It’s hard to tell without being able to see them but I’m betting the chairs are really slick and you might have to rough up the finish just a little with some sandpaper to make sure the paint “sticks”. Good luck!

  2. I recently bought a used wooden file cabinet in fairly good condition. It looked fine to me without doing anything to it. My husband decided he wanted to stain it. Of course he has to sand it first. I have had it over a month and it is still sitting in the garage So I decided to do some research to find out if I could just spray paint it with out doing any sanding. I am not really a do it yourself kind of person. So I am glad to hear that you can spray paint it without sanding it first. I am going out this weekend and buy some spray paint. I will leave it in the garage until it drys then have my son Sam help me bring it in. I wonder how long it will take my husband to notice it is not in the garage and that it is in my room. I will remember to put a clear coat on it before I use it. Thank you for the help

  3. Awesome! No words. You always go one step beyond.

    There is so much great, useful information here. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Thanks again 🙂

  4. Super nice! Was just browsing to see how difficult it would be paint an already varnished piece. I am wanting to do a little console table for my bedroom. Wish me luck! I am actually going to paint some wine bottles with spray paint (actually blue paint/primer) so maybe that will help me learn patience of 2 or 3 light coats instead of trying to go heavy.

  5. Hi, I recently purchased a $900 chair for my bedroom, of course it’ll take three months to come in. I noticed I had a beautiful glider rocking chair with ottoman, and wondered if I could use that chair in the master bedroom. Turns out the chair is a golden pine color, would not match. Glad to find out that I can paint it! I am also glad to save the $900!

  6. Regarding the heavy varnish a light scuff and use kilz all weather stain blocker and sealer it covers porous surfaces and the spray paint clings to it I used it on a old hard wood dresser project I know painting hard wood is a sin but it was unrepairable but it came out great I rolled it on and brushed in what I couldn’t roll

    1. Thanks for the advice. We paint wood furniture all the time. It really can give old wood furniture new life

  7. Although I’ve found this historically possible, it hasn’t held up for me over time. The paint comes right off if it’s knocked or knocked. Is there something special about this paint other than primer added which I’ve used as well. I find you have to at least lightly sand for any hope of adherence and cleaning for any length of time.

    1. Different surfaces adhere differently to the paint. Chalk paint seems to work the best when just adding paint to a surface. You could also spray the painted piece with a spray finish like polyurethane.

  8. Perhaps I misunderstood about particleboard. I bought a cheap particleboard bookshelf and have painted it several times and it looks wonderful but once I accidentally nicked it and immediately the paint came off. Once I try to move it it will get scratched. I bought some spray shellac in the hopes that it will correct the problem and seal the paint on otherwise I have wasted my time and money following this advice.

    1. Different pieces can take paint differently. For the most part, these processes work, but there are times that a finish on particle board or wood can have an effect on the paint adhesion to the surface. Spray polyurethane may be a better option than shellac, but shellac may work. Hope it turns out! Chalk paint is a fantastic option too. It has an additive that helps adhesion to all surfaces.

  9. Just purchased my daughter a great wooden desk with drawers at Habitat for $20 and want to spray paint it white. So relieved to have found this post! Great advice – thank you!

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