How to Paint Zebra Stripes on Furniture


There's no rule that says furniture has to keep its original finish throughout its useful lifetime. In the same manner, there's no reason to just live with a piece of furniture in beat-up condition or in blah colors. Customize your furnishings with your own hand-painted funky zebra print, jazzing up everything from dresser-drawer fronts to tabletops or even metal filing cabinets.

Prepping Your Project Piece

  • Dust the furniture thoroughly and determine which areas are best for the zebra-stripe treatment, if not painting the entire piece with the pattern. Gently sand all areas you wish to paint using fine-grit sandpaper. Sand only enough to scuff the surface slightly; then wipe the dust away with a tack cloth. Use painter's tape to cover any areas you don't want to paint. Remove any doors or drawers, as well as hardware such as handles or hinges, so you can cover all areas thoroughly.

Primer Time

  • Instead of waiting for separate coats of primer and the base paint color to dry, tackle both tasks at once with an all-in-one bonding primer and paint. Select a product suitable for the furniture's composition; regular all-in-one products work well with wood or wood veneer, while a metal- or plastic-specific product should be used on a metal cabinet or plastic laminate dresser, respectively. Brush or spray on a thin coat of the primer/paint, allowing it to dry completely. If the original finish is still visible, apply a second coat. If spray priming the furniture, work on the project outdoors or in a well-ventilated area such as a garage, away from other objects to prevent overspray. Begin the spray slightly before the furniture and end each burst slightly beyond the piece for the smoothest finish.

Setting Up the Stripes

  • Study the lines on a real zebra to come up with a basic plan and practice on paper first; the stripes vary from one zebra to the next. If you're comfortable working freehand, sketch a basic design for the stripes in a light pencil or chalk or even a black marker if you're feeling confident. Create angled lines with slightly irregular edges for a realistic effect. If you'd rather not sketch the stripes, cover an area such as a drawer front with wide strips of painter's tape. Sketch the stripes atop the tape, scribbling in the stripes so you know which areas to remove. Gently slice through the tape with the tip of a craft knife, cutting out all of the striped or colored-in areas. If unhappy with the look, add more tape and try again.

Painting the Stripes

  • Paint the stripes using latex paint or acrylic craft paint. Go with glossy for a touch of glam for a teenager's room instead of flat black. If you've drawn outlines in chalk or marker, gently go over the outlines again with an artist's brush; then fill in the inner areas of each stripe using a wider brush. If you've used the tape method, paint over each cutout to create the stripes; then peel the tape away when the paint is dry to the touch. For an even more playful look, forget about black and white: Paint the zebra finish in other shades such as sunshine yellow and indigo or gray and orange, or sprinkle a fine glitter into the stripe color before painting.

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