It's easy to be disappointed when you spend money on quality paint, and then take up a couple of hours of your valuable time on a wood-painting project, only to be displeased with the results. The finish may appear uneven, full of imperfections and covered with unsightly brush marks. Fortunately, careful surface preparation and a little care can give you a smooth, glossy finish you can be proud of.
Whether the wood has been previously painted or is unfinished, it needs to be dry and clean of all dirt, grease and debris before painting. This can be done with a rag and a mild soapy solution, which should then be wiped off with a dry cloth. It's best not to soak the wood, especially if it's unfinished, since this will greatly extend the drying time.
With the wood totally dry, a fine-grade sandpaper should be used to eliminate any scratches and nicks in the wood's surface. This will rough up the surface of the wood, allowing for better adhesion of the primer and paint you'll be using. For previously painted surfaces, you may want to inspect for any deep gouges and divots and fill them with wood filler using a putty knife. When this is dry, you can then sand the surface lightly for a smooth finish.
Before you begin priming, it's imperative that all dust is removed from the wood's surface with a tack cloth. Painting over even fine dust particles will not give you the smooth finish you want. If you're painting the wood a color other than white, it's worth buying a primer tinted in the same color as the paint you'll be using, as this can make paint coverage quicker and easier. Painting in the direction of the wood grain, apply an even coat of the primer and wait for it to dry.
After the primer is dry, it's a good idea to give it a light sanding, and then clean again with a dry tack cloth. The paint should then be applied with a quality brush, and left to dry thoroughly. Care should be taken not to overload the paint brush, which will lead to unsightly drips that will show through the final coat.
After checking the paint can for recommended drying times, you can lightly sand the first coat and remove the resulting dust with the tack cloth. The second coat of paint can now be added, using smooth, even brush strokes. When the entire surface has been painted, it's a good idea to remove excess paint from the brush and with the brush angled low, lightly drag the tips of the the bristles along the wet painted surface in the direction of the wood grain, which should help even out and minimize any brush marks.
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