How to Paint Wood to a High Gloss

Glossy finishes are sleek and easy to clean.
Glossy finishes are sleek and easy to clean. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Wood trim, furniture and other common home items are traditionally painted with a high gloss sheen. Not only does gloss look nice, bu also it serves some practical functions on wood surfaces. A glossy finish helps lock out moisture, it's durable, and it is easy to wipe down for quick home cleaning. Glossy finishes are a good choice for wood, but if you don't use the right products and tools, you could end up with undesirable results.

Things You'll Need

  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • 50-grit sandpaper
  • Stain-blocking wood primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Damp towel or rag
  • Foam brush
  • Foam roller
  • High gloss oil-base paint
  • High gloss polyurethane

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Sand the wood with 150-grit sandpaper. For common wood surfaces, 150-grit sandpaper provides enough roughage to get rid of small surface imperfections while still leaving the surface smooth. However, if your wood contains a lot of major splinters and deep gouges, use 50- or 60-grit sandpaper first, then follow up with 150-grit.

Wipe off the sanding dust using a damp towel or rag.

Prime the wood with a stain-blocking wood primer. Apply the primer using a regular bristle paintbrush, brushing against the grain. Even if your wood is unfinished and unstained, natural wood tannins can sometimes bleed through general purpose primers. Stain-blocking primers cost a few dollars more per gallon, but they are worth the price. Wait for the primer to fully dry before continuing.

Use a foam brush to paint the wood surface with a high-gloss, oil-based paint. For larger expanses or wood, you could use a foam roller. Avoid bristle brushes or high-nap rollers, as glossy paints are more likely to show telltale brushstrokes and roller lines. For the best high-gloss finish, foam is the way to go. Since the surface is already prepped with primer, you don't need to worry about the wood grain direction as you paint.

Apply a second coat of high-gloss, oil-based paint after the first coat dries. Wait for this coat to dry. Your wood will now be fully sealed with a high gloss sheen.

Brush a coat of high gloss polyurethane gloss onto the painted surface using a foam brush if you want even more of a shine. Polyurethane is basically a clear sealant that provides extra gloss to the surface.


  • “Black & Decker Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair”; Thomas G. Lemmer, Brett Martin, Karen Ruth; 2008
  • “Stanley Complete: Painting”; Larry Johnson; 2007
  • “Room for Improvement”; Barbara Kavovit; 2005
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