Hey guys! Welcome back to the 4 part series. This is number 2 – priming. Last post we covered sanding. Today let’s talk about priming!

I sand my items (well, MOST of them) because they’re usually vintage, old, and sometimes crustier than others. Slapping paint on a finish like that will never look good or professional, so even just scuff sanding your piece to remove the shine and smooth it out will help its appearance but also help the primer adhere better. I always say there are no shortcuts when it comes to painting furniture, and it’s usually what you do before and after your painting that counts the most for a professional look.

I’m using my client Shanna’s adorable antique secretary desk as part of my How to Paint Furniture Series to share about the steps to painting furniture.

When we sanded last time (which was necessary because it was crusty AND shiny) we opened up the wood pores/tannins. With these old pieces, they usually have a lot of color in the real wood that are “stirred up and activated”, so to speak when we sand our items.

If we were to sand our items and then go to use popular furniture chalk/mineral type paints out there, bleed would most likely come through. Sometimes you don’t even realize it’s going to bleed until you go to seal it, when you thought your project was done, and POOF! All that hard work has to be covered by stain blocking primer, repainted, and re-sealed. The thing about stain bleed is you never really know when that’s going to happen and in my experience, it happens often enough that you just don’t even want to take that chance.

I say, you may as well protect yourself and your investment (in this case – time is your investment) and just prime it before stain bleed can happen. There are some rare occurrences where stain bleed won’t occur when you don’t prime. You just don’t know when that’ll be. And I’d hate for you to be blindsided because that’s a horrible feeling!

Let’s talk about my favorite primers. I really love BIN shellac primer, it’s my go-to! Works 90% of the time, or 9/10 pieces.

Sometimes, you’ll have insane bleeders that even cut through BIN primer. Then you know you have an extreme bleeder on your hands! You’ll have to switch to an oil based primer if that’s the case. I highly recommend Zinsser Odorless oil based primer, but only use that one if the BIN shellac didn’t work. It’s quite thick and takes a while to dry.

I like to use a combination of mini foam rollers and trays, and synthetic cheap brushes. I use the roller and tray for larger flat areas, and the brush for anywhere a roller may not reach easily.

My favorite rollers are the Bennett foam rollers and the trays from Home Depot. The cheap brushes I usually get as a 5 pack from either Canadian Tire or Home Depot. You can use chip brushes, however, I find they shed quite a bit – I’m not a fan for using them for anything, really.

You’ll roll or brush your BIN shellac primer (make sure to wear a mask or respirator, it’s stinky stuff!) and let each coat dry 30 mins-1 hour in between. Despite having possible lap marks in your finish, it’s so thin that it’s likely just an illusion. It goes on so nice and smooth and is such a luxurious base for your paint.

If I’m priming, I’ll always do 2 coats – it helps with coverage over the brown pieces I’m painting and then I know I’m battling bleed and keeping it at bay. With these antiques, a lot of time 1 coat is not quite enough. 2 coats will do the trick. If you see some spots that bleed through, patch treat with oil based primer. If you see unwanted crackling or crazing in your finish, treat that with oil based primer as well. I also have a good blog post on this titled “How to Prevent Yellowing, Stain Bleed, Streakiness, and Crackling when Painting Furniture” and I feel this is another great post in conjunction with why we prime.

You don’t need to sand between coats of primer, only if you see some rough nubbly bits in your finish, sand it lightly to smooth it out. If you don’t see any crusties, go ahead and just do your 2nd coat of primer.

Once your primer has been dry for 2 hours, you can start painting away and feel mighty fine knowing you won’t have any issues going forward! All the hard work has been done.

Below is a photo of me saying “If you’re not BIN’ing, you’re not winning”. JK – it’s a still from next episode’s teaching!

This piece is now ready for the next step and next week’s lesson – painting! You’ll learn all about it then 🙂

Want a video version of this post? Head to my YouTube video here: