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How to Paint a Wooden Chair: Captain’s Chair Makeover

Emma Wright of Loved by Emma Furniture Painting (she’s listed in our business directory) has provided us with this fabulously detailed tutorial about how to paint a wooden chair.

Her project was a furniture makeover on a seriously hard done by Captain’s Chair, but you could use these instructions to paint any type of wooden chair.

If your wooden chair is in a better condition to start than Emma’s you might not need all of the prep materials, but this is a seriously good tutorial to give you everything you need to show you how to paint a wooden chair even if you acquire it in a really bad condition.

There is a reason this lady has a business flipping furniture, she knows what’s she’s talking about!

P.S. don’t forget to scroll all the way to the bottom when you’ve read the full instructions for a printable cheat sheet for this project.

Captain’s Chair that had seen better days

how to paint a wooden chair - before
Photo: Loved by Emma

This Captain’s Chair was my biggest challenge to date, it was in a STATE!

I thought about getting rid of it instead of tackling it for about 30 seconds before I told myself to ‘get a grip’ and get on with it!

Here is how I prepped, painted and gave a thorough makeover to this fabulous Captain’s Chair.

Materials Needed to Paint a Wooden Chair

Preparation is Key

As boring as it is, prep work is absolutely key!!

Without decent prep (whatever any tin of paint tells you!) you can forget the rest, as any paint you apply will simply fall away.

Some kind of foam had been superglued all over the seat & backrest at some time in the previous life of this chair.

The main parts of the foam were gone by the time I got the chair but bits of it were leftover and still stuck on hard to the chair – so there was some serious work to do to get all the remnants of that off of the solid wooden base below.


how to paint a wooden chair - sanding
Photo: Loved by Emma

I gave it a sand (80 grit) 1st with my mouse sander to get rid of the tufty bits.

I use a relatively cheap mouse sander I got in a local supermarket so you don’t have to get the fanciest one out there to do the trick!

Paint Stripper

painting a wooden chair - glue residue
Photo: Loved by Emma

My Mouse Sander however wasn’t moving the sticky parts where there was still glue residue.

So I got out my trusty Autentico Bio Strip. This is a great little paint stripper that is well worth investing in. It has no nasty chemicals and it strips like a goodun’!!

how to paint a wooden chair - prep work
Photo: Loved by Emma
how to paint a wooden chair - prep work
Photo: Loved by Emma W

It took 4 coats with me going at it hammer & nails with a metal paint stripping tool in between each one. It was hard work, but it was so satisfying when it gradually started to come away.

Wood Filler

how to paint a wooden chair - wood filler
Photo: Loved by Emma

I then tackled some small holes using wood filler. I used a lollipop stick to get it in where I wanted it before letting it set.

You can just about see some of the wood filler in the photo above – the little light coloured dots on the seat.


hg intensive cleaner
Photo: Loved by Emma

Next I used HG Cleaner (stronger & more effective than sugar soap) 1 part diluted to 10 parts water so a bottle goes a very long way, rinsed with water then sanded again (240 grit).

Finally I wiped down with a lint free cloth, prep done!

Painting Process

how to paint a wooden chair - paint brushes
Photo: Loved by Emma

Invest in a decent brush. You are as good as your tools. But I do have to say that I’ve gotten some cheaper small brushes from non specialist stores that have been fantastic for fiddly bits / smaller areas.


Always prime a piece (again whatever that paint tin tells you!) You use less of your colour (so it will save you money)  and it provides a good base for your colour to adhere to.

I use Zinnser Bulls Eye (1-2 coats depending on colour) it’s a good quality but not too expensive primer.

I always wait a good few hours between coats, to ensure it is fully dry. You don’t want to be applying a 2nd or 3rd coat on partially wet paint. It may feel dry to the touch after 30 minutes but it’ll still be drying underneath ( I’ve learnt from my mistakes!).

Frenchic Paint

Applying colour is always the fun bit! For this Captain’s Chair I used Frenchic Salt of the Earth & Cream Dream.

Always apply the darker colour 1st, it’s easier (I don’t know why it just is).

In between each coat I lightly sand with high grit (1500+) sand paper – it smooths out any roughness & makes the following coat easier to apply.

painting a wooden chair - mister
Photo: Loved by Emma

If you don’t buy anything else buy a mister!!!

These are brilliant for keeping the paint moving & your brush moist (nothing worse than the paint dragging!).

I fill it with water and I then spray it on my brush and sometimes in the actual paint pot itself to stop paint drag.

Paint drag is what we call it when you can see the brush strokes. You want to avoid that if you can!


bee stencil on wooden chair
Photo: Loved by Emma

Stencilling….. less is more!!

I used a cute bee stencil in two places on the chair.

Decant a teeny bit of paint onto a piece of cardboard so you’re not picking up too much on your brush.

Use kitchen roll (paper towel) to wipe off any excess and STIPPLE (love that word!!!!?).

Stippling is when you make lots of little dots with your brush that become more solid as you go along.

Basically, don’t swipe your brush across the stencil, dab the brush up & down.

You can use frog tape to keep your stencil in place – use this rather than run of the mill masking tape as it could lift your base colour.

Remove the stencil as soon as you’re done.

If there is any bleed through, LIGHTLY sand with high grit paper (1500+)

Top Coat

decorators varnish and wax finish
Photo: Loved by Emma

After you are finished painting your chair you still need to seal it.

Leave 24 hours before sealing so your colours don’t run.

I use Polyvine. First I use a coat of satin (the one called decorators varnish) followed by 2 coats of dead flat matt (the wax finish varnish).

Applying the satin and then the matt makes it more durable – I’ve no idea exactly why but it works, so I stick by it!

Painted Wooden Captain’s Chair

how to paint a wooden chair - captains chair after
Photo: Loved by Emma
how to paint a wooden chair bee stencils
Photo: Loved by Emma
how to paint a wooden chair captains chair makeover
Photo: Loved by Emma

And this is my finished Captain’s Chair!

I am so pleased with how it turned out and so glad I put in the effort to bring it back to life.

If you come across a chair in as bad a state as this one was I hope this tutorial will give you the confidence that you now know how to paint a wooden chair, including how to go about the all important prep work!

If you liked this post and you want to return to it later, don’t forget to Pin it!

how to paint a wooden chair
captains chair furniture makeover

How to Paint a Wooden Chair

Prep Time: 3 hours
Active Time: 3 hours
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 18 hours
Difficulty: Medium
Estimated Cost: 40

Learn how to paint a wooden chair. Take a seriously neglected and worse for wear wooden chair and give it a furniture makeover into something gorgeous to add to your home decor or make money flipping furniture!


  • Autentico Bio Strip
  • Sand Paper (80 grit + 1500+)
  • Wood Filler
  • HG Intensive Cleaner for Painting
  • Lint Free Cloth
  • Zinnser Bullseye Primer
  • Frenchic Paint
  • Stencil
  • Polyvine Varnish (Satin & Dead Flat)


  • Mouse Sander
  • Paint Brushes
  • Metal Paint Stripper


  1. Give your chair an initial sand with a Mouse Sander.
  2. If needed use Autentico Bio Strip and a Paint Stripper to remove leftover residue.
  3. Fill any holes with wood filler.
  4. Use fine grit sand paper and HG Intensive Cleaner to fully prep your chair.
  5. Use a primer coat before painting with colour (apply 2 or 3 coats as needed).
  6. Apply coloured paint using a mister to avoid brush stroke marks (drag).
  7. Sand with fine sandpaper (1500+ grit) in between each coloured coat of paint.
  8. Use your stencil to paint on your decoration if using one.
  9. Leave to dry for 24 hours.
  10. Seal your work with 1 coat Satin varnish and 2 coats dead flat varnish.
loved by emma furniture painter
Photo: Emma Wright of Loved by Emma
loved by Emma furniture painting

Brierley Hill, West Midlands

  • Furniture Upcycling & Painting
  • Commissions Accepted
  • Local Delivery for Large Items
  • Shipment can be arranged UK wide for smaller items.
  • A portion of every sale benefits MacMillan Cancer Support.

Etsy Shop

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