How to paint a dining table - 3 simple steps to update this centerpiece of your home

Knowing how to paint a dining table means you can feast in a transformed dining room. Experts share their best advice

Dining table painted in Annie Sloan Antibes Green
(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Knowing how to paint a dining table is a relatively simple task but there is a process to follow if you want to guarantee a good outcome. Rather than going straight in and sploshing on your favorite shade (tempting but unwise), having the patience to prep properly will be richly rewarded with a beautiful centrepiece for your dining room.

With buying new falling out of favor, many people are turning to re-dressing preloved, vintage or second hand pieces, as a way to resist over-consumption. It's also a great way to unleash creativity and inject character in to your dining room

After all, the best modern homes are those that mix high-end pieces with handmade, heirlooms, unique items and fabulous finds.

How to paint a dining table - step by step

How to paint a dining table will vary slightly depending on the type of material you're painting. Chalk paint is a popular choice for painting furniture as it adheres well to different surfaces but other types of paint work well too. 

'Wooden tables are the best material when it comes to painting furniture but they need to be sanded well to provide a solid base for paint,' says Cathryn Sanders, head of creative at Earthborn Paints (opens in new tab)

'Water based paints, like eggshell or claypaint are best for painting bare wood as they are non-porous and create a smoother surface that doesn’t seep into the grain. 

'Varnished wood and MDF or laminate tables can also be painted with eggshell or claypaint by sanding the surface first, but you'll need to use multi-purpose primer too, which helps to provide a key for the paint to adhere to.'

What you'll need

Dust sheet (or cardboard/newspaper)

Sandpaper

Damp cloth

Paint of your choice (Eggshell, claypaint or chalk paint are best)

Multi-purpose Primer (if varnished wood, MDF or laminate)  - this one from Amazon (opens in new tab) is exactly the one you want.

Chalk paint wax and a lint-free cloth or chalk paint lacquer (if using chalk paint) - this set from Amazon (opens in new tab) will do the trick.

Stain blocker or knotting solution (if using chalk paint)

Paintbrush 

1. Prepare the area and check the table

black dining table in white kitchen with Crittal-style windows

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

As with any DIY task or how to paint a wall, it's best to clear the area, so nearby items don't get splashed with paint. Then lay a dust sheet so the floor doesn't get marked. 

Once the area is prepared, check your dining table to ensure that it is in a good, solid condition. Ensure any minor dents or chips are filled with the appropriate filler (and allowed to dry) and tighten any loose screws if need be.

'When undertaking a DIY project, we advise that you work outside, or in a well-ventilated area, and wear a suitable face covering,' says Cathryn at Earthborn.

2. Sand and prep the surface

Round dining table painted in Annie Sloan Athenian black

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

'If your dining table has existing paint work, gloss or varnish, or you are working with bare wood, then we recommend sanding the table lightly to create a ‘key’,' says Cathryn at Earthborn. 'This step will help new paint to stick to the surface of your table. After you have finished sanding carefully wipe away any residue.

'If you are working with a laminate or MDF surface, there are a few more steps that you will need to take. After you have sanded the surface, wipe away any dust and then apply two coats of a Multi Purpose Primer to give your table a good base to stick to. Allow a couple of hours for the first coat of primer to dry.'

If you're using chalk paint and wax or lacquer, perform an inconspicuous patch test on the underside first. 'The ingredients in lacquer can draw tannins or stains in the wood, leaving unsightly marks,' says color expert, Annie Sloan (opens in new tab). 'If you notice any such “bleed-through”, don’t be alarmed. Apply a stain blocker, like shellac, over the entire table and allow it to dry before proceeding.'

3. Paint your top coats

Wooden dining table painted in Annie Sloan Scandinavian Pink and Old White

(Image credit: Anie Sloan)

Once your table has been filled, sanded - and if required -  had primer or stainblocker applied (and dried), it is ready for its top coat.

'Apply the first coat of your choice of paint using long even strokes, not too thick as this can cause drip marks, and allow it to dry for at least six hours,' says Cathryn at Earthborn. 'To ensure the paint is durable, we would recommend applying two coats in total.'

Sand the surface lightly and wipe away any dust with a damp cloth before applying the second coat of paint. For those using more than one color, allow the first color to dry fully and protect the edges with frog tape, before painting two coats of the second color.

Allow 24 hours for the paint to fully dry. Ideally, allow the paint to fully cure before using the table. This can take from 10-days to three weeks. Each brand is different so check the manufacturer's instructions.

If you've used chalk paint, you'll need to finish the surface with chalk paint wax. This will deepen the color, add a slight sheen and make the surface more durable. 

'Finishing chalk paint with either wax or lacquer is essential,' says Annie Sloan. 'It will seal your table for years to come and protect it from scuffs and water marks.'

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites


A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.