What Kind of Paint Should I Use to Paint My Coffee Table?

A coffee table ties together a sitting or living room by providing space for magazines or your morning cup of coffee, and a focal point for a floral display. These tables come in a variety of materials including wood, metal and synthetic materials. If you have an old coffee table or one you simply want to change the appearance of, a new coat of paint can provide the fresh new look.

Give an old coffee table a fresh look with a coat of paint.


Regardless of the material you are working with, you need to prepare the coffee table prior to painting. This involves cleaning the surface to remove any grime buildup. Sanding the surface, progressing from coarse grit sandpaper to fine grit sandpaper, will blend scratches and remove old paint or veneer from wood or laminate and rust from metal. In addition, sanding the surface provides a suitable surface for the paint to adhere to without peeling or bubbling. A soft bristle hand-held vacuum or tack cloth works well to remove sandpaper grit and dust.


Before you apply a fresh coat of paint to any wood, plastic, metal or laminate product, you need to prime the surface. Paint primer provides a base for the final paint color that covers any markings on the surface and old paint present. It also makes the surface better able to soak up the paint and helps the paint to stay on the surface for a long lasting finish. Oil-based primers are fine for oil-based paints and water-based paints. Use a metallic primer for metal furniture.

Water-Based Paints

Water-based paints include semi-gloss and acrylic paints. These paints are suitable for wood and synthetic furniture. This paint provides the kind of durable and easy-to-clean surface you expect from a piece of furniture you use often, such as a coffee table. You need to apply thin coats of paint in the direction of the grain on a wood table to provide a smooth finish. Always paint in the same direction whether dealing with wood, plastic or laminate surfaces to provide the most professional appearance.

Oil-Based Paint

The long lasting, tough finish may be worth the extra time and effort you will expend by using an oil-based paint to paint your wood coffee table. This paint takes more time to apply due to its thickness, along with a longer drying time. The bright side to using oil-based paint is the luster it gives a wood piece of furniture. Oil-based wood stains provide a darkened, natural look while adding a protective coating over the wood.

Metallic Paint

You would typically spray paint metal furniture with metallic paint. This specially formulated paint contains substances that coat the metal evenly and prevent rust. Before you apply the metal paint, look at the surface of the table. If the table is galvanized metal, it has an oily coating you need to remove to ensure the new coat of paint adheres well. Wiping the surface with lacquer thinner takes care of the galvanized coating. Once gone, you are ready to prime and paint.


The room where you paint the coffee table needs to have good ventilation, particularly when using oil-based primer and paint. Wear protective eyewear and gloves when using any cleaning solvents and paints. You can apply a thin layer of polyurethane as extra protection for your newly painted coffee table.