Can I Use Water-Based Paint On Wood – 7 Mind-Blowing Tips!

woodwork furniture

Wood is an outstanding building material that can be used for various projects. However, wooden objects, such as furniture, doors, panels, etc., can lose their shine and color over time. Fortunately, the problem can be quickly fixed with a fresh coat of paint.

The best part about painting wood is the versatility you can achieve in terms of colors and finishes. Whether you want to paint your wooden door a bright yellow or give your table a vintage look in black, paint opens up many options. But what paint to use on wood furniture?

Yes, you can use water-based paint on wood; in fact, it is a popular choice for woodwork as it is effortless to apply and clean. Besides its ease of use, water-based paint dries quickly, allowing you to finish your projects in minimum time.

However, water-based paints are not as durable as oil paints, which makes prepping the wood more important for lasting results. But rest assured, as I will explain how you can achieve a durable finish with water based paint on woodwork without taking the traditional oil-based route.

Types Of Water-Based Paints

There are two types of paints, acrylic, and latex, and each has distinct properties. However, many paint manufacturers use confusing naming conventions, making it challenging to identify which color is acrylic and which is latex.

While both are water-based, it would be best to pick a type according to the surface of your next painting project.

Here’s a quick guide to help you get started:

Acrylic Paint

If you come across a paint label that says ‘acrylic,’ it means the formula contains more acrylic polymers than latex paint. Hence, it will provide better adhesion and superior durability. However, this option is more costly and perhaps not worth buying for interior drywalls. But if you’re looking to color wooden kitchen cabinets and outdoor furniture, acrylic paint is your best bet.

Pro Advice: Water-based acrylic paint is called acrylic latex paint, whereas solvent-based acrylic paint is termed as 100% acrylic. This difference will help you pick the right one from the home store.

Latex Paint

Latex paint is a more affordable, water-based variant with a lower ratio of acrylic polymers. In addition to its reasonable price point, it is also more eco-friendly, making this formula a popular choice among DIY enthusiasts. The only downside to this paint is that it’s not as durable or resilient as acrylic paint.

Regardless of this comparison, latex paint works well on vertical surfaces and indoor wooden surfaces. But applying this water-based paint on outdoor furniture will not deliver the same lasting results as acrylic paint.

Recommended Paint Brands

Krylon COLORmaxx Acrylic Paint

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The Krylon acrylic paint is a versatile option that works on various materials, including wood, metal, wicker, plastics, and more. This easy-to-apply paint can be used for indoor and outdoor projects and is available in a wide variety of colors.

Rust-Oleum Acrylic Enamel Spray

Can I Use Water-Based Paint On Wood - 7 Mind-Blowing Tips!

The Rust-Oleum spray is another excellent option for painting wood surfaces. The upside of selecting this variant is that it includes a primer, so you don’t need to buy it separately. Rust-Oleum acrylic paint is available in modern colors such as aluminum, cherry red, ultra matte black, etc., so you have plenty of options to choose from.

Rust-Oleum Imagine Craft & Hobby Spray Paint

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If you’re looking for a quick transformation, the Rust-Oleum Craft paint is perfect, as it dries to the touch in 20 minutes and can be recoated within 1 hour. In addition, it comes in exciting colors like gloss sky blue, azalea pink, satin azure blue, and suede brown.

Krylon Fusion All-in-one Spray Paint

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The Krylon Fusion is an ideal option for wood surfaces, whether you’re working on interior or exterior surfaces. The highlight of using this paint is that you don’t need sanding or priming before applying it, which reduces your prep time in half.

Are oil-based paints better for outdoor furniture?

Here’s a question I often get: Should I use oil or water-based paint for exterior wood?

The answer depends on a few factors. First of all, oil-based paints contain high VOCs, which can be harmful to your health. This is why many traditional painters have switched from oil-based paints to water-based alternatives.

However, technology and innovation have made oil-based paints much safer, thanks to lower VOC levels. In addition, if you plan to color an outdoor project, any fumes from the paint will dissipate quickly.

That said, oil-based paints are more difficult to use than water-based paints. They take longer to dry and require significant prep work. So, if you can achieve a similar result with an easy-to-use water-based alternative, why take the harder route?

Pro Tip: Remember to seal water-based paint for wood with a top coat for outdoor projects. It will help increase the surface’s resistance to moisture and avoid wear and tear signs.

Can you use water-based paint on oil-based coatings?

A common problem DIYers face when using water-based paints on wood is that the previous coating is usually oil-based. This makes the application challenging and also affects the final result. So, how can you achieve a flawless finish with water-based paints that doesn’t just peel away?

The answer is Thorough prep work!

The idea is to clear the oil painting from the surface before you apply any type of water-based paint. While removing the base coat completely can be pretty time-consuming, sanding the surface well enough can still provide adequate results.

In addition to sanding and dusting, adding two layers of primer helps build a clean and smooth foundation for the water-based paint to adhere to.

7 Tips for achieving a durable finish on wood with water-based paints

If you’re wondering whether water-based paint is suited for woodwork, the answer is yes, but there are a few conditions you must meet. Here are a few tips to help you get a flawless finish on wooden surfaces.

  • Always sand in the direction of the wood’s grain, or you may create noticeable scratches on the surface.
  • Sanding is crucial for a smooth surface but remember to clean the area with a vacuum cleaner and a bristle brush attachment once you’re done.
  • Using a damp cloth after sanding also does the trick.
  • Do not apply water-based paint directly on a previously painted surface. Instead, remove the coating with a scraper, followed by thorough sanding.
  • If you plan to apply matte or chalk paint on glossy wooden furniture, it will only stick if you sand the glossy coating away.
  • Always apply a water-based primer on the wooden surface before the color coat.
  • If you’re painting a high-traffic area or furniture that is used often, it’s best to seal the paint with a sealer for longevity.

You can learn more about using chalk paint on outdoor furniture if you prefer a matte and vintage look.


How do you paint wood with water-based paint?

To paint wood with water-based paint, it’s crucial to prepare the surface for maximum adhesion. This includes sanding, priming, and sealing the surface to ensure lasting results.

Should I use water-based paint on wood?

Water-based paints are a great option for painting wood as they are easy to apply and deliver lasting results. In addition, they don’t contain VOCs, making them ideal for indoor projects.

What kind of paint do you use on wood?

You can use both oil-based and water-based paints on wooden surfaces. If you prefer water-based paints, you can choose acrylic, latex, and chalk paint, depending on the finish you want.

What are the disadvantages of using water-based paint?

Water-based paints are difficult to use in lower temperatures and have poor adhesion on metal and shiny surfaces. Another problem is that water-based paints leave behind more brush strokes if not applied correctly.

What paint can you use on wooden doors?

You can easily use water-based paints to color wooden doors, but it’s essential to use a primer before the application. Moreover, you should seal the deal with a top coat for added protection and longevity. You can find out more about which paint finish is best for interior wooden doors in this blog.


Wooden surfaces are tricky to work with since they are organic. However, the correct technique can make the process easier and provide a lasting finish. Water-based paints are excellent for wooden surfaces since they let you choose between various finishes. So, if you’re about to start a new wooden paint project, don’t hesitate to reach out for water-based paints.

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