Painted Furniture: Ombré Cabinet Tips & Tricks

When I found this old solid oak mail-box slot unlovingly tossed to the curb, I knew it would be the perfect piece to add a touch of ombré to my decor. I’ve painted a lot of things and furniture is a big project. Here are some of my best tips and tricks in this DIY ombré tutorial.


– remove hardware
– sand
– wood filler & putty
– remove dust and clean surface

Remove the Hardware: Seriously, I know there are tutorials that have you painting right over the hinges, knobs and pulls, but painting over these can hinder functionality and because knobs n’ such are high traffic areas, the paint will chip. Plus, if you ever want to change the hardware, you’ll have marks where the old hardware was. Remove all hardware and put it aside in labeled containers. This will ensure a clean, professional finish

Sanding: As tempting as it may be, don’t skip sanding. Use a 150-220 grit paper. The object is to give the wood a tooth for the paint to grab onto ( if it has many layers of paint, you don’t need to take it down to the wood, just scuff it up and smooth out old blobs)  A random orbital sander is great for getting through the large areas and a triangular shaped palm sander will get into tight corners. I like to use small rectangular blocks of wood with sand paper wrapped around it for tricky areas that need a finer touch.

DIY sanding block out of scrap wood…just wrap the sand paper around the wood and you’ve got better pressure control

Wood fill/putty: after you’ve sanded, fill undesirable holes, chunks or gouges with wood filler using a putty knife. If you’ve got major repairs to do on edges or corners, tape off the area, making a framework for your wood putty to dry in. Fill with putty and let dry as your package directs, usually 24h. When dry sand with 220 grit paper until the transition from filler to wood is barely noticeable.

The entire corner was gauged on this cabinet. I made a jig/gutter for the wood filler out of painters tape ( you can use flat pieces of wood or cardboard and clamp them on too, but I was good with the lazy-mans way for this project as it is very knotty and grainy naturally….don’t fight your finish too much☺️ Because it was over 1cm of filler, I let it dry for 2 days. If it is a high traffic corner you are fixing, use a wood-putty which is much stronger.


Remove dust and clean surface: Even if your surface looks clean, it’s probably not. And if it’s a piece you’ve scavenged, you don’t know where it’s been. Oil, dirt or grease will bleed through your beautiful paint job! So use a microfibre cloth with a good degreaser to clean and remove any sawdust that might clump up your paint job.

Prep Materials:
-Tools for removing hardware ( screwdriver set, hammer, crow bar etc)
-150 & 220 grit sand paper
-Random orbital & palm sander
– square piece of wood for support with hand sanding
-Wood fill and/or wood putty
-Putty knife ( I’m an artist so I repurposed my palette knife🎨)
-Microfibre cloth or paper towel
-Cleaner/degrease ( I like TSP for tough jobs or plain old dish detergent)

Prepping is a lot of work but it totally pays off when your paint glides on smooth and totally transforms your piece!


– Prime: if you’ve used wood filler, if your wood has a very textured grain, or if it has a warm-colour, like oak, it is always important to prime. You’ll notice that where you put wood filler, paint looks more matte, priming helps even out a surfaces appearance. It also helps to stop bleed through of the woods colour; this is particularly important if your base colour is white or light. If your using white as a base colour, it’s easy to get a paint & primer in one. I prefer latex paint for furniture but always go for a zero VOC paint ( VOCs are volatile organic compounds, they give paint it’s smell and their off gassing is toxic )
Brushes: I hate sanding in between coats of paint. Plus, I live in a small apartment and can only drag large pieces outside for the major initial sand. One way to avoid sanding between coats of paint is to get a good brush. You’ll find the best brushes in the art isles. Opt to get large synthetic acrylic brushes that have more bristles ( closer together)  are flexible and finer; these give a silky smooth finish.
I use the brushes on the right. If your piece has lots of little cubbies, like this cabinet, pull the handle off your brush for more maneuverability


Cat knows…these ones, right?


Accept Some Imperfections: you’re painting wood, so your finish isn’t going to look machine made. Your wood may be grainy and painting it will make the grain more visible than stain alone. Embrace the hand-painted look of your material and don’t stress over minor imperfections – it is the material that gives your pieces their charm

– Buying the Paint: Always shell out the mouhlah for a good quality paint. The better paints have more opacity, which means more pigment, which translates into less work for you!

-You will need 2 colours to create your ombré: a base colour and a main colour. You will be mixing increasing amounts of your main colour into your base to make your ombré. I’m using white to paint the base of my cabinet, so white is my base colour. I’m using turquoise to make a gradient for my ombré, So turquoise is my main colour.

If you wish to use a dark colour such as black or dark grey for your base colour, then buy a light colour such as white or French linen as your main colour; you will mix the white into your dark base to make your ombré, it’s a nice dramatic look!
I mixed turquoise ( my main colour ) into white ( my base colour) to make a gradation of 5 colours for my cabinet doors. Make sure to have lidded containers, or tinfoil as you’ll need to paint in multiple coats and you don’t want your paint drying out.


Looking good, right cat? It’s important to have a big-ass drop cloth to protect your floor…

P.S. If you find a way to keep the cat out of the paint….let me know 😉


– Colour Mixing: Have containers handy, 1 container to mix each colour. I used old plastic food and takeout tubs. Add measured amounts of colour to your base. It’s best to start light and add dark as needed. Remember, paint dries slightly darker than it looks wet! Have fun, just go for it! And ALWAYS mix more paint than you need to avoid running out of a hue and having to try and colour match it later. I started with about 1.5 cups of white ( base colour) and added roughly 1tbs of colour. Mix all of your colours before you start. Aim for nice gradual steps between colours. If your paint dries and you notice too big a jump between hues, just lighten or darken a cabinet door/drawer.

-Remember paint always dries. Shade or 2 darker than it looks wet. Here is a cabinet painted with its second coat … See how much lighter it looks wet?!

Painting Techniques: Another way to avoid sanding in between coats is to add a bit of water to your paint. Add little bits at a time, starting with 1tbs. If you can smooth out your paint relatively streak less, you’re golden. you’re basically working in washes of paint, it takes a bit longer, with more coats, but means no sanding to get a smooth painted finish; if it regularly takes 2-3 coats, this method will take you 4-5.
If you have a nice garage or shop, or don’t mind sanding, by all means, use your favourite method. Of course, if you choose to sand to buff out your brush strokes, remember to use a 220 grit paper in between coats ( let coats dry overnight) and DO NOT sand the last coat.

– Don’t rush putting your piece back together or putting stuff in or on it. I can’t stress this enough. Paint needs a good 1-3 weeks to cure to full hardness….

– after removing hardware, save time by putting it in labeled containers….trust me….I know from painstaking experience.

– when using old hardware, rub a bit of soap onto screws. They’ll slide in like butter.

– when choosing between water and oil based paints and stains: REMEMBER: oil based paints can go over acrylic/latex
Latex/acrylic can never go over oil based paints or wax

– To ease cleaning up your hands and fingernails, I suggest rubbing a bit of coconut oil on. I add a thin layer of it to my hands and upper arms to act as a barrier.

– I only use a clear top coat in areas of high traffic or if it’s a bathroom/kitchen piece that is likely to get wet or need frequent washing. If using chalk paint you must always clear coat or wax!

-If your piece has drawers, don’t paint the sides of the drawers unless you sand the sides waaaay down as the extra thickness added by the paint will make them stick
( latex paint, while very durable is also a sticky paint by nature) you can also rub baby powder or corn starch on sticky drawers

Project success, cat approved.

if you have any questions or tips of your own, let me know, us crafty peeps have got to stick together.



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