The process of applying finish to wood often ends with either staining or painting directly as you might have done. Over time, wood stains tend to wear out, and the color of wood might need to be changed by coating it with paint.

So, can you paint over stained wood? Will the paint hold? You might have asked these questions or wondered if you would get your desired result.

If you would love to find answers and know how to do it successfully without breaking your back, then keep reading.

Can You Paint Over Stained Wood?

Yes, you can apply paint over stained wood. Although, this requires preparing the stained wood’s surface well for painting so that the paint will stick and it does not look tacky after. How to do this depends on the type of stain used and the kind of wood to be painted.

How to Paint Over Stained Wood

You can paint over stained wood in six basic steps: wiping the wood down with a piece of cloth, sanding the wood, preparing the surface, applying a coat of primer, applying the desired paint over the surface, and adding a finish to seal the paint.

Before you begin, here’s a comparison guide explaining the differences between wood paint vs wood stain to help you make an informed choice.

Painting over stained wood in steps

 When you want to renovate some furniture in your home, painting might be a preferred option to changing them or purchasing new ones.

Now, you do not have to necessarily employ someone to help apply paint over stained wood, as it is pretty easy to do if each step is followed and done correctly.

The steps you choose to follow and the tools you use all depend on the type of stain on the wood and what kind of furniture is being worked on, but generally, these would help.

Tools and materials needed

The following tools are essential, and they are what you would need around to work with before painting. They include:

  • A piece of old cloth
  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint

How to do it step by step

Step 1: Clean the wood

Like any other painting job, before you begin applying anything, you want to make sure the surface to be painted is clear of any dirt, particles, or residue that could affect your work.

You can clean the wood by using a piece of old cloth probably used to dust dirt, to wipe the stained wood’s surface down, and remove any unwanted residue.

This step also includes ensuring the piece you are about to work on is well-positioned and nothing around it could interfere with your work.

Also, ensuring other materials are within reach is essential before proceeding to do anything. In other words, ensure your workspace is clean and organized.

Step 2: Sand the surface of the wood

Sanding the wood’s surface is the first and most important step when applying paint over stained wood. It requires using sandpaper, which could be in the form of 150 grit sandpaper or liquid sandpaper.

You do not have to sand until all the stain leaves the wood’s surface bare; it should only be done enough to alter the smooth finish the stain has given it.

When dealing with worn-out wood, sanding can also be done to trim the rough areas of the wood so it can even out before anything is applied.

The goal is to make the paint adhere to the surface better, especially if the wood stain has a glossy finish which could affect how well the paint holds.

In some cases, you might get away with painting over stain without sanding, but it is a vital step for best results.

Step 3: Prepare the wood

This step involves removing things like nails, knobs, and screws from the wood’s surface depending on what furniture it is, as they could affect the painting process.

This is where using a screwdriver comes in to take them out before anything is done further.  You should take great care here, so you do not hurt yourself.

Step 4: Paint the wood with primer

A Primer provides a better base for the paint to sit on than a stain; hence it is very important to use one before painting. It can be applied as a spray primer or with a brush.

Now just any primer you have at home might not work effectively. Before using or purchasing from a paint store, you need to check and know if it is a stain-killing primer.

Also, if the stain used or the paint applied is oil-based or water-based would dictate what kind of primers to use. For instance, use an oil-based primer if the stain is oil-based too.

If unsure, you could consult a paint professional before going ahead to prime so you do not end up ruining your work.

Step 5: Allow the primer to dry

Before painting is done, a drying phase should follow priming. Just like how the average normal paint drying time is affected by external factors such as the temperature of the area and humidity level.

They also affect the amount of time it takes for a primer to dry completely. Prepare to wait at least an hour or less, depending on what is stated as the drying time on the primer’s container.

You can also introduce a fan or heat lamp to help speed up the process. To know if the primer is dried, you can place your finger on a small area to see if it has a sticky feel. You can use a clean cloth on the primed wood to wipe down any remaining wet spots.

Step 6: Paint the wood and apply a matte finish

Finally, you can proceed to apply paint. If you have painted wood before, then go about this step like you did. Just make sure you choose the right type of paint good for wood.

Using a paintbrush, apply at least two coats of paint for very good coverage, although this depends on the paint’s color and the surface you are dealing with. This could be latex paint or oil-based paint.

When applying multiple coats, be patient to allow enough drying time in between so you do not end up smearing one coat with another.

The top coat should be dry to touch before adding a second one. Then finish such as chalk paint, spray paint, or polyurethane can be applied to protect the wood and serve as a mattifier.

Unfortunately, some finishes, like chalk paint, are prone to scratching. Luckily we have a guide for you on how to keep off chalk paint from scratching.

After the paint has completely dried up and no additional coat is going to be used, you can go ahead to replace the knobs, nails or screws, or any other hardware component of the furniture removed earlier.

And in case you are not happy with your painted furniture, here’s how to remove paint from stained wood.

Are you using shellac also? Can you stain over shellac? Find out.

Tips and Safety Precautions while Painting over the Stain

This process requires a lot of patience and attention to detail, so some extra tips and safety precautions would help you not do a tacky job of using paint over stained wood. They include:

  • Try to ascertain what kind of stain was used on the wood before doing anything.
  • Lightly sand the wood surface as such wood could be frail, so it does not get damaged.
  • Be careful when removing nails, screws or other items attached to the furniture.
  • An oil-based primer is better than a water-based one for better results.
  • Remember to make sure the area is well-ventilated before proceeding to apply anything.

Related Post: Can You Stain on Top of Stain?


Can you paint over freshly stained wood

Yes, you can.  The type of stain and paint will matter, so it’s best to consult with an expert before painting over freshly stained wood. Latex is commonly used for painting over stained wood because they are less likely to peel. Oil-based paints can be difficult to apply evenly and may not adhere well.

Will paint stick to stained wood?

Paint sticks over stained wood, although oil in the stain may make the paint cling to the wood.  If you want to avoid this, you better use a primer before painting. Plus, you need to remember that if you’re applying paint on the stain, the type of wood and paint matter.

What type of paint to use over stained wood?

You can use water-based or oil-based paint on stained wood.  If you use water-based paint, it’s likely that the water in the paint will cause the stain to bleed through. So, you need to paint over the stain with a sealant first.  For oil-based paint, the stain may resist the paint and show through. Therefore, lightly sand down the stained surface to make it rough and more absorbent for the paint.

Can you paint over finished wood?

Yes! You can paint over finished wood as long as you sand first for the paint to adhere. If the wood is only stained and not varnished, you’ll still need to sand it before painting so that the new paint sticks well. If the wood is varnished, use a primer made specifically for painting over varnished wood before proceeding with your paint job.

Can you paint over sealed wood?

Yes, you can paint over sealed wood provided you follow the right process and use the right materials. However, keep in mind you can miss getting the best results as painting over sealed wood results in bubbling, flaking, or chipping. Sealers mostly seal and provide a protective layer, so your paint may not adhere as such.

How to prep stained wood for paint?

Prepare your stained wood for paint by following these simple six steps:

  1. Sand your wood
  2. Wipe down debris and dirt on the wood surface
  3. Add one coat of primer
  4. Wipe the wood with a cloth
  5. Paint your wood
  6. Apply the finish

Can you paint over stained wood without sanding?

While you may paint over stained wood without sanding, there are times when you must consider sanding first. If the stained wood is old and tired looking, for example, sanding will help to revitalize it. Similarly, if the stain is coming off in small flakes, sanding will help to smooth out the surface. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not to sand before painting stained wood, but keep in mind that doing so gives you better results.

Do you have to sand-stained wood before painting?

No. There are times when you may be able to skip sanding before painting stained wood, but it’s not advisable in most cases. Assuming the finish is in good condition and there are no deep scratches, you can skip sanding. However, if the finish is damaged, has peeling areas, or the wood is bare and needs to be sealed before painting, then you need to sand it first.

Related post: Do you have to tint white base paint?

Can you paint over oil based stain?

Yes, you can paint over oil based stain, but it requires special preparation. In fact, many homeowners choose to do this to change the color of their floors or cabinets. Make sure the surface is clean and free of any dirt or dust. You’ll also need to remove any old paint or sealers on the surface.

Can you spray paint over stained wood?

Yes, you can spray paint over stained wood if you take the right precautions. Otherwise, the stain will be bleeding through and likely to change color. Priming your surface with an oil-based primer will help the paint adhere better, and a satin or gloss finish will help seal the stain and prevent it from bleeding through.

Can you paint over water-based stain?

Yes. Paint adheres well over water-based stain, so you can definitely paint over it. Just make sure to sand the surface first to remove any gloss and smooth out the surface. Then apply a primer before painting. This will help the paint adhere better and give you a more consistent finish.

Do you stain wood before painting?

Yes. Staining wood before painting is the recommended procedure.  This gives you the most even finish and prevents any paint from seeping through the cracks in the wood. Stains are also easy to handle. In case you mess up, you only need to mar the surface. Plus, you may be lucky the stain is not glossy, and the paint may have no trouble adhering to the surface.

Can you paint tung oil over stained wood?

Yes, you can paint tung oil over stained wood. The tung oil can add additional protection and enhance the appearance of the stained wood, giving it a beautiful, natural finish.

Can you paint over painted wood?

Yes, you can apply fresh paint over painted wood or furniture, given you take the necessary steps. You have to be careful when painting over a finished wood surface. Gently sand the surface to remove any loose paint and smooth the imperfections. After that, apply any oil-based paint over an adhesive prime.

Read more to find out if you can do the vice versa, stain over paint.


Even though you cannot use paint directly over stained wood, now you know it is still possible to do a good job.

So whether you are trying to change up your table, cabinets, doors, or any other piece of furniture in your house, you do not have to worry about it being previously stained.

These tips and steps should help you apply your preferred paint over stain and get your desired makeover done in no time.