The Best Paint for a Desk, Easy Painted Wood Desk

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Do you have an old desk that needs a makeover? I love painting furniture and think it can be an easy way to update a worn-out desk.

Today I am sharing the best paint for a desk, one that will give you a smooth finish with great results. Whatever furniture project you may have, I want to help you feel ready to tackle it!  sharing the best paint to use for painting an old desk

I found this old desk not long ago at a consignment sale.  Pieces of furniture like this are great candidates for painting because they are sturdy with good bones and great lines .  . . they just need a little love!

old desk from thrift store

You may have a wood desk yourself that needs a new life.  With so many gorgeous different colors of paint out there, you can really update an old wooden desk to fit any decor scheme you want.

Follow along to see this desk be transformed 🙂

This post contains links to websites outside of It does not cost you any more to shop through these affiliate links, but I will make a small commission off your purchase, which helps support this blog. 

What is the Best Paint for a Desk Makeover?

There are so many different types of paint on the market, so it can be hard to pick which one is right for your project.

A few of the most common kinds available are:

  • Chalk Paint
  • Milk Paint
  • Oil-Based Paint
  • Latex Paint
  • Acrylic Paint

How do you know which type of paint will give you the best results? What kind is the easiest to use? Which one is right for a heavy use surface like a desk?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up on your project before you even start!

So let me break it down for you today . . . my favorite paint to work with when I am painting wooden furniture is an acrylic paint called Fusion Mineral Paint.

Everett paint by Fusion Mineral Paint

In my opinion, it’s one of the best furniture paints available for the everyday person looking to update their own furniture.

It’s a water-based paint that is non-toxic, so you can paint inside, which is a major plus when the weather isn’t cooperating.

Because it’s got high-grade acrylic in it, it doesn’t require a top coat to seal the paint or finish (more on that later). It also needs only minimal prep work, so you can easily finish your furniture painting project in one day.

I have used many of the other types of paint I shared above, and I think they have their place.

But if you’re looking for a great basic paint to work with, I would suggest starting with Fusion.

How to Paint a Desk

Materials Needed

​Video Tutorial

Here’s a quick video walkthrough of the project, keep reading for a full step-by-step tutorial.

Prep Work Before Painting

The first step when painting an old desk, after removing all hardware, is to give it a good wipe-down with a degreasing cleaner.

I like to use the Fusion TSP Alternative and a yellow Dobie Sponge.

It only takes a few minutes to clean your furniture piece–just spray it down with a cleaner, scrub off any gunk and dirt, then wipe clean with a wet rag.

Do I Need to Sand Before Painting with Fusion Mineral Paint?

After I cleaned off the old desk, I gave the entire piece a light scuff sanding with 180 grit sandpaper. 

Even with furniture paint that claims to be “low prep,” it’s still a good idea to scuff the surface with sandpaper first. This process doesn’t need to take a long time, it can be a quick sanding.

Just opening up the pores of the finish is the best way to help your paint adhere better for a durable finish.

RELATED POST: Funiture Flipping Prep 101: When to Sand Furniture

When painting old furniture, it’s also a good idea to sand smooth any areas where the wood is rough or damaged. Painting over large gouges in the wood or places where there is obvious damage will just result in a sloppy-looking finish.   

For your last prep step, be sure to remove all sanding dust with a tack cloth, vacuum attachment, or damp rag.

You want your old desk to be squeaky clean before you start painting!

What Paint Brush Do I Use to Paint a Desk?

I recommend using a good quality synthetic paint brush with Fusion Mineral Paint.  

The better quality brush you use, the fewer brush marks you will see and the better your final project will look.

Here are a few of the brushes I like to work with: 

You can use a roller for large surfaces, like the top of your desk. But I’ve found surfaces painted with a roller look a tad bit different than surfaces painted with a brush.

Because of that, I usually only use a roller when I can use it on the entire piece of furniture.

This desk had too many details and curves for a roller, so I used a brush for the entire project.

It’s normal for the first coat of paint to not completely cover the wood surface.  Often with a second coat, that’s when your piece starts to look pretty great!

Don’t be surprised though if it takes three coats of paint to get all the wood underneath completely covered.

I always remind people that Fusion Mineral Paint works best when painted in light coats.  It will produce a smooth matte finish, as long as you don’t overwork it or paint it on too thickly.

For this vintage desk, it took 2 coats to get full coverage, plus a third coat in a few of the large, flat areas.

I let the entire piece dry for about 24 hours, then screwed back on the original hardware and reinserted the drawers into the body of the desk. 

I’m pretty sure Everett is one of my new favorite paint colors! I love the gray undertone of the green and how elegant it made this vintage desk look.

Fusion was the right paint for this project, it made it easy to update this old desk in less than a day.

Would you like to try Fusion Mineral Paint for your next furniture project?

They have generously offered my readers a 10% discount on all Fusion products when you click and purchase here.

The discount will automatically be applied in your cart. Yay!

FAQ’s for Painting a Desk

How do I get fewer brush strokes and a smooth finish?

That really all comes down to the kind of brush you use and your technique. Again, I recommend a good quality synthetic bristle brush and to paint in long, smooth strokes.  Also avoid painting outside when it’s very hot. Hot weather can cause your paint to dry quicker and pull on the surface, leaving a streaky painted surface. You can also try lightly misting the surface with water while you paint, but be careful not to spray so much that your paint starts to separate!

Do I need to use a primer before I paint?

When painting real wood furniture with Fusion Mineral Paint, in general, it’s not necessary to use a primer first. If you follow the prep steps I shared above, your paint will adhere well and provide a durable finish. But if you’re painting something that is not real wood (think IKEA pressboard furniture), then a good bonding primer will be needed. You may also consider using a stain blocking primer if painting over red-tinted wood, like mahogany or cherry. Sometimes with those woods, the water in your paint will make the red tannins from the wood bleed through the paint, leaving splotches on your final finish.

What if I want a glossy finish?

Fusion will produce a matte satin finish. If you want more gloss, then you can apply a glossy topcoat. There is a water-based Glossy Tough Coat offered by Fusion, or they have an oil-based finishing oil you can wipe on. For dark colors like the one I used, either option will work. I would not use the finishing oil on white or light colors, as it will cause them to yellow.

How long will I need to let the desk sit after painting before I can use it?

Fusion has a 21 day cure time, which means the paint finish doesn’t reach it’s most durable point until that time. Your paint will feel dry to the touch though usually within an hour. However, that doesn’t mean all the layers of paint beneath are dry! I always recommend waiting at least 24 hours before reattaching hardware, doors, and drawers. Then I try to let my finished pieces sit untouched for at least another 7 days.  Light use is ok at that point, but be aware that the paint is still hardening all the way up until day 21.

Can a first-time painter use this paint for a desk?

Yes! Absolutely! It does not take a high skill level to makeover a desk with Fusion Mineral Paint. Just be sure to follow the prep steps I outlined above and do your best to paint thin coats using long, smooth strokes. Like anything else, practice makes perfect! But a beginner can certainly do this project.

More Painted Desk Makeover Ideas

This thrift store desk got a fresh look by sanding off the old paint on the top, then painting the base a light gray/beige color.

You can see more of this makeover here: How to Do a Farmhouse Style Desk Makeover

This stately desk had some badly damaged spots on the wood base that couldn’t be easily repaired. So I used paint to cover that damage, and left the pretty drawer fronts stained for a classic two-toned look.

You can see more of this desk makeover here: DIY Painted Desk {Fusion Mineral Paint Little Lamb}

Here is another thrifted desk painted in a dark green Fusion Mineral Paint color, called Pressed Fern.

Rachel from Maison de Pax shares an excellent tutorial for how she completed this makeover, you can find that here:

How to Paint a Desk by Maison de Pax

More Painted Furniture Posts

7 Bold Color Combinations for Painted Furniture {Fusion Mineral Paint Colors}

When and How to use Antique Glaze or Dark Wax on your Painted Furniture

How to Wet Sand Fusion Mineral Paint for a Super Smooth Finish

Final Thoughts on Painted Desk Makeover

It’s incredible how a fresh coat of paint can completely reinvent an old piece of furniture! If you have a desk in your home that needs a refresh, why not pick your favorite shade of paint and give it an update? If you follow the steps I shared above to properly prep your desk and allow your paint to fully cure, the result will be a durable finish and a whole new look.



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Tuesday 5th of March 2024

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MaryJo Materazo

Monday 16th of October 2023

This looks great Melanie! The color is fabulous and I love all the detail on the piece. Another fantastic transformation friend! XO- MaryJo


Monday 16th of October 2023

Also - just another thought - I thinks its super helpful that you mentioned the paint needs 21 days to cure.


Monday 16th of October 2023

I love fusion mineral paint because you don't need to go through the additional step of sealing it. Once, I used this paint to give an old Victorian plant stand a new life. It worked great! It's one of the few paints that can hold up to the repeated use that comes with certain pieces of furniture.

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