Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Can You Use Oil Paint On Wood?

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

Oil paint on wood? To know if it’s possible, consider the type of wood. Softwood, hardwood, and engineered wood – all different. Each type has its characteristics. These can affect how well oil paint sticks. Let’s look at each type and discover how it might affect oil paint:

  • Softwood
  • Hardwood
  • Engineered Wood
Oil Paint On Wood
Oil paint on wood


Hardwoods come from angiosperm trees with strong cell walls. These are denser than softwoods. Popular hardwoods include oak, maple, and cherry.

  • Oak is strong and durable, with a subtle grain pattern. It comes in three varieties – red, white, and quarter sawn.
  • Maple’s uniform grain pattern is great for rustic-style furniture or mid-century modern designs. Bird’s eye maple has small spots of contrasting color. Staining must be done carefully not to darken the bird’s eye markings.
  • Cherry has a warm reddish hue, which deepens when exposed to sunlight. It is softer than other hardwoods but takes stain quite well. Cherry is usually used for high-end furniture due to its natural beauty and quality construction materials. It can be more expensive than softer woods like pine or poplar.


Softwoods, like cedar and Douglas fir, are generally light and porous. They can take in moisture and bend if not prepped correctly. The main issue with softwoods is they don’t take oil paints well. To fix this, apply a sealant coat before using oil paint. Primer is key for sticking the paint and ensuring it won’t come off or crack in the future.

Paint On Wood
Paint on wood


Oil paint and wood? Perfect match! Sand, the surface to smooth out any unevenness. This also increases the wood’s ability to absorb. Then seal and prime the wood with a high-quality primer. This will make sure the oil paint sticks properly. Ready to go!


Sanding is essential for prepping a wood surface for paint or stain. It eliminates inconsistencies and makes the surface even so the finish can stick better.

Wear a respirator or mask when sanding – if inhaled or eaten, the dust is bad for you. Additionally, wear safety goggles, long sleeves, and long pants to remove dust from your clothes and skin.

Use the right grade of sandpaper to make a smooth surface. Start with coarse grit, then move to medium and end with fine grades like 220-grit. Always go along the grain when sanding, and use new paper often when sanding corners. Gradually press harder on the wood until it’s even and smooth, without scratches. Avoid deep gouges, as they’re very hard to fix.


Before you start an oil painting project on wood, you need to clean the surface. Wipe down new pieces with warm soapy water. For older pieces, sanding may help. For oily woods like Teak or Ipe, use degreasing products. To repaint furniture, lightly sand and clean with a cloth dampened with white spirit. Cleaning the wood thoroughly ensures an even finish and quality paint job.


Before painting, you must prime the wood. Priming creates a barrier between the paint and the wood. It will help achieve a smooth finish. The type of primer depends on the state of the wood. New wood needs oil-based primer. Existing wood needs acrylic-based primer. Need a stain-blocking primer? Use oil or shellac-based product.

Prepare the application area.

  • Lightly sand down any rough areas.
  • Rub away dust with a damp cloth.
  • Remove dirt and other contaminants.

Now you can prime. Apply at least two coats with a brush or roller. Allow for 24 hours of drying time between coats. Once dry, you can start using oil paint.


Oil painting on wood is a great way to add a unique touch. Yet, it’s important to know the pros and cons. Let’s explore these benefits and drawbacks:

  • Pros:
  • Cons:

Selecting an Oil Paint

When choosing oil paint for wood, there are a few points to ponder. As a general guideline, go for a top-notch artist or architectural-grade oil paint. The architectural grade is more tough-wearing and produces a stronger coat. But it is usually costlier than the artist’s grade.

The colors accessible in each grade may differ. Generally, artist-grade paints give brighter, livelier hues with higher pigment levels. Architect grade mostly has fewer bright tinges and more earthy hues. Both grades provide varnishes and glazing liquids for achieving the desired outcome. Alkyd paints are also an option for wood surfaces as they solidify quickly and have amazing pull strengths compared to natural oils.

Read the instructions on the label carefully before use. Many paints have hazardous chemicals that require protective equipment like dust masks or gloves. Test the paint on an unseen area first to ensure you’re content with your selection before commencing any project.

Applying the Paint

When painting wood with oil-based paints, it’s essential to make sure the wood is spotless and free from grit, dust, and other contaminants. Sandpaper with a medium grit rating (180 or 220) should be used to rough up the whole piece. Nails or other fasteners should be firmly set in the wood, and loose burrs should be removed. After sanding, use a cloth and mineral spirits to remove sawdust and debris.

Priming the surface is important for better adhesion. This will also help seal in allergies that may be below the top layer of paint. Oil-based primers, which can be tinted, should be used. Apply two thin coats with a paintbrush or roller, then let them dry before applying the top coat(s).

Oil-based paints are not required; however, they may last longer than non-oil-based ones. Oil paints are durable and don’t crackle when drying, giving a smoother finish once cured.

Finishing Touches

When painting on wood with oil paints, think about the finishing touches. After painting and letting it dry, use a sealant spray for extra protection. This is especially important for outdoor pieces that may experience wear and tear. You can apply a polyurethane top coat for indoor pieces to protect them from dust and moisture.

When done, store brushes. Clean with brush cleaner or turpentine. Reshape the bristles, store them in an airtight container or wrap them in paper. Taking good care of your brushes is essential for good artistry.

Tips and Tricks

Oil painting is a great way to show off wood’s natural beauty. Create intricate designs, or use them to re-stain and protect the wood. Before starting, however, there are a few tips and tricks to know. This article will provide you with all the important information you need!

Use the Right Brushes

For the best results when using oil paint on wood, use brushes designed for this type of painting. Natural-hair brushes are best, as their bristles are thick and round for better control. Synthetic is also an option, but the more expensive types work better. Quality matters – choose brushes that don’t shed and maintain their shape.

Size is important too. Large brushes are good for underpainting, blending, and quickly covering large areas of wood. Smaller brushes work well for finer details and precise strokes. Test the brush on scrap paper or a palette beforehand to ensure it works properly and won’t damage your wood surfaces.

With good supplies and techniques, oil paint is great for decorating wooden surfaces!

Be Patient

Oil painting on wood is a slow and thoughtful process. Depending on the wood, drying can take days or weeks. Wait a full 24 hours between coats of paint or primer.

Have a brush and palette knife for even paint application, plus mixers like turpentine or white spirit for thinning. For detailed staining, use an electric sander to create unique textures. Then, apply a top coat of paint sealer!

Test the Paint First

Before using oil paint on wood, test it first. You may need to apply multiple coats. Get a scrap piece of wood similar to what you’re painting. Splatter some paint on it. Let it dry, and observe the oils. Check for flaws or uneven glossiness. You may have to adjust your technique or add extra coats.

Different paints need different brushes or techniques to dry correctly. Alkyd-based paints may damage natural bristle brushes. Buy a synthetic brush if your brand needs this kind of application.

Some oil paints need several hours between coats. Give yourself plenty of time when working with these products:

  • Check the label to determine the drying time.
  • Allow plenty of time between coats.
  • Use the right brush for the job.
Gesso Oil
Gesso oil


Oil paint on wood needs special care. It depends on the wood and the finish you want. Remember, oil paint is sensitive to heat and moisture. Incorrect maintenance could spoil the paint job. Here’s the basic routine for keeping oil paint on wood:


Caring for your painted wood surfaces is vital. Cleaning them regularly keeps them looking new and stops dirt and mildew. If any areas appear dull, try cleaning them with microfiber or a damp cloth.

It’s important to know what kind of paint you are using. Oil-based paints need mineral spirits and warm water. Test the solution on a hidden area to ensure it won’t harm the wood. Don’t use strong solvents; they might damage the color or the wood.


Oil paint on wood needs to be sealed. This will keep dirt and moisture out and keep the paint looking nice. To seal, use a clear topcoat.

Topcoats for oil-based paints have 3 types:

  • Water-based urethane gives a thin matte finish. It won’t be yellow with age. It’s easy to clean and resists mildew.
  • Oil-modified alkyds give a satin sheen and are eco-friendly.
  • Alkyd hybrids combine the qualities of both. They adhere well and are durable.

To get the best protection, apply multiple coats of the topcoat. Leave 15 minutes between each coat. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Incorrect application or product can cause damage.


Use the same kind of paint when fixing wood painted with oil paint. If it’s unavailable, apply an alkyd-based primer before using water-based latex. This primer is made to let oil paint and water-based latex stick together.

If the wood was painted with latex-based paint, use a latex-based product for maintenance. But if it wasn’t painted, put a coat of water or oil-based primer before painting with water or oil. That will make sure the new coat of paint sticks well.

For either water or oil-based products, the steps are the same:

  1. Begin by cleaning surfaces with mild soap and lukewarm water. Let it dry.
  2. Check for rotted areas and repair them before painting.
  3. For an even finish, apply a stain-blocking primer before the coat of paint. That way, you can avoid chipping, bubbling and fading.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best kind of wood to use with oil paint?

Any wood can be used with oil paint. However, some types of wood, such as oak, pine, and cedar, absorb more paint than others. It is best to use a sealer or primer on the wood before applying the oil paint to ensure the best finish.

What is the best way to apply oil paint to wood?

The best way to apply oil paint to wood is with a brush. Use a high-quality brush with natural bristles for the best results. Use long, even strokes to apply the oil paint evenly to the wood surface.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of PaintCentric.com, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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