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How to Paint a Bookcase Black

Heather Vecchioni

Black furniture is stylish, sleek and can make a dramatic statement in just about any room. Black paint also spruces up a weathered or worn piece of furniture and can totally change the style of the piece. If you have an old bookcase or one that just needs some updating, black paint will likely do the trick.

Working with black paint is often intimidating, but with a bit of prep work you can paint your bookcase easily and enjoyably.

  1. Sand the bookcase with your hands or an electric sander. If the bookcase is bare and doesn’t contain any paint, rub No. 1 sandpaper over the surface to smooth out any uneven surfaces. If the bookcase already has paint, use a higher-grade paper to sand the paint away. Simply rub the paper back and forth on the bookcase to remove the material. You could also use an electrical sander fitted with 80- or 100-grit paper to remove the paint. The sander will likely not work on the shelves themselves because of a lack of space. Work these areas with the sandpaper.

  2. Wipe the dust off of the bookcase with a damp, soft cloth. If a lot of dust rests on the surface, use a vacuum to get most of it off and then go back with a cloth.

  3. Apply primer to the bookcase to help the paint go on smooth. You can either use spray primer or the kind that needs to be painted on. Apply a thin layer of primer to the furniture with the spray can or with a paintbrush. Start at the top of the bookcase and work your way down, applying the primer to all areas of the shelves. Once it dries, apply another coat of the primer. If you can still see the wood through the primer, apply another coat. Run your hand over the furniture before applying your last coat. If it feels rough, lightly sand the bookcase by hand until the surface feels smooth and wipe off any remaining dust.

  4. Dip your paintbrush in the can of black paint. Wipe off any excess paint on the side of the can. Place your paintbrush against the edge of the top of the bookcase and draw your paintbrush back to you in one long stroke. Taking the time to apply the paint using long brush strokes can reduce streaking. Cover the entire bookcase in one thin layer. Once the paint is dry, apply another coat if desired. Continue to apply coats until you are satisfied with the result.

  5. Apply varnish to the bookcase, if desired. Varnish will add shine and protect the paint. You can use varnish from a spray can or apply it to the bookcase with a paintbrush—use the same techniques you used when painting.

  6. Tip

    Place white or brightly-colored books or objects for a contrast against the black background.