use paint brush or roller

Do You Use a Brush or Roller to Paint Furniture?

You have finally decided to paint that piece of furniture you want to renovate, you already know the type of paint and the color you are going to use but when you go to your DIY center there is such a variety of paint tools that you don’t know which one to choose. 

If you have doubts when it comes to painting a piece of furniture with a brush or roller, don’t miss this guide to choose the one that suits you best.


There are different ways of classifying brushes:

  • By their shape they can be pressed (round) or flat (flat) brushes. Pressed brushes are the most appropriate for painting furniture with moldings and reliefs, as well as for corners and angles. Paintbrushes are usually used on flat surfaces, as well as for varnishing and lacquering.
  • Natural or synthetic bristles (nylon, polyester, combined). Generally, brushes and brushes with natural bristles are used with synthetic or oil-based paints, and are therefore recommended for varnishing wood and for painting with synthetic enamels, since their bristles are softer and do not leave marks. On the other hand, those with synthetic bristles are usually recommended for acrylic paints, since the water they are based on softens the natural hair, making it lose its body, while a brush with synthetic hair keeps its shape.
  • Of different widths and thicknesses. The size of the brush or paintbrush will be proportional to the size of the furniture or object to be painted, in fact it is convenient to use several sizes that fit the different parts of it, since it is not the same to paint the side of a sideboard than the baseboard, for example.
  • Short and hard bristles or long and soft bristles. The short and hard bristle brushes are used to create textures since the brushstrokes are more marked, they are also the ones used in stencil decoration or for waxing. On the other hand, the long and soft brushes and brushes provide a smoother finish and are ideal for painting large surfaces.


As a general rule, pure virgin wool rollers are recommended for varnishing wood and lacquering furniture, while foam, microfiber, and flocked rollers are used with acrylic paints and enamels.

To achieve a completely smooth finish with water-based paints, zero-pore foam rollers are usually used. With synthetic enamels, flocked or “peach skin” rollers are recommended, although there is also the option of choosing a natural fiber/polyester blend roller for water-based and oil-based or synthetic paints.


I always say that there is no perfect tool or technique, but the most suitable for the job we want to do. With a roller, you will get a more uniform finish when painting a piece of furniture. You will also save hours of work if you are going to paint a large surface such as doors, tables, or bookcases.

As a disadvantage, I would emphasize that the rollers consume more paint than brushes and its duration is much shorter, in fact, if you use synthetic paints directly you will have to discard them since the solvents to clean the remains of paint usually damage the foam rollers.

On the other hand, it is more advisable to paint with brush furniture with moldings and rounded shapes such as chairs. When choosing between a pressed brush or a paintbrush, it should be taken into account that there is a higher density of bristles in a pressed or round brush, so the brush strokes will be more noticeable.

The biggest disadvantage of the brushes is that on many occasions they lose some hair or bristle that easily becomes part of our furniture forever.


Personally, I usually use rollers to paint melamine and large wood furniture such as bookcases or doors. My favorite rollers are the zero pore foam rollers and the flocked or peach skin rollers, I have used them indistinctly with water-based paints and oil-based or synthetic paints and both have given me good results taking into account these tips:

  • Do not load the foam rollers too much and drain them well, the more paint you have the more likely that bubbles appear. In addition, always try to give thin layers of paint, since it is better to have 4 thin layers than two thick ones, it will take you more time but the finish will be much better.
  • If you sand between coats with very fine sandpaper, you will ensure a perfect finish.

On the other hand, when I want to give a more rustic finish I usually paint with a pressed brush, especially with slate paint or chalk paint.

I use the brush when I want to save a little paint, I give the first coat with it and then I pass the roller without having loaded it with paint. This way I get better coverage in the first coat with the roller finish but without spending too much.

And I also used a zero pore foam roller to paint this other melamine bookcase with chalkboard paint:

On the other hand, for this chest of drawers, I combined the roller with the brush, with the foam roller I gave several coats of slate paint, and with a pressed brush I created the worn effect (you can see the step-by-step in this link).

For this other chest of drawers, I also combined a palette knife and a flocked roller to paint with water-based enamel on wood.


These tips will help you keep your brushes and rollers in perfect condition:

  • Boil your new natural bristle brushes in water, this way you can easily remove loose bristles.
  • Another option for synthetic bristle brushes is to soak them in water for 12 hours. Then dry them with the help of a towel and a hair dryer at low temperature.
  • Before painting with a brush, pass several times masking tape or painter’s tape so that the loose hairs adhere to it.
  • The previous trick can be used with the rollers of fibers and wool, although also it is possible to pass a roller of those that are used to remove lint and hair of the clothes.
  • Clean the remains of acrylic or water-based paints from the foam rollers with a little liquid soap and place it under the tap with hot water. Then press it little by little to extract the paint from its interior, the roller will be totally clean when pressing the water comes out clear and without remains of paint.

When deciding whether to paint a piece of furniture with a brush or a roller, first of all, you have to think, in this order, about its volume and the style you want to give it. 

For example, for a 2×2 meter cabinet always use a roller even if you want to give it a rustic finish, at least the first few coats, since painting it completely with a brush or palette knife can become desperate, use them only for the moldings and nooks and crannies. 

Give it a last coat with the palette knife to give it that rustic look or use techniques such as pickling, antiquing, etc.

If the furniture is not very large, then choose a roller for more uniform finishes or a brush to create effects. The material of the brush or roller will depend on the type of paint you use: natural bristles for oil-based paints and varnishes and synthetic bristles for water-based paints, wool rollers for varnishes and fiber, foam and flocked rollers for all types of paints.