How To Paint Over Oil-Based Paint

oil painting

Oil based paint is known to be a very heavy type of paint that is not easily removed or painted over. When it comes to covering small details of oil paint on a painting, maybe a stain that might come off easier, but when it comes to covering big surfaces of oil paint, then the struggle might be real. So, can you paint over oil based paint and what is the proper way to do that?

Latex based paint is usually the most successful type of paint when it comes to painting over oil with a paint roller (this is thinking more about wall painting). However, you will need to use additional substances before applying the latex paint. Firstly, you will need trisodium phosphate and then two coats of latex paint for a successful coverage over the old paint.

Painting over oil based paints is difficult and requires particular steps that will allow you to obtain full coverage. In this article, I have focused on the proper technique for painting over oil based paints, as well as the substances that you need to use in order to get the desired results. I will also provide information on the things you need, such as types of tools and equipment that will make the process easier. 

Are you concerned about safety? If so, you can read our article on Should You Wear a Mask When Oil Painting For Safety?

Can You Paint Over Oil-Based Paint?

Latex paint is known to be most successful when it comes to painting over oil-based paints. However, there are other options that are possible, such as another type of oil-based paint or even watercolor. The fact is that you need to know the proper process to do that, so you will end up with successful results. 

The main thing where you need to pay attention is on the coating of the surface. If you treat the surface properly, then you can cover the whole oil-based paint with another type of paint. In other words, if your surface is successfully curedOpens in a new tab., then there is no paint that cannot be applied over it. 

Therefore, preparation plays a crucial role in this process, which to some may seem impossible. You need to bear in mind that glossy surfaces will not behave well in the course of changes. So you should expect that if you try painting over uncured surfaces, it will get messy and will not give any results. 

Namely, you need to devote time to priming and proper cleaning. In order to do some proper cleaning and priming, you need to be familiar with particular steps that will get you to your final aim. Make sure that you do each step carefully, and do not rush yourself because you do not want to end up with a painting or another kind of project ruined without possibilities for corrections. 

What Equipment And Tools Are Needed For Painting Over Oil-Based Paint? 

Firstly, it is important that you have everything ready for the process before even starting it. It would be not convenient to start and just then realize that you are missing some tool or substance that is mandatory. Therefore, before painting over oil-based paint, make a quick list of the required tools, so nothing will be forgotten before you start. 

Required Tools/ Equipment 

When it comes to tools, make sure that you have a high-quality paint brush that will make the process smooth and easy. People may think that every paint brush would work just well, but that is quite wrong, considering that the inadequate paint brush can mess up the process quite much. Therefore, ensure that your paint brush is appropriate for the paint you intend to use, and it is suitable for the surface you are working on. 

Furthermore, get a fine 180-grit to 220-grit sandpaper, and if you are in a position, get an extra one of medium 100-grit to 150-grit. Just make sure that you have appropriate sandpaper because you cannot go without it. 

Lastly, get a putty knife that will help you along with the paints, as well as a tack cloth, which is needed for every painting process. Once you get all of these tools right by your side, you might consider yourself ready for the painting tool-wise. Do not forget that these tools are of crucial importance, and missing even one of them might disrupt your work. 

You should bear in mind that painting over oil-based paint might get complicated, so you need to equip yourself with the required materials. Firstly, you will need a wood filler and trisodium phosphate (TSP). The TSP will help you make the surface smooth and nice, so the surface would be ready for another coating of paint. 

In addition, you will need a paint primer which also is an important part of the preparation of the surface. Primers help the surface to become stronger, so there will be no cracks of paint once it starts curing. Also, you will need to have the paint you chose right at your disposal, so when you finish with preparing the surface, you can immediately start with your process. 

Furthemore, you will need a soft sponge for applying the trisodium phosphate, as well as protective glasses and gloves. The substances you use while painting can have a lot of toxic ingredients inside them, therefore you need to keep yourself safe during the process. Make sure that once you are done, you get rid of everything that has been in contact with paint and other substances in order to avoid spreading of the fumes and the smells of them. 

How To Paint Over Oil-Based Paint

As I mentioned before, it is possible to paint over oil-based paint as long as you follow the proper steps that will help you obtain that. If you do not do it properly, or you skip steps along the process, you should expect failures and not desired results of your project. You need to remember that oil paint is one of the heaviest types of paint, and making mistakes while working with it can leave your project or painting destroyed and beyond correction. 

Therefore, make sure that you go along each step, and you do every next move as good as the previous one. 

Scuff Down The Surface

The first thing you need to do is get rid of the glossiness from the surface. Glossy surfaces cannot withstand changes, and it is expected that the results would be disastrous. So, by using appropriate sandpaper, scuff down the surface, and remove all the gloss that is on the surface. 

This will help in the process of applying another coating of paint, i.e. help the second coating of paint to be applied and sticked successfully. However, remember that you are not aiming to remove the previous coat of paint but rather the gloss that has been produced during the prior painting. This way, the surface will be ready for another turn of primer and paint. 

If you are using fine grit sandpaper and it seems like it does not do anything to the glossy surface, then you can try with medium grit sandpaper.

Remove Chips

After you finish with trimming down the first coating, make sure that you get rid of the chips left from the paint. For this purpose, you can use a putty knife or five-in-one tool. Removing the chips of paint is important because if you do not get rid of them, they might stick to the following coating of paint that you intend to apply on your project. 

Do Not Leave Holes And Gaps 

You should not proceed to applying another coating of paint if you notice that there are holes and gaps in the paint. This will not look good once the paint cures, therefore make sure you deal with it right at the beginning. So, to be able to achieve this you should use a wood filler or wood putty. 

Once the wood filler is dry, make sure that you lightly sand the recently-filled areas. This will give you a smooth surface ready for another round of paint on it. 

Clean The Surface Thoroughly 

You should definitely not start applying primer or paint, if you have not previously cleaned the surface. So, once you are finished with the sanding and filling process, you should use a tack cloth to clean the surface thoroughly. This will help you make sure that the paint will not catch dust or any kind of debris inside of it. 

Do Some Deep Cleaning On The Surface 

If cleaning with a tack cloth is not enough, then you should use some trisodium phosphate (TSP). This will make sure that the surface is deeply cleaned without any debris or greasiness inside of it. However, ensure that you know the proper way of using TSP, so you will not be faced with any unpleasant situations. 

You will need to mix the TSP with water, and you will need to use a soft sponge in order to apply the substance on the surface. Make sure that you are applying the TSP gently and carefully, so you would not cause any damage to the surface. 

Use A Primer 

Once you have done the cleaning, you can slowly begin with the next phase of the process, i.e. you are getting closer to applying another coating of paint on the surface. The next step after cleaning is priming the surface, so you will need the suitable primer that will prevent paint from peeling. 

You will need to ensure that the surface is completely dry before applying the primer. Make sure that you apply at least one coat of primer on the surface before applying paint. Some people tend to skip the primer in this process, however, it is of crucial importance, and it will make sure that the oil-based paint is covered with a new coating successfully. 

Paint The Carefully-Prepared Surface

When the primer dries up, the surface will be ready for another coat of paint. The process of applying paint over oil-based paint is the regular one, meaning that you do not need any special techniques. You might notice that one coat of paint would not be enough for full coverage, so you may want to repeat this step one more time. 

However, make sure that you wait at least two hours before you apply another coat since you do not want to damage the first one. Also, remember that you need a high-quality paint brush for the process, which should not be overloaded with paint during the process. Make sure that you produce even brush strokes that will provide a smooth and neat surface.

WATCH – #1 Mistake DIY Painters Make (How to paint over oil based paint)Opens in a new tab.

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Why People Avoid Using Oil-Based Paints? 

Many people nowadays choose to avoid working with oil-based paint. This is due to the fact that oil-based paints can be really complex in the painting process, and they usually take up too much time for preparation. However, oil-based paints have been quite popular in the past, especially on furniture. 

Today, people do not like having to deal with oil-based paints since they consider them complex and difficult to use. However, there are other reasons why people avoid oil paints. 

Firstly, oil-based paints are known to include a lot of toxins which when released emit harmful VOCsOpens in a new tab. (volatile organic content) that are quite harmful to the environment. Also, the process of using oil-based paints is significantly complicated and too messy, considering that paint thinner is required in the process. Lastly, oil-based paints are not known as flexible types of paints and contemporary formulas are equally durable as them. 

Final Words

It appears as if painting over oil-based paint can be done even if it looks difficult. However, you need to know the proper steps, and you have to remember that the key to successful coverage is the preparation. Therefore, prepare yourself well before the process and make sure that you do everything according to the given steps. 


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Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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