If you Google "painting furniture", you will find numerous excellent tutorials for painting used furniture. Granted, these tutorials will also involve "Five EASY Steps" including sanding, priming, lacquering, etc.
I get tired just thinking about it.
Now, if you want a perfectly flawless finish, then follow those rules.
But, if you're like me, you paid $35 for your piece because it is a bit dinged up and you KNOW it will get even more dinged up -- Hey, you've got kids, a dog, obnoxious cats, a careless husband, and you just want to GET IT PAINTED ALREADY.
There's an easier way --
Guide to Painting Furniture When You've Got
Better Other Things to Do
With these 4 for-reals easy steps, you can have the best looking used furniture on the block.
Step 1- Locate paintbrush. Look in your junk drawer, basement Rubbermaid, and attic storage. Locate paintbrush in child's art drawer. Yep, that'll do.
Step 2- Wipe furniture down with a little TSP. This will take care of any residue that might be left from the college dorm party the seller had after finals. (Make sure the kids aren't around because there's all sorts of nasty warnings on the bottle.)
Step 3- Open can of semi-gloss (or glossy) paint in color it took you weeks to settle upon.
Step 4- Paint and repeat as necessary.
There you have it. Your piece will look as good as any of those fancy-schmancy DIYers without any of that hard work -- at least until your kid stumbles upon that Sharpie that slipped behind the bookshelf weeks ago.
Now, I know the sanding and priming is suggested because of potential stains seeping through or to help the finish last, but I figure this furniture is going in my house where it's likely to get beat all to hell whether I thoroughly prepped it or not.
And you know what, there's nothing a quick smear with your leftover paint won't conceal.
Quick Addendum: If the surface you're about to paint is REALLY slick (like say you're painting an old Formica surface dining table - been there, done that) and your first few strokes are beading up, then you will have to do a quick once over with the sander. Just grab some paper towels or old rags and wipe off those initial strokes. Nothing lost for trying the easy way.