Our primer is a brownish color, but any color will do. Make sure it is sandable primer in an aerosol can. Spray on one coat of primer and let dry (follow manufacturer's instructions for drying time). Sand between each coat.
Spray paint or pigmented lacquer is recommended. If your budget permits, you can have a paint store make you a custom color and put it in an aerosol can. You can use a brush, but it won't look as smooth as sprayed-on paint. Spray the paint in the same manner as the primer and sand between coats. Don’t sand the final coat. Try to get an even, particle-free coat for the last layer.
Make sure that the paint base color is completely dry before you start on this step. Get your second paint color in an aerosol spray can. Select a stencil (organic shapes work nicely in juxtaposition to angular furniture). Chose one that will work with the composition of the surface you will be placing it on. Tape the stencil on with painter's tape, making sure it's flat and that all areas that should not be sprayed are thoroughly covered. If the stencil comes on a roll, it's best to press it flat for 24 hours prior to using it (place it under heavy, flat objects such as boards or books).
Spray through the stencil with light, even coats and try to spray straight down at the stencil. If you spray at an angle, the mist will get under the stencil, since it is just lying on the top. Inevitably some mist will create a slight haze around the shapes; this is okay, because it will be lightly sanded away. Wait about 30 minutes and remove the stencil.
We decided to paint the stencil color on the legs too. Rather than put it on the outside portion of the legs, we went for a more understated approach and just painted the inside of each leg. Make sure everything that won’t be getting painted is covered, and spray the stencil color on all four leg interiors. Once the legs dry, remove the tape and flip the table right side up.
After about 8 to12 hours, the stenciled areas should be dry. Lightly sand over the stenciled areas to give them a worn, shabby-chic look. Rub with 320-grit sandpaper and use your own artistic expression as far as how much of the stencil you “wear” through. We did this same step to the painted area on the inside of each leg. Be careful around the edges not to sand to hard or you’ll go through the base color as well.
Add a clear protective top layer to prevent the new paint from getting damaged. There are a variety of products on the market that can both be sprayed and brushed. We use a sprayable lacquer. Brushable lacquer is also good, and you could also use a brushable polyurethane if the tabletop will come in contact with water or liquids. Apply two coats in the desired sheen. We chose a matte finish because it has just a little bit of luster.