…bleeding furniture

Has there been a time when you are minding your own business, painting an older, vintage dresser or the like using Old White and you see pink dots come through?! Then you put on a second coat thinking you are just going to be able to cover it up and the pink has come through again?! Akkkk!




Bahlia Love Akerele is a stockist in Silver Spring, MD that owns a consignment store called On The Purple Couch. She reached out to befriend me a few years ago and has been so lovely & supportive. In one of my posts I mentioned having this bleeding issue and she emailed me with a cure! Here is her advice in her own words…

“Ok so the issue with ‘bleed through’ (a yellowing or pinkish stain that won’t die after painting no matter what) is common when it comes to certain pieces whose previous finish was a stain that is not colorfast ( aprox. pieces from 1930-1940) or from pieces whose wood has tannins that have not been sealed, also certain wood (oak as an example). Bleed through can happen most often when using Old White, Pure White or some of the lighter colors in Chalk Paint® decorative paints.

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No amount of covering up the paint will stop the ‘bleed through’.”

“Usually an application of clear shellac 1 or 2 coats on the piece will seal the stain and you can go on painting. ( shellac has a self life 6-9 month) You can put it right on top of your paint and continue once it’s dry.”



I have never used shellac, but have found it in a spray applicator. Next piece it happens with I’ll post. I’ve also been able to predict a bit what pieces will have this issue. If your wood is slightly tinted red or looks like a reddish wood stain, you may have this bleeding issue. Be warned! If you anticipate this problem and do not want to deal with the Shellac, then use a dark color. I have found that this does not let any bleed through.




  1. Oh my gosh, I was so happy to see this post and hopefully find a cure for my yelling at inanimate objects because they are bleeding stain as I paint them white. I just finished a bunch of chalk white pieces in my dining room if you want to have a look, no yellow stains noticeable.
    I look forward to your posts everyday and am so happy I found this blog. A wonderful source of business information for selling furniture and your product photos are lovely.

  2. Christen, I have ran across this very same thing and have had great luck with the clear
    Shellac. I use the liquid version that you just paint on over the area bleeding and after drying I just reapply the chalk paint. Mostly like you have said the old white and pure white but again is has been a life savor. Thanks for all you share with us! Vicki

    • I just painted two chairs with Country Gray and have some awful bleeding. :0(
      What kind of shellac did you use? What brand?

  3. I’ve started using the wipe on shellac for all custom furniture with dark wood finish now. Rather put couple of extra minutes in the prep than to be annoyed with bleed through.

  4. Christen,
    I’ve only been painting furniture for a few months, but my first attempt at learning the art of painting furniture was on mahogany rose back chairs! Talking about bleed through! I’ve studied your videos and projects and it looks like your style is to allow some of the aged stain to peep through? I rarely tackle a project now (if I plan to use a lighter color like Old White) without giving a coat of shellac. It’s my new best friend!

    I so appreciate all you’ve shared about this craft! I’ve learned a ton from you…

    Thank you so much,

  5. Bless the makers of spray shellac. I didn’t even know that was an option. Because you know that it’s ALWAYS going to be a light color you want over that red stained wood. it’s just Murphy’s Law.

    Can’t wait to see your booth at Luckett’s!

  6. Hi Christen! I had this problem a little while back on a coffee table and end table set that only had stain over raw wood (no sealing finish of any type). I put 5 coats of CeCe Caldwell’s Vintage White on it before I gave up and started a search to find out what I was doing wrong.
    I found this very helpful post by Kristy at 4 the Love of Wood http://4theloveofwood.blogspot.com/2013/02/paint-bleeding-midcentury-table.html. Hope it helps you out too.

  7. Maryann atlas says:

    This was a big help to me. I have painted a table 3 times and pink coming through. First white and the a light sage green.

  8. Does it have to be shellac—- would poly acrylic work?

    • Polycrylic is water based. Water based product is usually the cause for bleed thru to begin with as it brings the color to the surface, especially with red tint stains. The shellac is alcohol based so it can create the “sealing layer” you need to get rid of bleed thru plus it is quick dry. Oil based will work as well, but it will take forever to dry and over time it will also bleed thru in a yellowish tint.

  9. Could you use a polycrylic instead of the shellac?

  10. Ive used polyacrylic many times and it stopped all bleed through., My unorthodox procedure is, 1 coat of paint, 1 coat of polyacrylic and last coat of paint, then I continue with whatever detail i want, distressing etc, finish with a top coat of poly, voila, no issues.
    I prefer this to the smelly, messy oil based products.

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