Unfinished pine furniture can be painted, stained or left natural but sealed to protect the wood. The key to achieving good results is to prepare the surface before applying paint, stain or sealer.
Begin the project by sanding the wood to create a smooth surface and remove unwanted scratches and other imperfections. Begin with a gritty sandpaper, and use increasingly fine papers until the desired result has been achieved. Clean away sawdust with a tack cloth.
Apply a primer before painting. Primer tinted to match the paint reduces the number of coats needed to finish the piece. Apply it using even strokes that go in the direction of the wood grain. Allow the primer to dry completely, and then sand it with fine sandpaper or steel wool before applying paint. Allow the paint to dry fully, and then sand the surfaces between coats.
Several types of stains are available that preserve the wood's natural beauty while adding rich color. Gel stains are relatively easy to apply, and they're less prone to dripping. Apply the stain with a clean cloth, wiping it evenly across the wood, working in the direction of the grain. Let the stain dry between coats, and sand between coats using fine sandpaper or steel wool.
Sealing the wood with varnish, shellac or wax protects the furniture without altering the color. Varnish and shellac are brushed on. Wax is applied with a soft cloth, and then buffed to remove excess.