I've used other primers, including Sherwin-Williams' adhesive primer and had overall good results, but I find X-I-M is far superior. It is obnoxious to work with: it smells awful, it dries so quickly that it can be hard to avoid brush strokes, and clean up is time consuming, but it is worth it. It sticks to anything, including glossy, hard to prime surfaces like laminate, melamine, glass, and tile.
In this project, I had the primer tinted to dark gray. This table has a rough finish, so I didn't have to do any other prep rather than wipe it down with a rag dampened with mineral spirits.
2. Sand. I usually use extra fine steel wool, with a fine grit sand paper used for any stubborn drips or blobs.
3. Paint. I wanted to have a "stained" look in gray, so I next applied two sheer coats of paint. Since this is a table that will get heavy use, I used oil paint. I have found that oil paint just seems to hold up better to regular use and handling, so that's what I prefer for cabinets or any furniture that will be handled often.
To replicate the look of a wood finish, it's important to make sure that your painted surface has some variations in color, just like wood. To do that, I actually mixed two tones of gray (sorry, I don't remember the names), a medium charcoal and a lighter taupe. You could do the same thing with browns if you wanted a dark wood finish, such as an espresso. In that case, I would use a dark brown (i recommend Sherwin Williams Black Bean) and a lighter one (SW Kaffee). What I do is set up three containers: one each for the colors I'm using and one of paint thinner. Keeping the colors separate, but using the same brush keep wet with thinner, I'll alternate colors, brushing until they are blended on the surface but enough that you can see some variation. To replicate a wood look, it's crucial to only brush in the direction of the wood grain. And I do recommend brushing as opposed to rolling. And, these need to be thin, thin, thin coats. For a natural, translucent look, we want layers of sheer color. This is where the tinted primer becomes so useful. Since it is also a gray, I can allow bits of it to show through.
4. Topcoat. This table will be used often, so I applied oil based polyurethane in a matte finish to the top, two sheer coats. I prefer waxing, but it's not as heavy duty a finish.
I hope this helps. If you have any questions, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org