If you want to paint over stained wood, whether it be stairs or kitchen cabinets, you will need to prep them first.
Painting stained wood is simple by scuff-sanding the surface with medium to fine-grit sandpaper. 220 grit works great.
The goal is to degloss the surface and provide a way for the primer to adhere to the surface. Once everything is sanded and there are no glossy spots left you can use a primer/sealer to prevent bleeding. Read more about primers here.
How to identify your wood finish
If you are not sure what type of wood finish you have there are a few simple tests you can do.
Painting over an oil-based finish with a water-based primer will cause the adhesion to fail and you will be left with a mess!
If you have an oil-based finish then priming it with an oil-based primer would be the best option.
If you have shellac, lacquer, or polyurethane finish then an oil-based primer would work too but you could also opt for a water-borne primer such as Insl-X Stix which is an acrylic-urethane primer-sealer.
This all depends on if you are painting a colored wood such as redwood or cedar that can cause a bleed.
Other woods, such as oak can cause tannin bleed around knots as well.
In that case, an oil-based primer will be your best option!
Painting and Staining a dresser video
Properly paint stained wood
It is important to properly prep the surface and has it paint-ready. Also, you need to be aware of what type of finish you are working with to pick the right primer.
Make sure to thoroughly clean the surface after sanding. We like to vacuum it first then wipe it off with a tack-rag at 518 Painters.
You could even wipe down the surface with some liquid de-glosser just for general purposes.
This process also works when painting kitchen cabinets.