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A Quick Guide on How to Paint Laminate Furniture

Painting a piece of furniture can be a fun and relaxing hobby or business. It’s always a thrill to find the right piece and debate what color you want to paint. Then you have to decide if you want to use your spray gun or go old school. That said, there are certain kinds of furniture that are easier to paint than others, and one type that consistently gives folks headaches is laminate furniture. But if you’ve got a piece you love, then it’s absolutely worth the extra effort to make it match your vision. But don’t sweat because, in this guide, we’ll show you the easiest methods to paint laminate furniture.

how to paint laminate furniture


Now, this is something to remember about laminate furniture, your paint won’t adhere to the surface without the right preparation. Some paints will bead up while others will have a splotchy and uneven finish, then the first coat will start to peel as soon as you try to apply your second!

Thankfully, if you are wanting to paint laminate furniture, such as Ikea furniture, is all about finding the right primer.

Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, a high-quality chalk paint may not require a primer. However, this will also depend on what type of finish and color you’re looking for as well.

But, if you have any doubts, use a primer. It can only help.

What Type of Primer Works Best on Laminate?

Before picking up some primer, you have to answer a few basic questions. This way, you can be sure you’re getting the right primer for the job. Here are some questions you should answer.

  • Are you planning to paint laminate furniture outdoors or indoors?
  • Are you going for a distressed or non-distressed look?
  • Do you need to buy locally or online?
  • How much time do you want to spend on your project?

Below we’ll explore each question in more detail.

Painting Indoors vs. Painting Outdoors

Now, if you’re painting in the middle of winter, it’s likely you’ll be stuck inside. Why does this matter? The answer isn’t that complicated. You don’t want to endure the strong smell of paint primer while working. That’s why you should look for odorless primer when working indoors.

Now, if you’re outside, then smell shouldn’t matter when you paint laminate furniture, and you’ll have many more options to choose from. The same holds for whitewashing laminate.

priming a laminate desk

Primer for the Distressed Look

If you’re trying for the distressed look, which allows you to see the wood beneath the paint, you’ll want to use clear and not white primer.

If you’re not trying to whitewash (or distress), then white-tinted primers will do the job.

Primer Availability

For those with a large home supply store like Lowes or Home Depot nearby, you’ll have a greater selection of primers than you’ll find at a local Walmart. However, you may have to go online to find the right primer for certain areas.

The Time Factor

Time is another factor to take under consideration when choosing a primer. If you need to finish painting your laminate furniture the same day, definitely go with the fast-drying option.

But keep in mind that the fastest drying prime will be white and won’t smell very good.

For clear bonding primers, you’ll need to allow them to dry overnight before painting.

Best Bonding Primers for Laminate Furniture

Below we’ve listed some of the best bonding primers you can use on laminate furniture.

BIN Shellac Based Primer

This is a favorite go-to white primer when preventing bleed-through on laminate furniture. It successfully blocks the tannins in wood very well.

But, you won’t have to concern yourself with tannins on your laminate furniture since it’s not actually real wood and all.

BIN Shellac Based Primer also has excellent adhesion and sticks to slick surfaces such as glass, ceramic tile, plastic, metal, and hardboard.


  • It comes in an aerosol can for quick painting.
  • Dries to the touch within 15 minutes.
  • You can quickly paint surfaces in about 30 minutes.
  • Super-dry finish.
  • Widely available at most hardware stores.


  • Shellac-based can be hard to clean (best to use old or disposable cheap brushes).
  • Cleaning requires ammonia or denatured alcohol.
  • Powerful smell, especially when spraying, is best used in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.

Country Chic Paint’s Clear Bonding Primer

This is an outstanding clear bonding primer created to allow you to paint slick and smooth surfaces such as laminate furniture, metal, and glass.

It’s similar to the STIX primer mentioned below but clear instead of white.



  • Requires several hours to dry between coats (often takes two days to finish two coats).

STIX Bonding Primer

This white bonding primer works well on slick surfaces such as plastic, PVC, vinyl, glass, plastic, metal, tile, and gloss paints.


  • Water-based product.
  • Low odor.
  • Cleans up with soapy water.
  • Sticks very well.


  • Dries a bit longer than some other options available.
  • It might be harder to find at your local hardware store.
  • Not available in an aerosol spray can.

Best Paint for Laminate Furniture

There are a wide variety of options to paint laminate furniture. But once again, using a good primer is key to ensure your paint doesn’t peel off. Here are a few types of paints that work well on laminate.

  • Chalk paint
  • Latex paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Pigmented poly
  • Powdered milk paint
  • One step paint
  • Alkyd paint (Water-based paint that is oil)

How to Paint Laminate Furniture (Two Methods)

There are two schools of thought on how to paint laminate furniture — sanding and not sanding. Sanding can help paint adhere to the surface of furniture better. However, you risk damaging the surface with laminate furniture if you sand too much. Often many painters find that a good primer is more than enough.

But, if you have other stains, such as paint on laminated furniture, it’s best to sand off those spots before starting gently. When sanding laminate furniture, be sure to do so by hand and not use a power sander.

Method One: Sanding

  1. First, you’ll need to clean the furniture’s surface with a soft cloth moistened with warm water. If it has staining or grease, use a TSP vinegar and water solution. But, keep in mind if you’re using any chemical cleaner, make sure all residue is thoroughly removed before going to step 2.
  2. Lightly sand the entire piece. We recommend using 150-220 grit sandpaper. However, once again, take care not to over-sand. You don’t actually want to tear the laminate off, as it will create a huge difference in texture. The right amount of force is as if you were lightly wiping off your kitchen counter, don’t scrub hard.
  3. Next, you’ll need to prime. When choosing a primer, make sure it specifically mentions shiny surfaces. One coat of paint should do it, but two coats of paint won’t hurt. If your primer doesn’t adhere properly, you’ll notice an uneven and bubbly finish. In that case, sand and start over with a different primer.
  4. After your primer has dried overnight, apply one coat of your paint of choice. You can also apply two and lightly sand between coats with a fine-grit sandpaper.
  5. Protect your smooth finish using a quality top coat/sealer.
sanding laminate furniture before painting

Method Two: No Sanding

  1. The first step is the same as step one mentioned above. You’ll need to clean your furniture laminate surface completely.
  2. Now, this step requires you to skip directly to using your primer. Once again, the only time you’ll need to use sandpaper for this technique is to remove stains or paint spots. The bonding strength will largely depend on the type of primer you use (and if you give it adequate time to dry). For example, I’m not a big fan of fast-drying primers without sanding.
  3. Once your primer dries overnight, you can begin painting. We’ve had a lot of success using chalk paint on non-sanded surfaces with a high-quality primer. Shellac-based paints also provide excellent adhesion whether or not you sand.
  4. Apply your sealer/topcoat.

Final Thoughts on Painting Laminate Furniture

Although it is more time consuming you can definitely paint laminate furniture with the right techniques and products. As we mentioned, you want to make sure your primer specifies shiny surfaces. Don’t over-sand your surface. And as for the type of paint to use, it can depend on the type of finish and color you’re looking for. However, if an exact color or finish isn’t that big of a deal, then in our experience, Shellac-based or Chalk paint is found to have excellent adhesion with better protection from scratching.

How to paint laminate furniture