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The Dos and Don’ts of Painting Ikea Furniture: 11 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Who doesn’t love Ikea? Their simple pieces are practical, affordable, and easy to incorporate into a variety of design styles. But they can also be a bit plain. Painting Ikea furniture is a great way to add a personal touch to an otherwise ordinary piece.

If you’ve ever wondered how to paint Ikea furniture, this post is for you! You’ll learn some mistakes to avoid and what to do instead.

With the right approach, painting furniture from Ikea can transform a plain piece into something unique and special.

A plain white shelving unit before painting Ikea furniture

1. Don’t Assume All Ikea Furniture is the Same

While most Ikea furniture is made out of particle board with a smooth, laminate finish, that’s not the case for everything. Some of their pieces are made out of metal, plastic, or even real wood.

Different materials require different painting methods and even different types of paint and tools to get the best results. Make sure you know what material your furniture is made of before beginning the project.

Do Use the Right Method for the Type of Furniture You’re Painting

Using the right method and products means your paint job will look better and last longer.

Once you know what your furniture is made out of, it’s easy to find the right method and products for the job. If you’re unsure where to start, check out the painting furniture section for tutorials and inspiration.

2. Don’t Assemble the Furniture First

After bringing your furniture home, a logical first step is assembling the pieces and seeing how they look. But don’t do that! If you’re planning on painting Ikea furniture, keep the pieces separated.

It’s much easier to apply paint evenly to separate pieces than it is to paint an assembled dresser, desk, or bed frame.

If you’ve ever tried reaching the back corner of a bookcase or the inside edges of a dresser drawer, you know how tricky it can be to get paint everywhere you need without causing excess drips or puddles.

Do Paint Pieces Individually Before Assembling

Wait to put the furniture together until after you’ve finished painting Ikea furniture. Painting each piece will not only be a lot easier, but you’ll also get a more even paint job.

Once everything is thoroughly dry, you can assemble the furniture and admire the finished product, paint, and all!

3. Don’t Paint Dusty Furniture

Painting dusty or dirty furniture results in gritty, grimy, and uneven paint. After spending money, time, and effort learning to paint Ikea furniture, the last thing you want is an unsightly, uneven paint job.

If you’re painting a brand-new piece of furniture, dust probably isn’t an issue, but if you’ve had the piece for a while, it’s worth the time to clean it properly before applying paint.

Do Wipe Down Furniture Before Painting

Giving your piece of furniture a proper cleaning doesn’t take much. Just use a damp rag to wipe down all the surfaces then let it air dry or dry it with a cloth.

Gloved hand wiping down furniture before painting

If the piece of furniture is extra dirty, use a bucket of water with a bit of mild soap and a sponge. Give it a good scrub, wringing out the sponge and dipping it back in the soapy water as necessary.

Once everything is nice and clean, use a rag with plain water to remove all the soap, then wipe the piece dry with a clean cloth.

4. Don’t Paint Around Hardware

It may seem easier to start painting Ikea furniture before taking handles and knobs off, but it’s actually not. The truth is, it’s much harder to paint around these pieces than it is to take the time to remove them.

Trying to get paint evenly around a knob is tricky. You could end up with a lot of brush marks, and it’s easy to get paint on the hardware.

Do Remove Hardware Before Painting

Spend a few minutes removing handles, knobs, and other hardware before painting Ikea furniture. Usually, all you need is a screwdriver.

Keep all of the hardware and screws together in a baggie so they don’t get lost. Label the baggies with what part goes where to make reassembly a breeze.

Once the paint has completely dried, you can safely put the hardware back on.

Tips for Painting Ikea Furniture When You Can’t Remove the Hardware

If you can’t remove the hardware, don’t worry. It may take more time to paint around them, but with a little extra care, you can still get the job done, and it will look beautiful.

Carefully apply painter’s tape to protect the hardware from getting paint on it.

Use a small paintbrush to paint the areas right beside the hardware. A small craft paintbrush makes getting close to hardware easier than a larger paintbrush you typically use for painting.

Remove the tape before the paint dries for a smooth finish and to avoid lifting the fresh paint.

5. Don’t Try to Paint an Ultra-Smooth Surface

That ultra-smooth laminate finish that most Ikea furniture has looks great, but it can be hard to paint well. The same is true for metal or plastic furniture.

Have you ever noticed how slippery ultra-smooth surfaces are? That extra slippery surface makes it hard for the paint to adhere well. Paint needs something to stick to. If the surface is too smooth, there’s nothing for the paint to grab onto, and it doesn’t stick as well.

And if the paint doesn’t adhere well, it flakes, peels, and chips much more easily, meaning your paint job won’t last as long.

Do Sand First

Painting Ikea furniture with ultra-smooth surfaces is possible; you have to do it the right way!

Take some time to roughen the surface before applying paint to Ikea furniture. Sanding is the best way to do this. An electric sander or regular sandpaper with a bit of elbow grease will both do the trick.

Take your sander or sandpaper and go over all the smooth areas of the furniture to create a bit of texture on the surface. Heavy sanding usually isn’t needed; a few back-and-forth swipes over the surface should be enough.

When sanding, it’s always a good idea to wear a mask to avoid breathing in any dust or other particles. After sanding, make sure to wipe down the furniture to remove any dust before moving on to paint.

6. Don’t Go Straight to Paint

Preparation is the key to painting Ikea furniture well, especially for ultrasmooth laminate, plastic, or metal pieces.

Sanding and cleaning are both important, but there’s one more preparatory step you should take before you start painting furniture from Ikea.

Do Apply Primer Before Adding Paint

Using primer is another way to give your paint something to stick to. A primed piece of furniture typically lasts much longer than one without primer.

It’s also extremely helpful for painting a dark piece of furniture with a lighter color.

7. Don’t Use the Wrong Paint

If you’ve ever walked down the paint aisle of a hardware store, you know how many different kinds of paint there are. All these products are made for distinct purposes.

Do Choose the Right Paint for the Product

Choose a paint product that is made to use on the type of material you’re painting. Whether that’s laminate, wood, metal, or plastic, the right paint will go on easier, last longer, and look better.

Another consideration is where and how you plan to use the piece of furniture.

Outdoor furniture needs paint that is designed for outdoor use. Pieces that get a lot of handling like a desk, chair, or coffee table need quality paint that can withstand frequent use without showing signs of wear and tear.

8. Don’t Use a Fluffy Roller

A fluffy roller doesn’t apply the paint evenly on super smooth surfaces like laminate.

Fluffy paint rollers are better for surfaces with a lot of texture, like brick or stucco. It allows you to reach all areas of the surface without going over it as many times.

Do use a Smooth Roller or a Paint Sprayer

A smooth roller is best for a smooth piece of furniture, like most of those from Ikea. Fluffy rollers pick up a lot of paint, which makes it easy to cover textured surfaces but can leave too much paint on smooth surfaces.

Close up of foam roller with white paint being used on a piece of gold furniture

A smooth roller makes applying thin, even coats easier, resulting in a better-looking and longer-lasting paint job.

Another option is to use a paint sprayer. Paint sprayers provide smooth, even coverage making painting Ikea furniture quick and easy.

9. Don’t Stop Painting Ikea Furniture Before Adding a Sealer

After all that hard work spent painting Ikea furniture, you want the finished piece to last as long as possible. Skipping a sealer leaves your paint exposed to damage from wear and tear.

Do Apply a High-Quality Sealer

Sealers dry harder and are more durable than paint alone. One or two coats of high-quality sealer will protect your piece of furniture for years to come.

10. Don’t Rush the Cure Time

Paint needs proper cure time before it can withstand wear and tear. This is especially true for pieces that get a lot of traffic or heavy use, like a dining room table or desk.

If you don’t give it time to cure, chips, dings, scratches, and scrapes can easily appear on your shiny new paint job.

Do Take the Time to Do it Right

Keep in mind that cure time isn’t the same as dry time. While paint may be dry to the touch in just a few hours, it could take as long as 30 days to fully cure.

Check the paint can to see how long the paint needs to cure. If possible, leave your piece of furniture completely undisturbed for the full amount of time.

If that’s not possible, use extra care and be as gentle as possible with the surface of your freshly painted furniture until the cure time is up.

11. Don’t be Afraid to Try Something New

While it takes time and effort to get it right, painting Ikea furniture should be fun! It’s the perfect time to try a new technique, color combination, or style.

Do Experiment

Get creative and try new ideas. If it doesn’t work out, you can always paint over the piece with primer and start again!

Dresser painted with colorful diamond shapes

Time to Start Painting Ikea Furniture

Are you ready to give painting Ikea furniture a try? Whether your chosen piece is plastic, metal, or laminate-covered particle board, with these tips, you’re sure to do a stellar job.

For more tips and ideas, make sure to visit the furniture painting page. We’ve got tips, tricks, tutorials, and plenty of inspiration to help you with every furniture project on your list.