HOW TO : Paint laminate & particle board Furniture

Ikea Particleboard Dresser

This has to be the most commonly asked question we get.. How do I paint laminate furniture? aka: Target, Ikea, and sadly even most Pottery Barn furniture is pressed particle board or laminate over particleboard.  Another question is how to paint the shiny plastic-like tops on some of the vintage french provencial dressers.  The good news: you CAN paint laminte,  particleboard, and shiny formica-looking furniture & it will look as good as painted wood furniture.

Let’s pretend you bought this dresser from Ikea, and now you want it some other color..

 The first step is to remove the hardware, and go to The Home Depot for these things:

{I’m totally visual, so I’ll add a picture of each thing you’ll need}

1.  Mouse Sander & 80 grit sandpaper pads

Ryobi Sander

2.  Kilz Oil Based Spray Primer (3 cans for a dresser this size) Ok, these are about $5 per can (cheaper at Walmart & Lowe’s), but absolutely worth the $ to save time, and this primer is the best on the market. (Trust me, we’ve painted over 800 pieces of furniture in the past 2 years, and we have tried EVERY brand against this stuff- nothing compares)  It will save you HOURS of time too- which is well worth $5 per can for your sanity.

Kilz Spray Primer


3. A good brush or a cheap brush & a foam roller set (I do everything with this brush- The Purdy Cub)

Purdy Cub Paintbrush

These white foam roller sets are great for large areas, and you can buy a cheaper brush for the edges & trim work.

Foam Rollers

4.  Your paint color of choice (I love Behr, it’s rated #1 by Consumer Reports- it even beat Sherwin Williams)  I buy Interior Latex in Eggshell when I am working on non-wood furniture.

Behr Paint & Primer in One

5.  120 grit sander block or sheets of sandpaper if you want to distress the edges.

These blocks are great for lightly distressing the edges & details of non-wood furniture.

6.  Minwax Paste Finishing Wax {Apply 2 coats of Wax according to the directions on the can after you’ve painted your piece}

Minwax Paste Finishing Wax


First, use your sander to sand the piece of furniture lightly- just enough to remove the shine from the particleboard.  You do not want to over sand- or the layers of particleboard will start shredding.  Once you’ve sanded your furniture, you should remove all of the dust from sanding.  You can use tackcloth (but it feels creepy to me, so I use Clorox wipes).  Once you’ve cleaned your furniture and it has dried, it’s time to spray prime.  I keep a few flattened cardboard moving boxes on hand for this, but plastic sheeting is good too.  I put my cardboard moving boxes on the grass and move the furniture on top of it to spray prime.  Shake the can well, and use several thin layers of spray primer- allowing it to dry in between coats.  This primer acts as the bonding agent with the paint- and causes it to stick to the particleboard and gives a durable finish that my kids can’t destroy. (and they can destroy anything)  After you’ve primed, use 220 grit sandpaper to lightly sand any gritty spots or drips until they are smooth.    Then, use 2 coats of Behr paint over the primer.  If you want to distress your furniture, use a sanding block on the edges and details.  Then, finish with 2 coats of Minwax paste finishing wax.  It’s easy, wax on {wait 10 minutes} wax off.  And, repeat. ;0)

Don’t be scared! You CAN do this!

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  1. Marye Lawrence says

    I would like to add that for those who can not use a spray primmer (breathing problems) that Zinsser bullseye 123, water clean up, is low oder and works darn good!! I like you have tried them all and never been happy till I found this. I make sure to use two to three coats, this is a must..

    P.S. I like your web sight and the work that you do, keep up the good work!!!

  2. Jeanne says

    Hey Mandie. I was just wondering if the Minwax finishing paste is your preferred topcoat just for laminate or if you have switched to that for all of your work. I have your ebooks and I know you recommend polycrylic or polyurethene in those.

    Thanks for your help.

    • Michele Webb says

      I was wondering the same thing, Jeanne! I am in the process of painting my first project today and haven’t bought the poly yet…Wondering which is recommended for real wood!!

  3. Amanda says

    Just found your site through a fellow blog. Thanks for giving such a detailed explanation of how to do this, I have never done it before but want to try so bad! Thanks for the encouragement!!

  4. says

    This is fabulous!
    So wish I would have had this when I painted my dresser. It turned out ok, but I would have been tons more confident!

  5. Stephanie says

    Please explain… I have bought this primer twice and used it on pieces thought to be real wood until I started sanding and it quickly became “furry”. I find that it spatters real bad like a popcorn ceiling. Am I doing something wrong? Also, How do you feel about the can of kilz and spraying it with a sprayer? Do you know if it works the same?

    • Mandie says

      You have to shake the cans really well before you spray with them, and if you get too close it will splatter. You have to stay back about 12-18 inches and do several thin coats with dry time in between coats. I always use 220 sandpaper after using the kilz because it can leave a gritty texture. I don’t use the kilz through a sprayer because I don’t spray my furniture- I paint everything by hand. My husband has sprayed metallics for me before, but we still use the Kilz cans because they are oil based. I suppose if you used oil based Kilz through a sprayer, you might have similar results, but I haven’t tried that because oil based paints and primers have a nasty clean up process. The water based Kilz does not work nearly as well as the oil based, so I stick with the cans.

  6. Lynn Smith says

    So does this mean you can do kitchen cabinets made of particle board this way? Can you touch up where spots of particle board have gotten wet and chipped off?

  7. Ashley says

    What should you do if you painted a piece of particle board furniture without doing the primer first? Should I just add a coat of plycrylic to keep it from peeling so easily?

    • Heather Miller says

      I would LOVE to know the answer to your question. JUST finished today painting an IKEA dresser. I used one coat of spray primer and then painted. Its already pealing Off!!! ugh. I wish I would have read this first.

      • Bonnie says

        I too would love to know the answer to this question! I just painted an old lamimate/particle board file cabinet to match a new desk I got. It looks great except its peeling!! uugghhhhh!!!

  8. Tracy says

    Hello – trying this project today! Really excited and hope it works. Question: in Part 5 you say to use 120 grit sandpaper, but the picture shows 220 grit. Also in the instructions below you say 220. I assume it’s 220 but just want to make sure! 🙂

    • Brenda says

      The 120 is only to make your piece look distresses after your finished if you like that look. 🙂

  9. E says

    I am very interested in doing this to my kitchen cabinets. I am not familiar with these products because i have never been a DYI person. But I am totally in to doing this now. So I want to know is there a paint on alternative to the KILZ spray? Because my cabinets are already attached and what not. And I dont want to remove them. So I would be working from inside the home not outside.

  10. says

    I am going to repaint a child’s table and chairs. It is particle board with a laminate top. Just wondering if after applying the primer, can you use acrylic paint? If so, what would you recommend to use to protect the surface?

  11. Amy says

    I researched how to do this for so long and this was the best tutorial I found! So easy. I refinished my nightstand and I love it. I did skip the finishing wax because I felt like I was doing it wrong. It was so chunky! And the smell was really strong.

  12. Mary Lynn Treppa says

    This has been a great help! One question: How long should you let the paint cure before waxing or can you do it as soon as it’s thoroughly dry? Thank you.

  13. Kimberly says

    Will this work on a particleboard surface that has nicks and scratches right through the veneer surface? I just bought a used night stand with the intention of refinishing it, and your instructions give me the confidence that it can be done! If the top of the table is too badly damaged, I may cover it with a piece of glass (if I can find one the right size) or maybe mod-podge a decorative paper that matches my daughter’s room decor.

  14. Jenna says

    Does the wax leave a shiny finish? I am refinishing a dresser and I want it to have a distressed vintage look and am not wanting much shine.

  15. Debbie Wilson says

    I have a 1970 something Sears canopy bedroom set that is the antique color with gold trim. I would like to update but make the rom look vintage shabby chic, but not sure how to paint it. Could you give me suggestions?

  16. Terry says

    Once you lightly sand, should the laminate color still be there- just not shiny anymore? I bought 120 sand paper today to test on a smaller Ikea piece first, and dont know if I am doing it right. I want to paint the dark wood color from Ikea. I was also wondering if you would recommend the Paint and Primer in one (Behr Ultra)? Thanks!

  17. Lisa says

    One of the drawers of the dresser I am refinishing has already been sanded where the texture is rough! What can I do to smooth it out where the finish is nice and smooth?

    • Gail Riggins says

      Sanded laminate nightstand sanded smooth,but I bought kill primer that I painted on,and it’s rough not smooth.What do I do?

  18. Laurie says

    I just finished my project and after using the finishing wax, anytime you touch it it looks horrible, dirty smudgy. Is there anything else I can put on it? Thanks.

    • says

      You need to buff it with a white rag if it’s still hazy. That may mean you applied too much, but make sure you buff it well and ti should be lightly shiny.

  19. Alia says

    Thanks for the great tutorial. Question – I have a piece of laminate furniture from ikea that I painted a few years ago… sanded and primed before paint but it definitely hasn’t held up to wear and tear (lots of scratches and places where the paint has peeled off). I doubt I correctly prepped the piece for painting when I originally did it, so I’m not surprised. I’d like to just redo the whole thing, but I’m wondering if to do that would i have to strip off the paint that’s already on there? Or could I just prime again over the current paint (doing it correctly this time) and start from there. Any thoughts?

  20. Jim says

    Thanks for sharing your expertise!
    I have a dining table refinishing project that has become a nightmare. Wonder what you would do???
    It’s a cherry wood dining table that matches a hutch that’s in perfect condition. I decided to strip the table top and sand it down to erase some deep scratches, but the sanding revealed that the table is really made of particle board underneath a cherry wood veneer. I had no idea! Now if I stain it to match the hutch and chairs, I’ll be staining 10% particle board and 90% cheery veneer. I’ll be embarrassed for anyone to see it! What might you do, Mandie?

  21. Sonia H says

    Thank you for the tutorial! I had great success with all of the steps, except the last. I wish I would have skipped the wax step. No matter how hard or long, or with what type of cloth, I can’t get the hazy finish off that the wax left behind. Its too bad, because I really like the piece just fine with the painted finish. Just a note of caution for anyone else who is considering doing this… do a test of the wax finish… you might decide to skip it after you see the results. Thank you again for the tutorial… I had no idea that laminate could be painted, and this made it easy!

    • Penny Lynn says

      You may have used too much wax 🙁 I love this wax!!!!! I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for you, because it really is super awesome and durable.

  22. Sue says

    I have a dining room table that is in dear need of help (the hutch and buffet are fine) — the top is a veneer over particleboard. The top has blistered and cracked and scratched. It’s an eyesore. I was going to try to find a new top at a local unfinished wood outlet, but it would be quite pricey. I’d love to try to refinish it first.
    Maybe a dumb question here — but do I strip off the veneer first – then begin your process above — or do I just sand the veneer? I’m thinking it needs to be stripped or else the parts that blistered and opened up (revealing the pressed board) would still be visible.
    Is there anyway to stain this so it could match the rest of the furniture in the room? Or does it need to be painted? I’m SO confused! 🙂

  23. Sheryl chard says

    i can not find an answer for my question. I bought an over the toilet space saver. It is white and looks to me like solid wood. I got it at bed bath beyond for 159.00. It is not from wal mart. How can I distress just the edges? Can I just sand the edges ?

    • says

      I’m pretty sure it’s not solid wood, if it’s from a big box store. You can use a 150 grit sandpaper to distress the edges, or you can use a chalk paint and wipe it with a damp cloth on the edges to distress once the paint it dry.

  24. angela says

    I just finished painting a desk using your tutorial. Thanks for the easy directions. My next step is to wax—after reading some of the comments I’m afraid. Will it make the piece “shiny” like a gloss finish? Also is this recommended so that it will not scratch?? Since my piece is a desk the top will get a lot of use. Thanks so much for the info.

    • says

      I would recommend Minwax wipe on polyurethane over latex paint for a high traffic surface. It will make it shiny, but I buy satin finish and it’s not too bad. If you hate the shine, you can put a thin layer of wax over the polyurethane to dull it down.

  25. Susan Cox says

    Mandie, I just painted a dresser I found at a thrift store. It too had the hard “plasticy” type surface on top. I used a DIY chalk paint on top (several coats) and I waxed it with Annie Sloan. I’ve noticed that I can still scratch through the surface. Have I just not waited long enough for the wax to cure? Or should I have used the primer even though I used the chalk paint.

    • says

      I sand those plastic-y surfaces with 180 grit to give the paint something to grab onto- a good rule of thumb is that if it won’t abrorb a few drops of water after 15 minutes- if it just beads up and sits there- you do need to lightly sand for adhesion. I usually just sand and use kilz primer and then go with latex on the super plastic stuff (ikea, target, some yellow french provencial)

  26. Teri says

    What is the best way to clean up the primer after you’ve sanded it? I’m not sure if it’s ok to wipe it down with a damp cloth. I’ve brushed over it, but it’s still very dusty. Thanks!

  27. Michelle says

    I, too, have a blistered veneer on my teak kitchen table which has been used for 20 years. It’s a great table (Danish style with hidden leaves and awesome chairs) that I would love to paint, but I am concerned about sanding over the blistered areas and exposing the particle board. Without doing this step, I’m afraid the newly painted table will appear to have a tumor disorder. What’s the best way to handle this?

  28. Liz says

    I want to try this, but I want to give the furniture a distressed look. Do you have any ideas or advice?

  29. Taylor says

    Quick question….. Is there a different paint or wax that needs to be used if painting a baby crib??

  30. brooke says

    Great article! I have really loved the results of the refinishing I’ve done (on real wood) with Rustoleum spray paint. Is it possible to paint over cheap Ikea furniture 1. without sanding, & 2. with spray paint?

    Thank you!

  31. Susan says

    I am painting a secondhand four poster headboard and footboard. I started stripping off the old paint and found that the legs and posts were wood but the headboard and footboard are particleboard. I used a citrus stripping product and cleaned all the residue with mineral spirits. A light sanding and then I plies Stix waterborne primer. The surface of the particleboard became mottled. I now am looking for a fix before I give up. Is the damage to great or can I sand it down and use kill oil base primer and then paint. Any suggestions or help would be appreciated.

  32. Tiffany says

    Hi, we are refinishing a particle board captains bed for my daughter 2 1/2 who is VERY sensitive to chemicals. Any recommendations on a primer that would be more friendly to her than the spray can? How about a no VOC paint? We would especially love recommendations that are somewhat easy to find! Thanks so much!

  33. Lyn Baker says

    Love your instructions I just have a question on distressing the piece. I primed with Kilz(white) then painted a dark brown so when I distressed the edges with sand paper a lot of this white shows and I want more wood and less white. Any tips how to accomplish this?

  34. Kim LaTessa says

    So, to be clear, you are not sanding off the veneer/laminate coating right? I have an old desk that we use for our computer and it is the perfect size. (very ugly, like dorm room furniture)……if I could keep it and paint it that would be sooooo cool. It is that pressed wood with something smooth on top of the wood. (is that called veneer? laminate?) There are some parts of the laminate that are scuffed to the wood but not too bad. What are your suggestions?

  35. Val says

    This has been so helpful.. thank you so much. I’m sure I’ll refer to this again and again and pass it on. 😀

  36. chris says

    i resently purchased a bookself for my granddaughter ? i found out it plastic partical board isthis the same to do this as you discrib i thought you cant sand plastic thanks i hope i here from you very soon im painting it white.

  37. Lori Robinson says

    my particle board dresser top isn’t the shiny hard laminate but looks more like a stick placed over the top. Can I still paint it and how? There are currently a few bubbles in the top as well.

  38. PEGGY FISHER says

    Wow…I love the internet and I really appreciate sharing your professional skills . Thank you so much…Now I know what I have to do to keep some of my crappy particle board items that I would have thrown out :)))) Thank you Thank you Thank you 🙂

  39. Monica says

    What if you’ve already sanded down the furniture completely stripping the paint down to the particle board? =\

  40. Dana says

    What can I do with a vintage school desk that was left out in the elements and the particle board has started to shread? Can I sand it, seal it, cover it??? It doesn’t seem really bad, but I want to refinish it without replacing the whole top…

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