How to Paint IKEA Furniture

Updated: Apr. 29, 2024

No matter what item you fancy, the following step-by-step guide will help you make your IKEA furniture stand out.

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Time

Three Days

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

$50 - $150

Introduction

Want to give your furniture a unique look? Here's how.

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Tools Required

  • 120 grit Sanding sponge
  • Drop cloth
  • Flexible putty knife
  • Paint tray
  • Smooth paint roller / high quality brush / paint sprayer

Materials Required

  • A piece of IKEA furniture
  • Quart of BIN Primer
  • Quart of Cabinet / Door / Trim Enamel (dries hard and durable)
  • Water-based Polyurethane Sealant (optional)

IKEA is a DIYers dream. There are so many IKEA hacks out there, from adding peel and stick wallpaper to creative assembly to fit your needs. But one thing’s clear: We love adding our own personality to IKEA furniture. One way to do that is with a splash of paint.

If you’re an avid IKEA shopper, you know IKEA sells untreated furniture you can paint and make your own. It even supplies paint, brushes and sample designs!

For this project, we’re focusing on treated laminate furniture. Laminate furniture comes with a shiny, non-absorbent surface. While great for cleaning up spills, it’s not so great for painting a different color unless you add primer and the right kind of paint. Read on to learn how it’s done, and in only five steps!

Project step-by-step (6)

Step 1

One thing before we start

Leave the furniture unassembled. It’s easier to paint individual IKEA furniture pieces, then put it together after it’s dry.

If it’s an already assembled piece of furniture, that’s OK, too. Just follow the steps for the parts you wish to paint, taking off shelves and unscrew doors if you can. No need to take it apart completely.

Pro tip: Do NOT open IKEA boxes with a box cutter. You might stab your furniture!

I used to just tear them apart like a wildebeest. Then recently I tried a putty knife, and it works like magic. Push the pointed end under the flap from beginning to end and watch it pop open. Amazing.

Now you’ve got the pieces out of the box. Here we go.

Step 2

Sanding laminate furniture

Set up a workstation to refinish the furniture over a drop cloth for easy clean-up.

Use the 120-grit sanding sponge across all surfaces you’re painting. A light sanding will help the paint stick to the surface. Wipe down the newly sanded pieces to remove all dust and debris. You don’t want bits of dust mixing with your paint.

Question: Can You Paint IKEA Furniture Without Sanding It?

Answer: Sometimes. If the furniture is small, you can skip sanding and go right to applying a good B-I-N Primer meant for laminate surfaces. However, if it’s a high traffic area, there’s a chance the paint will chip, so it’s always best to give it a light sanding.

Sanding laminate furnitureTMB Studio

Step 3

Best primer for IKEA furniture

Using a smooth roller or a high-quality brush, apply the primer to all surfaces you plan to paint.

I recommend the Zinsser B-I-N stain blocker. But either way, use shellac-based primer, then let it dry overnight.

Pro tip: If the furniture is darker than the new color, add a second coat of primer after a few hours. You’ll use less paint, and it’s more likely the new color will come out as expected.

Best primer for IKEA furnitureTMB Studio

Step 4

Paint IKEA furniture

The best paint for furniture? A high quality cabinet product with a hard enamel finish, providing a smooth surface that’s durable and easy to clean. Whether you need a quart or a gallon really depends on the size of your project. For a dresser, I needed less than a quart.

Choosing the right tools to apply the paint is key. A paint roller with a rounded end is great for larger pieces and a brush can get into grooves, but a sprayer will provide a smooth and professional look. For some pieces, you can use a roller on the larger sections and a paintbrush for edging. Always go with the highest quality paintbrush you can afford so you’re not picking out loosened bristles.

Once you’ve decided what to use, go for it!

Let the paint dry for two to three hours before applying a second coat. If you used extra primer, one coat might be all you need.

Once dry, look it over and touch up any spots you missed. Then let it stand for a day or two before moving on to the next step.

Paint IKEA furnitureTMB Studio

Step 5

Painted furniture sealant

The cabinet paint with a hard enamel finish should be durable. But if you’re like me and have small kids who are rough with everything, you may need to protect the paint from scrapes. In that case, think about adding a sealant.

You could choose a water-based polyurethane with a finish that matches your paint, but other sealants like oil-based polyurethane and wax might work just as well. Different sealants can deepen the color, gloss it up or give it an older feel.

When you apply polyurethane, be quicker with your application and check it for air bubbles before letting it dry. Then wait another one or two days for your masterpiece to completely dry before assembly.

Painted furniture sealantvia Merchant

Step 6

Assemble your furniture

Now that your painted furniture pieces are dry, grab the IKEA instruction manual and start putting it together. You’ve got it. It’s gorgeous. Well done!

Assemble your furnitureTMB Studio