The Right Way to Paint IKEA Furniture

Even the best IKEA hack can be ruined by a bad paint job!  In this tutorial on how to paint IKEA furniture, I’ll show you my best tricks to make IKEA furniture look expensive and last longer!

Peeling paint, dried-on drips, and roller marks are not the hallmarks of a high-end furniture piece.  Unfortunately, most professionally-finished furniture pieces also come with a very professional price-tag.

IKEA hacks allow you to have your own unique furniture creation at a fraction of the price.

HOWEVER, if you don’t paint your IKEA furniture the right way, you could be left with a peeling mess that will be on your front curb by morning.

This easy tutorial shows you how to get a finish that looks sprayed-on, as well as the right products to use you ensure your finish is durable for years to come!

This post is great for you if you:

  • Want to ensure your IKEA hack looks like high-end furniture with a professional finish
  • Don’t want your furniture damaged by everyday wear and tear
  • Don’t want your IKEA furniture to look like it came from IKEA
  • Want easy, fool-proof tips and tricks that work for ANY laminate furniture.
make ikea furniture look expensive

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How to Revamp IKEA Furniture with Paint

One of the most common questions I get is “how hard is it to paint IKEA furniture?”  In reality, it’s no harder than painting a wood furniture piece, if you know the right products and a few tricks!

What is IKEA furniture made of?

IKEA furniture is mostly pine chipboard with a plastic veneer glued to the surface.  The plastic veneer is actually paper that is textured and painted by the manufacturer.  Then a clear plastic coating is sprayed on top to make it hard.

Because laminate is so slick, paint doesn’t adhere to it nearly as well as wood.  If you don’t take some extra precautions, your paint will just peel away like the picture below where I demonstrated what paint on laminate without proper prep work.

how to paint ikea furniture

Supplies – How to Make IKEA Furniture Look Expensive:

Cover Stain PrimerSee the current price here.

6” Roller – This is the best one out there for a super-smooth finish!

Paintbrushes – This is a great, low-cost set!

Sander or Sandpaper – Here’s a surprisingly cheap sander that has never let me down!

Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic Latex Paint or Behr Marquee Latex

Spray Paint to Update Hardware(optional)  – Rustoleum Universal is the most durable.

Clear Caulk  – See the current price here.

Felt Pads – See price options here.

Clear Glass SpacersThese are working really well.  See the current price here.

Replacement Hardware (optional)Here are some options!

Must-Have Painting Tips – To make the process go faster, you can print out my best painting tips and tricks from my free resource library here by filling out the form at the bottom of this post.

The Easiest Way to Paint IKEA Furniture

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make ikea furniture look expensive

Should I Paint IKEA Furniture Before or After Assembly?

People have different opinions on this but I’m a proponent of refinishing (sanding, priming, painting) your furniture piece AFTER you assemble this for several reasons.

Some say it’s better to paint beforehand as you don’t have to worry about painting in corners but by doing this, several other issues come up:

For one thing, the primer/paint takes several days to cure or come to its full hardness.  What if while assembling it you accidentally scratch one piece with a corner of another.

Also, if you paint before assembly, you need a space to lay out every piece so it dries.  That would take a good-sized room even for these Klimpen drawer units.

You also don’t want to waste time painting pieces that aren’t even going to be on the outside of the furniture piece.  Paint after assembly so you aren’t painting portions of furniture that will never see the light of day – like the inside of a dresser.

Also, painting after assembly allows you to paint in corners which fills the cracks between furniture pieces, leaving a more consistent, professional finish.

Last, what if you paint the whole piece before assembly only to find you are missing a piece of hardware or a piece breaks during assembly.  You can’t return it because you already painted it!

how to paint ikea furniture

Step 1: How to Sand and Paint IKEA Furniture

I know what you are thinking… “Can I paint IKEA furniture without sanding?”

I guess you can….BUT there’s a good chance the finish will peel off in a month or less.

IMPORTANT! When I talk about sanding, I don’t mean you have to sand it so much you sand off the old finish.  If there were the case, I would not be blogging about furniture projects, I can tell you that!

When you sand, you are merely scuffing up the surface so that the paint grabs onto it (as shown in the video).  In fact, you do not want to sand off the top layer of laminate because you don’t want the fiberboard underneath absorbing paint.

how to paint ikea furniture

I recommend sanding with an electric sander and you can get one for less than $18 (see the current price here).  You will be SO glad you got your own sander for this project and any other furniture makeovers in the future.

As I mentioned in my post How to Sand Furniture in Less Than 5 Minutes, just run the sander across the surface, kind of like ironing.  For laminate pieces, I use a lower number of sanding pad (a lower number means a rougher grit), like 60-80 to really rough up the surface.

how to paint ikea furniture

Once you start sanding, you might see little spiral marks on the surface.  Don’t panic.  That is ok and will actually help the paint to stick without interfering with the final surface.

When you have sanded over the whole piece with a rough sanding pad, you can wipe off the dust with a damp rag.

One way to make IKEA furniture look expensive is by sanding the outer edges of your piece slightly.  One telltale sign of painted laminate is that it has very sharp corners.  Wood has slightly rounded corners because it expands some after drying.  Yes, it’s a subtle difference but it will keep someone from looking twice to wonder if it’s painted laminate.  So, run your sander up and down each edge, just to slightly round the corners.

Step 2: How to Make IKEA Furniture Look Expensive with the Right Primer

Next, it’s time to prime!  Primer is important because it helps your paint stick to the laminate like glue.  I like to say that primer sticks to things and things stick to primer.

how to paint ikea furniture

What is the Best Primer for Laminate Furniture?

Usually, I use a water-based primer but for laminate furniture, I recommend an oil-based primer called Zinnser Cover Stain (see the current price here) for the plastic veneer of IKEA pieces.  Although it is oil-based, it doesn’t have a strong smell and it has better adhesion than water-based primers.

TIP!  If your paint color is dark, this will save you a step!   For dark furniture projects, I like to have my primer tinted.  I do this because by tinting the primer, it provides better coverage and saves me from an extra coat of paint.  If I just went with the primer as-is (white) I’d have to do an extra coat of paint because white is hard to cover.  This way, I get the benefits of primer but the coverage of paint with no extra charge.

(If your paint is white or light, don’t worry about having your primer tinted.)

how to paint ikea furniture

If you go the tinted primer route, pick out a paint swatch that is a little lighter than your paint color.  Take it to the paint counter and tell them, “I’d like this primer to be tinted to this color.”  Then they might say something like “This product might be hard to match to this swatch EXACTLY” to which you will say, “that’s fine, I’m just using it as a primer so it doesn’t have to match perfectly.”

Paint on your primer with this roller for a super smooth finish.  It never lets me down!  After I put a coat on a furniture piece, I like to go back and check for drips and smooth out any before they dry.

If you don’t have total coverage (if it looks a little streaky) that’s fine, you’ll get full coverage with your paint.

TIP: If you want a super smooth finish, you can very lightly sand over your furniture piece again but this time with a higher number of sandpaper pad (200-300).  This finer sanding pad will even out any minor imperfections giving your final coat a sprayed-on finish. Wipe off the surface with a damp rag before the final coat of paint.

how to paint ikea furniture
how to paint ikea furniture

Step 3: How to Paint Laminate Furniture

After letting your primer dry for 2-3 hours, it’s time to paint!  Use your paint roller again to roll on your choice of paint color working in long vertical strokes like in the video.  I like to go over the edges first and then do the middle of each side.  After you have painted your furniture piece, give each side a good look to catch any drips.

What to Use to Paint Ikea Furniture

In my post Chalk Paint vs. Milk Paint vs. Latex for Furniture, I tested the top brands of furniture paint head to head.  Time after time, the latex paint, Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic came out on top!  It’s a really good paint that settles out to a really smooth and durable finish.

If you are already at Home Depot to get your primer, then you can get their Behr Marquee which is comparable to the Sherwin Williams Pro-Classic.  Bottom line, go with good latex paint, as I explain here: Why I Don’t Use Chalk Paint on Furniture Anymore

To make the process go faster, you can check out my printable guide to my best painting tips for furniture from my resource library.  Sign up at the bottom of this post to get access.

how to make ikea furniture look expensive

 Step 4: How to Make Cheap Furniture Look Expensive with Hardware

A sure giveaway of low-cost furniture is cheap hardware.  Sometimes replacing the hardware or just spray painting it can give the whole piece a major facelift!

The chrome hardware on my Klimpen towers looked kind of cheap.  I actually looked online for something else but decided I liked the style – just not the finish.

So, I treated them to a coat of my FAVORITE gold spray paint – Rustoleum Universal Metallics Pure Gold (see the current price here).  I like it because it’s not a slap-you-in-the-face gold finish.  It’s subtle and maybe more of a champagne gold that looks really classy on just about anything.

My Best Tips for Spray Painting 

For my favorite tips and tricks on getting  a flawless finish every time with spray paint, click here for your free checklist:  Best Tips & Tricks for Spray Painting Anything

how to make ikea furniture look expensive

Step 5:  How to Make IKEA Furniture Last Longer with a Clear Coat

If you want to make your IKEA furniture extremely durable and waterproof, you can add a clear coat.  Although this is an optional step, it’s probably a smart move if you are refinishing a piece that will get a lot of use or cold glasses set on it.

Just paint on the primer with a foam brush and you can follow the directions on the can.  In my post The Best Clear Coat for Furniture, I recommend Varathane’s Water-Proof Clear Coat because it held up best against water rings from glasses and went on the smoothest.

Here’s how one of the Klimpen drawer units turned out!  To see my full craft desk, you can see the reveal here: DIY Craft Table (IKEA Klimpen Hack).

how to make ikea furniture look expensive

More Ways to Make IKEA Furniture Look Expensive

Accent Drawers with Molding

Nancy from Artsy Chicks Rule does two things I love here to completely transform this IKEA Dresser.  For one thing, she isn’t afraid of color.  No one is thinking “IKEA” when you see that stunning blue that is accented with gold.  The addition of the molding gives this dresser a pop of detail and glam!  You can see the full tutorial here: Fancy Blue and Gold Chest

how to paint ikea furniture

Add Some Fabric on Upcycled IKEA Furniture

Anika never ceases to amaze me with her projects and this one is no exception.  She adds lots of texture and character by adding fabric to each door and framing each with molding.  You can see the full details here:  Textured Fabric Paneled Dresser

how to make ikea furniture look expensive

 

Use Inlays on Glam IKEA Hacks

One of the easiest ways to glam up laminate furniture is with an inlay like Monica did at Monica Wants It.  She knocks this transformation out of the park by adding a gold inlay to the front face of this IKEA Besta Unit here:  Home Office Decor Room Reveal

how to paint ikea furniture

 

Everything Looks Better with Shiplap

Angela at Angela Marie Made completely transformed this IKEA Billy Bookcase with shiplap on the back panel.  I also love that shade of navy!  You can see the full tutorial here: IKEA Billy Bookcase Hack with Shiplap

how to make ikea furniture look expensive

 

Spruce Up the Sides of Drawers

Morgan and Sean from Charleston Crafted gave this IKEA Hemnes dresser a major facelift by adding new legs, trim, fresh paint, and wallpaper to the sides of the drawers.  I love how the wallpaper covers the raw wood and coordinates with their walls!  You can see their full post here:  IKEA Henmes Dresser Mid Century Modern Hack

how to paint ikea furniture

 

Add New Legs to IKEA Furniture

One easy update for any furniture piece is to add legs.  Pick furniture legs that add more style and class to your furniture piece than the basic straight legs that often come with the furniture.  Be sure to check out this post on How to Add Legs to Any Furniture Project.

hot to make ikea furniture look expensive

IKEA Transformations Using Wallpaper

One of my favorites methods for an EASY transformation is beadboard wallpaper.  You can see a full tutorial and get some ideas here:  How to Add Beadboard Wallpaper to Furniture

diy entertainment center with bookshelves

 ☑️ My All-Time Best Furniture Painting Tips & Tricks (FREE PRINTABLE)

Don’t forget to download your FREE step-by-step printable checklist that shows you the exact process I’ve used on dozens of furniture pieces while saving you time and money!

How to Paint IKEA Furniture: YouTube Video

FAQ’s on How to Paint IKEA Furniture:

How to Paint IKEA Furniture without Sanding

We touched on this some but it’s worth saying again –DON’T do it!  Any time you save by not sanding will be wasted later on when you have to completely redo the entire piece because the paint surface is feeling off.  Here’s my post on How to Sand Furniture in 5 Minutes that walks you through how EASY it is and how much more durable it makes your final finish.

How to Paint IKEA Furniture with Chalk Paint

If you are considering painting IKEA furniture with chalk paint, you can still use the same tutorial above.  Still, be sure to sand and primer as laminate furniture is super slick and you need that extra gripping power to make sure your final coat of chalk paint adheres well.  I talk more about the comparison of furniture paints in my post here: Chalk Paint vs. Milk Paint vs. Latex for Furniture

Can you Wallpaper IKEA Furniture?

Absolutely!  If you are painting laminate shelves, consider lining the inside back surface with wallpaper.   Before adding wallpaper to IKEA furniture, be sure to sand and prime that surface just like you do above.  Hop on over to my post How to Add Beadboard Wallpaper to Furniture to see my best tips for adding wallpaper to furniture projects!

How to Stain IKEA Furniture

Yes, you read that right!  Whether you want to stain a solid piece or want the stain to be darker than the current faux stain, you can use this tried and true technique!  You can add a Barnwood stain to IKEA furniture by following the process here: How to Stain Furniture with Latex Paint.  The only difference would be to use the Zinsser Cover Stain primer since it’s a little more heavy-duty than the one I have there.  You can also add a driftwood finish to IKEA furniture by using this process here: How to Add a Driftwood Finish to Any Furniture Piece

How to Make IKEA Furniture Look Vintage

Just because you are redoing a piece of IKEA furniture doesn’t mean you have to go with a modern look.  You can give your furniture an aged look by adding a glaze wash.  It’s a super-easy way to mimic the look of dark wax without the hassle or learning curve.  You can follow the process, I have here: Aged Finish on Furniture with a Dark Wax Alternative

How To Distress IKEA Furniture

For a distressed look on IKEA furniture, you don’t want to distress it by sanding it the conventional way.  Doing so would either just expose the initial color – which probably doesn’t look like exposed wood or worse, expose the fiberboard underneath.  If the fiberboard is exposed and gets wet, it can swell and ruin the surface.  Instead, it’s best to faux distress by using this technique here: How to Distress Laminate Furniture

DON’T FORGET TO TAKE A PICTURE!

Now that you are done, I’d love to see how it turned out! ❤️  Post your before and after photos here!

FREE Must-Have Painting Tips for Laminate Furniture

Get the password for the resource library with the free this free printable guide by filling out this form:

 

More Posts Related Upcycling IKEA Furniture

Full Office Reveal – 7 Home Office Ideas for Women

DIY Closet Desk Transformation

DIY Desk Made From A Door

How to Paint and Stain Laminate Furniture Easily

Insanely Easy DIY Industrial Shelves (Wire Shelving Hack)

Must-Have Painting Tips for Any Furniture Piece

How to Add Wallpaper to Furniture

The Easy Way to Add Legs to Furniture

How to Fix Damaged Wood: Caulk, Wood Filler, or Epoxy?

How to Paint IKEA Furniture So It Looks Expensive

Nothing ruins the perfect IKEA hack like a bad paint job!  Painting laminate furniture is easy but if you don’t know the right steps, you can be setting your newly painted furniture piece on your front curb instead of your living room.  With this tutorial on how to paint IKEA furniture, I give you everything you need to make your paint finish last.  Make your IKEA furniture look expensive and last longer with these easy tips and ideas from the pros!

make ikea furniture look expensive

I love to hear your thoughts and questions!  Scroll down to leave a comment and I WILL reply! ❤️

Blessings,

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How to Make IKEA Furniture Look Expensive and Last Longer

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11 Comments

  1. I’m getting ready to paint some IKEA type bookcases. How long should I let the pro classic dry between coats and Will the paint be hard enough for a bookcase or should I add a clear coat? Also, how long should I wait to use them? I want to be sure it is cured enough.
    One last question: what size door did you use for your desktop? I’m doing a desk with wooden file cabinets instead of the IKEA drawers. I’m not sure if 24 or 30 inch would work best. Thank you so much for all your help!

    1. Hey Jeannie, I would let the Proclassic dry a couple hours between coats or whatever it says on the can for the recoat time. I think the bookcases would be ok without a topcoat. I would wait for a few days before using just to make sure the paint has hardened. The door I used was 24″ wide and it is working really well. Let me know if you have any other questions Jeannie!

  2. This is so helpful!! I’m so glad I found it. Could you please tell me the color of the dark/navy blue used in the picture of this piece?

    1. The gray on the desk is in Sherwin Williams Dovetail, I believe. Most of the time for navy pieces, I use Benjamin Moore Hale Navy but in Sherwin Williams paint. They have all the color codes in their computer. Hope this helped. Thanks English!

  3. Hi Karin. If I only wanted to put a top clear coat to waterproof the Ikea furniture (e.g. laminate table top), would the scuffs / sanding marks be visible? I’d still need to sand to get the varnish etc. to stick right?

    Thank you!

    1. Hey Shaun, You’ll have to sand or the clear coat will just peel off. To avoid any deep scratches, try a fine sandpaper. That way you can do a lot of sanding without making deep, obvious scratches. For this application, a sanding pad would probably be best over an electric sander so you have a little more control. Wipe it down with a damp rag before you clear coat.

  4. Hi Karin, great article , I am so with you on painting the furniture assembled. I never thought about rounding the edges of laminate furniture, so that will prove useful to me. A lot of other people recommend Zinsser BIN for the primer for painting IKEA furniture, so I wondered how the Zinsser Coverstain would give better benefits from your experience?

    1. Hey Beverley, Great question! I have noticed that too. The Zinnser BIN is the next tier up in terms of “stickiness”. I use it for covering knot holes so they don’t bleed through. Cover Stain is fine to use and I’ve never had a problem as long as you sand first. I think sanding is important no matter what primer you use. The BIN has a VERY strong small and it goes on really thin so I feel like it takes a couple of coats. It has kind of a weird consistency – not saying it’s bad, just different. Either BIN or Cover Stain works great for laminate but I opt for Cover Stain because it’s still oil-based but is low-odor. I have never had a problem with the paint adhering while using Cover Stain. Let me know if you have any other questions! – Karin

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