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Can You Paint IKEA Furniture?

IKEA is a household name and I bet if we polled all of my readers at least half of them would have owned at least one IKEA furniture piece. With that being said, can you paint IKEA furniture? Of course you can! You just need to know how to paint IKEA furniture the right way.  We all know that I love to give new (and old) furniture new looks. I’m hoping to share some insight about how to paint an Ikea desk the right way the first time!

how to paint IKEA furniture

If you’ve been around here a while you know I love to paint ANY and ALL surfaces. If they say you can’t paint them, trust me I’ll find a way. A few decades ago we never would have thought about painting a laminate surface. Today though, there are so many different products that allow you to paint a plastic surface without a lot of prep work.

Let me preface this post by saying not all IKEA furniture can be painted the same way, but probably 95% of it. I’m talking about their lovely material of choice for most of their products; heavy particle board that is covered in laminate.

Painting IKEA furniture materials

I’m no stranger to painting laminate. As a matter of fact, I’ve tried a few different methods and I’ve decided that there is a right and a wrong way to paint laminate surfaces (which is basically what IKEA furniture is made of). You can see my comprehensive post about the right way to paint laminate.

Today I will be sharing a very similar method that I used when I painted my old laminate cabinets. Don’t worry, I’ll be using the right way!

Disclosure; this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not affect the price you pay. This disclosure statement refers to the rest of the Amazon links in this post. See more on my disclosure page.

Supplies for painting IKEA furniture

  • Primer– this is key. Let me say that again. PRIMER IS KEY. Nothing will adhere to your IKEA furniture without it.
  • Paint of your choice. As long as you prime well, any paint should work (within reason).
  • Paint brushes and fine finish paint rollers
  • You can also use a paint sprayer. This would probably be the best option but I will be using a paint brush and paint rollers to get a smooth finish.
  • Sealer– I love this Polycrylic water based sealer in satin. It works wonders.

Helpful tip; It’s best to paint IKEA furniture before it’s been assembled.

IKEA desk unpainted

I’m currently working on painting the IKEA SVALNÄS Wall Mounted Desk for my kiddos and I think this is the best homework station!

Here it is in it’s unfinished glory. My plan is to paint the sides and bottom of the desk and shelf white.  I’m going to leave the tops in their original finish. Also I will leave the bars that hold the desk unfinished too. I’ve already spray painted the white brackets gold to match the rest of the room.  I can’t wait to show you.

How to paint IKEA furniture:

  1. Clean the IKEA furniture piece and make sure the surface is lint free.
  2. Paint at least two coats of Primer. My rule of thumb is to paint enough coats to where you can’t see the original finish.
  3. Once the primer is dry start painting!
  4. I would suggest two coats of paint
  5. Apply the sealer. Depending on how much traffic your piece of furniture will get will determine how many coats of sealer you need. Two coats for a high traffic area and one coat for a low traffic piece.

Before I get into the details of how I painted the IKEA desk, I want to share some important thoughts on primers.

What primer should you use when painting IKEA laminate furniture?

As far as primers go, I’ve always used a water based bonding primer to paint a laminate surface and it’s worked just fine.

That being said, others swear by a shellac based primer. Most “professional painters” that I’ve talked to won’t use anything but an oil based primer. So which one is best?

This is one of the best articles I’ve found on shellac primer vs. oil based primer vs. water based primer. Her findings are that shellac based primers have the best adhesion, but they are the hardest to work with, they have the strongest fumes (you need to be in a well ventilated area to apply it) and you can’t use it in a paint sprayer.

Even though I didn’t use a paint sprayer for this small Ikea furniture job, I try to use a sprayer for most large furniture projects. Well that just eliminated the ability to use the shellac primer for all my large furniture painting jobs.

Here’s my humble opinion; If I’m using a brush to paint a small piece of furniture (like this IKEA desk), I will more than likely do it inside.

I know it seems lazy but I’m trying to be honest with myself.

If I’m painting inside, I need to stick with the water based primer to reduce fumes. Also, it seems that there is not much difference in the durability between the oil based vs. water based primer so why not just go with the water based primer?

If you are looking for superb durability on a very high traffic area (like a table top), then definitely use a shellac primer.

Since I’m only painting the bottom and sides of the desk, the water based primer will work just fine.

Painting the IKEA desk

I’ll share a few progress photos:

Painting IKEA furniture with primer

This was after the first coat of Primer. I definitely needed another coat to hide the original IKEA surface.

After the second coat of primer was done it was time to paint!

I chose a very generic white paint. Like I said before, if you use a good primer, I don’t think the paint needs to be anything special.

Painting IKEA furniture with paint

Now it’s time for the sealer. This is as important as the primer in my opinion. I swear by a polycrylic top coat in satin. You can see a post where I shared all about using it to seal painted or unpainted furniture for a high traffic finish.

I want to address a few question about painting IKEA surfaces;

Do you need to sand IKEA furniture before painting it?

There are a few different schools of thought on this. My personal opinion is NOT to sand because it’s not real wood and any sanding might lead to uneven surfaces. The biggest reason NOT to sand IKEA furniture is because it’s made of particle board and a very thin layer of veneer which can be removed with even the lightest sanding.

As long as you use a good bonding primer, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the paint not adhering to the surface of your IKEA furniture.

If you do decide to sand your IKEA surface, use a fine grit sanding block or fine grit sand paper and try to apply even pressure over the entire surface.

I hope you’ve found this painting IKEA furniture tutorial super useful and very straight forward. Like I always say, “If I can do it, you can too.”

Painting IKEA furniture

How to Paint Ikea Furniture

Painting IKEA furniture

A quick tutorial on how to paint IKEA furniture the right way with suggestions on supplies and techniques about how to paint IKEA laminate surfaces.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Difficulty Medium

Materials

  • Primer- this is key. Let me say that again. PRIMER IS KEY. Nothing will adhere to your IKEA furniture without it.
  • Paint of your choice. As long as you prime well, any paint should work (within reason).
  • Paint brushes and fine finish paint rollers
  • Paint sprayer - optional. This would probably be the best option but I will be using a paint brush and paint rollers to get a smooth finish.
  • Optional- fine grit sanding block or sand paper. This isn't required, but a little extra "bite" to your laminate surface could help. 
  • Sealer or top coat

Instructions

  1. Clean the IKEA furniture piece and make sure the surface is lint free.
  2. Paint at least two coats of Primer. My rule of thumb is to paint enough coats to where you can't see the original finish.
  3. Once the primer is dry start painting!
  4. I would suggest two coats of paint.
  5. Apply the sealer. Depending on how much traffic your piece of furniture will get will determine how many coats of sealer you need. Two coats for a high traffic area and one coat for a low traffic piece.

Lindsey**

Angela

Thursday 30th of April 2020

Hi can you recommend a primer

[email protected]

Thursday 30th of April 2020

This is my favorite primer. https://amzn.to/35hu4yg

Carla Worth

Tuesday 28th of April 2020

Could you repaint a black ikea furniture do you think? Not to white necessarily, maybe blue..?

[email protected]

Wednesday 29th of April 2020

absolutely! Just make sure to prime it first.

PAINTING IKEA FURNITURE the right way the first time. #paintingIKEA, #paintingik... - Home & DIY

Tuesday 3rd of December 2019

[…] Image Size: 735 x 1102 Source […]

Nadrina

Sunday 20th of October 2019

I should've thought to look this up FIRST. I painted a wardrobe/cabinet with melamine furniture paint - sure it didn't cover it well the first time but I figured I could just do another coat.I added the second coat today and it has covered it okay but I now see how easily it peels off. Like, if I look at it too intensely it peels. What can I do at this point? Will adding the sealer do the trick or is it doomed because I didn't prime it? How can I save this project?

[email protected]

Monday 21st of October 2019

Hi Nadrina. I've never heard of melamine paint, but surely if it is formulated for melamine then maybe it has a primer built in? Since you have already painted two coats, go ahead and continue on and cover it with a good top coat. After the top coat dries, you will know how it will hold up. If it doesn't hold up, maybe it will peel off easily for you. Wishing you the best!

Kids Homework Station with IKEA SVALNÄS Wall Mounted Desk

Sunday 6th of January 2019

[…] Let me show you what the SVALNÄS DESK FROM IKEA looks like (before my IKEA furniture makeover).  […]

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