Go Right Ahead and Paint That Laminate

April 27, 2010

We’ve owned this laminate and particle board media center for about fifteen years.  It was purchased in the leaner years from a discount furniture store.   Back in the 90s, we used it in our family room to store all of our media equipment, but then we eventually moved it to the kids’ play space.  For the longest time (like most moms) I was just grateful for the storage it brought me and I didn’t care what color it was.

Then all of a sudden I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I was staring at the faux maple laminate last week and I decided the day had come.  It was time to paint it!  It’s not that I don’t like blonde wood, I just don’t like faux blonde wood.  It’s the fakeness that bothers me.

So it was time to rid my world of the maple tone and give it a fresh coat of white paint.  This is a relatively sturdy piece, so rather than go out and buy a new system, or build one myself, I determined the best way to save it was to simply paint it.  The best part of all is, I changed the look of this piece in 48 hours!

Here’s the Before:

ent center before


Here’s the After:

painted laminate ent center

Here’s how I painted my laminate storage center.   

Make sure you invest in the right primer.  This is absolutely key.  You absolutely must prime your laminate surface with a primer designed to adhere to glossy surfaces.  No ordinary primer will do.  There are several options out there, my best piece of advice is to read the back of the can.  Zinsser happens to be my primer of choice.  I’ve worked with others and I’ve been disappointed, so I always return to this product.

zinsser primer

Oil based Zinsser grips like glue in my opinion, and without sanding.   You can use the water based version by Zinsser in the blue can, but you really need to sand your surface beforehand, and you also must wait for the water based version to fully cure, which is a recommended 7 days.  Zinsser’s oil based primer dries in two hours, so I was able to apply two coats of primer in one day.

Roll your primer on your piece of furniture, then follow up with a brush in all the crevices.  This primer dries really fast, but if you want a longer time to work with your primer and minimize brush strokes, use an additive called Penetrol that I’ve talked about here and here

roll then brush

Many people shy away from oil based products because they require paint thinner or mineral spirits to clean up.  However, if you use a cheap roller and cheap brush (my combo costs less than $2 dollars), you can toss them out when you’re done and not have to worry about cleaning your brush or roller with mineral spirits.  But it’s good to have some on hand anyway just to get any paint off your hands !

roller and brush


Sand your primed piece with medium grade sanding pad to remove any drips, buildup or brush marks.  Follow up with two coats of your paint color of choice.  Use a better quality brush to minimize your brush strokes.  You can go right over oil based primer with latex paint. 

doors before and after

painted laminate ent center


While I was at it, I even painted these inexpensive mini cabinets to hold the kids movies and other toys.  I primed them with the same Zinsser oil based product, then gave them two coats of the new wall color, which is some leftover BM ‘Camouflage’ mixed in with some of the spring green from these chairs

Yes, my kids watch movies on a VCR – they’re cheap !  $1 dollar each at the local Goodwill, can’t beat that !

laminate shelves before and after 

And for those of you who are wondering, yes the giant map is still there, just on the opposite wall ! 

I am loving our ‘new’ storage system !!

ent center from side


Here’s a glimpse of the wall from last year’s post about the map room:

Last year:

west wall 2



painted laminate ent center in room 

Various bins and baskets from Target, Michaels and Pottery Barn.  I made the pillow cover with some Annie Selke fabric. 

So if you’ve got a laminate piece hanging around your house that you want to freshen, go ahead and paint it!   Got laminate countertops ?  Check out this post on Our Suburban Cottage !  Want to use water based primer instead ?  Visit Lindsay and see how she transformed her laminate armoire.

I’m adding this to Kimba’s DIY Day over at A Soft Place to Land, hop on over and check out all the great DIY links ! 

Oh yes you can paint that laminate !   Yeehaw !



181 Responses to “Go Right Ahead and Paint That Laminate”

  1. Sarah K says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. Guess what I’m doing this weekend!?

  2. Leone says:

    BEYOND FABULOUS! Ooooo do I have plans…hubby will not understand (lots of eye rolling) but the results will be killah!

  3. Claire says:

    Does anyone know if you can use a metallic paint with this process (to paint laminate furniture)? I am eager to try this out and would love to pain an old laminate table with a metallic (silver) paint. Would this still work? I am incredibly novice and think maybe I should just stick to normal paint but am not sure what other color would work. I’d really appreciate any tips. Thanks.

  4. Jessica says:

    Just refinished a cheap Ikea dresser to look give it a more polished look. These directions were a huge help and worked perfectly. Thank you!

  5. Bridgitte says:

    I was wondering how the finish is holding up, after sliding things across it often? Getting ready to do some bookcases for my office, and I need to make sure it will be pretty durable.

    Thanks for the great advice on here for painting laminate!

  6. Sonja says:

    OMG, thank you so much for the how to. I just bought a large dresser type furniture and have seen a couple of blogs that inspired me but not very much details on the how to. I wrote my notes down and will hopefully start this weekend. Thanks again!

  7. Sonja says:

    Okay question, once you have the rolled & brushed oil based primer on would you use spray paint for your color coats? I am really concerned about brush strokes but it is a rather large piece. Any suggestions or tips? Thanks!

  8. THANK YOU. I got a great round kitchen table off Craig’s List for $50 but did not realize that the top was laminate. Ugh! Gonna paint that baby!!

  9. Rhonda says:

    We had our home painted by professional painters three years ago, and when I asked them about some of our ugly but very functional laminate furniture, they told me to paint it. I’ve been a skeptical about the possible outcome. After seeing your photos, I’m definitely encouraged! It’s going to take work and patience, but I just don’t see the need to go out an buy more furniture. Thank you for taking time to share these photos and details.

  10. The media center looks awesome, what a difference! Thanks for doing that tutorial.

  11. Cristy says:

    I bookmarked your painting tips some time ago. Thank you for the primer tips.

  12. Oh how I wish I would have learned this a year ago! I painted a laminate cubby which was mostly successful, but I cannot tell you how many coats of paint it took. And then I never finished the inside “ceilings” of the cubbies because I was just exhausted. This post gives me new encouragement to finish that cubby and also paint these two hideous discount book shelves I have. Thanks so much!

  13. We painted an old laminate bookcase this weekend. We didn’t use any primer since we didn’t know we were suppose to! It turned out great.

  14. Priscilla says:

    OMG! You dont KNOW…how valuable this info is for me right now!!! I have UGLY furniture that I bought about 7 years ago..wasnt ugly then! hahahaha still its the same type of furniture. I will be doing this on the weekend! ~*~ Priscilla!

  15. Erica Athena says:

    Your media center looks great! I’m actually wanting to do the same to mine but i would like to use metallic paints to give it that old hollywood mirrored effect. Would anyone have any tips on how to go about doing that?

  16. Sara says:

    I am SO glad I found your blog! It is incredibly inspirational to me. I am about to embark on my first laminate painting job, and you’ve given me great hope that it can be a success. Consider yourself bookmarked.


  17. Nicole says:

    A giant big THANK YOU and kindest regards from Germany! This is so helpful – and you do great work!

  18. Courtney says:

    This inspired me to paint my entertainment center. HOWEVER, in the lovely state of Ohio, there was no oil based Zinser to be found – so I got the latex version. I’m proud of myself for being so patient (OMW, it’s so hard!!), but it’s been 4 days, and I can scratch it off still. Boo on you Ohio and your stinkin ban on oil based lovliness. Hopefully a miracle happens in the next 3 days. :)

  19. Sara says:

    I’m baaaaa-aaaaaack! This time to say that my laminate experiment was a success! Thank you for the inspiration, and for giving me the confidence to try this daunting project. You can see my results here, if you like! http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=387698.0

  20. Literally taking notes right now on how to paint laminate! Thank you!

  21. luciana says:

    Hey! Thanks for this tutorial. I was just wondering about peeling the laminate before you paint. Did you peel it all off first? Or paint over it? Did it peel up anywhere after it’s been painted and used?

    Can’t wait to start this project tonight!!

  22. Krista VonCannon says:

    After reading your post, I’m thinking that I could actually paint my cabinets in the kitchen!!

    I love the look of white cabinets and think it would really brighten up my kitchen.

    I did have a question… when painting the piece after priming, do you use the roller or just a brush? If you use the brush, what size brush did you use? And how do you prevent brush strokes?

  23. Paula says:

    Between sanding and painting, do you have to wash the dust off?

  24. […] painting a laminate piece of furniture is not hard. I found a great tutorial on Centsational Girl’s website.  Her instructions are for painting a piece with a roller and brush, but I was feeling […]

  25. Karen says:

    Thanks for this article! It isnpired me to try to paint my nasty bookcase of dark brown wood laminate/over particleboard. I wiped it down but did not sand it as it was so old anyway. I bought some lime green spray paint (Valspar for PLASTICS) and it worked great. Took 3 cans and lots of coats but you only have to wait 5-10 minutes between coats. It looks like I did it with a roller for $15.

  26. thank you thank you thank you thank you!!! I have been wondering for YEARS if I could do this, but never really bothered to research! Thank you so much for this tutorial. Now for some paint shopping!!

  27. Maria says:

    We wanted to paint with acrylic paint hand prints on a bench that is pressed board/finished laminate.
    Is that possible? we do not want to sand or prime it…will the paint stick?
    Thank you so much for your help….I have googled it so much but with no luck

  28. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Maria, unfortunately most acrylic paints will not stay permanent without a primer between the laminate and the acrylic paint. It might “stick” at first, but it will easily scratch off. To make it permanent, use a layer of primer designed for laminates or glossy surfaces.

  29. Patty says:

    I have been planning on painting my already white laminate kitchen cabinets for a while. My only concern is if they peel off or scratch off with frequent use? That would be worse that just leaving them like they are. I have also used that Zinsser product to paint all the workwork in my previous house, as they had spray laquered it after painting it and it worked well. I just don’t want to end up with a scuffed mess. Has anyone put theres to heavy use yet?

  30. Kai says:

    Thank you thank you thank you!

  31. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Patty, I used Zinsser Cover Stain (with Penetrol additive) to paint my kitchen island, no scuffs to date and it’s been two years. The island was painted wood, not laminate, but I’ve used the Zinsser CS on several laminate projects (entertainment center, credenza, shelving) and have been very pleased with the way it holds up. I prefer it to any other bonding primer for laminate or glossy surfaces. Good luck with your kitchen painting project!

  32. […] we primed them.  The best option for painting laminate is to start with an oil based primer.  Kate at Centsational Girl posted details about how to successfully do this.  We may or may not have used oil based primer.  Ok, we didn’t and so far so good.  The […]

  33. deb c., Waterville, Ohio says:

    I painted my laminated (fake wood) paneling in my family room and it looks so great! I also used the Zinsser oil-based primer….it has lasted for years (we did it about ten years ago)! it’s a great product to use…highly recommend it!

  34. CentsationalGirl says:

    Fantastic Deb, thank you for sharing!

  35. Ansley says:

    I have been trying to find the best way to paint furniture. I look up different tutorials and simply try different things for each of my project. I have never used the oil based primer followed by latex paint combo. I’ve used latex paint in the past and it had stuck to items that I put on the piece. Does it not do that with an oil based primer? Or do you put a clear coat (like polycyclic) over it?

    Thanks so much for the info!

    ♥ from my blog to yours!

  36. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Ansley, you can always layer latex or oil based paint over oil based primer, but it doesn’t work that well the other way around – I wouldn’t put oil based paint on top of latex primer, but most of the water based paints these days are so great there’s no need to use oil based paints, the modern enamels are especially nice for furniture.

  37. Abby says:

    Kate, thank you so much for this tutorial! I’m curious about spray paint… I’ve just heard it’s tons easier to deal with. If I use the mentioned oil based primer, what type of spray paint would I use? Thanks again so much!!!

  38. Hi, I painted a laminate table top today, after reading your wonderful blog post. I used exactly the same primer (it’s actually made in Australia, woohoo!) and did everything you said, exactly as you said. No I didn’t sand first. I have put one top coat on and just taken a look at it and there is a chip off the top already. I put my finger nail across it and the paint just all came off. Plus I have major tanin stains on the legs. Isn’t it meant to be a stain blocker? I shook the can before I applied (which is says is okay on the can). I can only guess it might not have been mixed properly. Any ideas? I’m really disappointed with the result. Thanks, Julie

  39. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Julie, so sorry to read this! I haven’t had that kind of problem with the Cover Stain, but yes, it does need to be mixed properly. Also I’m a big believer in scuffing up a piece first with a sanding wedge to “open the pores” to help the primer grab on. I’m so sorry you’re having a bad experience, I have had nothing but success with the product which is why I’m always using it. Try sanding it down in the problem spots and reapplying. Good luck!

  40. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Abby, you can use any spray paint over the oil based primer, I like the RustOleum brand.

  41. teresa says:

    Want to paint my bathroom cabinets quickly and slightly painless process 1st time-original 94 ones as kitchen are too–what type paint product should I get and keep with the primer and minor sanding? Any thoughts on something call bull 1-2-3 or something similar named, My color choice something teal/purplish as gt tiling finally..and next steps will be bathroom walls
    Appreciate any help and tips. Since currently unemployed

  42. Jennifer says:

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it but I read somewhere that vegtable oil will take it off your hands so when I decided to upcycle an entertainment center into a play kitchen of course I got it all over my hands… and arms.. and legs.. and feet.. don’t ask :) anyway I thought I would try the veg oil before I sent hubby out for something and it worked great!!!!! even took it right outta the brush and roller!!

  43. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes isn’t it great Jennifer! Vege oil works perfectly for removing from skin. I haven’t had as great a success with brushes so for those I still use mineral spirits. Thanks for sharing your tip!

  44. Priscilla says:

    Thanks for being so detailed as to why oil based is better than water based.

  45. Donna Frasca says:

    I swear by Zinsser primer – it’s like a miracle in a can. Your cabinets came out gorgeous!!! Hmmmm, I think I want to paint a few things. Thanks for the tip!

  46. Jones says:

    Do they make a zero VOC version? I dont like to be exposed to the poisons in most paints.

  47. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jones, Zinsser makes a low VOC water based primer, but it doesn’t cling as well to laminates IMHO.

  48. kath says:

    Awesome post! If you don’t want to keep harmful materials like mineral spirits around you can use plain coconut or cooking oil to remove the oil paint from your hands. Like removes like, I use this trick all the time works great + you have nice soft hands when you are done :)

  49. CentsationalGirl says:

    so true Kath, I use vegetable oil, works great!!

  50. Donna G says:

    I just purchased some cheap furniture from a model home furniture sale. The laminate is dark and I want to change the color. Knowing that I could use your tutorial for reference, I went ahead and made the purchases. My projects will be a 3 panel hinged shutter screen and a small desk. I’m really excited to begin.

  51. Michelle says:

    Hi! I am so excited about this post. I am only wondering about the piece I want to paint. It is the bathroom vanity and I was wondering if there was an extra step like a finishing coat of something I should add being that it is the bathroom (steam, water splashes, etc).


  52. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Michelle, I’d use an enamel paint, they are harder and glossier and easier to wipe down, or you can use a protective coat like Polycrylic.

  53. christine says:

    Thank you! I’ve been searching for this for years! Thank you – now I cannot wait to get working!

  54. Carissa says:

    Hello –

    I am wanted to paint a dresser for my babies nursery. I am pregnant so I am worried about fumes with oil based primers. I did find that Zinsser carries an odorless oil based primer. Do you think that would work just as well without sanding the dresser first?


  55. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Carissa, I don’t think Zinsser’s oil based primer is odorless, I believe it’s their new and improved water based formula. I tried it once but went back to the oil based, I find it more durable, but you certainly can work with the low VOC version if you prefer.

  56. Hi Kate!
    Did you sand between coats of primer or just slap another coat on top of the first one? Also, are any of your children of the toddler variety and, if so, how do you convince them to take long enough naps to paint an entire piece of furniture?!

    Totally dig your blog!! Thanks for sharing the wealth (of knowledge!!)

  57. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hey Melanie! I did have toddlers once and yes, painting during naptime was a habit back then~
    I only sand any drips or brush marks in between coats, and always lightly, but often it’s not necessary.

  58. Margie Shafer says:

    Thank you for your very clear and thorough explanation and photos of your painting project. Very helpful!

  59. Thank you for illustrating and explaining how to paint laminates. I’m looking forward to trying your techniques on several pieces of mine. I will do a follow up with you. I may include pictures of my work. One thing at a time for me. It’s painting laminate and then taking digital pictures.
    Have a great day.

  60. Michele Herbon says:

    Hey there I was wondering what about cabinets? Same thing? I have cabinets from probably the 80’s and I want them WHITE! So just follow your steps? I do believe they are laminet and they are glossy. Thanks so much for posting this!!!! I’m THRILLED to find this out!!!!

  61. Meredith Galo says:

    Hello! I absolutely love what you did with this piece! This would be perfect for my little ones toy room. I know it was purchased a long time ago, but I would love to find the same unit or one similar. Would you happen to remember the discount furniture store you got it from? I’ve been looking everywhere and I haven’t had any luck. Let me know if you remember. Great job and thanks!!!!

    Meredith Galo

  62. CentsationalGirl says:

    I wish I did Meredith, so sorry, it’s been years!

  63. Lori says:

    I love, love, love the paint color on the walls, which on my iPad looks like a muted grey green with a hint of yellow.. Can you provide the details so I can copy this ;).

  64. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Lori that was a custom mix, but all of the colors of paint on the walls in my home can be seen when you click that tab in the lower sidebar!

  65. Nelanie says:

    I love your blog. I notice you use chalk paint quite a bit on your projects – although not this one. I’ve read you don’t need to use a primer with chalk paint – is that true? And is it true for laminate furniture? I’ve got an Ikea cabinet that I’d LOVE to paint. :) Thanks so much!

  66. Mama B says:

    I’m wondering how it’s holding up? Any flaking/peeling/chipping? I have a few pieces that I’d rather paint than pay to replace, and if this tolerates every day use, I may try my hand at it.

  67. CentsationalGirl says:

    Still looking good Mama B!

  68. Nikki says:

    I painted a laminate dresser and bookshelf white a couple of years ago using the same primer. Both pieces began chipping only a couple of months later. Do you know what I maybe did wrong? And to repaint them how do I get the old paint off of a laminate surface to try again? Thanks!

  69. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Nikki, I’m not sure what went wrong in your case. There’s no need to strip the units, but you might try this product for chipping and/or peeling.
    If you painted with latex, you can repaint over it with more latex paint after you’ve repaired the chips/peels.

  70. Jenn says:

    Do you put any kind of finish on afterwards? Like polyurethane or something like that? Soooo, going to try this with our wood and laminate built in entertainment center. That honey oak color has GOT to go. ;)

  71. CentsationalGirl says:

    Hi Jenn, I mentioned a sewing machine in this post, I hope it’s the one you were thinking of.
    It’s the Singer Quantum Stylist, and it’s been really good to me all these months!

  72. Jenn says:

    No, I was asking about adding a finish afterwards. LOL!

  73. Kevin says:

    Love this post. I will be working on painting some laminate this weekend. Question for you, though. The stuff i will be painting is already white. Do I still need to prime? I didn’t know if the primer was more for covering the wood finish or to help the paint stick better (or both even). Thanks for your help.

  74. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Kevin the primer serves the purpose of bonding the paint to the laminate surface.

  75. Betty819 says:

    Now that Spring has finally showed up the past few weeks, I will be getting out in the garage and sorting out and weeding out of things in those cabinets. I looked in the paint cabinet and there are a lot of paints that I feel need to go. I spied a gallon can of Zinnser Stain blocker/primer and wondering now how long that would keep or if I should just take it to landfill. I thought DH had written on the top of can the date we purchased it but didn’t see that information but know that it has been about 4 years since any painting was done around here.

    High Schools can always use left over paint fro painting props so if the paint isn’t too old, call and offer it to the drama dept.

    If I were doing a small side table, do you think that Zinnser would still be good to use for a primer?
    Is there a specific type of paint roller that you use for painting furniture or do you do all of it by paint brush or spray paint?

  76. Hello,

    I have a table, that has a fake wood panel, I’m trying to paint over it, for a custom table. All my spray paint, keeps cracking and looks horrible. Is this primer what I need to do the table to stop the cracking?

  77. Nnelson914 says:

    Can you use spray paint over the primer?

  78. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes you can Nelson.

  79. CentsationalGirl says:

    Yes Nicole, you need to prime any faux wood surface like laminate or veneer first before painting. :)

  80. BizzyMom says:

    I’m wondering how spray primer works? Would it work just as well? What are your expert thoughts? :)

  81. orangesugar says:

    I use cover stain as a primer almost exclusively. Instead of tossing your roller you can put it in the freezer. I have done this and weeks later when you thaw it out it can be used again. (I do have an extra freezer though, it might stink up your freezer if you only have one.)

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