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How to paint Ikea furniture

Updated on August 12, 2012


Ikea furniture is convenient for college kids or those on a budget. As well, it's easy to move and assemble. It's not difficult to paint Ikea furniture if you'd like to change your your room colors, or if a piece has become scratched and worn. Here are the instructions from when I painted my Ikea UTBY bar table.


1. Assemble your materials.

  • paintbrush
  • dropcloths
  • primer
  • paint
  • brush cleaner

Most Ikea furniture is Melamine finish or MDF, rather than being made of natural wood. You can tell if your furniture if melamine when you look at the back or bottom. If it appears as pressed particle board or chipboard rather than 100% real wood, then you must take care to use the appropriate paint.

2. Prepare your surface and use your primer

First, make sure that your furniture surface is clearn from any dirt or residue. Some people will take apart their Ikea furniture, for this table I did not.

I specifically used a melamine primer. Any primer will do, but look for one that is for melamine or for slick surfaces, for adhesion purposes. One example is this Adhesion Primer from Sherwin Williams.

Here you see my black table, the primer is white. My primer recommended 2 hours of drying time and then a second coat. Follow your primer's instructions regarding drying time, and try to work in a well-ventilated room or outside!

3. Next the final coat of paint

After your primer coat(s) are dry, it's time to add the final coat of paint. I chose a high gloss black latex enamel paint. The important thing is to choose a paint that will match the purpose. For example, if you are painting a kitchen table, you need a paint that will withstand daily soap and water, instead of a bookshelf which probably won't get wet.

Follow the instructions on your paint, to add either one or two coats. Here I used two. Allow enough time for the final coat to dry before putting anything on your newly painted surfaces.


1. Do I need to sand my furniture before painting it?

No. If you are painting 'real' wood furniture, you can sand it and then paint it. Because we are painting 'fake' wood, it instead needs primer only, no sanding. Even worse, I'm not sure that some of the mdf Ikea furniture would survive sanding!

2. What if I decide to skip the primer?

Your only option to not use primer would be to find a 'melamine with primer built in' paint, although there are not so many companies selling such products. Check out Behr's paint and primer as an 'all in one' option. If you use 'regular paint only' with no primer, you'll run into hassles later, the paint will not stick correctly to the slick Ikea surfaces.

3. Where can I buy these materials?

Try your local hardware store, big box hardware stores such as Lowe's or Home Depot, or paint stores. As well, don't forget ebay and freecycle.

What kind of Ikea furniture do you want to paint?

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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I guess not...:S

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Looks nice. Thanks for posting with pictures.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      how is it lasting? Is it chipping?

    • uk_american profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Many thanks for the kind words and encouragement, the table is still looking good.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Good info, and I have to say, that black table turned out great! What a transformation.


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