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How to Paint Laminate Furniture

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This month we moved into our new home.  I feel like a kid in a candy store, so many rooms to decorate and projects to do!  I’ve had these ideas in my head for months and they are finally coming to fruition.  My first project, kind of out of necessity, is my daughter’s play room.  We actually have a whole room dedicated to her toys, amazing!  I’m sharing all the details on how to paint laminate.  

I want to share this room with you piece by piece.  My plan is a primary colored fun room, something I am too scared to do in a bedroom.  But to keep it temporary I’m not painting the walls, just pops of color everywhere.  To start I am going to Paint Laminate Furniture!  It’s possible and is a great way to bring life to old dull furniture.

This post contains affiliate links, you can view my full disclosure here.

How to Paint Laminate Furniture - keep that old bookcase

I got this bookcase second-hand and it lived in the basement of our old house.  It has good bones but wasn’t pretty to look at.

bookshelf before

This is a laminate bookcase and YES you can Paint Laminate Furniture.  I did some research and asked some questions to make sure I did this right.  The blog I found that made me say “yes I can” is here.  Check her out.

Here is what I used:

Primer, specifically Zinsser Cover Stain PrimerGet yours here and read on to see why this is THE product to use. 


Roller (x2)

Brush (x2)

Wrapping paper

Hot Glue

I started by cleaning it and removing the shelves and back.  There is one fixed shelf in this piece that stayed put.

To prime it, a necessity, I used Zinsser Cover Stain Primer.


Laminate is glossy and this thick sticky oil based primer works great to cover it up without sanding.  A primer is key to a smooth paint-able surface.

Since this is oil based it doesn’t clean up easily so I purchased a cheap roller, pan, and brush; about $5 total.  That way I could throw it all away and not worry about the clean up.  I did end up with a few splatters on my hands that scrubbed off in a day or so.

I primed away using the roller for the large flat areas and a small brush for the corners.

20130514_082827 20130514_083751

The primer dried quickly and I was able to move on to the paint after an hour.

I chose an ultra white semi gloss latex based paint for the finish.  For this I used a nicer roller and brush, I was able to clean them up afterwards.  A good roller and brush won’t leave residue behind.

I did 2 coats, letting the first dry about an hour before applying the second.

20130514_093539 20130514_093546

The result was a smooth, slightly glossy finish, so much better than fake wood brown.

Next up was the back.  On this piece, and most inexpensive bookshelves, you have a piece of flimsy wood that is nailed to the back.  I removed this and covered it with a bold wrapping paper.

red and white wrapping paper for the back of a bookcase

I bought this paper on clearance many January’s ago intending to use it the next Christmas.  I love it but just never got around to using it.

It was destined to be a focal point in the playroom.

I laid a long piece of wrapping paper on the floor and laid my backing on top.  Then I “wrapped” the back and secured the edges with hot glue.

back of bookcase - how to paint laminate furniture

back of bookcase - how to paint laminate furniture

This paper is thin and down the road will probably tear.  But it’s easily removable and can be swapped out for another style when I ready for a change.  UPDATE – this paper has not torn and we are 4 years in.  This bookcase gets a lot of use too.  

How to paint laminate furniture - back of bookcase covered in wrapping paper

Then I reattached the back, mounted the shelves, and the bookcase was ready for the room.

How to paint laminate furniture - finished painted and wrapped bookcase

how to paint laminate furniture

It’s an awesome first piece.  This room is really a blank slate.

Next up..some colorful eclectic wall art.  Stay tuned!

Creative Ramblings signature


Be sure to check out these furniture projects for more inspiration

cozy colorful foyer bench in yellow

Modern updated wall curio


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Monday 2nd of May 2022

Perfect ish timing to find this post! I'm in the process of rehabbing two of these identical bookcases. Im almost finished with one and every time I hit it, the paint slides off like butter. It has two coats of primer! The apparently important detail is to USE OIL based primer, which I did not do. šŸ˜ I will be going to get a can of oil based for the second shelf to test the difference. Thanks for your information!


Monday 6th of April 2020

Love this ! Could you put another color over the primer then? Iā€™m trying to turn white laminate into green ! Thanks !


Monday 27th of April 2020

Yes absolutely, no need to stick with just white.


Sunday 11th of February 2018

How's your paint holding up to thus day?? LookS amazing!!;)


Monday 12th of February 2018

Really well, and this bookshelf is in our playroom so it gets a lot of use. It has a few knicks from kids toys but I would expect that with any piece of furniture.

Darlene Ernst

Friday 18th of August 2017

I am getting ready to paint my old Sauder bookcases. I'm using black chalk paint and leaving the oak top and shelves as they are. The back of my bookcases is, as usual, very cheap and flimsy particle board that has bowed over the years. When you had the back of your's out, did you notice how sturdy the bookcase was without it? I would like to just leave the back off so my white walls will show and brighten the shelves up a bit but I'm wondering if the case will be wobble without it.


Monday 21st of August 2017

The backing on my bookcase doesn't do much to hold it up. I am glad I put it back on because it's in my kid's playroom and the back keep little stuff contained. I would give ti a try and see how it holds up, best of luck with your project.


Sunday 9th of July 2017

How many coats of primer did you use? I did a laminate bookcase very similar to yours, but apparently didn't use right primer or enough of it. The frame and fixed shelves were spray painted and have held up well but the removable shelves were hand painted on top of paint/primer and they have peeled. I used wallpaper on the back that I got at my local Habitat ReStore for $1 and it looks great! I'm glad only the removable shelves are giving me a problem, that's an easier fix. Any suggestions on removing paint from them without removing laminate itself?


Monday 10th of July 2017

Hi Terry, sorry your paint is peeling but yes glad it's only on the removable shelves. For mine, I used 1 coat of primer, 2 in some tough to cover spots. It's key to use an oil based stain covering primer that will allow the top coat to stick to it. As far as removing it you could try scrapping very carefully. If it's already peeling that might be a good option. Otherwise look for a chemical paint stripper. Best of luck on your project.

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