white and brown table lamp on white wooden table

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If you ever are wondering how to paint laminate furniture with zero prep work, I discovered a quick and easy DIY way to make a paint that will stick with minimal prep work – no sanding necessary!

What is Laminate Furniture?

Laminate furniture is basically furniture made out of either particle board or MDF and then covered with type of veneer.

Many popular inexpensive furniture manufacturer companies use laminate in the furniture – Ikea, Sauder – and even sometimes the big expensive brand names use laminate.

It gained most of its popularity in the late 1980’s and 1990’s – which is not surprising since that is when companies were looking for ways to make things more affordable.

Laminate furniture can be inexpensive to buy or even find for free from people who are giving it away – but the downside is the fake wood look can sometimes be a bit discouraging to deal with.

Painting laminate furniture is also a HUGE pain compared to painting real wood. When I painted my wood desk makeover, I did it in under an hour! Laminate however usually needs a LOT more prep work.

Before I share with you my secret trick for how to paint laminate furniture with zero prep work (it’s seriously so easy – you don’t even need to sand unless you want to!) – let’s look at the traditional method of painting old plywood furniture with a veneer coat.

The Hard Way to Prepare to Paint Laminate Furniture

Most laminate furniture has a bit of a glossy coating to it – and if you’ve ever tried painting it before, you’ve probably found yourself frustrated that the paint starts chipping/scraping off if you didn’t properly prepare it before you painted.

Sometimes this means sanding it first with a heavy grit sandpaper to rough it up and then painting and then sanding again and then painting again. That’s probably the “proper” and “best practice” method – but it’s also very time consuming and a lot of labor if you are working on a bigger piece.

My Top Secret Paint Formula to Paint Laminate Furniture Without Sanding

My secret trick for painting laminate furniture with no sanding is all in the type of paint you use.

A lot of people like to use chalk paint, and it’s true – you probably could get away with chalk paint – however chalk paint is pretty expensive AND it’s not always easy to find.

I’ve done a lot of research on paint formulas – for example everyone’s really expensive beloved chalk paint {which also doesn’t require much prep work before you use it} – typically is nothing more than some cheap flat latex paint you can buy for $9 a gallon at any home improvement store mixed with calcium carbonate powder.

Making your own chalk paint is way cheaper and more economical than the fancy stuff they sell at the stores. I’ve used it before and it works really well.

But, alas this particular day I didn’t have any latex paint, and if I were to share my honest opinion, I really prefer working with acrylic paint and I hate mixing powders together – it’s messy and requires precise measuring!

Instead, I figured out a method that actually works great – and you likely already have what you already need – especially if you do a lot of decoupage!

Latex paint technically isn’t that much different from acrylic paint other than the fact that it has way less acrylic resins in it – hence why it doesn’t stick that well to stuff when not properly mixed – not to mention it generally doesn’t cover as well as straight up acrylic paints.

Is Acrylic paint more expensive than Latex? Yes and no. If I were to use my favorite studio quality acrylic art paints such as Golden or Liquitex brand, most definitely you are going to pay a LOT more for the acrylic.

But, if you go to the craft paints section and pick up some Acrylic craft paints, which usually aren’t quite as well pigmented but still do the job – you might find them for anywhere from $1 for a very tiny bottle to $4 for an entire gallon. The other advantage to this is you can really easily pick almost any color without having to wait for someone to mix it – quite possibly even mixing up your own shades & styles.

So, if you’re wondering how to paint laminate furniture cheaply, without sanding or other prep work, and be assured that the paint stays on after several years, I’ve made a magic super top-secret formula that works great. {It’s not really magic or top secret, but I enjoy calling it that, lol – I don’t think I’ve seen too many people use this trick!}

Here’s How to Paint Laminate Furniture With Zero Prep Work

If you noticed in my picture above, I’ll show you again below – you’ll see my handy dandy trusty Mod Podge and some cheap Apple Barrel Acrylic paints, both of which are made by a company called Plaid.

To make this paint, all you need is any type of cheap craft acrylic paint in any color. The only important thing here is make sure you choose matte finish instead of gloss.

The gloss paint probably will work just fine, but it won’t necessarily look the way you want it to – for whatever reason I think the matte finish makes it look more authentic instead of looking like laminate.

But I suppose it’s all a matter of personal preference and the style you want to achieve.

And then, of course, matte mod podge. Mod Podge is awesome – I bought a giant 1 gallon container of it because I use it for a lot of different projects – not just painting laminate furniture. Although, if you do paint a lot of laminate furniture, the gallon size will come in handy!

I use it for collage, decoupage, for painting all sorts of stuff I’m feeling a bit too lazy to sand down properly. This also is a good way to paint metal I’ve found. See, this secret paint recipe is not just for laminate painting – but this formula works on almost anything!

how to paint laminate

My Magic Secret Paint Formula to Paint Laminate Furniture (And Anything Else You Don’t Want to Sand!)

My magic secret paint formula is obviously not very top secret since I’m sharing it here, but you will definitely feel like it works like magic once you use it!

Here’s the ratio I use:

  • 1 cup of Acrylic Craft Paint {which is about half of the 16 oz jar shown above}
  • 1/4 cup Mod Podge

Sometimes I’ll mix in darker shades of acrylic craft paint & mix in with the white paint to get a lighter shade and stretch the color pigmented paint even farther!

Mix this formula thoroughly – you can use a thick oversized popsicle stick or paint stick.

If you want to go for a whitewashed brushed on paint shabby look, you can also mix in other colors but don’t be too concerned with mixing the colors perfectly or consistently – having little subtle differences between brush strokes sometimes adds to the effect!

Mod Podge CS11304 Waterbase Sealer, Glue and Finish, 128 oz, Matte

$53.29
$42.52
 in stock
11 new from $40.02
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of May 22, 2024 8:50 am

Why Does This Paint Recipe for Laminate Furniture Work?

The science of paint and glue is pretty fascinating. Most paint is made of two things – pigment {this is the color} – and then the binder {in this case, acrylic is used as the binder}.

I’ve noticed with other craft projects, acrylic paint can sometimes double as being used as glue – it’s not the strongest hold, but it will work if you’re painting and collaging or art journaling.

Mod Podge doesn’t work very well in books or journals because it is very, very tacky and sticky – using mod Podge is a guaranteed way to ruin an art journal – and it’s not exactly a sealer for this reason, even though many people think it is used that way.

Mod Podge is sort of like clear glue {though not quite the same as Elmers glue} – and it’s the tackiness that allows it to really truly grip onto the laminate without needing any sort of prep work beforehand.

Mod Podge CS11304 Waterbase Sealer, Glue and Finish, 128 oz, Matte

$53.29
$42.52
 in stock
11 new from $40.02
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of May 22, 2024 8:50 am

Tips for Painting Laminate Furniture With This Paint

When you paint your item using this recipe, you want to make sure you’re working on a dry day – too much humidity or moisture in the air can cause this to take forever to dry.

For even paint coverage on your item, I recommend using foam brushes – but of course you can also always use a 1″ or 2″ brush if you prefer a brushed on shabby look – that is often my preference because it still looks great but doesn’t require being perfect or even and consistent.

The best part of course is once after the paint is fully dry for 24-48 hours {depending on climate conditions and weather} – you are NOT going to get that paint off unless you take a sander to it! The magic of glue and adhesives!


Have you tried this method of painting laminate furniture before? Have a paint and glue recipe you’d like to share or have questions about using Mod Podge mixed with acrylic paint? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

26 Comments

  1. Thank you because I have wondered how I was going to paint an old dresser I took home from someone throwing it away. Now I wanted a mettallic chrome look so this helps

  2. How much will the above ratio cover? I’m wanting to do an old desk, cabinet, and night table all to match and needed to know how much to buy of the paint and modppdge.

    1. Hi Veronica, it depends on the project. Fortunately, that ratio works for any amount you need to make, just double the quantities like you would for a kitchen recipe!

  3. Hi! I had a large, round, 48” low laminate table, something from a kindergarten. I sanded it, applied 3 coats of white primer, then 2 coats each of a white latex paint, and white spray paint. Then someone suggested acrylic? And I added 2 more coats! No matter what I do, it looks “off white,” or gray, depending on the light! I wouldn’t mind, but I am trying to make an American flag on the top? As a lasting family piece, with the names of of our lost military family members. And off -white and gray will not do! Not to honor our flag, or our service members! Any help would be greatly appreciated! I’m rushing to get it done by July 4th! THANK YOU!!

    1. Hi Cindy, sometimes the problem can be the paint, other times it can just be the lighting. I would probably recommend using a high gloss titanium white paint, with primer underneath. Hope that helps, it sounds like a beautiful project to honor veterans & those currently serving our country!

      1. If you tend to keep brushing across things that aren’t free of all oils or dust, etc. It will give that gray look…

  4. I found this technique on painting mason jars by accident! I had a different brand of podge which is in a white bottle I mistaking my mixed it in with my acrylic paint thinking it was white paint!🤣 It turned out beautifully! I am going to do this more often! Thanks for info😊

  5. Hey there, I was wondering can I mix the modge podge with Enamel paint? This is such awesome advice, if not happy to use acrylic 🙂

  6. Hi, This may be the answer to my dilemma. I painted laminate file cabinets with spray paint. 3 coats. I’m worried that it will just peel off because I didn’t sand them first. Do you think the mod-podge is the solution?

  7. This is an awesome technique that I am excited to try. I have a built in hutch that is laminate. My plan is to paint it with a coastal theme. I have a few questions before I begin this project:
    1. Should I prime the laminate first?
    I like the idea of ModgePodge and acrylic paints as I can mix up several different colors to paint scenery.
    2. When finished should I go over it with only ModgePodge to seal it?

  8. Hi Suzie! Laminate is not porous like wood so only needs primed if you are painting a lighter color and worried the paint won’t cover it up or that you’d need a lot of coats to cover it – you will definitely want to make sure the primer is also mixed with glue or mod podge and I would probably recommend waiting a few days so the primer is fully dry + adhered to the laminate. Sealer will definitely help preserve your artwork and make it easier to clean!

  9. Hi Chelle,
    Thanks for your quick response. I have one more question. So, if I do prime/Mod Podge first do I need to add Mod Podge/glue to me colored paints? Or can I can it and then seal with Mod Podge?

    1. As long as you put the mod podge or glue in the primer coat it shouldn’t need any additional mod podge for other layers although sealing it afterwards is a good idea. I would make sure the primer/glue first coat is fully dry though before the next layer of acrylic. Hope that helps!

  10. Want to paint over a laminate desk. I am going to try your suggestions for Mod Podge/Acrylic paint. Is there a certain type of Mod Podge sealer I should use as a final coat? Because it is a desk, I want a strong final coat. Ever use a varnish?

    1. Varnish would definitely be a good choice afterwards to protect it from scratches. If you do want a very strong coat for something that will get a lot of wear + tear though it might be better to sand down + paint just because laminate is pretty easy to scratch through. Help that helps!

  11. I have a can of oil based polyurethane lying in my storeroom. Can I use them as top coat over it (acrylic+mod podge)? Or do I have to stick with water based poly (since acrylic paint is water-based)?

  12. I haven’t tried that + probably would need someone way better at chemistry to know for sure — what I would do is probably try it on a test piece first! If you learn whether it works or not I’d love to hear back from you!

  13. I have a laminate dresser I want to paint and also apply a fabric material to the front. If I use your formula, can I skip the application of pure mod podge and just directly do the iron on method (after the paint/mod podge dries)?

    1. Hi Marci, I don’t have a lot of experience with the iron on method – I would probably recommend doing a test on a piece of scrap laminate wood to see if it gives you the result you like, or you can always alternatively sand it first if need be!

  14. Will your technique work on MDF that hasn’t been painted or sealed yet? I’m working on a dollhouse & would rather not buy huge cans of product. Thanks!

    april.

    1. Hi April! Brand new MDF tends to absorb a LOT of paint – I’ve assembled a couple of Real Good Toys dollhouses and they really do use up a LOT of paint! Typically about a quart of paint will do the trick, but a gallon is sometimes actually cheaper! I would probably start by priming it first with white base coat and sand between coats to get a nice smooth finish. I actually have some tips on painting dollhouses on a different site I have specifically on all things dollhouses – https://tinycrafter.com/how-to-paint-a-dollhouse/ – hopefully that will help you!

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