The Trick To Painting Ikea Furniture's Difficult Surfaces

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If you've ever shopped at Ikea, you know that most of their furniture comes in white, gray, or wood tones. While these neutrals can work for most spaces, perhaps you have a maximalist style that's begging for a brighter shade. On the other hand, maybe you want your piece to pop in your minimalist design.

To change the color, you can't simply sand it down and paint it like you could with furniture from another store. This is because most of IKEA's items, such as the widely popular Kallax Shelf Unit pictured above, are made of coated particle board or engineered wood. This material cannot be sanded down, as this process could damage the surface, and many regular paint primers won't stick to it, either. Instead, there are a couple of specific products you'll need to use to paint these furniture pieces. Further, keep in mind that these tricks will work on anything that is made of engineered wood, not only Ikea furniture.  

Choose the right primer

Before you begin this DIY, if you've already assembled the piece, you may want to take it apart, or if it has just been purchased, wait to assemble it until after all the pieces have dried. This will give you flat surfaces to paint on, which will make the process much easier. 

According to DIY TikToker Peony and Honey, the most important step when painting Ikea furniture is choosing the right primer, as many types won't stick to particle board. She recommends the Shellac B-I-N Primer from Zinsser, which is sold at Home Depot for around $75 a gallon, but you could use any shellac-based primer. This product also comes in spray paint (via Home Depot), which costs about $21 a can and may be easier to use. One to two coats, either rolled or brushed on, should be enough. As pointed out in the TikTok, you may notice bubbles in the primer when applying, but these will disappear quickly. Once dried, this will create the perfect, scratch-proof base to layer on your paint color of choice. 

Deciding upon the correct paint

In the comments of Peony and Honey's TikTok, one viewer asks, "Can you please advise on what paints are suitable to use over this primer on IKEA furniture?" The creator replies, "I recommend an enamel trim paint like Sherwin Williams Emerald Trim Paint — it dries evenly with a hard shell-like coating and is super durable." This product is urethane-based, which means that it's extra long-lasting (via Sherwin-Williams).

Another person in the comments asks a similar question, saying, "Can you only use enamel paints on top?" to which the creator responds, "You can use any water based paint on top." Therefore, the product you choose really depends upon your preferences. If you think the furniture piece will be used for many years to come, you may want to select a stronger paint, but if you're only using it for a short amount of time, something less durable will still get the job done.