Laminate furniture has become very popular for many reasons. It’s durable, less expensive, and easier to clean for kids or pets around the house. It’s available in various colors, and you can also paint laminate to look like a piece of wood furniture – but what steps do you need to follow to make your laminate look like wood?

Here’s how to paint your laminate furniture to look like wood:

  1. Remove drawers, cabinet doors, and hardware.
  2. Sand laminate furniture first before priming.
  3. Make sure to prime laminate furniture before painting.
  4. Apply a coat of semi-gloss paint.
  5. Use a rocker and mixed latex glaze to create a grain texture.
  6. Coat your project with a polyurethane glaze.

In this article, I’ll be showing you how to paint laminate furniture to look like wood. All of the materials are available at your local hardware store. There’s no need for an array of special tools or equipment either: just a few simple objects and household items will do.

1. Remove Drawers, Cabinet Doors, and Hardware

To remove the cabinet doors and hardware from your piece of furniture, you’ll need to remove the screws from the hinges and faceplates.

To do this, use a simple screwdriver that fits the type of screw used on your furniture. Place these parts off to the side somewhere safe where they won’t get tangled up with all other removed pieces.

If the piece you’re working on has drawers, open them so that they lie flat on top of each other without creasing or sticking anywhere along their edges. Use masking tape to tape over the insides of each drawer opening so that they’re nice and neat.

2. Sand Laminate Furniture First Before Priming

To sand your laminate furniture, you will need to start with a coarse grit of sandpaper. This will help you get rid of any rust spots or scuffs that are on your item.

Once you’ve done this, make sure to clean down the laminate surface thoroughly and remove any dust and debris present.

To prepare for painting your laminate furniture, you must first tape off everything around where you’ll be working. This includes taping off the cabinets adjacent to the piece of furniture you’re going to paint and anything else that might be connected, such as countertops or walls.

These surfaces will need to be covered completely so that you don’t accidentally get paint on them while working on the furniture pieces you do want to paint.

3. Make Sure to Prime Laminate Furniture Before Painting

Before you can begin painting your laminate furniture, you will first need to prime the surface. Priming will help ensure a smooth finish so that there are no areas where paint doesn’t stick or peels off after drying.

You will need to prime all surfaces of your piece before moving forward with any other steps like adding color coats or applying protective sealant.

Make sure to use a primer that is designed for laminates, such as the Rust-Oleum Universal Bonding Primer. Spray primers like this will give you a smooth, even coat to work on top of.        

If you need to “paint” on the primer, you can use a paint roller to easily apply it before moving on to painting the laminate furniture. In order to use a paint roller, load it up with sealant and roll it all over surfaces in smooth motions until you’ve covered every inch of the item.

You’ll want to make sure that no areas are missed or skipped. If you do skip areas, they can cause problems later when you try to add color coats or when you try to apply a protective finish like lacquer or varnish.  

It’s also important not to rush when priming. You’ll need to take your time so that you don’t miss any spots! If necessary, work on small sections at a time because it can be challenging to cover the entire item in one go.

After you’ve applied your primer, wait for everything to dry before moving on with color coats.

4. Apply a Coat of Semi-Gloss Paint

Using semi-gloss paint will give you more shine, but it won’t be as glossy as high-gloss paint. Use a paint that’s the color of a wood undertone, such as oak, walnut, or even a simple beige.

Make sure you give the paint enough time to dry before using masking tape to tape off the seams of your door, where the direction of wood grain would typically change.

5. Use a Rocker and Mixed Latex Glaze to Create a Grain Texture

A wood grain rocker tool is likely going to be one of the few additional tools you’ll need to purchase. This tool will help you create a grain effect on your laminate project, making it look like genuine wood rather than simply a coat of paint.

Once your laminate piece is dry and the seams are taped off, you’ll need to mix:

  • One part latex glaze
  • One part medium-toned paint color
  • One part water

This will give you a thinner solution that you can apply with a rocker.

Apply a small amount of this paint mixture to the laminate furniture with a dry brush, following the assumed wood grain direction. Some areas will appear darker than others, but that will only enhance the wood grain effect.

Using a similar ratio, mix up another solution using a darker paint color instead of the medium tone you used first.

Apply a light coat of the darker mixture to the laminate surface, and using the rocker tool, rock it back and forth in one sweeping motion in the direction of the assumed wood grain.

Once you have completed this process in one direction of wood grain, repeat it for any pieces that would naturally go in an opposite direction. Allow the laminate piece to dry before taping the seams and completing the process in the opposite direction.

For a step-by-step on this process, you can refer to this YouTube video from HGTV:

6. Coat Your Project With a Polyurethane Glaze

Once your project is complete and dry, apply a polyurethane glaze. The glaze will add a gloss to your project and protect it from spills.

You should apply two coats of polyurethane glaze. This double coating will provide your furniture with optimum protection and keep the wood look fresh for years to come.


When it comes to finding the right furniture for your home, there are many options. Laminate is an inexpensive and durable option that can be easily wiped clean when kids or pets come in contact with it.

Painting laminate furniture is a popular trend, but you’ll need some extra care before painting to get the look of natural wood without all of the hassles. By following the six steps above, you’ll have your laminate looking like wood in no time flat!

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