Learn how to paint an IKEA piece of furniture for a custom look, on a budget! A few years ago I shared our affordable TV console made of IKEA BESTA cabinets. Today I’m excited to share an update! This post is all about the best paint and shellac-based primer I use for painting IKEA furniture, plus my step-by-step process for the best results.

If you want to make over a cheap piece of furniture with a laminate surface, keep reading! This is an easy DIY project that will make a huge difference.

More IKEA hacks:

Laminate IKEA Cabinets Before Painting

Here is a before view of our living room. Last year I worked on making this space cozier with earth tones and texture. Then, in January I set goals for new home projects including a TV wall refresh! 

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I was ready for a change, but I could not part with our media console because the size and storage is amazing for our open concept living room. (For reference, the console is 94.5 inches wide under a 65 inch TV.)

The first step in our living room makeover was to refresh the TV console with a warm gray paint color to contrast the white walls.

Related: Easy DIY Picture Frame Molding

The Best Primer, Paint, and Tools for Painting IKEA Furniture

I am by no means an expert furniture painter, but I do love to research before beginning any project! Here are the products I ended up selecting for painting our IKEA media console.

1. Zinsser BIN Shellac-Based Primer

If you are comparing blog posts about how to paint IKEA laminate furniture, you have probably read about Zinsser BIN shellac-based primer. There are actually two BIN primers to choose from: shellac and synthetic shellac.

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Option 1: Synthetic Shellac (What I Used)

I decided to use the BIN Advanced Synthetic Shellac Primer. It was the middle of winter, and I wanted a low odor product that I could use in my living room. It also cleans up easily with soap and water! Since our media console will only receive light use, the synthetic shellac was fine for me.

Option 2: Shellac Base (The Best Primer)

However, the general consensus is that the BIN Shellac Base Primer is the holy grail product with the most durable finish. So, if your IKEA furniture will receive heavy traffic–for example, a table or bookshelf–and you are able to paint in a well ventilated space, then the real shellac base is the right primer for you. Just note that it has a strong odor and requires denatured alcohol for cleanup.

2. Latex Paint for Laminate IKEA Furniture

My favorite paint is Behr Marquee because many of the colors are one coat guaranteed! It is also low odor and cleans up easily with soap and water. For the media console, I used the color Greige (in satin finish) which is a beautiful warm gray. It is a bit darker and more gray (versus beige) than the color I used for my interior doors.

You can also use oil-based paint or chalk paint on furniture. Read about different types of paint for furniture if you are curious about the pros and cons of each!

3. Top Coat for Sealing a Piece of IKEA Furniture

It may be a good idea to seal your IKEA piece with a protective clear coat, depending on how much the piece will be used. I didn’t seal our media console, but I would seal a table or any high traffic area piece. Minwax Polycrylic and General Finishes Topcoat are good options. Always test your top coat on an inconspicuous area of your furniture to make sure it does not discolor the paint!

4. Mini Paint Rollers, Trays, and Paint Brush

Used for both the primer and paint! I used this high density mini paint roller (it comes with the frame) and extra rollers. Don’t forget a mini paint trays too! To cut in around the trim and legs, I used this 1-1/2 inch nylon/polyester angle brush.

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5. Fine Grit Sandpaper or Sanding Sponge and Tack Cloth

Sanding is not essential, but you may want to do a light sand between coats of paint to ensure a smooth finish. I used my favorite 120 grit dust channeling sanding block and this tack cloth.

6. Basic Supplies for Painting IKEA Furniture 

Don’t forget painter’s tape if you need to protect furniture legs or hardware and a drop cloth if you need to protect your floor. Also, remember to pick up a paint stick (or two) and can opener at the paint counter. Finally, have a clean microfiber damp cloth on hand to wipe down your piece before starting!

Painting Process for IKEA Laminate Furniture

And now for the step-by-step process of painting IKEA furniture! I am not an expert, but I am so pleased with how this piece turned out.

Cleaning media console with a microfiber cloth before painting IKEA furniture, how to paint IKEA furniture guide, paint cheap laminate furniture

Side note: I used kraft paper instead of a drop cloth because it is what I had on hand. However, I recommend using a plastic or canvas drop cloth for better coverage!

1. Remove hardware

Begin by removing any knobs or pulls on your IKEA furniture. You may also wish to disassemble your piece for the best paint job. 

Since I only planned to paint the outside of our media console, I did not take it apart. But a few areas were hard to reach, such as around the door hinges, so you may prefer to remove the doors.

2. Lightly sand the IKEA furniture

I do not think that sanding is absolutely necessary, but I did it just to be safe. If you do give your IKEA piece a light sand, be sure to wipe it down after with a tack cloth to remove dust.

If you choose not to sand, you may still want to wipe down the furniture with a slightly damp microfiber cloth to remove any grime or fingerprints.

3. Apply two thin coats of primer

Time to paint! Begin with two thin coats of primer. Cut in using a paint brush around the decorative trim, and then use a foam roller for the rest. Be sure to allow the piece to dry between coats.

Pro tip: Sand lightly between coats and wipe down with a tack cloth to ensure a smooth finish.

4. Apply two thin coats of paint

Next, apply two thin coats of paint, allowing the IKEA piece to dry between coats.

Pro tip: Again, do a light sand between coats and wipe down with a tack cloth for the best finish.

Rolling gray paint on IKEA media console in living room with white walls and faux olive tree, how to paint IKEA furniture guide, paint cheap laminate furniture

5. Apply top coat if desired

Finally, as I mentioned above, you may choose to use a top coat if your IKEA furniture is likely to be bumped or scratched. I would recommend using a top coat for a table, coffee table, or bookshelf.

Before applying a protective top coat, test it on an inconspicuous area and allow to dry in order to be sure it does not yellow the paint. Better safe than sorry!

Painting IKEA Furniture: Before and After

And here is the after of our IKEA media console! I cannot get over how high end it looks thanks to a few coats of paint. I still need to finish off the new look by painting the metal legs to match the brass knobs. The best thing to do would be to remove the legs and spray paint them, but I may try applying Rub ‘n Buff by hand.

Related: Easy DIYs + Home Upgrades

IKEA BESTA media console painted gray, round wood coffee table, tv with landscape painting on screen. Painting IKEA furniture for a high end look
how to paint IKEA furniture, guide to painting IKEA furniture, the best primer for laminate furniture, IKEA BESTA media console ideas
open concept living room with IKEA media console, wood frame accent chairs, vintage look rug, round coffee table, olive tree

In this image I photoshopped out my sound bar, just to see how it would look!

Related: How to Display Art on a TV

Placing a planter on the coffee table in front of newly painted IKEA media console and faux olive tree

I hope you found this post helpful if you will be painting IKEA furniture! If you would like to know which IKEA parts I used to build our furniture piece, check out this post.

Please let me know in the comments if you use this guide, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have!

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  1. Hi Caitlin, may I ask what colour of paint is on your living room wall. I can see it looks white but is it a particular shade?

    1. Hi Jan! Our living room walls are Polar Behr by Behr Paint in eggshell.

  2. This is EXACTLY what I need to do – so glad I came across your makeover.

    1. I’m glad it was helpful! 🙂

  3. Love this 🙂
    We’re about to paint some IKEA furniture and I would love an update on the primer and paint choices. Are you still happy with that primer choice a few months on?
    Cheers again for the clear explainer!

    1. Hi Rhiannon! Thanks so much for the comment 🙂 Overall I am happy with my paint choices. There are a few places where the paint has gotten nicked. If you are able to paint in a well-ventilated space I would use the BIN Shellac Based Primer instead, as I mentioned above. It is an even better primer than the one I used and would be better for high traffic pieces.

      But if you plan to be gentle with your furniture, the synthetic version should be okay! Thanks again for the kind comment and best of luck!

      1. Thanks for the great post! I used a different all purpose primer I had on hand and unfortunately I’m getting nicks while assembling the piece (I painted before I assembled for the first time). Not sure if It just needs more time to cure or if it needs a top coat sealer. How long would you generally wait to assemble a freshly painted piece?

        1. Hi Marie! Unfortunately not all primers will work well on IKEA furniture. The best one to use is the BIN Shellac Based Primer because it adheres well to shiny surfaces.

          However, if you already painted the piece then I would just be as careful as possible while assembling and touch it up after. Depending on what type of paint you used, it could take several weeks for the paint to cure completely.

          As for topcoat, Minwax Polycrylic and General Finishes Topcoat are good options. I would test the topcoat on an inconspicuous area of your furniture just to make sure it doesn’t discolor your paint.

  4. Hi Caitlin! Where did you find the art work for your TV? I love the scene of the cottages.

  5. Hi,
    I love your hack and I am in the process of ordering but we would put our TV (65in) on top of the cabinet. Do you think this would work?

    1. Hi Mari! That should be fine, as long as the TV supports are on the sides of the TV and not the center. I would not want the TV support in the center since this is actually two cabinets, so there is a seam in the middle. Hope that makes sense!

  6. Hi! Lovely job on your console! Quick question! Is your couch as cozy as it looks and if so where can I get one!? Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Natasha! Thanks so much! 🙂 Our sectional was from a local furniture store almost 10 years ago and unfortunately I never found it online. It was the Tribeca Sectional by Broyhill. Last year we replaced our living room furniture if you would like to see the new setup! Here is the post: Organic Modern Living Room Progress

  7. Hi there
    I was wondering how did you get success with the bin synthetic shellac? I used it on my kallax ikea but didnt pass the scratch test. It scratched off with ease after drying. What am I doing wrong. I just bought the kallax new so no need for sanding and it’s disassembled.

    1. Hi Jennifer! If your Kallax is disassembled, I would recommend using the BIN Shellac Based Primer. It is the “holy grail” product and has better durability than the Synthetic.

      I went with the Synthetic because my furniture was already assembled and I could not get it into my garage to have better ventilation. Once I completed my media console and let it dry for several days, it did not scratch as easily. If I scratch very hard I could probably still scratch it, and it has a few nicks. But overall it has held up well even with the Synthetic.

      Still, I would use the BIN Shellac Based Primer if possible because it is the best. Hope that helps!

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