How To Paint An Ikea Dresser

You can find almost any furniture at IKEA, but not always in your favorite color. The solution? Paint it! Need help painting an IKEA dresser? Let’s walk through the steps.

painter with paint roller painting a wooden cabinet, How To Paint An Ikea Dresser

We may include affiliate links and curated AI content to highlight top design styles.

Painting an IKEA dresser is a relatively simple job. The steps are nearly the same as painting any wood furniture. But since most are medium-density fiberboard, you can’t sand them down to the wood. So, instead:

  1. Clean the surfaces that will be painted.
  2. Lightly sand the dresser and drawers.
  3. Apply a primer.
  4. Apply the paint.

The steps might seem simple, but making mistakes with the primer and paint is easy. That’s why learning the process beforehand helps a lot. Want to know more? Keep reading!

Painting tan IKEA Dresser

Before we start, let’s clarify a few things. First, you have to check the dresser’s material. IKEA sells dressers made from different materials, some of which are particleboard. 

Others are made of wood like oak, pine, and birch. It’s nearly impossible to confuse authentic wood with the particleboard IKEA uses. 

Get our FREE 7 design style cheat sheets
Subscribe for home design tips & inspiration
Get your free gift: Downloadable design style cheat sheets
Thank you for subscribing!
painting a dresser with dark coating after white coating

Medium Density Fiberboard

If you need help seeing the material composition of your dresser, here’s an example of MDF:

Fragment of a wooden panel made of fiberboard in workshop

As you can see, it looks like wood. But the sides reveal the truth. MDF is an acronym for medium-density fiberboard. It’s like particleboard but denser and stronger. MDF is a mix of sawdust and shavings. 

Manufacturers use resin and wax to hold them together. If you have an MDF dresser, be careful when sanding. Sanding MDF carelessly produces lots of dust that lingers in the air.

It can quickly irritate your lungs and eyes. Luckily, IKEA uses acrylic paint over them, so you won’t have to sand too much. 


If you own a wood dresser, you can follow along without taking extra precautions. You may also sand the dresser down to the bare wood. Of course, that’s if you want it to take on a fresh coat of paint. 

Otherwise, painting over the old acrylic paint should be fine, too. You will need a shellac-based primer to do this. In any case, let’s start preparing the dresser!

Clean The Surfaces You Will Paint

Before you start, clean the surfaces you’ll paint. You can either leave the dresser as is or take out the drawers. Removing the drawers is better since you’ll need to do it anyway, and it prevents painting over gaps.

This way, you won’t have to avoid painting over the gaps. Make sure to leave a space where they can dry. Use a clean cloth and dishwashing detergent to wipe the surfaces.

If you have an MDF dresser, avoid wetting the exposed material. Wipe down only the laminate surfaces to remove grit and grime, then go over them again with a dry cloth.

Lightly Sanding the Dresser and Drawers

Once the surface is dry, grab 120-grit sandpaper. Regardless of the dresser you own, we’ll have to scuff the surface. 

If the dresser is painted, you won’t have to remove the current paint; just sand enough to help the new coat stick and smooth out any imperfections

Keep in mind not to sand the surface too hard. That’s especially the case for MDF dressers. Doing it on wood dressers will create imperfections. 

So, lightly go over the surfaces you will paint with sandpaper. 

Apply A Primer

Fresh tin of paint open

Before painting the dresser, you need to apply a primer. Painting without the primer is not a great idea. Skipping the primer means that you will have to repaint the dresser sooner. 

Without primer, the paint might show the wood grain, struggle to stick, flake, or peel off. It could also raise the grain of wood dressers, leaving a rough surface.

For this step, use a general-purpose primer. Once you finish applying it to the surfaces, follow the primer’s instructions for drying time. 

Applying A Second Coat

Once the first coat of primer dries, sand the surfaces again with 400-grit sandpaper and wipe with a clean rag.

Apply a second coat of primer to create a smooth surface and ensure a strong bond with the paint. Two coats are usually enough, but you can add a third if needed.

Wait for the final coat to cure, which can take a few hours to a few days. Once it’s dry to the touch, you can start painting. However, to avoid issues, it’s best to wait a day or two before painting.

Applying the Paint

Once the primer is ready, lightly sand the surface with 120- or 140-grit sandpaper and wipe away the dust.

Apply the first coat of paint, choosing latex or chalk paint if you like. Follow the manufacturer’s drying instructions, usually taking a day or two. Then, sand the surfaces again.

Wipe the dust off and apply a final coat. Let the dresser and drawers dry for a few days. 

Optional Step

Close up of anonymous female sitting on the chair and dip the paintbrush in the orange paint

As you can see, the painting process isn’t difficult, but it requires patience with drying times between primer and paint.

For extra durability, especially for a kid’s room dresser, consider applying a finish. Use a non-yellowing finish like lacquer or polycrylic to keep the color true.

While not necessary for all furniture, a sealer makes the paint more durable and easier to clean.

Can You Sand and Stain IKEA Furniture?

Rocking a wood’s natural color is the way to go for some people. If you’re one of them, you might be wondering if it’s possible to sand and stain IKEA furniture. After all, one concern comes to mind. 

As mentioned, some IKEA furniture is made of medium-density fiberboard. Surprisingly, it’s possible to stain it! However, it won’t achieve the same effect as it would on authentic wood. 

Click here to see this semi-transparent stain on Amazon.

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) lacks wood grain, so it won’t have a polished, glossy look.

Professional carpenters recommend using a semi-transparent stain for any pressed wood. Check out this YouTube video for more tips if you want to try this project:

What Are Other Ways You Can Update IKEA Furniture?

A fresh coat of paint is the first step to renovating furniture. But it doesn’t have to end there.

You can apply unique designs to the drawer using spare wood. This way, you can add more depth to the appearance.

Here’s a YouTube video with a person’s unique design on the drawers:

The easy way to remodel it would be to change the hardware. So, replace any knobs or handles with new ones.

If your dresser has no knobs or handles, add some! You can apply some contrasting handles to add more color variation to your dresser. 

You can also consider installing unique legs for the dresser! However, that’s a drastic change that won’t please everyone.

In Closing

painter with paint roller painting a wooden cabinet

Painting an IKEA dresser or any dresser is a relatively easy task. Still, waiting is the most painful part of the process. It can take you several days to complete it! In any case, now you have the steps to paint your IKEA dresser. 

We hope you found the information above helpful. Before you go, do you need help painting other furniture?

What about the Ikea Kallax? If you need help with painting, check out:

Can You Paint The Ikea Kallax? [And How To]

Are you planning to paint your interior doors? We can help in that area, too! For more information, check out:

What Color To Paint Interior Doors (6 Suggestions With Pictures)

Get our FREE 7 design style cheat sheets
Subscribe for home design tips & inspiration
Get your free gift: Downloadable design style cheat sheets
Thank you for subscribing!
Share with a friend -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *