How To Paint A Laminate Bookcase [5 Steps]

Laminate furniture is a great, budget-friendly way to add accent furniture to your home. Laminate coffee tables, end tables, and even bookcases can be purchased to reduce your furniture cost. One drawback, though, is it might be difficult to change the appearance of these pieces due to their non-porous surfaces. The good news is it can be done with a little bit of patience and know-how. If you’re wondering how to paint a laminate bookcase, we have done the research to bring you the answer. 

Painting a laminate bookcase is similar in procedure to painting non-laminate furniture, with one important step. Primer is absolutely necessary when painting laminate furniture because it prepares the surface to be able to hold paint without peeling off. Here are the steps you can follow to paint your laminate bookcase: 

  1.  Remove hardware 
  2. Clean and prep surface
  3. Apply primer 
  4. Paint surface 
  5. Re-install hardware and decorate the bookcase 

Sounds easy enough, right? Keep reading to learn more about each of these steps, including important tips to make your paint job easier. 

Picture of Cozy Lounge Chair in Domestic Living room with bookcase at the back, How To Paint A Laminate Bookcase [5 Steps]

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Painting Your Laminate Bookcase 

Before you begin your project, make sure you have all the supplies you need. Make sure you have your paint and primer as well as all the tools you will need.

Depending on the size of your bookcase, you can use either paint rollers or brushes to apply the paint and primer and trays to pour your paint and primer in. If you have hardware on your bookcase, have a screwdriver ready to remove it. If you’re doing a pattern or more than one paint color, painter’s tape will keep your lines neat. You also want a cloth or tarp to protect the area you’ll be painting on. 

Step One: Removing Hardware 

If your bookcase has any drawers or cabinets with pulls, you will want to remove the hardware before you begin painting. You can also remove the cabinets and drawers themselves to make them easier to paint and ensure that they aren’t in the way while you are painting the main piece. Any accents should be removed as well. Put them aside until your piece is finished. 

Step Two: Cleaning And Prepping The Surface 

Unless your bookcase is brand new, and even if it is, you are going to want to give it a good scrub before you begin to paint it. Simple soap and water should do the trick. Use a scrub brush or sponge to get those areas that need more of a scrub. Make sure you remove anything stuck on the surface, and well as any marks. You can also use a mark remover such as Goo Gone if necessary.

You’ll want a nice smooth surface before you begin painting. While marks might get covered through the priming and painting process, stuck on bits before you start painting will still be there when you are done. So you want to take your time during this step and make sure everything is smooth and clean. 

If you’re just taking your bookcase out of the box, still give it a good wipe down before you begin your project. Your finished project will look much better if you make sure there is no dirt or dust on your bookcase before you begin. 

Step Three: Applying The Primer 

Primer is a must when painting laminate furniture. Because laminate is so smooth, it cannot grip the paint and hold it on the surface. If you attempt to paint laminate without a primer, the paint will likely peel off. Primer prevents this from happening by giving the surface a texture that paint can adhere to. 

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Click here to see this primer on Amazon.

Apply the primer to any surface that will be painted. You can use a paint roller for larger areas or a paintbrush for any smaller areas, such as shelves. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the number of coats and drying time. While you may only need one coat with some primers, you may find other primers suggest two. You can also take a look at your piece to see if you think it needs more coverage.

Click here to see this paint set on Amazon.

Drying time varies as well. Some manufacturers will suggest drying overnight while others may suggest a drying time of multiple days. Exercise patience during this step! The better your primer performs, the better your final product will look. So, don’t cut corners or rush the drying time. 

Step Four: Painting The Surface 

After you are sure that your primer is sufficiently dry, you can begin painting. If you are painting the entire piece one color, this step will be straightforward, much like you would paint any piece.

If you are using multiple colors or patterns, take your time now to ensure a great finished product later. Tape off sections and allow sufficient drying time so that your colors don’t blend together and to avoid marks. Again, follow manufacturer instructions and your own eye to determine drying time and the number of coats. 

Click here to see this painter’s tape on Amazon.

Step Five: Install Hardware and Decorate Bookcase 

After your bookcase is completely dry, you can reinstall any hardware that was taken off. If you’ve decided to take this opportunity to give your hardware a new look, you will want to make sure it is completely dry as well before you install it again. You can also add any books or décor pieces to your bookcase at this time. 

To Sand Or Not To Sand? 

Some experts suggest sanding your laminate piece as part of your surface prep while others view this as unnecessary. Like primer, sanding is used to make your surface rough and porous, giving the paint something to grip. If you use primer, and you should no matter what, you can forego sanding.

What Color Should A Bookcase Be? 

Your bookcase can be any color you wish to paint it. If your bookcase is mounted to your wall, you may want to paint it the same color as your wall so it can blend in and look like part of your wall’s architectural design. Otherwise, you will want to paint your bookcase a color that coordinates with the rest of the room it is in. Here are just a few ideas to inspire your bookcase’s new look: 


Picture of functional, small apartment interior design

Use a contrasting color to highlight your bookcase. If your walls are light, use a dark color on your bookcase. If your walls are dark, choose a lighter color or white for your bookcase. This way, your bookcase will stand out against your walls. 

For even more variation, you can paint the frame of your bookcase one color and the shelves or cubbies of your bookcase a contrasting color. 

Natural Wood 

Picture Frame, Library with bookcases And Plants In Living Room, How Tall Are Bookcases? Here Are the Standard Dimensions

You can use wood as a neutral and it will fit into any style that you have in your home. Even if you have a laminate bookcase, you can still create the look of wood with a gel stain. 


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Grey is a scholarly color that evokes images of classic libraries and the world of academia. If you want to give your room an intellectual atmosphere, choose grey or another color reminiscent of study culture. Dark shades of blue, white-tan shades like parchment, or rich wood hues are also great color choices to achieve this look. 

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Laminate? 

Latex paint is recommended for laminate surfaces. Because laminate is a smooth finish, you need to prep the surface so the paint has something to grab onto. Otherwise, your paint can peel off. An oil-based primer should be applied before painting, or you can sand the laminate surface. 

Click here to see this paint, suitable for laminate surfaces, on Amazon. 

Can You Stain Laminate? 

Wood stain works by soaking into natural wood, creating a new color for the wood. Because laminate is not real wood, a regular stain would not work. Instead of getting soaked in, the stain would remain on the surface and never dry completely.

If you want to create a stained wood look on your laminate furniture, you can achieve this by using a gel stain. Gel stains work more similarly to paint, creating color by covering the surface rather than being soaked into the surface. 

Click here to see this gel stain on Amazon. 

In Closing 

Picture of Cozy Lounge Chair in Domestic Living room with bookcase at the back, How To Paint A Laminate Bookcase [5 Steps]

Now that you know how to paint laminate furniture, you don’t have to sacrifice style to save money on furnishing your home. While you do need to apply primer before beginning to paint, you will notice that you can do anything with your laminate furniture that you can do with traditional wood furniture. 

Now that you are feeling more confident, why not tackle your laminate cabinets next? Check out our post, How To Paint Laminate Cabinets: 8 Steps, to learn how to do so.

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