How To Paint Ikea Furniture To Look Like Wood [4 Easy Steps!]

IKEA furniture has a way of adding a beautiful Scandinavian touch to any home, but there's a small problem with it. If you are on a budget, you may have noticed that most of the cheaper models tend to look like cheap particle board.

Wood furniture looks so much better, doesn't it?

Well, good news. It's possible to paint IKEA furniture to look like wood, even when it's made out of laminate particle board.

To paint IKEA furniture to look like wood, you will need to do the following things:

  1. Prime the furniture by scuffing it with sandpaper.
  2. Apply primer. 
  3. Apply a "wood look" topcoat or two different topcoats in a wooden pattern. 
  4. Apply a sealer and let it dry. 

Curious about how you can paint IKEA furniture the right way? Let's take a closer look at what you need to know. 

wooden furniture drawer closet kitchen counter table from Ikea, How To Paint Ikea Furniture To Look Like Wood

Before We Begin: A Quick Note About IKEA Furniture

Though it's not quite the norm, IKEA does have some wooden furniture. If you just yearn for a different wood color, we suggest ordering a wood item and choosing a stain. That choice is going to be a different article.

Most IKEA furniture is made from laminate particle board. For the sake of this article, we're going to assume that the furniture is laminate particle board. 

Laminate particle board is easy to paint as long as you have the right tools for the job. However, IKEA doesn't just have laminate particle board furniture. Many of their models are made from metal.

If the furniture in question is metal, skip down to the section titled, "Do You Have To Paint IKEA Furniture To Make It Look Like Wood?"

How To Paint IKEA Furniture To Make It Look Like Wood

Now that we've gotten our caveat out, let's take a look at how to make it happen. In a lot of ways, this is going to be the same procedure as painting an IKEA Alex drawer. You're just using slightly different materials. 

1. Prep Your Furniture!

man polishes wooden surface sandpaper male

Believe it or not, laminate needs to be scuffed and cleaned as well. To do this, you will need to grab 120-grit sandpaper and start lightly brushing the surface of the furniture. Unlike other furniture pieces, you do not need to fully sand off the laminate.

It just needs to be scratchy and scuffed so that primer can stick. Once you've finished scuffing it, wash the furniture with a tack cloth rag to pick up the dust.

2. Apply Your Primer

applying protective primer on wooden rack

You can choose either an oil-based or water-based primer, but regardless of the base, you have to make sure that it is designed for laminate use.  (If you can't afford laminate-specific primer, then we suggest using an all-purpose primer.)

Check out this all-purpose primer on Amazon.

Apply the primer to the cleaned furniture and let it cure for at least four hours. Then, add a second layer of primer so that you have full coverage. Let it dry for an additional four hours. 

If you are in a rush, you might be tempted to skip this step. Don't! Primer is what helps the paint adhere to your furniture. If you don't prime your furniture, your paint will peel fairly soon. 

Pro Tip—While most primers will dry in under two hours, we suggest waiting for four just to make sure it's fully cured. However, you should always check the dry times on your primer's can.

If the dry time is more than four hours, you have to wait the appropriate amount of time for it to cure. 

3. Apply The Top Coat

close woodworker hands protective gloves covering

The top coat is going to be the major "make or break" moment for this project, primarily because your choice of top coat (or top coats!)  is going to be what will make your project look like real wood.

Thankfully, it's easy to figure out which type of paint you should choose. There's an entire category of paints designed to look like wood once they're dried. 

If you are using a wood look paint, then you will need to apply the top coat of this item. 

Or, Apply Multiple Top Coats

If you want to do a more traditional wood look paint job, you can also use multiple coats and colors of paint to create a wood pattern, as long as you have the right tools.

Here's a quick run-through of how to do it:

  1. Start by applying a bottom layer of paint in a wooden hue that you enjoy. We suggest a birch white or a "weathered grey," if you want to keep things modern. Pine wood is also easy to pair with, too. Use a standard paintbrush or roller, and do two coats just to ensure that you have full coverage here.
  2. Next, grab a wood pattern roller brush, dip it in a paint shade that's slightly different from your first shade, and add a single coat. The wood pattern will help add some distinction that resembles wood without it looking too extreme. 

See these tools on Amazon.

Pro Tip—The best paint to choose for laminate particle board painting is a latex-based paint. If you choose a latex-based paint, using a water-based primer will work well here. Make sure to match your primer to your paint type. If you're uncertain which type to use, ask a store associate. 

4. Add Sealant

carpenter covering stool by lacquer furniture

Once the top coats have been finished, use a standard roller or paint brush to apply a sealant that comes with a nice, semi-gloss finish. This will give your furniture the look of a lacquered wooden table with a stain. Wait for it to dry, and you're done!

Check out this sealant on Amazon.

Do You Have To Paint IKEA Furniture To Make It Look Like Wood?

If you are not too keen on painting your furniture, it's understandable. Most painting jobs take hours to do, and honestly, it's a lot of work. Thankfully, there are a few other options that you can consider.

Contact Paper

Amazon and other retailers currently offer stick-on papers that look like wood, and you can literally peel and stick them on any surface. You may have heard them called "peel-and-stick wallpapers," "contact paper," or "wood decals."

Click here to purchase this from Amazon.

It's worth noting that contact paper has its pros and cons. While it is easy to install compared to a paint job, the truth is that it's not as sturdy as paint. What contact paper lacks in durability, it makes up for in ease and replaceability.

If you don't like the color of the wood finish you chose, you can typically remove contact paper without too much of a problem. 

Pro Tip—Contact paper is the easiest way to get a wood look for IKEA furniture that is made from metal. If your metal cabinets do not have rounded corners, it's best to use this. Besides, covering your furniture can also help you prevent rust from forming. 

Paint-On Wood

While this may look like "wood look" paint, it's not paint. This is a specific product from Retique that contains real wood chips, meaning that you can literally paint wood onto your surface.

Unlike regular painting projects, this particular treatment doesn't require the use of primer. To use it, you simply clean the area and paint it on. If you want to, you can use a wood stain on top of it for a more authentic look. 

Click here to purchase Retique from Amazon.


If you like the idea of contact paper, but want to have a little more permanence, you may want to consider using wallpaper to add wood texture to your furnishings.

This works a lot like contact paper, but may need to have wallpaper glue involved for it to work.

How you affix the wallpaper to the furniture depends on the paper type.

Thankfully, you can find out how to adhere it by looking at the instructions on the paper's tube or by doing a little extra research on the different types of wallpaper.

This is a good choice for people who want to have a heavily textured feel to their furniture's exterior. After all, wallpaper now comes with texture options that also feel like wood. 

In Closing

wooden furniture drawer closet kitchen counter table from Ikea

Contrary to what many people may think, it is possible to paint IKEA furniture without having it peel. It's even possible to make your IKEA furniture look like wood.

Whether you want to use traditional paint or something more exotic, though, is totally up to you. 

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