How to finish plywood

Updated February 21, 2017

Plywood is one of the least expensive and most versatile woods available for use in your home. With a little effort and experimenting, you can turn this product into a beautiful addition to your decor, whether as furniture or flooring. Read below to learn how to finish plywood in a variety of ways.

Decide what color you want the final plywood to be.

Purchase a quality primer. Plywood is very porous. By using a primer, you will reduce the coats of paint needed and insure a better final outcome.

Ask your paint retailer to tint the primer to a similar shade as the paint you've chosen.

Lightly sand the plywood and dust well with tack cloth to remove all dust from the surface to be painted.

Roll primer on plywood with roller-style brush to achieve a smooth finish and avoid brush marks. Allow to thoroughly dry. Review your work to determine if second coat of primer is needed. If you can see the wood easily through the primer, apply another coat.

Complete with final top coat of paint color of your choice.

Prime the floor. To achieve a wide plank look, use a 4 or 6 inch roller or brush. A brush will give a more rustic appearance.

Paint with base coat, typically a color with a yellow undertone.

Follow with top coat color, a dark red or mahogany shade of paint will give the most authentic finish to your plywood floor.

Allow the imperfections of your paint job stand, they will add to the rustic look of this faux-finish.

Let paint cure for several days prior to daily use.

Prime with primer tinted to your base coat, a light honey or yellow toned paint.

Paint the surface with your base coat.

Tape off widths to create the look of wood planks. Measure and tape sections, working with every other section. This will make the width of planks uniform.

Apply one long line of darker paint to one section.

Quickly drag wood graining tool through the wet paint, lifting and rocking to create knots.

Wipe rocking tool clean of excess paint and go to next section.

Allow paint to thoroughly dry and remove tape.

Lay new tape over completed sections to expose sections that were taped so you can paint those next.

Continue this process until plywood is covered.

Allow to dry thoroughly.


Use a coat of varnish or shellac for extra durability. Faux planks can be as wide or narrow as you prefer, if taping off plywood to create perfectly straight lines, place a small bit of tape in sections to be painted so you don't loose track of your place as you work across a large area.


Paint fumes are toxic. Work in a well ventilated area.

Things You'll Need

  • Tinted primer
  • Paint
  • Paint roller
  • Paint tray
  • Paint pole to cover large surfaces
  • Rags or paper towels for clean up
  • Primer
  • Base paint
  • Top coat paint
  • Roller or brushes
  • Paint pan
  • Permanent marker
  • Primer tinted to match base coat
  • Base coat, typically something with a yellow or golden cast
  • Top coat, typically a dark brown with a red tint
  • Rocking tool, also called a graining tool
  • Rags or cleaning cloths
  • Painters tape to create clean and crisp lines
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