How to Paint Formica Cabinets

Updated November 21, 2016

Formica is a name brand of a plastic laminate often used as kitchen counters or cabinets. While Formica is easy to clean and more affordable than many other materials used for these purposes, it is considered unattractive by some people. Painting cabinets can improve the appearance of Formica although you might end up with a finished product that resembles nothing more than painted Formica. Applying a simple faux finish can give the cabinets a leather look and change the style of the entire room for much less than new cabinets would cost.

Sand the Formica cabinet with 80 grit sandpaper to create a slightly rough surface for the paint to adhere to.

Wash the cabinet with a mixture of water and vinegar to remove any dirt from the surface of the cabinet. Wipe the cabinet down with a dry cloth to remove any remaining water.

Paint the cabinet with two coats of red Japan paint.

Sand the dry paint with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe away any paint dust with a cloth.

Mix up dark brown glaze by combining four parts oil based glaze, one part mineral spirits and enough burnt umber and burnt sienna tint to achieve the desired colour. Add a few drops of Japan dryer to the glaze to speed up the drying time.

Apply the glaze to the cabinet with a paint brush. Soak a chamois cloth with water and then wring it out well. Crumple the chamois into a loose ball and dab it against the wet glaze to create a mottled appearance.

Apply a coat of clear acrylic spray to the cabinet after the glaze has dried to protect the faux effect.


Japan paint and Japan dryer are available at most art supply stores.

Things You'll Need

  • 80 grit sandpaper
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Dry cloth
  • Red Japan paint
  • Paint brush
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Chamois cloth
  • Clear acrylic spray
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About the Author

Kittie McCoy has been a freelance writer since 2008. She is also a part-time personal trainer and licensed entertainer in Las Vegas. She enjoys sharing her love of physical fitness and experience in the entertainment industry via her writing.