How to Paint Plastic Laminate

Updated April 17, 2017

Laminate surfaces can be found all over your home, from the countertops in your kitchen to the storage cabinets in your bathroom. If you want to give them some extra colour, it is not as easy as simply slapping on some paint. By taking necessary steps, like choosing an appropriate primer to prevent the materials under your laminates--usually particle board or MDF--from absorbing moisture that can destroy it, you can have new-looking laminate in the course of a weekend!

Place down a tarp or old newspapers to cover any surfaces that you would like to protect from being being accidentally stained with paint or primer. Use masking tape to block off sections that are not to be painted.

Take apart the cabinets removing all doors and drawer fronts.

Sand the laminate surface with 200-grit sandpaper until the sheen from the laminate surface is removed and white flecks are visible. Wipe away the sanding dust with tack cloth.

Prime the surfaces with an all purpose primer, such as Rustoleum's Plastic Primer, Kilz Primer Sealer, or Zinsser Bull's Eye 1-2-3 Primer. Apply a thin first coat using a foam brush and let dry for an hour. Sand the surface to an even finish once dry with a 120-grit sanding sponge. Apply a second coat and let dry. Sand once more.

Apply a single coat of latex paint or spray paint. Apply one thin coat with a foam or synthetic brush. Let dry overnight before applying a second coat. A third or fourth coat may be necessary for deep colours.

If your laminate item will see a lot of wear or traffic, apply a clear polyurethane finish to protect the paint job. Follow the application directions that are specific to the brand of polyurethane finish you choose.


Several thin coats will lead to a better final finish than one or two thick coats. The polyurethane varnish acts like a plastic finish for your paint job, so it will be a bit sticky and tacky until it dries fully.


Allow proper drying time. Speeding up the process can damage the final finish. Remember that a refinished countertop will not be as durable as the original laminate finish.

Things You'll Need

  • Tarp or Newspaper
  • Screwdriver
  • Masking Tape
  • 200-grit sandpaper
  • 120-grit sanding sponge
  • Tack Cloth
  • All purpose primer
  • Acrylic latex paint
  • Foam brush or roller
  • Wipe-on polyurethane varnish
  • Clean rag
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About the Author

Darren White is a third-year student studying photography and art history at Haverford College. Raised in the Philadelphia area, he has followed its art scene for some time, which has influenced his column, The Fashion File, that he writes for the "Bi-Co News." He also writes, edits and photographs for Haverford's fashion magazine, "Feathers & Fur."