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How to Paint IKEA Cabinets: The Easy Way

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Learn how to paint IKEA cabinets. Painting a slick surface like melamine cabinet doors is easy with proper prep.

You might be interested in how I built a desk using IKEA Sektion cabinets.

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IKEA cabinet doors are made from melamine foil, which is durable and easy to clean, but difficult to get paint to stick to.

Proper prep is key to painting a slick surface like melamine or laminate. This technique works for all IKEA furniture.

I used the same process for painting an IKEA Besta cabinet.

How to Paint IKEA Cabinets

My DIY desk is made from IKEA Sektion cabinets with Grimslov doors. The room felt a little boring, so I decided to paint the cabinets.

Supplies Needed:


I left the drawer fronts attached, but you can remove them if you want.

Doors will be easier to paint without being attached. For the drawers, I just pulled them out to different levels to let them dry.

painted cabinet drying

Prep Work

  1. Remove knobs or handles if they are installed.handles removed to paint cabinets
  2. If your cabinets are not new, be sure to thoroughly clean the cabinet doors to remove grease. I recommend Simple Green for removing grease.
  3. If you’re using latex or chalk paint, rough up the surface by lightly sanding. (I used an enamel paint, so I skipped this part.)
  4. Use a chip brush to paint the entire cabinet door with primer. This primer will make paint stick to anything! This is the important part, so don’t skip it!priming ikea sektion cabinets
  5. The brush can be cleaned by soaking it in ammonia and rinsing with water.

Painting the Cabinets

I painted the cabinets with Valspar cabinet paint. This paint is a water-based enamel that comes in a semi-gloss finish.

It can be tinted in thousands of colors. The color is Sherwin Williams Haven.

This paint does have a weird smell, but nothing toxic. Just weird. I thought it smelled like stinkbugs, but my family said they only smelled paint.

  1. Paint the inner panel first, being sure to get in the cracks. painting center panel of IKEA cabinet in light green color
  2. Paint the outer rails next.
  3. Then paint the edges.
  4. Check for drips and smooth them with the paint brush.
  5. Let dry. 1st coat of paint on ikea sektion cabinets
  6. Apply 1-2 more coats as needed to achieve full coverage. Glossier paints usually need more coats than a flatter finish. cabinet being painted green
sewing desk amde from ikea sektion cabinets
Using Valspar Cabinet Paint

Valspar cabinet paint felt a little tricky to use, but it dried with a flawless finish.

It did a pretty good job at self-leveling, but because of that, it was more prone to drips.

valspar cabinet paint

Paints with a higher sheen can be tricky to apply without streaks. Here are my tips for a cleaner finish.

  • Don’t touch paint that is partially dry with wet paint. Similar to polycrylic, let it dry and go back with another coat. Touching partially dry paint can cause streaks.
  • Apply light coats.
  • This paint is thin so watch for drips. Go back after every coat and smooth them out.
  • For best results, use a paint brush with soft bristles, like this angled brush.
  • Clean up was easy. Just soap and water. It was harder to get off of skin, which I always see as a good thing. If it’s hard to get off of skin, it will do a good job of sticking to whatever I’m painting.

Finishing Up

Paint needs at least 30 days to fully cure, even though it feels dry to the touch after a few hours.

For best results, wait as long as possible before handling the drawer fronts or the paint might scratch.

I scratched a drawer front while re-installing the hardware. After 30 days, I plan on giving it a scratch test to see how it holds up.

If it’s a horizontal surface that has been painted (like IKEA furniture), wait as long as possible before placing items on it.

basement makeover
The Besta cabinet on the right is also painted with this process.

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    1. Hi Shannon,
      I ended up painting the cabinets a different color because I wanted something a bit more subtle. I just used latex paint when I did it. After the paint cured, it held up nicely. We recently moved and the paint got a bit scuffed (but so did everything else.) I plan on using the same technique in my new kitchen and bathrooms that have a similar texture on the cabinets.

  1. Have you ever painted the base of the cabinet, not just the doors? Would the paint stick to the base of the cabinet? Thank you.

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