#AskHelen How to paint your IKEA Furniture

#AskHelen How to paint your IKEA Furniture

It's often seen as the mecca, the place you’re guaranteed to be able to pick up decent furniture at a reasonable price whilst munching on incredible meatballs and hot dogs! Yes IKEA is the ultimate furniture shopping destination for many of us. Especially when shopping on a budget, furnishing a new house from scratch or when needing instantly available furniture.

They make fantastic products with items like the BILLY bookcase and HEMNES daybed becoming household names but more and more people are getting creative with their basic IKEA furniture to create something bespoke for their home, without the price tag of unique furniture! 



Painting IKEA furniture can be a little daunting, and when not done correctly it really won’t last long due to the glossy nature of most of the wood product used so this is where I’m going to step in and share my trade secrets on achieving a beautiful and affordable painted finish on your IKEA furniture.

I’m going to take you through step by step of painting my own MALM makeup table, taking it from white gloss to black to match the rest of my bedroom furniture. 

In this blog I’m going to cover

  1. Why it's a good idea to paint your IKEA furniture. 
  2. Adhesion primers and why they’re important
  3. My favourite products to use when painting Ikea furniture.
  4. A step by step guide for painting your Ikea furniture.
  5. Some lessons learned from painting my own furniture. 
  6. Some gorgeous inspiration to guide your own Ikea Furniture Hack project!

Why Paint Your IKEA Furniture?

So first up, what are the benefits of painting your IKEA furniture? Well I could talk for days about this but I’m going to keep it brief and reel off my favourite key benefits to an upcycling project like this!

  1. It can save you money! Why spend money on new furniture when you can make your existing furniture match the rest of your room? 
  2. You can’t buy what you want. Sometimes you have a vision in your mind and can’t find the furniture anywhere! This way you can make exactly what you want as you can colour match our paints to over 19,000 different shades!
  3. It can provide you with bespoke furniture! The various IKEA hack projects that are floating around (and which I’m sharing inspiration for at the end of this blog) means you can really achieve some very bespoke pieces of furniture that are ‘money can’t buy’ pieces. 
  4. Cheaper than designer alternatives. Similar to the bespoke furniture benefit above, I’ve seen many IKEA hacks tackled because they have been created to imitate a higher end piece of furniture that's a bit out of someone's price range. 
  5. It saves waste! We’ve become a bit of a culture of throwing away perfectly good items as they no longer match our style and it's no wonder as some of this furniture is so cheap to replace. This isn’t great for the environment and is incredibly wasteful, breathe some new life into older furniture and create something you love. 
  6. It can unlock your creative side! There is a lot to be said for the satisfaction you gain from upcycling your own furniture and creating something for yourself. 
  7. You could make money from it! If you upcycle it but still decide that the furniture isn’t for you then you may still be able to sell it on a second hand/preloved app and make some money on it!



Adhesion Primers

So a term you may not have come across before is adhesion primers. As the name suggests, these are primers that provide a bonding layer between the substrate you’re painting and your paint to improve the adhesion.

They’re really important when painting surfaces which are particularly difficult to bond to or in applications with high demands (such as kitchens, regularly used furniture etc!) and if you’re thinking of IKEA furniture, you know that veneered wood surfaces on the MALM, HEMNES, PAX, KALLAX etc are all a really high gloss, slippery substrate! We have a couple available, here are my favourites. 


Zinsser BIN

Ok so I talk about this product perhaps a little too much but it really is the G.O.A.T. of adhesion primers. It's billed as a primer-sealer stain killer but important not to get too caught up on the stain killer bit. It's a brilliant bonus and if you have any left a good product for your tool kit but we’re going to focus on its adhesion properties!

It's a shellac based product which gives it an unparalleled ability to adhere to glossy surfaces (even glass) making it a fantastic choice when painting your slippery IKEA furniture.

There is no need to sand your surface first and it dries incredibly quickly, being recoatable in just 45 minutes. You can also buy it in a grey ready mixed shade for projects where you’re using a darker top coat. 

The downside to Zinsser BIN is due to it being shellac based it requires methylated spirits for clean up and has a strong smell whilst using it. I tend to use older brushes or rollers on application that I don’t mind throwing out once finished and I line my trays with tin foil to aid clean up.

Another limitation to note is that it's only suitable for interior projects and if you’re wanting to paint exterior furniture then you should use the Bullseye 123 or the Bullseye 123+


Zinsser BIN AQUA

Now, if you're looking for similar adhesion properties without the cleanup hassle of shellac-based primers, then B-I-N AQUA might be your perfect match. This primer effectively blocks stubborn stains from nicotine, smoke, water, grease, mildew, tannin, crayon, and lipstick.

It acts as an outstanding barrier against all types of odours, including fire damage, smoke, nicotine, and mildew. Just like Zinsser BIN, B-I-N AQUA excels in adhering to glossy surfaces, making it an ideal choice for your IKEA furniture projects. It dries quickly, allowing for recoating in a short time span.

Plus, its water-based formula means easier cleanup without the need for harsh solvents. While Zinsser BIN is primarily suitable for interior projects, B-I-N AQUA offers versatility for both interior and exterior applications, providing a reliable solution for your painting needs.


Otex Akva

Another popular adhesion primer is the Otex Akva from Tikkurila. The Otex Akva is a quick drying, water-based adhesion primer that can bond effectively to high glossy surfaces. There is also a solvent based version of the project just named Otex.

The Otex products are tintable so you can match them to the same shade as your top coat which is a great added bonus and as its water based it cleans up with warm soapy water rather than anything specialist and doesn’t have a strong smell. 

The downside to Otex Akva? There aren’t really any. It doesn’t have the reputation of the Zinsser BIN and the subsequent glowing accolades but it does receive glowing reviews!

There are some of the IKEA furniture finishes that won’t require a specialist adhesion primer like those above. The soft wood finished items like the ones below don’t need the BIN or Otex Akva and based on the products I’ll recommend in the next section for actually painting your furniture, they won’t need a primer at all as they’re built into the paint finish!


Which Paint To Use When Painting Ikea Furniture?

Hopefully now you’re feeling confident in terms of primer and when you’ll need the more specialist primers like Zinsser BIN and Tikkurila Otex Akva so now let's talk about your options for painting your furniture! We have so many different paints available and I could end up being here all day if I go into the depth and detail of each one.

Any trim paints (eggshells, satin’s, gloss paints) are going to be suitable for use when painting furniture if the surface beneath has been primed and undercoated. I’ll include a link for our full range of furniture paint here and if you have a specific brand or product you want to utilise and know more about then just get in touch!

I’m going to go into more detail on the Zinsser AllCoat, as it's my go-to product for offering choice in terms of colour, size and finish and provides fantastic value for money!



Zinsser AllCoat

So Zinsser AllCoat is an ultimate performance paint that as the name suggests is suitable for use on pretty much any surface from wood to metal, plastic to concrete, uPVC to masonry and everything in between.

It's a self priming product which means aside from really tricky surfaces (like the super glossy IKEA furniture that benefits from an adhesion primer!) and galvanised steel, the AllCoat can go straight onto your furniture with its first coat acting as a primer, second coat as a finished coat.

The AllCoat is an interior and exterior product and is available in three finishes, Matt, Satin or Gloss giving you an incredible array of choices for your project. I also love that it's available in three sizes, from 1L to 5L so that you can buy the right amount for your job, small tins for small projects and larger tins to avoid needing multiple tins for larger projects.

Finally and most importantly, you aren’t limited in selecting from a colour palette with AllCoat. It's a colour match product meaning it can be tinted to more than 19,000 different shades and matched to an equivalent shade of your favourite brands! 

Finally its a waterbased product meaning it's quick drying, low odour and easy to clean up with warm soapy water!

A Step By Step Guide For Painting Your Ikea Furniture

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, I painted some of my own IKEA furniture as a basis for this blog. I thought it would be useful to show the steps at each stage, provide reassurance that it really is as easy as it sounds and it finally pushed me to get around to doing a project I’d been meaning to do for a few years now (embarrassing when I own a paint company I know!).



So here are the steps you’ll need to follow when painting your IKEA furniture. This is the IKEA MALM make-up/dressing table but the steps are going to be the same with any of their furniture (but skip the adhesion primer if you're painting more the soft/bare wood finish rather than the glossy veneer finished wood!)

Step 1:

Prepare your area! I used the CoverMasq tape to mask off the draw and protect the inside in addition to protecting my dining table!



Step 2:

Degrease the unit. This is a really important step as it removes any grease stains that may be on the surface. You aren’t always able to see grease and stains, especially on a makeup table where there will be hair product and make up residue that takes a tough cleaner to remove. Once you’ve degreased the surface it's important to then clean over again to remove all traces of the degreaser.



Step 3:

Apply your Zinsser BIN adhesion primer (or suitable adhesion primer). I used a foam sleeve on my mini roller kit for this as they are great for a smooth application on a solvent based product like the BIN.

I lined my tray with foil to aid with clean up as I didn’t have any methylated spirits. The BIN has a 45 minute recoat time but if you can give it 24 hours to cure before applying the AllCoat this will help strengthen its adhesion to the glossy surface. If you have any runs or rough areas give them a light sand before applying the AllCoat. 



Step 4:

Apply your AllCoat (or furniture paint!). I chose the Lime Finish roller sleeves kit as the handle is really sturdy and comfortable to use and the tray comes with a reusable lid to keep paint wet overnight in between coats. Wait 4 hours for drying time between coats. 



It's as simple as that and looks incredibly effective back in my bedroom. I can’t believe I didn’t get around to tackling this project sooner! I did learn a couple of things along the way so here are my top tips!

  • Work quickly with the Zinsser BIN but don’t over-work it. It's an incredibly fast drying product so make sure you keep the application quick. As it's quite a watery substance, having too much on your roller or brush can cause runs so less is more. Lighter application is better but don’t keep rolling the same area as then you will start to pull the product.
  • Clean your new roller before using it! I completely forgot the masking tape trick of wrapping up your new roller with masking tape then unrolling it to get rid of any loose lint/fibers. I was then picking them out of my first coat of paint and ended up having to sand some areas. Can’t believe I forgot to do this!
  • The Lime Sleeves. I love them for use on wood but not for this veneered high gloss wood. For my final coat I actually switched to a blonde roller sleeve or a microfibre would be a great option.

I also filmed as I went so if you prefer to follow a video pop over to our YouTube tutorial for painting IKEA furniture here. If you have any additional questions or worries about tackling your own project, then drop us a message, call, email, whatsapp etc!

I’m going to stop waffling there and leave you guys with the below inspiration shots to get your creative juices flowing and encourage you to tackle your very own IKEA furniture painting project and don’t forget to tag us in your finished results!

Gorgeous IKEA Hacked Furniture Inspiration! 


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