How to Paint Melamine?

Melamine or Melamine Faced Chipboard (MFC) can be a total nightmare to paint but in this article I’m going to give you a couple of options of how to paint it and get a good finish. So if you’re wondering how do you paint melamine then read on!

Read the article below or watch the full video here:

How To Paint Melamine – GHTL#25 [139]

Watch this video on YouTube.

What is melamine?

Melamine, melamine resin or melamine formaldehyde as it’s technically called, is a type of plastic material commonly used to coat chipboard or particle board to leave a very hard wearing, normally white finish. It’s very commonly used in flat pack furniture and kitchen cabinets. The melamine resin is combined with paper, laminated and glued on to the wood boards. It’s great for shelves since it’s much more hard wearing than paint. It is however prone to chipping and edges need to be treated with an iron-one edge banding.

Why paint melamine?

There’s no point in painting new melamine – either buy it the colour you need or just use MDF and paint that instead. MDF is much easier to paint than MFC and the painted finish of MDF will probably be more hard wearing than painted melamine. With MDF it’s easier for the primer to achieve a good bond. So pretty much the only scenario where you’ll be painting MFC is if you want to change the colour of an existing piece of furniture… or give it a bit of a refresh.

How do you paint melamine?

The key to painting melamine is achieving a good bond between the primer coat and the melamine panel. In the video I’m using Leyland Acrylic Primer Undercoat and this seems to work fine however for a really good bond consider using Johnstone’s Multi Surface Primer.

  1. I start off by using 100 grit sandpaper to lightly roughen the surface.
  2. Then use a damp cloth to remove any dust from the sanding.
  3. The melamine needs to be dry to paint it so use some blue roll to dry it.
  4. Paint the melamine with an appropriate primer or primer undercoat.
  5. Allow to dry completely.
  6. Apply 2 coats of your chosen top coat, lightly de-nibbing between coats.

Bear in mind that if you just used a primer in step 4 then you should really apply an undercoat prior to your final two top coats. As I used a combined primer/undercoat this saved a step but using a dedicated paint such as the Advanced Multi Surface Primer will probably achieve a better bond between the paint and the melamine. Having said that, the Acrylic Primer Undercoat seemed to work fine for me!

Using a high density mini roller can give you a really neat finish. Remember paint on melamine will take a lot longer to dry than paint on wood since the melamine isn’t absorbent. Also paint will never be as hard wearing as the original melamine – melamine is essentially plastic. Paint is, well, paint.

A word on paint drying time

Paint can take quite a long time to properly harden. Water based paints will generally harden more quickly than oil based paints however it can still take a good couple of days for the paint to be hard enough to leave heavy objects on without it causing a problem – a few weeks for oil based. Just remember that even though the paint is dry to the touch doesn’t mean it’s properly dry and hardened.

Can you spray paint melamine?

Yes – definitely! If you’re set up for spraying you should be able to get a lovely finish on melamine since the substrate is already so smooth. Use your primer of choice but I’d suggest the Johnstone’s mentioned earlier as the key is that good initial bond. Be careful not to scratch the melamine when you’re sanding it. Scratches will be much more visible on a sprayed surface.

Once you’ve got the primer on you can continue as normal however I would definitely suggest using an undercoat after the primer since the layers of paint will probably be thinner than if you were using a roller. Obviously for new furniture you’re probably not going to be using MFC in the first place – MDF is a much better option if you’re going to paint it anyway.

Remember you can find a list of some of my most commonly used tools in the workshop over on this page. You can also buy by favourite metric-only double sided tape measure from here. Best of luck with your project!

Andy Mac

Andy runs a busy bespoke woodworking business,making everything from custom furniture through to commercial display systems. He's been self employed most of his life, runs various YouTube channels and is co-host of the UK's first commercial joinery podcast.
Andy Mac