How to Select the Right Paint for Pressed Wood

Compared to solid wood, pressed wood furniture is very much economical and affordable. But working on or refurbishing pressed wood can be slightly tricky compared to solid wood. It is because there are a lot of options when it comes to applying a finish to solid wood. In the case of pressed wood, most people will just paint over it instead since most finishes are not absorbed by it. Choosing the right paint though can be a challenge, since you want to make sure it adheres to it properly. So we created this guide on how to choose the right paint for pressed wood for your ease.

The right paint to choose for your pressed wood project would be either latex or acrylic paints. Both of these are water-based paints that take very little time to dry. They also do not fume and can be painted indoors even when there isn’t a lot of ventilation available. On the other hand, you can also use oil paints for your pressed wood. But it takes a lot of time for oil paints to cure, during that process, they fume as well. So if you have time to kill and don’t mind the fumes of oil paints, then you can use them for pressed wood as well.

Usually pressed wood comes with a veneer on top which makes it easier for people to apply any paint on it than they would on normal wood. A veneer is a thin layer of wood that has been glued to particle boards to give them a more authentic wood look. So most particle board furniture, including pressed wood, will usually have a veneer top.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Paints for Pressed Wood

So let us discuss a few factors that you need to consider when you are choosing paints for pressed wood.

Drying Time

One of the most important aspects of choosing paints for pressed wood is how long the paint takes for drying. When you are refinishing or refurbishing pressed wood furniture, it is not worth waiting for days for the paint to dry. In this aspect latex and acrylic paints, both do a pretty decent job as they dry quickly. It can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes for one coat of acrylic and 1 hour for latex paint to dry to touch. While acrylic paint still requires 10-12 hours to cure properly, latex paints can be recoated after 4 hours for added protection.


Whenever you apply paints to wood, there are fumes to worry about during the curing and drying period. Most water-based paints don’t give off fumes, like latex and acrylic. On the other hand, oil paints not only give off fumes and smell but also take tons of time to dry. This makes oil paints less than idealistic for pressed wood.

Compatibility with Primers

Most paints are compatible with primers that you apply on pressed wood before painting it. But you need to understand different paints require different primers, for instance for latex paints you need a latex paint primer. This is the case for any paint that you will want to coat your pressed wood with. The job of the primer is to help paint adhere and also protect the pressed wood from soaking the paints into them. Water can also be soaked up from water-based paints and primers tend to prevent that as well.


While most acrylic and latex paints have pretty decent durability, they are still less durable than oil paints. This means any projects that get heavy use and traffic will wear down really fast. In which case it is often a great idea to use oil paints instead of acrylic and or latex paints. Things like cabinets and cupboards made out of pressed wood that is used very frequently are best painted with oil paints since they last long and are pretty resistant to scratches.

Paint TypeDrying TimeFumesCompatible With PrimerDurability
Oil Paint6-12 HoursUntil it Fully CuresYesGood
Acrylic Paint20-30 MinutesNoneYesAverage
Latex Paint1 HourNoneYesAverage
Chalky Paint15-20 MinutesNoneNot NeededWeak (Requires Sealant)

Top 3 Best Paints For Pressed Wood

1. Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch Latex Paint

The Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch is probably one of the best latex paints available on the market. The low odour paint allows you to apply a coat on your pressed wood even when you are indoors. This is great for when it is cold outside and you need to paint something. Or if you don’t own an open space like a yard or something and live in an apartment.

It dries off fast thanks to the water-based formula, not to mention it is more durable than normal latex paints. Rust-oleum offers a variety of colours in the latex paint line from which you can choose. Though the manufacturer recommends light sanding before applying the coat. It is also a good idea to use a primer after sanding as well for best results.

2. Rust-Oleum Brands Chalked Ultra Matte Paint

Most people love to give distressed looks to their refurbished furniture. In that aspect, chalky paint is always the preference since it allows you to give a distressed look more easily. The Rust-Oleum Brands Chalked Ultra Matte Paint has an acrylic base. So you get all the goodness of chalked paint but the goodness and durability of acrylic paints.

Not to mention Rust-Oleum brand’s formula provides a long-lasting solution, which is more durable than normal acrylic paints. While a primer is not recommended for the product neither is sanding unless the surface is super glossy, it is best to prep the pressed board ahead of applying any paint. The Rust-Oleum Brands Chalked Ultra Matte Paint is no exception.

3. Sherwin Williams All Surface Enamel

When it comes to durability, nothing beats the Sherwin Williams All Surface Enamel which is great for cabinets, doors, and cupboards. Basically, for any furniture with heavy-duty use that you want to paint, an oil-based all surface enamel paint like this will do a great job for it.

If you have cabinets made out of pressed wood or any other furniture that has a lot of traffic or usage, it’s best to paint it with an oil-based coat. This Sherwin Williams enamel will not only protect your pressed wood furniture but also give it life. It comes in a variety of colours, you can choose between swatches of your choice on their website.

How to Paint Pressed Wood (Step by Step Guide)

Though most paint manufacturers have guides available on how to paint wood using their paints, they don’t mention specifically the process which applies to pressed wood. Let us go through a step-by-step guide for the process of painting it.

Step 1 – Cleaning the Piece

Before painting any pressed wood furniture, you need to prep it so that it accepts paint without issues. The first thing is first, most people use a TSP and water solution to clean the whole piece. This helps in removing any grime, grease, or dirt that might have accumulated on it over time. You can use any other cleaning solution if you are not comfortable with using TSP.

Step 2 – Sanding

While most brands don’t particularly recommend sanding, they do tell you that it will allow the paint to adhere to the surface more easily. If we are talking about pressed wood, it is most likely covered with either a veneer or laminate. In that case, lightly sanding the pressed wood furniture will give more adherence to the surface. Once you have sanded make sure to clean off any dust with a microfiber cloth.

Step 3 – Applying a Primer (Optional)

As it is with sanding, most brands don’t particularly ask you to apply a coat of primer on the surface you are painting, they do mention that it is a good option as it will improve the adherence of the paint. Depending on the type of paint, whether you are applying a coat of latex paint, acrylic, or oil paints, you will have to buy a different primer for these. So whatever paint you choose, always buy the appropriate primer for it. Otherwise, it won’t properly adhere and might just ruin the look instead of helping the paint stick.

Step 4 – Applying a Coat of Paint

Now it is time to apply a coat of paint of your choice. You should follow the manufacturer’s suggestion on the tool for applying the paints. But a roller usually does a good job at painting flat surfaces. For any curves or crevices, you can use a brush to reach those places. But otherwise, a roller is the best option since it gives cleaner results. If you want to go for a distressed look, you might want to use a brush instead.

Step 5 – Applying a Clear Coat (Optional)

For some paints, you might want to apply a clear coat of your choice on top to seal the piece properly. Some people apply poly or something similar, but you can always go for wax if you want to give your piece a more antique look. People prefer a wax coat on their distressed pressed wood pieces as it gives it the look of an aged patina.

Tips for Painting Pressed Wood

  • The best way to ensure that your paint coat adheres properly to pressed wood is to prep it beforehand. Taking out a little time to prep your pressed wood furniture will help your paint coat last longer and look better.
  • When choosing paints for pressed wood, consider how much the furniture is used. Depending on its usage, you will be able to make a much better choice when refurbishing it. If durability is your concern an oil paint coat is the way to go. Specifically for things like cabinets and cupboards which have a lot of use every day.
  • You can always apply two coats of paint if you are unsure if one will do the job. Don’t shy away from extra work and apply another coat while you are at it. This will increase the life of the paint job and the pressed wood furniture.
  • Whenever you are sanding pressed wood surfaces, always use fine-grit sandpaper. Something like 220 or 240 grits will do the job perfectly. You just want to scuff the surface a little to help the primer and paint adhere better. If there are scratches or marks that you want to remove then it is best to use more coarse grit sandpaper to remove that and gradually take it all the way to 220. Don’t stand too hard though since you don’t want to remove laminate or veneer on top of it. 

Using Fusion Mineral Paint on Pressed Wood

Mineral paints have been on the scene for quite a long time now. They have mineral-based solvents in the paints that are less harmful and contain low VOCs compared to chemical solvent-based paints. Fusion Mineral Paint has released its own product which is a mix of both mineral and acrylic paint. It has the quality of both mineral and fusion paints that is great for refurbishing and flipping older pressed wood furniture. 

These days a lot of people, specifically those who make a living flipping old furniture and refurbishing it have turned towards Fusion Mineral Paint instead of plain acrylic or chalk-based paint. One reason is that it is more durable, thanks to having resins in the mix which harden after curing properly. Not only that, you don’t need to apply any topcoat over the coat of the paint.

The brand also makes something like a primer that can adhere to even the most glossy surfaces. That too without sanding, so it takes away all the prep work that you might require for painting pressed wood. But we would still recommend sanding any glossy surface before applying any formula so it can adhere better. Lastly, the Fusion Mineral Paint brand also claims to have no VOCs at all, making it completely safe to paint inside the house.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the difference between laminate and veneer?

Laminate is a sheet of plastic that is glossy and usually used to cover fiberboards and pressed woods. Meanwhile, a veneer is made out of a thin sheet of wood so it acts just like wood does.

Which paint dries fastest on pressed wood?

Acrylic and chalk paint dry the fastest when applied on pressed wood. However, acrylic paints have a long drying time of up to 12 hours. In that regard, latex paints might take 10-15 minutes more to dry, but you can apply another coat after 4 hours of curing.

What is the curing time of oil paints when applied to pressed wood?

Oil paints usually take 12 hours or so to dry to touch, but it takes around a week to properly cure.

Is it important to apply a coat of primer on every painting?

Yes, applying a primer will give more success to you when painting pressed wood furniture or furniture made out of any wood. Primer makes sure the paint adheres to the surface of wood or pressed wood. It also makes sure that pressed wood does not absorb the paint as well, it creates a barrier between them.

Is sanding wood necessary to apply a coat of primer and paint?

While some brands claim that their paints do not require any primers or prior prep like sanding for it to work, it is necessary as a woodworker to do our best to gain good results. Sanding will not only make the piece ready to accept the primer more readily, but it will also clean off any previous finish that might be sitting atop the surface of the pressed wood.

Final Thoughts

If you had any confusion regarding how to select the right paint for pressed wood, hopefully, our article cleared them up. While the usage of the pressed wood furniture will determine what paint would suit it the best, it is still your choice depending on the particular look you are going for. But don’t forget that a little preparation ahead of painting will help it last longer and provide you with better results.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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