How to Paint Formica Cabinets

Painting your Formica cabinets is a cheap way to give a room a whole new look. But be warned, it's tricky to paint over Formica. Formica has such a slippery surface that paint has a hard time sticking to it. The best ways to paint over Formica are to:

Here's how to paint your Formica cabinets:


  1. Remove all the hardware from the cabinets.
  2. Sketch a diagram of your cabinets and number each door on the diagram. Pencil the corresponding numbers on the inside of each door so you know where to replace them when you're done painting [source: Gibson].
  3. Remove the doors from the cabinets. If removing the doors is too difficult, leave them in place and cover the hinges with masking tape so you don't get paint on them.
  4. Clean the cabinets and rinse off any residue from the cleanser.
  5. Work outside, if possible. If working inside, mask off any doorways with plastic so dust from the sanding doesn't travel all over your house.
  6. Sand the cabinet surfaces with 120-grit sandpaper while wearing a disposable respirator. This will make rougher the surface for the paint to adhere to.
  7. Clean the sanding dust off the cabinet surfaces with a damp cloth.
  8. Apply a powerful primer. Consider using a shellac-formula primer. Although this will be harder to get off your tools (you'll need denatured alcohol or ammonia), it will cure in about 45 minutes and paint painted over it will only need about a week to dry. In contrast, water-based paint over water-based primer can take up to a month to dry [source: Huber].
  9. Paint the cabinets. If you use a paint that's made to go directly on top of laminate, you can skip the previous step. You may get better results with a paint pad or a roller than with a brush, which may leave brush strokes.