What Kind of Paint and Primer Is Best for Laminate Shelves?

Laminate shelves are a popular choice for storage and organization. Not only are they affordable, but they are also durable and easy to clean. However, if you want to give them a new look or add some personality to your space, painting laminate shelves is a great way to do it.

Water-based paint is best for painting laminate shelves. This type of paint is easy to apply and won’t chip or peel. To ensure a smooth finish, use a primer before painting. Bonding primers are designed to stick to the smooth surface, creating a strong bond between the paint and the shelf so it won’t peel off.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The 4 factors to consider when choosing paint for laminate shelves
  • What type of paint to use
  • What finish is best
  • My top picks for the best paint and primer for laminate shelves

The 4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Paint for Laminate Shelves

1. Adhesion

Paint for laminate shelves should have strong adhesion properties. Otherwise, the paint will peel and chip, making your shelves look unsightly.

Before purchasing your paint, ensure it is designed for laminate surfaces and has high adhesion properties. You can also use a bonding primer to ensure the paint adheres to the shelves.

2. Surface Texture

Depending on the surface texture of your laminate shelves, some paints may adhere better than others. Some laminate surfaces should first be roughened with sandpaper to create a better adhesive surface for the paint.

3. Purpose

Before selecting paint, you must decide what the laminate shelves will be used for. If they are heavily used, especially in high-traffic areas such as the kitchen, you must choose a durable and strong paint that can resist damage due to scratching, water spills, and other wear and tear.

4. Color

The color of the paint used can significantly impact the overall aesthetics of the finished project. Consider the existing colors and decor in the room where the shelves will be located and your taste and preferences.

What Type of Paint Is Best?

Latex Paint

Latex paint is a type of water-based paint with a base of synthetic polymers that acts as a binder. It’s one of the most common paint types for interior and exterior use.


  • Quick Drying: Like acrylic, latex paint also dries quickly.
  • Easy Clean-up: Being water-based, it can be cleaned up easily with soap and water.
  • Low VOCs: It typically has lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than oil-based paints, making them safer indoors.
  • Flexible: It is more flexible than oil-based paint, making it less likely to crack over time.
  • Fade-Resistant: Latex paint is less likely to fade or yellow over time than oil-based paint.


  • Less Adhesion: Without proper preparation, latex paint may not adhere well to slick surfaces like laminate.
  • May Require Multiple Coats: Some colors or lower-quality latex paints may require multiple coats for full opacity.
  • Not As Durable: While latex paint is great for many applications, it may not hold up well on high-traffic items like shelves.
  • Susceptible to Temperature Changes: Extreme cold can cause latex paint to become brittle and crack.


Acrylic paint is a type of paint that is made from pigments suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion. It’s water-soluble when wet but becomes water-resistant once it dries.


  • Quick Drying: It dries quickly, which can speed up your project.
  • Versatile: It can be used in thin layers or heavy impastos to achieve different effects.
  • Easy Clean-up: Since it’s water-soluble, clean-up is easy with soap and water.
  • Low Odor: It has less odor than oil-based paints, making it more comfortable to work with indoors.
  • Bright Colors: The colors of acrylic paint are often more vibrant and stay that way even after drying.
  • Water-Resistant When Dry: Once acrylic paint has dried, it becomes water-resistant, offering some shelf protection.


  • Adhesion Issues: May not adhere well to slick surfaces like laminate without proper preparation.
  • Thick Texture: Tends to have a thick texture, making it harder to get a smooth finish.

What Paint Finish Is Best?

While the choice of finish primarily depends on personal preference, a semi-gloss finish is often considered the ideal option.

Semi-gloss is the perfect paint finish for painting laminate shelves because it combines the benefits of high-gloss and matte finishes. It offers excellent protection and durability, just like high-gloss finishes, but with a lesser degree of sheen.

This means it is not as shiny as high-gloss, which can be overwhelming in some cases but still provides a sheen that adds depth and texture to the surface. At the same time, it is not as flat as a matte or eggshell finish, which can make the surface look dull and lifeless.

Semi-gloss paint finishes are also easy to clean and maintain, which is particularly important for shelves that are frequently used and exposed to wear and tear.

It resists moisture, stains, and fading, making it an ideal choice for kitchen and bathroom shelves that are often exposed to humidity and spills.

This paint finish is versatile and works well with various interior styles and color schemes. Whether you prefer a modern or traditional look, semi-gloss paint finishes can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your shelves.

The Best Paint and Primer for Laminate Shelves

Best Brush-on Paint

Insl-X Cabinet Coat has been the go-to brush-on paint for painting laminate shelves due to its exceptional adhesion properties and superior durability.

Laminate shelves, being a notoriously difficult surface to paint, require a specialized paint that can bond seamlessly to the sleek surface without chipping or peeling.

The acrylic formula provides the ultra-smooth finish necessary to achieve a flawless, factory-like appearance. This high-performance paint resists chipping, scuffing, food stains, grease, and water, making it ideal for use in kitchen and bathroom cabinets, shelves, and other high-traffic areas.

Its superior adhesion sets it apart from other paint brands, which allows it to bond directly to difficult surfaces, even polyurethane and varnish. This eliminates the need for time-consuming and costly priming, saving both time and resources.

In terms of practicality, Insl-X Cabinet Coat dries to the touch in just 1 hour and can be recoated in 6 hours. It is also a low VOC formula, making it environmentally friendly and safe in enclosed spaces.

Best Spray Paint

Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint for Indoor/Outdoor Use is ideal for anyone looking to update or refresh their laminate shelves.

Krylon’s spray paint delivers a flawless finish on just about any surface, including laminate, thanks to its best-in-class adhesion, durability, and rust protection.

Its ease of use and powerful formula saves you time and money. For one, there’s no need to sand or prime your laminate shelves before painting them as this all-purpose spray paint bonds to difficult surfaces without any prep work.

Krylon is America’s first spray-coating brand, and consumers have trusted it since 1947. With Krylon, you know you’re getting a high-quality spray paint product that will help you restore, refresh and recolor any surface.

A 12-oz (354ml) can of spray paint covers up to 25 square feet (2.3m²) of space, so you can easily tackle even the biggest shelving projects.

Best Primer

Insl-X Stix Waterborne Bonding Primer is an exceptional primer specifically recommended for painting laminate shelves. Its unparalleled adhesion property makes it perfect for hard-to-coat surfaces.

With this primer, you no longer need to worry about the paint peeling off or the primer failing to bond with the surface.

Aside from its superb adhesion, it also has excellent enamel holdout, ensuring that the painted surface retains its smooth and even finish for a long time.

This primer’s smooth leveling characteristic allows you to achieve a professional-grade finish, even if you are a novice painter.

It can be used for interior and exterior applications, giving you the flexibility to use it for various projects. This high-quality primer also has the added benefit of having a soap and water clean-up process, which makes it convenient for use.

What’s more, Insl-X Stix Waterborne Bonding Primer dries quickly, allowing you to recoat in just 3-4 hours. This primer is also perfect for low-temperature application, as it can be used at temperatures as low as 35°F (2°C).

Joshua Milton

Joshua Milton is a passionate DIY and home improvement enthusiast. With his expertise in various projects, he provides practical tips, step-by-step guides, and creative ideas for transforming your living space.

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