Can You Paint MDF Furniture?

June 23, 2022

Apply paint finish on the mdf furniture.

Of course, Yes, you can paint MDF. Yet, you should adequately prepare the MDF for painting and choose the most appropriate paint. MDF usually exhibits 150-grit on its back and front side surfaces, while its edges showcase a rougher texture. Thus, MDF is more porous than other types of boards, so you must prepare its surface well to provide a uniform substrate for painting.

Knowledge is power, and the more you understand something, the better you can handle it. This mantra is very much applicable even in the simple act of painting MDF materials, for before you even paint MDF, you need to understand its properties. MDF, of course, is an acronym for Medium Density Fiberboards. These fiberboards are engineered wood products that combine wax and wood fibers, pressed together under intense pressure and heat. 

MDF is already factory-sanded with a 150-grit smoothness. Hence, its surface is ready for painting. However, the edges of the MDF are more porous and permeable. Therefore, you need to prep it up before you apply paint onto it. In this way, you can come up with a smooth and uniform finish. Besides, since it is porous, it is never advisable to use water-based products as an initial coat.

What Paints Would Work Well on MDF Furniture?

One critical factor you need to consider when painting MDF furniture is the kind of finish you intend to accomplish. Paints, of course, come with different distinct levels of shine. Thus, as you learn more about the MDF, you would also know the most appropriate paint type for MDF furniture. Below are the paint types that work well on MDF furniture:

Use an Oil-based Paint

Since the edges of MDF are a bit porous and somewhat fuzzy, it is reasonable to surmise that water and MDF will not work well. However, logic will tell you that you should not have any problem using water-based paint if you properly prime the MDF. 

Using water-based paint can increase the risks of damaging the MDF inadvertently. Water can cause the board’s fibers to rise, and you cannot undo such an issue quickly. Of course, you can try to sand down the fibers, yet, in most instances, it will leave lingering damages on the fiberboard.

Using a standard emulsion will likely produce patchy results. The paint may peel off, likewise. On the other hand, using oil-based paint will enable you to come up with better results. 

However, the downside of using oil-based paint is that it bears more pungent odor than water-based paint. Thus, it will help let the smell diminish for six hours after painting to avoid getting irritated by its odor.

Use Acrylic and Latex Paints

Other types of paints that are suited for MDF projects include acrylic and latex. These paints are perfect for DIYers because they are easier to apply and use than oil-based paint. You can thin acrylic and latex using water, while you need to add thinner to thin oil-based paint. 

If you paint household furniture, you should carefully consider the primer brand you would use. You can go for a water-based acrylic primer that is topped with acrylic satinwood. You can also use an oil-based primer that is topped with an oil-based topcoat (satinwood). You can also use water-based acrylic varnish as a final coat over acrylic paints to render the paint extra resiliency. 

For the painting of tabletop, you can use three coats of gloss paints or oil-based eggshell paints. It is also advisable to protect the MDF edges with added wood frames to prevent MDF fibers’ breakdown once the MDF becomes wet.

How to Paint MDF Furniture

It will be best to prime your MDF to ensure that you prep it for painting at the onset. Then, you can begin applying the topcoats. First, you can apply a thin coat of paint on the surface to figure out how absorbent the boards are. The paint will not quickly dry if you have primed and sanded the MDF properly. 

Nevertheless, if the paint seems to dry quickly, it may be indicative of improper priming. So, it will help to sand the surface down again. In this way, you can save effort and time. 

Painting a standard MDF board may require you to apply three coats of paint for optimum results. Moreover, you should not forget to sand in between each coat. Use high-grit sandpaper at first. Then, transition to the use of lighter grit sandpaper.

Detailed Steps on How to Paint MDF Furniture

To enable you to come up with the best results when painting MDF furniture, it will help if you become cognizant of the following succinct steps on how to paint MDF furniture:

  1. As mentioned above, priming the edges using an oil-based primer is the first step in MDF painting. Once you have cut all edges, you can utilize a roller to apply the paint to the rest of the furniture. As a caveat, you should refrain from using water-based primer, for it may cause the wood fibers to expand, making the grain rise. Utilize instead a brush, spray gun, or roller when applying the primer.
  2. Let the primer dry before adding the second coat. 
  3. Once the second coat has already dried, you can fill in the holes of the nails with wood filler. 
  4. Sand the filled holes using 220-grit sandpaper. 
  5. Afterward, you can wipe the furniture down using a tack cloth to do away with the leftover dust from sanding.
  6. Then, apply the topcoat on the MDF furniture utilizing the same methods you have used for priming. You can choose your preferred water-based paint color.
  7. Let the paint dry completely. Afterward, apply your preferred sealer, whether it is lacquer, polyurethane, wax. In this way, you can prolong the color even if you use the MDF furniture daily. Your furniture will surely benefit from these sealers. Once you have completely applied the coat, you will see that the MDF will appear like any other painted wood furniture in your house.

What Should You Do Before Painting MDF?

As mentioned above, MDF exhibits flaky edges and porous surfaces, making MDF challenging to paint. Besides, when you apply paint directly to the MDF surface, its surface might swell and get distorted. 

Moreover, its edges would only absorb the paint, even if you repeatedly apply paint to them. Hence, at the onset, it will be best to treat MDF using conditioner products. Afterward, you can paint it, in the same manner you would paint other less porous materials.

Surface Sealer

The thing about MDF is that you can easily paint its front and back sides because they have flat surfaces and the compressed wood fibers exhibit tighter bonds. Moreover, these flat surfaces require less sealing. Additionally, you won’t see large pits on MDF’s surface. 

You can use a one-step clear sanding sealer to condition the MDF’s surface. You can use oil-based sanding sealers for they work well on MDF. Nevertheless, depending on your preference, you can also utilize a water-based sanding sealer. 

Edge Filler

You can also condition MDF edges using the same sanding sealer you have used with the flat surfaces. However, the edges are pretty porous. So, you must apply this sanding sealer several coats while sanding between every coat. 

You can also use acrylic polymer-based filler to fill the porous edges. Besides, you can apply one or two coats of this filler to seal the large gaps and holes along the MDF’s edges.

Frequently Asked Questions

Aside from knowing the proper way of prepping the MDF surface for painting, it will also help if you are familiar with the FAQs about MDF painting, for these might also be the questions you have in mind:

Would Painting MDF Make It Impervious to Water and Moisture?

You can’t paint MDF well if you do not prepare it for painting. The elaborate preparation creates a flat surface along the edges of MDF, making it ready for painting. Once you’ve painted it, you provide it with a film covering that allows it to resist moisture. 

Painting MDF, however, doesn’t make it impenetrable to moisture and water. But it does prevent heavy damage due to water seeping. To make it completely waterproofed, you need to use a water-repellent paint that could render it impervious to water absorption.

Can You Paint MDF Without Primer?

Of course, you can paint MDF without priming it. But you can’t expect an excellent result afterward if you don’t prime it. Besides, you will consume more paint if you don’t prime because the MDF surface will only absorb more stain, making the painting process longer and more time-consuming, especially if you’re using water-based paint.

Can Painting MDF Prevent the Onset of Mold?

Mold usually develops because the MDF’s surface is damp or has absorbed moisture or water. If you paint MDF correctly, it is reasonable to expect that mold will not develop over time. The reason is that you provide MDF with some resistance against water and moisture. Thus, when painted, MDF will not likely have mold, and the thin protective film provided by paint will ensure that mold will not grow over time. 

Additional Tips

You can likewise familiarize yourself with the following extra tips to make your painting of MDF furniture awesome:

Finish and Seal The MDF

Once you have followed the abovementioned steps, you can be sure that you have done what it would take to make your MDF furniture look great. But to ensure that your hard work will not come to naught, you should finish and seal the MDF surface. 

To do this, you can apply a sealant coat to the MDF surface. With the sealant coat, you can protect your MDF from staining and scratches. It can also improve the looks and appearance of your MDF furniture and prevent discoloration. 

Moreover, you should carefully apply the sealant. Begin with a thin layer using a paintbrush or a paint roller. Apply it evenly over the MDF surface, and don’t forget to apply it on the MDF edges.

Patching Up and Repainting Damaged MDF Furniture

The only tool that you would need is just sandpaper to prep damaged MDF furniture. You simply need to sand down the areas that need repainting or the bubbled areas that need sanding. You can use a light primer coat undercoat before you paint the area. 

You can do the sanding by hand in order not to take off more than what you need to remove. Focus on the damaged area so as not to enlarge the damage. Then apply the primer and the topcoat.  

Using Gloss Paint on MDF

The upside of using MDF is that you can paint it using whatever paint you prefer as long as it is not water-based. The emulsion is fine if you are only keeping items that are soft on your furniture. However, if the furniture is subject to scratching from hard materials, you should use oil-based products like eggshell and gloss. You can also prime using acrylic before you apply your preferred paint.

Don’t Get the MDF Wet

The MDF, as mentioned above, is intolerant of water, and for this reason, you must refrain from exposing it to damp or watery area. If it happens to get soaked with water, it usually starts to degrade in quality and turns into fine particles, like cardboard. 

For this reason, it is not good to use water-based paint on MDF. As much as possible, don’t let the MDF get wet. Moreover, when drilling holes on MDF, you should make a pilot hole when drilling; otherwise, the MDF may split.


The use of MDF comes with known drawbacks like having a denser quality than chipboard and plywood, susceptibility to water, warping and expanding, may release formaldehyde, dulls blade quicker, splitting when you screw its edge. 

However, on the plus side, the use of MDF comes with many advantages such as consistent size and strength, stable dimensions, takes paint well, glues well, exhibits high screw pull-out strength, and greater flexibility. The benefits of using MDF, of course, far outweigh its disadvantages. 

Moreover, it is not good to assume that you can also apply whatever you usually do with the ordinary plywood on the MDF. The MDF, of course, is different from ordinary plywood, and as long as you follow the guidelines mentioned above, you can always expect excellent and lasting results afterward.

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