Laminate Desk Makeover

Check out this laminate desk makeover from a desk that we picked up from the thrift store! See how some chalk paint can completely transform an old piece of laminate furniture.

Get more furniture makeover ideas here.

mcm laminate desk before the makeover

Today I’m sharing how we painted this mid century modern desk with chalk paint! We picked it up from a local thrift store for $15.

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close up desk with laminate top

It has a laminate top, but the rest of it is all real wood with dovetail joints in the drawers.

Honestly, it wasn’t in horrible condition, but it did have a few chips on the drawers and I think it might have used to have a brace on the side, between the two legs because it had some damage in the legs.

scroll down to see the after photos

Supplies Used for Laminate Desk Makeover

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Prep Desk for Paint

It’s important to prep furniture to make sure the paint will have a good, long lasting finish. It’s simple to do and won’t take you long!

Start with this post on how to clean furniture before painting.

Repairing Damaged Areas

Next I repaired these few damaged areas with my favorite wood filler. This KwikWood epoxy is my go to product for fixing damage on furniture anymore.

closeup of chipped veneer on the desk drawers
filling in chipped veneer on drawer with kwikwood

It’s kind of the consistency of clay so you can shape it however you need it to be. And it dries super hard in an hour. The best part is that it doesn’t have harsh fumes like Bondo!

Learn more about how to use KwikWood here!

When the repairs were completely dry, I sanded them down smooth with 150 grit sandpaper and 220 grit sandpaper.

Scuff Sanding Desk

Then I scuff sanded everything else to get it ready for paint. Scuff sanding is just a quick little sanding with 220 grit sandpaper, and it really helps paint to stick to the finished wood surface.

Learn more about the importance of sanding before painting furniture here.

scuff sanding the desk with a surfprep sander

I used my SurfPrep sander to help me scuff sand everything, but you don’t need any fancy tools to scuff sand. A small sheet of 220 grit sandpaper folded in half is all that I used to use before I got my SurfPrep sander.

I personally prefer 220 grit sandpaper for scuff sanding, because I feel like the more coarse sandpaper is too coarse, and leaves too many scratches behind.

Then I vacuumed off the dust that was left behind with my shop vac and its hose and brush attachment.

And for good measure, I used a tack cloth to remove all the rest of the dust that was left behind. These tack cloths are so much better than just wiping the dust off with a rag.

They don’t leave any lint behind, and they pick up all of the little tiny particles that normally still get left behind.

Priming Desk with Bonding Primer

Annnnnnd then I took it outside and sprayed 2 coats of clear shellac on it. This stuff is my favorite primer, even though it’s not technically marketed as a primer.

Check out my list of the best primers for painting furniture here.

spraying clear shellac onto the desk outdoors

It does a great job of blocking bleed through stains from staining the paint, but it also actually helps the paint stick to any surface, including laminate!

I use it on basically every single piece I paint. I especially love that it’s clear too because then I can distress the paint if I want.

And I love that it’s already in a spray can, so I don’t have to roll or brush it on.

My only complaint about it is that it stinks, so I have to use it outdoors, or make sure the space I’m in is ventilated really well! Then I let the clear shellac dry overnight before I was ready to paint.

It might look like I go overboard with prepping furniture for painting, but I want my paint job to last as long as possible. Cleaning, repairing, scuff sanding and priming is how I can ensure that.

No, you don’t HAVE TO sand, and prime before painting with chalk paint. But honestly, if you skip those steps, you’re pretty likely to run into problems with your finish scratching easily or having stains in it.

See the results when I tried to paint laminate furniture without sanding VS sanding here!

Paint Desk with Chalk Paint

For this piece, I chose Country Chic Paint’s Dune Grass chalk paint. If you haven’t used this paint, check out my honest and detailed Country Chic Paint Review here. And if you want more color inspiration for your desk, here’s our list of desk paint color ideas!

dune grass paint by country chic paint

How to Spray Chalk Paint

I’m a huge fan of spraying paint on instead of brushing it on, so I loaded up my beginner friendly paint sprayer with it.

Check out this post for everything you need to know about how to thin chalk paint, how to clean a paint sprayer, and how to use a paint sprayer.

pouring chalk paint into the paint sprayer container through paint filter

I actually created a video all about using a Wagner paint sprayer, and I used this desk makeover to do it!

Then I sprayed 3 coats of paint all over the desk, letting the paint dry for about an hour between coats. But if you want to use spray paint here’s our detailed guide on how to spray paint laminate furniture!

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Spraying Paint with the Drawers In

I’m a bit unconventional when I spray, in that I leave the drawers in.

spraying chalk paint onto the desk with a wagner paint sprayer

I love leaving the drawers in because it saves space in my painting area, and it also saves my back from bending over a bunch of drawers on the floor.

And I’ve never had any issues with the paint making the drawers stick. (Now painting with a brush with the drawers in place is a different story though! Haha)

Don’t worry though, I tape and cover the drawers in plastic first so then I don’t get paint inside the drawers when it comes time to open them up so I can paint the tops and sides.

Learn exactly how to prevent overspray when painting furniture here.

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Why I Use Chalk Paint

I get a lot of questions about chalk paint and why I use it if I’m going to go through all of these quote-on-quote extra steps.

Honestly, chalk paint just adheres better than regular ol’ paint. I’ve tested it. You can actually see how much better chalk paint sticks to surfaces in my Best Primer for Laminate Furniture video.

The latex paint scratched off a lot more, even on really good primers. Since I saw that comparison with my own eyes, I’m completely a believer of using chalk paint on furniture.

Obviously, there are other types of paint that adhere just as well as chalk paint does. But there is no comparison for me when it comes to chalk paint vs latex paint.

Chalk paint is so much better and worth the extra money.

Click these posts if you’re still wondering what is chalk paint and read about the chalk paint secrets you need to know. Get our homemade chalk paint recipe here!

Filling In Wood Grain

After the first coat of paint was dry, all of the grain in the wood was really noticeable. So I used a trick that I learned from Dani at Just Paint it! By Dani to hide wood grain when painting.

I added some water to some Spackling so I could brush it on, all over the wood grain to fill it in. After it was dry, I sanded it all smooth and then painted another coat on.

sanding the spackling off of the desk

Unfortunately, I think the spackling made the tannins in the grain bleedthrough. (I should have filled in the wood grain before I started painting.)

So I had to prime again to block the orangey looking stains from showing up. Learn more about how to stop stains from coming through paint here.

I ended up spraying 2 more coats of shellac on, and then I let it dry overnight again. And then I painted another coat of chalk paint on the desk.

Topcoat Chalk Painted desk

After the 3rd coat of paint was dry, I put my favorite water-based polyurethane into my paint sprayer and sprayed 3 coats of it onto the desk, letting it dry between coats again.

spraying polyurethane on painted desk with a wagner paint sprayer

I like to put a little bit of water in the poly so then it takes a little bit longer to dry, making it dry more soft and smooth.

I also like to sand the poly smooth with 400 grit sandpaper after each coat of poly has dried completely. It helps make it feel smoother.

I absolutely love using a paint sprayer to spray polyurethane!

Watch the video version of this makeover here:

And here’s what it looks like now!

closeup of the painted laminate desk
full photo of the laminate painted desk

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

sideview of the painted desk
the painted laminate desk with the drawers open

This one was a really simple makeover, but it’s still crazy to see how some paint can completely change the look of a piece.

Head on over to my post and get more mid century modern painted furniture inspiration.

It went from an old piece of furniture at a thrift store to a fresh, cute desk to work at. Check out more painted desk ideas here!

More Before And After Makeovers

Click any of these “before” photos below to view the “after” of that makeover.

Best Bonding Primer for Laminate

Not all bonding primers are created equal. For best results, use an oil based or shellac based primer. Shellac based is my favorite!

Check out this post to see 5 of the best bonding primers for laminate furniture and their pros and cons.

Does Chalk Paint Work on Laminate?

Yes, you can paint laminate furniture with chalk paint. Here is a guide on how to chalk paint laminate furniture.

But for best results, scuff sand the laminate first, and then apply a coat or two of bonding primer before painting on the chalk paint.

You can also do a scratch test to see if just chalk paint will adhere to your laminate furniture without scuff sanding or primer.

Simply paint some chalk paint on a flat surface of the laminate. Let it dry for 24 hours. Then try to scratch it off with your fingernails.

If it scratches off easily, then you will need to prep the laminate surface before continuing with the chalk paint. If it doesn’t scratch off, then you can move ahead without more prep work.

(More than likely it will easily scratch off though!)

Check out more of the best paints for laminate furniture here.

Do I Need to Seal Chalk Paint?

No, you don’t have to seal chalk paint. But if you don’t seal chalk paint it can get dirty easily (and it’s not easy to wipe off), and it won’t be as durable.

So if you want your chalk painted furniture to last a long time, especially after all the work you went through to paint it, you will want to seal it.

Chalk paint really needs to be top coated because it’s a really porous material. Check out my list of the best topcoats for painting furniture here.

The satin polyurethane topcoat gives the paint added durability, but it also makes it easy to wipe it down when anything gets on it.

It’s also what gives the paint some sheen, other than the super matte sheen that chalk paint is.

The Best Way to Seal Chalk Paint

A water-based polyurethane topcoat is the best way to seal chalk painted furniture. Unlike wax, you don’t have to reapply it every year or so.

Read this post if you’re curious about wax for chalk paint and if it’s right for your furniture.

It also dries quickly and you can lightly use your furniture after only 24 hours of applying the polyurethane.

I’ve found that the Varathane water-based polyurethane is the best at not yellowing the paint. You can simply brush the polyurethane on over the chalk paint, or for a flawless finish, you can spray it on with a paint sprayer.

This Minwax Polycrylic in a spray can is the best way to spray polyurethane onto chalk painted furniture if you don’t have a paint sprayer.

Learn more about the best polyurethane for furniture here.

scroll up if you missed the after photos

Laminate Desk Makeover

laminate desk after chalk paint makeover

Paint your laminate furniture with chalk paint to give it a new look. Here are the steps for this laminate desk makeover.


  1. Prep the laminate desk for paint by repairing any damaged areas and filling them with KwikWood. When the repairs are completely dry, sand them down smooth with 150 grit sandpaper and 220 grit sandpaper. Then scuff sand everything else to get it ready. Vacuum and wipe off all the dust with a tack cloth.
  2. Take your desk outside and prime it with 2 coats of bonding primer like clear shellac. Let it dry overnight.
  3. Spray 3 coats of chalk paint on the desk, letting the paint dry for about an hour between coats.
  4. Fill in wood grain as needed with Spackling and water. After it dries, sand it all smooth and then paint another coat on the dresser.
  5. Topcoat chalk painted desk with 3 coats of water-based polyurethane, letting it dry between coats again. Sand the poly with 400 grit sandpaper after each coat of poly has dried completely to make it feel smoother.

Recommended Products

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how to paint laminate desk with chalk paint


  1. Kathy Nice says:

    I have been using Shelac to seal my painted furniture. What are you thoughts on that? Would you recommend that?

    1. As a topcoat, I don’t recommend shellac on painted furniture because it has an amber color instead of a clear color. So, any light paint colors will end up with a yellow tint to them. It will work for topcoating dark colors though. I personally prefer waterbased poly for a topcoat on painted furniture though.

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