How To Paint Plywood - Tips & Tricks

A Guide To Painting Plywood

As one of the most versatile materials used in construction and carpentry today, working with plywood does come with a wide range of possibilities. Your plywood panels can be treated in a variety of different ways. For instance, you may opt to waterproof your plywood so it’s fit for outdoor applications, or you may also choose to paint your plywood. 

So, the question remains, how to paint plywood panels to ensure that they maintain their smooth-textured surface? What types of paint should you apply to your plywood? And what tools will you need to get painting plywood done to a high standard?

We’ll be answering all of these questions today as well as sharing a step-by-step guide on painting plywood smoothly and in accordance with how you intend to use your plywood materials.

Article Contents:

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Tools You Will Need When Painting Plywood

Before we outline how to paint plywood panels, you’ll first need to make sure you have all the right tools at your disposal. Here are the essentials you’ll need when painting plywood:

  • Wood filler
  • Filling blades
  • Primers
  • Paints
  • Paint roller
  • Roller tray
  • Paintbrushes
  • Painters tape
  • 180-220 fine grit sandpaper

Wood filler and filling blades are particularly valuable if you’re using materials of a lower grade. This is because you’ll need to make sure that the surface of your plywood is nice and even before any paint is applied. 

Using a fine grit sandpaper is also best whenever you’re painting plywood, as this grit level is well-suited for use between coats of paint. In other words, you’ll be able to correct any perceived imperfections like mounds or lumps in your paint job without disrupting the texture of your paint-treated plywood panels.

How To Paint Plywood: A Step-By-Step Guide

When you consider it, painting plywood has some similarities to the process of painting timber veneers. Prior to painting your plywood, you’ll want to make sure that the surface of your plywood is free from any dust or other debris. Use a smooth-bristled cleaning brush to gently remove all foreign matter from the surface of your plywood panels. Follow this up with a damp cloth if necessary.

how to paint plywood
clean plywood surface

1. Clean Your Plywood Surface

Prior to painting your plywood, you’ll want to make sure that the surface of your plywood is free from any dust or other debris. Use a smooth-bristled cleaning brush to gently remove all foreign matter from the surface of your plywood panels. Follow this up with a damp cloth if necessary.

2. Apply Wood Filler To Correct

Next, it’s time to correct any superficial flaws on the surface of your plywood. If you have dents, exposed nails, or any other bumps that are guaranteed to stand out like a sore thumb during your painting process, now is the time to cover these up with a wood putty or wood filler. Apply your wood filler with precision by using a filling blade or filling knife, and then let it dry overnight or as recommended by the manufacturer.

Remember that sometimes your wood filler can shrink as it dries, so be sure to reassess your plywood materials once the filler has been allowed to set. If there are still minor dents in your plywood surface, consider reapplying filler until you’re happy with the texture of your plywood material.

3. Sand Down Your Plywood Surface

Having bumps is infinitely better than having crevices when preparing your plywood panels to be painted. This is because bumps can easily be sanded down. And that’s what Step #3 is all about.

Go over your plywood surface with a 180-220 fine grit sandpaper to remove any additional bumps or lumps created when adding your wood filler. Once this has been done, wipe your plywood panels down again to remove any extra dust or other debris.

how to paint plywood

4. Apply Your Primer Coat

Painting plywood isn’t like painting on a stretched canvas. You want to make sure that the colour of your paint isn’t impacted by the colour of the timber it’s being applied to. 

Thankfully, adding a primer coat will help ensure that your paint colours appear neutrally, or as advertised on your paint tin. Be sure to apply along the direction of your wood grain and apply multiple coats of primer if you feel it may be necessary. And once again, sand down to ensure that your surface stays free from bumps or lumps.

5. Apply Your Paint

Once you’re happy with your primer coat, it’s finally time to apply your paint! Apply your paints just as you did your primer – evenly and with additional coats if required. Again, be sure to apply your paint along the direction of your wood grain and to match your primer coat.

Once dried, correct any imperfections with your 180-220 grit sandpaper, and reapply paint wherever necessary.

6. Apply Paint Sealant If Required

Once your undercoat and topcoats have both dried, it’s finally time to review your painted plywood and see if any touch ups are required. This may involve sanding your surface down one more time and applying another coat of paint if needed. 

Alongside this, you’ll want to add a layer of paint sealant to help protect your paint coatings from being exposed to dust or other contaminants that may degrade the appearance of your plywood. Sealants are particularly vital for plywood panels that will be used for outdoor applications or even for furniture production. The most important part is sealing all exposed edges.

painting plywood

What Type Of Paint Should You Use When Painting Plywood?

Another key element of learning how to paint plywood is simply understanding what types of paints perform best on these unique surfaces. Truth be told, you can use a selection of different paints and expect exceptional results, so long as you follow our guide on how to paint plywood to a tee. Furthermore, all tests that have been conducted have found, that Latex Acrylic paint is best for adhering to plywood. Any more advice speak with your paint retailer. 

can you paint plywood

Top Alternatives For Painted Plywood

If you want all the benefits of installing treated plywood in your home but don’t want to deal with adding paint or a finish yourself, then you do have the option to invest in prefinished plywood. These specialty plywood panels typically boast a lighter and more uniform appearance and are predominantly developed to be used as feature panels for internal walls and ceilings.

And for those who are after a pop of colour, why not explore our range of COLOURpyne® decorative melamine boards here at Cabinet Timbers? Constructed out of melamine formaldehyde resin and sustainably sourced Australian pine, these decorative boards are a great alternative for those thinking about painting plywood panels in their next development or construction project.

Have any other questions about how to paint plywood panels? Then contact our team at Cabinet Timbers via our online enquiry form or by calling (03) 8353 2222 today.

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