How to Paint Formica Countertops for an Instant Upgrade

Upgrading your kitchen countertops can be an expensive endeavor. Replacing formica countertops with natural stone, quartz, or solid surface materials often costs thousands of dollars. However, before taking on such a pricey project, consider painting your existing formica as a budget-friendly facelift. With some simple preparation and the right paint, you can give your countertops an instant makeover for a fraction of the cost. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to paint formica countertops and make them look brand new.

What is Formica?

Before learning how to paint formica countertops, it helps to understand exactly what formica is. Formica is a brand name that has become synonymous with laminate countertops. It was one of the first companies to manufacture these types of countertops.

Laminate countertops like Formica consist of four layers:

  • Paper: The bottom layer is a decorative paper that provides the color and pattern.
  • Phenolic resin: This resin layer is soaked into the paper layer to provide strength and structure.
  • Kraft paper: A core layer of kraft paper adds stability.
  • Melamine resin: The top layer is a melamine resin that seals and protects the laminate.

The resins used in the laminating process give formica its durable, heat-resistant, and low-maintenance qualities. But despite this durability, the plastic laminate surface and decorative paper limit design possibilities. This is where painting formica comes in – as a simple way to update the look without replacing the countertop.

Can You Paint Formica Countertops?

The short answer is yes, you can paint formica countertops! Painting is an inexpensive way to update the look of your kitchen by changing the color or creating a pattern on your existing formica countertops.

With the right preparation and paint, you can paint over the laminate surface to give it a fresh, new look. The key is using specialty laminate paints designed to bond to the slick surface.

Painting formica is ideal if your countertops are structurally sound but looking dated. It allows you to inexpensively rejuvenate your kitchen in a weekend without the cost or mess of a full replacement.

How to Prepare Formica Countertops for Painting

Proper preparation is crucial for getting paint to adhere correctly to laminate. Here are the steps to prepare formica countertops before painting:

Clean the Surface

Clean the formica countertops thoroughly with an ammonia-based cleaner to remove any grease, dirt, or residue. This helps the paint adhere properly.

Sand Gently

Use 220 grit sandpaper to lightly scuff the entire surface. This roughs up the slick laminate so the paint can grab on. Be gentle – you just want to dull the shine, not remove the top layer.

Remove Hardware

Remove sink faucets, soap dispensers, and any other removable hardware from the countertops. This protects the hardware from paint.

Fill Holes & Repair Damage

Use epoxy filler to patch any holes, chips, or cracks in the countertop surface. Sand smooth once dry. This prevents paint bleeding into flaws.

Mask Accents

Tape off the edges where the countertop meets the wall with painter’s tape to protect them from drips. Also mask any backsplash, trivets, or accents built into your existing countertops.

With these steps complete, your formica countertops are prepped and ready for paint!

Choosing the Right Paint for Formica Countertops

Picking the correct type of paint is imperative to achieving an evenly coated painted finish that lasts. Standard wall paints will not work. The slick surface requires a specifically formulated bonding primer and paint. Here are the best options:

Laminate Paint

The best choice is a 2-part epoxy acrylic paint made specifically for laminates, like Giani Countertop Paint kits. It comes with a primer and paint in one system formulated to bond to formica. The paint is durable and scratch-resistant.

Bonding Primer

An oil-based bonding primer like Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 also works well. It adheres tightly and provides a base for acrylic paints. Use an oil-based primer, not water-based.

Acrylic Paint

For the top coat, pick an interior/exterior acrylic enamel paint in a semi-gloss or gloss sheen. Semi-gloss offers some shine while minimizing streaks from cleaning.

By selecting the right products – bonding primer, acrylic paint, and laminate paint kits – you can achieve professional, lasting results painting formica.

How to Paint Formica Countertops Step-By-Step

Painting your formica countertops requires careful preparation and application of primer and paint. Follow these step-by-step instructions for best results:

1. Prepare the Surface

Complete all the preparation steps outlined above to clean, scuff, and mask off the formica counters. Proper prep ensures proper paint adhesion.

2. Apply Bonding Primer

Use a small foam roller to apply a thin, even layer of oil-based bonding primer over the entire surface according to the manufacturer’s directions. Let dry completely.

3. Lightly Sand Primer

Use 220 grit sandpaper to gently sand the primed surface to remove any drips or roughness and create a smooth surface for painting.

4. Clean and Tack Cloth

Wipe the sanded primer with a damp cloth to remove dust. Then use a tack cloth to pick up any remaining dust or debris.

5. Apply Base Coats of Paint

For light colors, two thin coats are often sufficient. Use a small foam roller to apply the specially formulated laminate paint or acrylic enamel. Let dry fully between coats as directed.

6. Apply Additional Paint Coats If Needed

For darker colors, apply additional coats as needed to achieve full opacity and coverage with no visible streaks. Give proper dry time between coats.

7. Remove Painter’s Tape

Once the final coat has dried, carefully remove all painter’s tape from the edges and accents. Touch up any drips or paint bleed.

8. Cure Per Manufacturer’s Directions

Some laminate paint kits require up to a week to fully cure and become scratch-resistant. Avoid heavy cleaning during this time.

9. Reinstall Sink Hardware

Once fully cured, reinstall any faucets, soap dispensers, or other hardware removed before painting.

Take your time with each step and allow for full drying and curing. Your patience will pay off with kitchen countertops that look freshly replaced!

Tips for Painting Formica Countertops Like a Pro

Follow these tips and tricks used by professionals to ensure your DIY formica paint job comes out flawlessly:

  • Opt for satin or semi-gloss over high-gloss. It minimizes visible brush strokes.
  • Rinse your roller in water frequently to prevent lint and debris from embedding in the paint.
  • Work in sections, completing one area fully before moving to the next.
  • Apply multiple thin coats rather than one thick coat for an even look.
  • Allow for longer dry times in humid environments.
  • Ventilate well during priming and painting to allow solvents to fully off-gas.
  • Use painter’s tape rated for 14+ days to prevent bleed under the tape edges.
  • Caulk along the backsplash, sinks, and faucet holes for a waterproof seal.
  • Consider hiring a pro if painting around a cooktop to avoid damage from paint overspray.

How Long Does Painted Formica Last?

When properly prepped and painted with the right products, painted formica countertops can last 5-10 years or longer. Much depends on the quality of the paint used, proper surface prep, and how heavily the countertops are used and cleaned.

The laminate itself remains intact underneath the paint. As long as you avoid chipping or wearing through the painted coating, your painted formica countertops will maintain their upgraded look for years before needing touch ups.

Can You Paint Formica Cabinets?

In addition to countertops, formica is also commonly used on the doors and finishes of kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Fortunately, the same painting technique applies for upgrading both countertops and cabinets.

Follow the same steps for proper cleaning, light sanding, priming, and painting using bonding primer and laminate paint. Semi-gloss provides a smooth, wipeable finish. Take care when painting cabinet doors and drawers to avoid paint buildup around the edges that could impact closure.

Painting formica cabinets along with countertops allows you to inexpensively recolor and update the entire kitchen or bath all at once.

Painted Formica Countertop Ideas and Inspiration

Painting formica opens up endless possibilities for updating the look of your countertops and cabinets. Here are some painted formica ideas to inspire your kitchen or bath remodel:

Solid Color

Painting with a solid, uniform latex paint color is the easiest way to give formica counters or cabinets a quick update. Sleek whites and greys work well in modern kitchens.

Faux Finishes

Make laminate look like natural materials, such as woodgrain, marble, or granite with specialty faux finish paint kits. Great for getting a built-in look without replacement.


Use paint to transform plain formica into a fun, patterned focal point. Opt for checkerboard, geometric, or freehand motifs. Use painter’s tape to create sharp edges.


Apply your choice of paint in graduated tones from dark to light to create a colorful ombre pattern. Works great on countertops or cabinet door fronts.


A chalkboard painted surface allows for frequently changed creativity. Use chalk to constantly update seasonal designs or messaging. Seal with poly.

With the right colors and designs, you can give boring, dated formica a high-end, customized look without the high price tag.

FAQs About Painting Formica Countertops

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about painting formica countertops:

Can you paint right over formica?

No, for the paint to properly adhere, the formica must be lightly sanded first to remove the glossy top layer. Always use a bonding primer designed for slick surfaces.

What kind of paint adheres best to laminate?

Specialty 2-part epoxy acrylic laminate paint or an oil-based bonding primer with acrylic enamel top coats work best on formica.

How do you prepare formica for painting?

Clean thoroughly with ammonia, scuff sand, fill any holes/chips, wipe away debris, and mask off edges with painter’s tape.

What sheen is best for painting formica countertops?

A semi-gloss or satin finish minimizes visible brush strokes. High-gloss can showcase imperfections.

Can you paint over factory laminate on cabinets?

Yes, the same process applies. Clean, scuff sand, prime with bonding primer, and apply acrylic paint.

How long does painted formica last compared to replacing?

5-10 years vs. 10-15 years typical lifespan. Painting saves thousands compared to replacement cost.

How do you protect painted formica countertops?

Avoid abrasive cleaners. Use soft cloths and mild soap and water. Reseal annually with polyurethane.


Painting formica countertops and cabinets offers a budget-friendly way to update the look of your kitchen or bath in a matter of days. With proper use of bonding primers and laminate paints, plus thorough preparation, you can achieve results comparable to a full remodel for a fraction of the cost.

Use the steps and tips outlined to ensure your DIY paint job resists scratching, staining, and peeling for years of use. Consider coordinating your painted counters and cabinets for a cohesive look.

In just a weekend, you can gain all the aesthetic benefits of new countertops and cabinets through an instant makeover with paint. So don’t demolish – paint! With strategic color choices and applications, you can give tired formica counters and cabinets another 5-10 years of life.