How To Paint Ikea Billy Built Ins

Tell all ya friends and neighbors!

If you’re looking to paint Ikea furniture (especially the Billy bookcases), here are the steps you need to take to make sure your finish will last and not flake off!

white paint roller on door


How To Paint Ikea Billy Bookcases (or any Ikea furniture!)

I can’t even tell you how long I have been begging Jordan to let me have bookshelves beside our fireplace.

I wanted them even before we renovated our kitchen, but *SOMEONE* in this house kept saying they wouldn’t look good.

whitewashed brick fireplace

Once the room was finally opened up, even mid renovation and that certain someone saw the potential, I already knew exactly what I wanted – Ikea Billy bookcases just like we have in our upstairs playroom, but sexier.

The biggest problem is that the Billy comes in black but not the right black, not to mention they were out of stock and I was tired of waiting.

Which meant I had to paint Ikea furniture which I was NOT looking forward to.

I’m not going to lie – this project is a lot of steps if you want it done right, but the goal is to make it last so that you only have to do it once.

Will Paint Stick to Ikea Furniture?

Yes, it absolutely will! As long as you prepare and paint the furniture correctly, your painted Ikea bookcases will last for a long time.

bookcase doors laid out on top of 2x4s being read to paint

The key is most definitely in the preparation. You must make sure that the surface is clean, lightly sanded and primed with a quality primer.

Can You Paint Straight Onto Ikea Furniture?

That’s a hard no. You can not paint straight onto Ikea furniture.

Technically, I guess you can, but you really don’t want to if you want them to last.

Whenever you’re painting Ikea furniture, it should be thoroughly cleaned and lightly sanded before primer and paint are applied.


paint tray liner with supplies inside


180 Grit Sanding Block

220 Grit Sanding Block

Zinnser Bin Primer

Foam Rollers


lowes buckets flipped upside down with 2x4s screwed to the side

This is where not having a garage really sucks. I have to wait until weather cooperates with me to do projects outside.

Because I had approximately 2920857 doors to paint, Jordan screwed a couple scrap 2x4s in the sides of Lowe’s 5 gallon buckets so that I could lay them out and be able to paint more than a few at a time.

woman leaning over billy bookcase doors sanding them

Next, you want to scuff the surface a bit with a sanding block.

This technically isn’t full blown sanding; it’s just scuffing up the surface a little bit so that the shellac primer is going to have a better chance of sticking around.

But this also means that people can use clickbait and say “Paint Ikea furniture without sanding!!!!!” and you’ll think it’s true and it’s a WHOLE LIE.

woman standing up and wiping a billy bookcase door with tack cloth

After sanding both sides of the doors and the pieces of the main bookcase, you will want to use a tack cloth to make sure that all of the dust gets off of the door so it won’t get mixed in with the paint.

By the way – you need to do 2 coats of primer and you need to “not sand” and wipe down with a tack cloth again before you even think about touching this with paint.

tub of jasco mask and peel sitting on top of ikea billy glass door

Because we bought doors with glass on them, I knew I was going to be using my favorite way to easily paint French doors, but I had a new product I wanted to try since it was WAY cheaper than the masking liquid I normally use and I didn’t have to wait for delivery because this JASCO Mask and Peel was in Home Depot!

paintbrush with white paint on it painting

I painted two coats and let it dry completely before I started painting with the Zinsser primer.

glass door laying on 2x4 with white paint

I used a good 2″ paintbrush to get in the areas where the glass met the door and on the parts of the door that had a raised part before I used my foam roller.

white paint roller on door

I then rolled the rest of the doors with the primer.

Peep the scenery change – that whole “weather not cooperating outside, have no garage kinda thing” going on.

woman standing in front of painted ikea billy built ins

I repeated THIS ENTIRE process of painting, scuffing a bit and painting again with my Behr Black paint, except I used a paint sprayer as much as I could.


It is recommended that you don’t put Zinsser Bin primer in a paint sprayer because of its thickness, but you do you if you wanna give it a go.

woman peeling off film from painted ikea billy built ins

I waited until we put the bookcases together and installed them to look like built ins before I scored and peeled off the film on the glass.

peeling off film on glass ikea billy bookcase

Which, let’s be honest, is the most satisfying part.

The process of painting IKEA Billy bookcases isn’t as scary as it may sound, but it is most definitely tedious, and dare I say, obnoxious.

The most important part is taking the time to properly prepare and clean the cabinet doors and shells so that you can ensure an even paint finish.

You can do it!

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