The Right Way to Spray Paint MDF to Get the Best Finish


Last updated: July 28, 2023

Learn the Techniques and Best Paints to Spray Paint MDF Boards like a Pro in This Detailed Painters’ Guide

Spray paint MDF

We have all heard how challenging it can be to spray paint MDF. However, the truth is that if you know what to do, then it should not be challenging.

With the right knowledge and guidance, even a novice can spray paint MDF and get the desired results.

This post will explore the right way to spray paint your MDF to achieve a professional finished look, outline a step-by-step process you can follow, and look at the best paint to spray MDF.

Can You Spray Paint MDF?

Yes, you can spray MDF board surfaces. Any spray paint that can be used on wood can also be used when spray painting MDF. However, before spraying the MDF surface, you should sand, seal, and prime it to ensure the paint will stick well and last longer.

What is MDF?

MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. Regarding hardness, MDF is between particle board (i.e., Low-Density Fiberboard – LDF) and hardboard (i.e., High-Density Fiberboard. 

This type of fiberboard is manufactured by applying high temperatures and pressure to fuse a light composite material made of resins and sawdust. 

Due to how the board is created, MDF does not have the typical defects associated with lumber and plywood, such as rings and knots. This makes MDF easy t work with, shape, and cut.

Do You Need to Seal MDF Before Painting?

Yes, you must seal any MDF board surface before painting because it is very porous. Sealing will prevent the board from soaking too much paint and aid in solving common MDF spray painting problems such as overspray and paint drips and imperfections. It also will help the primer and paint adhere well to the MDF surface. 

Ways of Sealing MDF Edges Before Spray Painting?

The edges of MDF are more porous and rougher than the top or bottom surfaces. Due to this, whenever you apply paint, it can be difficult for the edges to have a uniform look on the other surfaces of the board.

Sealing the edges is important to ensure you have a uniform paint job. There are different ways of doing this, some of which are discussed below:

  • The Inexpensive Way

One of the most inexpensive ways of sealing the edges of your MDF board is by using an iron box -Yes, you read right!

You will not incur any cost here as you already have the iron box. 

All you have to do is connect it to power, set the heat setting to the highest point, and turn the steamer function off (if your iron has one). Press it against the edge and move through the entire edge of the board.

Afterward, sand the edges using a sanding block or 240-grit sandpaper. 

Repeat the ironing process and sand. The edge should be sealed.

While this method is inexpensive, it is not the most effective way of sealing the edges. Most of the time, the edges tend to look dull, even after painting.

  • The Faster Way

Ever heard of Shou Sugi Barn? Well, here you will employ a similar method. 

You take a blowtorch, set the highest rating, and scorch the edges uniformly. Do this in a sweeping motion, never staying on one spot for more than a second so you do not end up burning the board. Afterward, sand the edges.

Repeat the process above as needed – if you are working with a medium piece of MDF, a full blowtorch canister will be enough to repeat the process up to 3-4 times.

This is by far the fastest way of sealing the edges of an MDF board. However, like using the iron box, the edges tend to have a dull look after painting.

  • The Best Way for Great Results

The best way to seal the edges varies depending on who you ask and their preferences. 

The method I will share below is the best way to achieve great results when sealing the edges.

Start by lightly sanding the edges using a 200-grit sandpaper sanding block. 

Mix wood filler – I would recommend mixing it with a sanding sealer. Use a putty knife to apply a thin and even filler coat on the edges. 

Give it 30 or so minutes to dry and sand using 240-grit sandpaper. Be very gentle when sanding the corners so you do not remove all the filler. 

Inspect the edges for defects and reapply the filler and sand again until you eliminate them.

Once done, apply a thin coat of sanding sealer again. Let it dry, and then apply a second coat of the sealer.

After your spray paints the MDF, the edges will be as smooth and have a uniform look as the other surfaces of the board.

Pro Tip: Other great methods of sealing the edges include using edge banding and an MDF sealer (a good example is shellac).

How to Spray Paint MDF – Step by Step

There is a process you can follow to give you the best results whenever spray painting MDF. This is the process that I will share with you below.

Let us start by looking at the supplies you will need before looking at the actual step-by-step procedure.

Supplies and Materials needed

  • Drop cloth rug.
  • Universal cleaner if required.
  • Sanding sealer.
  • Sandpaper (200 and 400 grit)
  • Wood filler.
  • Putty knife.
  • Primer (if required).
  • Spray paint.
  • Safety gear.
  • Top coat finish.
  • MDF to be spray painted.

Step 1: Cleaning the MDF surface

Use a rug or drop cloth to remove the dust and dirt from the board, then wipe it down. 

You may also use a universal cleaner such as Zinsser Universal Degreaser and Cleaner. Just apply the cleaner, and wipe the surface using a clean cloth.

Step 2: Prepping the MDF and work area

Ensure that the fiberboard is air-dried and ready for the next step of the process.

Arrange your work area and ensure you have everything you need for the entire painting process.

Ensuring the area is well-ventilated and allows free air movement is also important. This is especially important since some spray paints are toxic as they contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Arrange the MDF in a way that makes painting every surface or turning it to spray unreachable areas easily.

Using a crate to elevate the item or a painting workbench is useful for achieving the above. However, you are not limited to this and can use other tools or equipment to achieve the same.

Ensure you lay down drop cloth or plastic sheeting to guard against any paint touching the ground. This is especially important if you are working in a floored indoor work area.

Next, put on your safety equipment. 

You are now ready to begin working on the MDF.

Pro Tip: Each time you finish sanding, use a vacuum to remove the dust particles from the surface.

Step 3: Sanding any rough parts

If the MDF has rough parts, sand them using a sanding block or 200-grit sandpaper. Do the same for the edges of the fiberboard.

Always wear protective gear (mask and goggles) when sanding MDF because it can produce a lot of dust during the process.

Once you are satisfied with how smooth the board is, you can move to the following step.

Step 4: Sealing and filling

Mix the wood filler with a small amount of sanding sealer to form a paste-like compound. Do not make it too thin – ensure it is something you can pick up with your fingers.

Use a putty knife to apply and spread the filler all over the board’s edges. 

Ensure the filler is a thin layer evenly spread across the edges and any dents you might want to fill on the other surfaces.

Apply enough filler to cover the areas well. However, do not overdo it and apply too much, as this will lead to more sanding.

Give the filler enough time to dry before you move to the next step.

Step 5: Second round of sanding

Using 240-grit sandpaper, sand the surface of the board you will paint. Remember to be careful when sanding the edges and other areas that you have painted. 

 Move on to the next step.

Step 6: Priming

There are various ways to prime before painting. Over the years, I have tried different ways of doing this, and the method I will share below gives the best results when painting MDF.

First, apply a thin coat of sanding sealer to the entire surface. Be generous with the edges and apply more sealer.

Once done, give it a few hours to dry and lightly sand the entire surface with 300-grit sandpaper.

Next, apply a second coat of sanding sealer evenly across the surface. Let it dry and sand again.

After this, you can apply a specific primer spray if you have one. One or two coats will be fine, depending on your surface.

You can apply a third coat of sanding sealer if you do not want to use a primer – it will also serve the same purpose.

Once everything is fully dry, the MDF is ready for painting.

Step 7: Spray paint medium-density fiberboard 

Start by shaking the spray paint aerosol for 2 minutes to ensure the paint inside the can mixes uniformly.

Hold the spray paint 10 inches from the fiberboard and start moving before pushing the trigger to start spraying. 

This will help you avoid overspray when spraying – this often happens with novice and intermediate painters.

Ensure you cover the MDF with an even and thin coat of paint. Once finished, let the first coat dry completely. This should take no more than 2-3 hours for most spray paints.

Apply a second coat of spray paint using the same process as above. Let it dry before moving to the next step.

Step 8: Applying the top coats

To make your spray-painted MDF ‘pop,’ you can apply a clear top finish coat. Use the same spraying process detailed above.

One or two coats will do the trick.

Afterward, let everything dry and cure before using the MDF. 

Best Spray Paint for MDF

With so many brands, color options, and finishes available on the market, finding the best spray paint for MDF can sometimes seem daunting.

Luckily, you do not have to worry about these problems because this section will introduce three top paints you can use.

1. Rustoleum Painter’s Touch – Overall, Best Spray Paint for MDF 

Whenever I think about any DIY painting project, the first product on my list is Rustoleum Painter’s Touch.

This spray paint can be used on various surfaces and materials, including MDF. 

One of the most amazing things about the paint is that no matter the type of surface you are painting, you are guaranteed a great and professional finish.

This Rustoleum paint comes in 12- and 11-ounce spray cans and is available in different finishes and color variants. 

The comfort tip makes painting your MDF easy, even when holding the spray at different angles.

The fact the paint is oil-based makes it even more suited to painting Fiberboards.

With a quick-drying formula, the painting process will take a shorter time, even if you plan on applying multiple coats of paint.

Unlike most other oil-based paints, Rustoleum Painter’s Touch has a low odor. Nonetheless, I still recommend using safety gear when using it.

Furthermore, the paint has excellent adhesion power, which improves its durability and helps resist chipping and peeling.

Since the spray comes in different finishing variants, you will find one in a color that will fit your MDF painting project.

What I Liked About the Paint 👍

  • Comfort tip makes painting easy.
  • A quick-drying formula helps save time.
  • It can be used on different surfaces apart from MDF.
  • Strong adhesion power to help resist peeling and chipping, and improve the durability of your paint work.
  • Comes in various finishes and colors.

What Could be Improved On 👎

  • The surface coverage can be better.

2. Rustoleum Universal Spray Paint – Best 2-in-1 MDF Spray Paint 

This universal spray paint from Rustoleum is excellent for painting various surfaces, including wood and MDF. 

Like its counterpart above, it also comes in 11- and 12-ounce spray cans.

One of the things that stands out about the paint is its 2-in-1 formula. This means that it is both a paint and primer.

Due to this, there is no need to use a primer, and as such, you can considerably cut down the time it will take to paint your MDF surfaces. 

Consequently, this will also help reduce the total cost of your painting project, making the paint an economical option for DIYers. 

The oil-based formulation means that it can be used for both indoor and outdoor MDF painting projects. It provides the surface with moisture resistance – a very important advantage, especially when dealing with MDF.

One of the best markers of a great paint job is its longevity – and this paint will provide just that.

The excellent formulation and powerful adhesion strength mean it lasts longer than some paints in its category from other manufacturers.

Handling and using the spray can is very comfortable because of the ergonomic design synonymous with Rustoleum spray paints. It also makes painting easier and faster.

What I Liked about the Paint 👍

  • Excellent adhesion strength.
  • Ergonomic design, making spraying comfortable and easy.
  • Durable lifespan for the paint job.
  • It can be used for indoor and outdoor painting projects.
  • 2-in-1 formula (paint plus primer).

What Could be Improved On 👎

  • Fumes contain more VOC compared to water-based spray paints.

3. Krylon Fusion All-In-One Aerosol Paint – Best Fast-Drying MDF Spray Paint 

Krylon Fusion is a multipurpose self-priming spray paint that adheres well to Fiberboard surfaces. 

Fusion comes in different color and finish options, ensuring that there is something to match your MDF painting needs. It also comes in 12-ounce aerosol cans.

With good sticking power, the paint is excellent at resisting peeling and cracking. This can greatly improve the durability of the paint on MDF. 

Priming and sanding are not a must when using this spray. However, I suggest that you do both if you want to achieve a professional-looking finish.

Different types of finishes are available for this spray paint, but one that stands out from most in the industry is the satin finish.

This variant provides an excellent finish to your MDF surface, perfectly balancing between a glossy shine and a matte finish.

What I Liked about the Paint 👍

  • Great satin finish.
  • Good adhesion strength.
  • Available in different colors and finishes.
  • Easy to use aerosol can.
  • Self-priming formulation to save time and cost.

What Could be Improved On 👎

  • Some other finishing options are not as good as the satin option.

Pro – Tips When Spray Painting MDF

  • Always wear your safety gear when sanding, priming, sealing, and painting MDF.
  • Sand the edges before applying your preferred sealer-do not do it the way. Repeat this as many times as required to get smooth edges.
  • Seal your MDF surface before painting to avoid paint blotches, overspray, and using excess paint.
  • When spray painting MDF boards, you can use sealer as a primer and sealer.
  • Applying several thin coats of paint is much better than one or two thick ones. This is because they dry faster and reduce the causes of spray paint crackles, drips, and peels.

FAQs – Spray Painting MDF

Can you spray paint MDF cabinets?

Yes, you can spray paint MDF cabinets. Seal, sand, and prime the MDF cabinet surfaces before applying the spray paint. After painting, you can apply a clear topcoat paint to give your spray-painted MDF cabinets a more polished and professional-looking finish. 

Can you spray paint MDF furniture?

Yes, you can spray paint MDF furniture. You should use one of the best MDF spray paints discussed above and follow the step-by-step process outlined above to ensure you get a good finish for your MDF furniture. 

Can you prime MDF with spray paint?

Yes, you can prime an MDF board using a spray primer. Spray primers with wood in the list of surfaces they can be used on can also be used to prime MDF. You should always seal and sand the surface before applying the primer.

Do I need to prime MDF before spray painting?

Whether or not you prime MDF before spray painting will depend on the spray paint you will use. Priming will be required if you are using normal spray paint. However, priming is not required if you are using a self-priming or 2-in-1 spray paint.

Why is sanding required before painting MDF?

Sanding is required before painting MDF to smoothen the rough wood fibers of the surface. Sand using fine sandpaper, e.g., 120-grit paper. You can then apply an MDF sealer before sanding again using higher-grit sandpaper (200-grit). After this, you are ready to prime and paint the MDF surface. 

Can I use water-based paints on MDF furniture?

Yes, you can use water-based paints on MDF furniture. However, you should seal the surface to avoid using too much paint. After spraying the paint, you may apply a topcoat finish (clear enamel, epoxy, or polyurethane-based) to help protect the paint job. 

Can I use shellac on MDF?

Yes, shellac is a great option for an MDF sealer. The fact that the sealer is all-natural and made from organic components adds to its appeal. Due to this, it has very minimal harmful effects when used to seal your MDF surface.

Content Summary – Spray Painting MDF

While we can all agree that painting MDF is not as straightforward as painting wood furniture or surfaces, it does not have to be hard.

If you follow the actionable guide above to the letter and use the recommended spray paints discussed, you will get a professional finish.

Now that you are armed with the information and know how to spray paint MDF, there is no better time to tackle that painting project that made you seek this post in the first place.

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