Painting a Plywood Shelf

Plywood is the material of choice for most home projects, from built-ins to kitchen cabinets. It is versatile and easily put together with screws and adhesive. To look good, however, plywood surfaces generally need to be finished well or covered with laminates of some kind. This is because most plywood sold in India is coarse grained and only veneered plywood stains well. The latter kind tend to be very expensive and not easily available. I generally paint my plywood projects.

The first step is sanding. This should not be too heavy but should level the plywood and any fillers used to plug screw holes and so on. This is also the time to do any edge treatment. I prefer to glue and nail on solid wood lipping or margin as it is locally called here. Strips of lipping or margin are widely available in most timber shops. The lipping usually needs to be planed flush with the plywood sides. A flush trim bit loaded in a router is usually the quickest way to get this done.

Next comes a coat of wood primer - putting it on with a roller is quick and easy. Be aware that most rollers create texture and not a flat smooth surface. So if you want a smooth finish you could stick to a paint brush or use a brush to paint the last couple of layers.

A few of the easily available Wood fillers

The critical part of the painting process is the application of some sort of filler over the primer to fill the grain streaks and create an absolutely flat surface. In the past, I would use a mixture of Chalk (Mitti) powder and paint but now I find a variety of fillers available in the market, beginning from Timbermate to the fillers made by all paint companies. My favourite are the acrylic fillers that are easy to apply and dry hard. Sirca also makes a good wood filler though I cannot say if it is acrylic or something else.

Shelf Primed and Sanded

The filler needs to be applied evenly but not too thickly. Once it dries it should be sanded back until it just fills in the grain, pores and whatever other indentations.

The next step is another layer of primer followed by paint. I put on the first couple of layers of paint with a roller as it goes on quickly. Hand sanding with 320 or 400 grit sandpaper in between coats is a must. The final couple of paint coats are brushed on. The roller leaves texture marks which I do not always like whereas the brush leaves a flat pattern free surface that can be lightly sanded down for a better sheen.
Shelf after a couple of coats of Paint

The painting process tends to be time consuming because the paint must dry before the next coat is applied. But this is fine with most home projects. I took my time, allowed the paint to dry properly before sanding and was rewarded in the end with a pretty decent surface. I attached the 6mm plywood back only after the paint job was done. Otherwise it would have been a bit awkward to get inside the shelves with a roller.

Shelf Fixed in its Place in the Study

Once that was done I attached the doors and fixed the shelf above the computer table. That's how I finished this simple plywood project; you could try something else. Good luck with your project.

Indranil Banerjie
12 October 2018


  1. It would be nice if you put a video on this someday. I am seeing great results in your final result and someday I want to try it as well:) also what color is that , looks fabulous !!

    1. Actually I have made a video on the subject. The link is there on the page. As for the colour, don't know the name because I select a colour at the local paint shop and the computer mixes it. Dulux has hundreds of shades. I select different ones from time to time.

  2. Are you using Kreg screws for the pocket holes or any local substitute?

    1. Yes I use Kreg screws but am looking at some Chinese alternatives. I've located a few screws but can't seem to get bulk supplies. Will post in my blog if something turns up.

    2. 38mm screws in Aliexpress, Bangood etc costs more than what you can get through amazon india global store. would be nice if source for the screws can be found in India which i am sure some one would be making and exporting.

    3. I too wish someone in India would make Kreg style screws but perhaps there isn't a mass market for those here as yet.

  3. Nice post. I am searching sites related to the Indian diy and woodworker. It is informative post. I shared post with my friend. My friend working in 24 hour Des Moines Towing. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What is the type of Hinges you used for doors? Its nice n& flush.


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