How To Paint An IKEA Billy Bookcase

Known for its sleek lines and contemporary design, the Billy bookcase is a well-loved piece from IKEA. This bookcase can be used in any room, and it can be customized to fit the look of the space. While is it a great piece of furniture, a lot of buyers find that the standard black, white, and wood-colored variants are too boring. A common question that is almost often asked is this—how do you paint this Billy bookcase?

The IKEA Billy bookcase can be easily painted with a little sanding preparation and a few layers of primer before the paint. It is a simple, easy way to customize and reinvigorate your bookcase look.

How to Paint an IKEA Bookcase:

  1. Disassemble the bookcase, or keep it unassembled if you are starting with a brand new set.
  2. Lightly scruff up the surface by sanding it with medium-grit sandpaper.
  3. Apply a layer of shellac-based primer. Leave to dry.
  4. Next, apply one or two coats of your preferred paint. Allow to completely cure and dry.
  5. When the painted surface is dry, apply a layer of topcoat for protection.

Changing the look of your IKEA Billy bookcase doesn't have to be complicated. However, aside from painting, you might also be wondering if there are other ways you can enhance the look of your bookcase. Fortunately, we've looked into a good number of IKEA hacks and inspirations so keep on reading to learn more about these!

A huge bookcase inside a study room and a small reading chair with a book holder on the side, How To Paint An IKEA Billy Bookcase

Painting the IKEA Billy Bookcase

The IKEA Billy bookcase is a classic choice for many homeowners because of its simple, yet easy-to-customize design. The Billy bookcase is stackable, making it easy to attach new units if more storage is needed.

It also has adjustable shelves that can fit anything from books to knick-knacks. This offers homeowners the chance to display anything and everything else in between!

Empty bookcase inside a newly finished reading room

The IKEA Billy bookcase is actually a whole system. The bookcase comes in different heights and configurations, making it a prime option to build and stack a unique, custom design for the room. It also comes with configured solutions for corner spaces, giving homeowners more options on how they would like to utilize their Billy bookcase.

One of the best features the IKEA Billy bookcase offers is the material used for the furniture. It is made of laminate board, a popular choice for many DIY furniture units because it is very durable and easy to maintain.

A huge bookcase filled with books of many kinds

However, while this is a benefit for some homeowners, others do find the material too limiting. Because of this, a lot of users prefer painting over their IKEA Billy bookcases, and here is a quick rundown of how to do it.

How to Paint the IKEA Billy Bookcase

Materials Needed:

  • medium-grit sandpaper/sanding block
  • tack cloth (or damp cloth)
  • shellac-based primer
  • paint of your choice
  • paintbrushes and rollers
  • paint tray
  • topcoat (depending on the paint used)


1. Disassemble the bookcase

Before starting out on your project, it is best to dismantle your IKEA Billy bookcase so you can paint all the surfaces properly. If you are starting out with a brand new set, keep it unassembled because separating the pieces is easier to work with.

2. Scruff up the surface

Using a medium-grit sandpaper or sanding block, scruff up the surface by sanding it using big, wide strokes. Sanding the surface of the laminate surface gives your primer and paint something to hold onto.

Make sure to go over all the areas of your furniture and scruff it without leaving any bare spots. After sanding, use a tack cloth (or a damp cloth) to wipe away all the dust and chipped pieces from the surface of your furniture.

3. Apply primer

Applying white paint using a paint roller

After scuffing up all the surfaces of your bookcase, apply an even layer of shellac-based primer on your laminate. Using a foam roller, spread a thin, even layer on top of the surface and make sure to go over all the areas to prevent leaving bare spots. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and leave it out to dry completely.

Make sure that the primer that you are using is a shellac-based primer. This primer is one of the most used primers for laminate surfaces because it adheres well and it also works with different types of paint. It also dries fast and seals the surfaces from any stains that you'd like to hide.

Get this shellac-based primer on Amazon.

4. Paint it over

When the primer has completely dried, you can now start painting over it! Using any paint of your choice, go over all the pieces of the IKEA Billy bookcase and apply a layer or two of paint over it. Keep your strokes even and use smaller paintbrushes for areas that foam rollers can't reach. When done, leave the pieces out to cure and dry.

5. Layer on the topcoat

The last step in painting the IKEA Billy bookcase is putting on a topcoat to protect the furniture and make it last for a long time. After the painted pieces have dried, apply a layer of topcoat on the surface. Leave it out to dry completely before re-assembling the bookcase.

A polycrylic topcoat is typically suggested for this project because it works with most paint types and it is very durable. The topcoat also comes in different finishes, making it a perfect choice to match with whatever style you have going for your space.

See this polycrylic topcoat on Amazon.

What Kind Of Paint Can I Use On IKEA Furniture

Woman painting the bookcase with white paint

When you have properly primed your laminate surface, there are many different kinds of paint that you can use for your furniture. A few favorites used for projects like these are acrylic, latex, or chalk paint.

Acrylic paint

This paint is typically used by artists on canvas, but it can also be used on furniture. This type of paint can be applied directly on wood, but since the Billy bookcase is made of laminate, you should apply a primer first. Acrylic is water-based paint, and it can be found in spray paint applications.


Dipping paint brush into white paint

Latex paint is a lot similar to acrylic paint because it is water-based, but this is recommended for use when painting larger areas. It is easy to apply, and it is cheaper than acrylic paint, and its consistency usually means that you need fewer coats to completely cover the surface needed. 

Chalk paint

Chalk paint is a decorative furniture paint that requires very little preparation and can be used on practically any surface. When used on furniture, chalk paint makes it look like a vintage piece because of its matte-like finish and washed-out look.

For many decorators, chalk paint is a favorite because it gives furniture pieces an added texture to the space and the colors look really beautiful.

How Can I Improve My IKEA Billy Bookcase

Aside from the available extenders and additional shelves from IKEA itself, there are lots of ways to improve your IKEA Billy bookcase. Depending on how you'd like to incorporate the bookcase into your room, this bookcase is very adaptable and can surely make your space look very different. Here is some inspiration for you:

Add rattan doors

For homes that prefer using rustic elements like hemp and rattan as accents, this is a great way to incorporate your Billy bookcase with these materials. You can get the available doors from IKEA and get cane webbing installed with the help of a carpenter.

Built-in libraries

Make a library by setting up a couple of IKEA Billy bookcases and modifying them by adding wood planks in between. You can also add additional light fixtures on top to give your space that cozy library feel.

Kitchen storage

These bookcases aren't just meant to be used inside your rooms to keep storybooks, but you can also use them in your kitchen as additional storage. Using the horizontal configuration of the Billy bookcase, you can turn it into a kitchen island complete with extra space to keep your favorite kitchen supplies. 

Final Thoughts

A huge bookcase inside a study room and a small reading chair with a book holder on the side

The IKEA Billy bookcase is a favorite for many homeowners because of its practical design and added functionality of having more storage when needed. While this is a benefit everyone enjoys, one downside to the Billy bookcase is its less than appealing basic colors that can make the room a little boring. Changing the look of the IKEA Billy bookcase can be done by repainting the furniture to best suit your room's design.

Are you looking for more paint-related topics for your home? We have a few articles that you might enjoy:

How To Seal Chalk Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Can You Use Acrylic Paint On Walls [Indoor And Outdoor Applications]


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