Bookshelves are precious to every book lover. They express their passion for reading through their shelves and painted bookshelves can become an elegant visual dynamic in a house.
That’s not all, painting your bookshelf also makes your beloved books stand out in their full glory. So, if your shelves are looking a bit rundown, it’s time to refurbish them with a fresh coat of paint.
It’s easy to get confused while choosing a paint given the highly saturated paint market. But the best paint for bookshelves is one that will not only make them visually striking but also protect your shelves from damage in the long term.
If you’re struggling to select paint for your bookshelves, don’t worry. We’ve discussed everything you need to know including the top products and a guide on painting your stairs. So, without further ado let’s begin.
Quick Summary On Best Paint For Bookshelves
- Best Metallic Paint: Rust-Oleum 240288 Painter’s Touch Paint
“This popping metallic silver paint will make your bookshelves truly stand out along with giving them long-term protection against chipping and peeling.”
- Best Chalk Paint: Shabby Chic Chalked Furniture Paint
“Transform your bookshelves into the talk of the town with this stunning chalk paint with the most pigmented formula ever.”
- Best Eco-friendly Paint: Country Chic Chalk Style Paint
“Whether your aesthetic is chic or shabby, this is the safest clay and mineral-based paint to revamp your bookshelves.“
- Best White Paint For Bookshelves: Rust-Oleum 285140 Ultra Matte Paint
“This high-coverage, low-odor, and easy application latex paint transforms your bookshelves with its elegant linen white matte finish.”
- Best Paint For Wooden Bookshelves: Retique It Chalk Furniture Paint
“Enjoy the outstanding coverage, exquisite colors, and silky matte finish with this paint and rejuvenate your wooden bookshelves.“
Comparison Chart For Top 5 Paint For Bookshelves
Best Paint For Bookshelves Review
1. Rust-Oleum 240288 Painter’s Touch Paint
The first brand that comes to mind when choosing paint for bookshelves is none other than Rust-Oleum and their Rust-Oleum 240288 Painter’s Touch Paint is the best acrylic paint for bookshelves.
This premium paint comes in a metallic silver color that’s on the top of the trend everywhere. On top of that, the smooth satin finish makes your shelves stand out without the glaring shine.
This multi-purpose paint is suitable for wood, ceramic, plaster, metal, and many more surfaces. So, no matter which type of shelf you have you can enjoy its benefits.
Bookshelves have to withstand lots of shuffling and scraping as heavy books get pulled in and out of them regularly. This can easily ruin your precious paint job if the paint is not chip-resistant.
But not with this excellent acrylic paint. It features an exceptional chip-resistant formula that keeps the paint immaculate for years.
Moreover, the paint formula is low odor and low on VOC. Therefore, you can safely use it on your bookshelves.
That’s not all, with time bookshelves can get spots and stains. You can easily hide them as this paint comes with excellent coverage to transform the shelves completely.
- Exceptional acrylic formula
- Trendy metallic finish
- Versatile surface suitability
- Outstanding chip resistance
- Dries within 30 minutes
- Requires extensive prep work before painting
The best thing about this color is its durability and beautiful metallic finish. Its exceptional chip-resistant satin formula ensures smooth application with a flawless finish for your bookshelves.
2. Shabby Chic Chalked Furniture Paint
Chalk paints transform your bookshelves into distressed yet chic pieces of art. If you are a fan of this edgy look, there’s no better choice than the brand that specializes in chalk paints. Yes, it’s none other than the Shabby Chic Chalked Furniture Paint from the Rainbow Liquid Chalk Specialist.
You get excellent coverage from this water-based chalk paint as it’s formulated with incredibly rich pigment. Therefore, you’ll only require a little amount for covering large bookshelves. This paint is available in four can sizes for your convenience so that you can choose based on your requirement.
Turn your bookshelf into your canvas. Because you get to choose from over 30 beautiful shades of paint. What’s more, you don’t need to do any extensive prep work before painting. Not even any sanding or priming.
That’s not all, this chalk paint can adhere to any surface starting from metal, wood, plastic, brick, and even stone! Therefore, you can refurbish your bookshelf no matter which material it’s made of.
Lastly, you can apply this paint on your shelves without worrying about harmful toxins. Manufacturers ensure that it is completely free of any toxic chemicals.
- Water-based safe chalk paint
- Splendid distressed finish
- Ensures effortless application
- Available in versatile colors
- Extremely pigmented formula
- Consistency is quite thin
Enjoy the shabby yet chic aesthetic with one of the best paint for built-in bookshelves. Even if you are an amateur at painting you’ll be able to achieve excellent results with this paint.
3. Country Chic Chalk Style Paint
Up next, we have a brand that has been producing top-quality paints for over 80 years. It’s none other than the Country Chic Paint and their Chalk Style Paint is no exception to the legacy.
Give your bookshelves a personalized touch with this paint. The unique mineral and clay-based formula result in a superior adhesion property.
But the best thing about this paint has to be that it’s entirely eco-friendly. Country Chic Paint has made sure to exclude all the life-threatening chemicals like formaldehyde, phthalates, heavy metals, and other toxins. Also, it doesn’t contain any harmful odor or VOC pigments. Therefore, you can safely use this paint on your bookshelves.
Manufacturers claim this paint is produced using completely sustainable energy. On top of that, it has been certified safe for use on children’s toys. That goes to show how safe it is both for humans and the environment.
In addition, it comes with both primer and a topcoat which makes it one of the best paints for bookshelves. Because it will be able to withstand the scuffing of books without chipping off or fading.
- Integrated top coat & primer
- Completely eco-friendly paint
- Glides smoothly on various surfaces
- Provides outstanding coverage
- Super quick drying time
- Prone to scuffing while painting
What’s better than having paint that allows you to brighten up your bookshelves without having to worry about your family’s safety. You get to choose from 55 exquisite colors all of which come with a self-leveling feature to ensure a stunningly smooth finish.
4. Rust-Oleum 285140 Ultra Matte Paint
Some people prefer a glossy finish while others favor an elegant matte finish. If you’re part of the second group, Rust-Oleum 285140 Ultra Matte Paint will be perfect for you.
This water-based latex paint comes in more than ten exciting colors and all of them will give you a velvety matte finish. But the most beautiful color is linen white. It is a true white color that’s not too stark nor too creamy. Be it wood or metal, this paint is suitable for all types of bookshelves.
On top of that, you can increase the distressed vintage look using sandpaper at the last step. This sophisticated white paint can rejuvenate your bookshelves and bring about a relaxed feeling.
The unique formula allows it to provide excellent coverage with only one coat. Hence, one quart of paint will last you a few projects.
What’s more, once the paint is dry it’s really easy to clean up with only soap and water. So, give your bookshelves a new life with the trendy yet vintage colors of the Rust-Oleum Chalked Paint range.
- Velvety smooth white matte finish
- Covers up to 150 sq ft surface
- Excellent for an antique look
- Doesn’t require any primer
- Easy soap & water clean up
- May require multiple coats for a solid finish
One of the best white paints for bookshelves if you enjoy a soothing matte look. What’s more, one quart of paint will be more than enough to paint all your shelves as it can cover more than 150 sq ft of surface.
5. Retique It Chalk Furniture Paint
If you have wooden bookshelves, check out the Retique It Chalk Furniture Paint. This acrylic paint comes with a thick self-leveling formula. As a result, you can get a smooth even finish on your wooden shelves.
In addition, the paint dries in a silky chalky finish that enhances the beauty of the wooden bookshelf. You can also cover up any spots or stains effectively as it provides outstanding hiding capability.
Moreover, It can bond efficiently with wood grains and ensures long-lasting protection.
What’s more, this paint has been made with non-toxic elements and ultra-low VOC for keeping both us and the environment safe. Moreover, it doesn’t contain any hidden harmful chemicals so you can use it for children’s bookshelves too.
With this paint, you don’t have to limit your creativity. From soothing neutrals to traditional jewel shades, you get to choose from 50 different colors.
Furthermore, you can cover up to 100 sq ft of wooden surface using only one gallon of this paint. The paint only takes thirty minutes to dry so you can finish painting projects in a day.
- Excellent chip resistance
- Hypoallergenic paint formula
- Covers over 100 sq ft surface
- Great for hiding imperfections
- Effortless cleanup process
- Requires multiple coats to get the true color
Give your wooden shelves a royal treatment with the best paint for wood bookshelves. You can achieve both distressed antique and classy contemporary look with this paint.
How To Choose Paint For Bookshelves?
DIY painting bookshelves can transform your entire library. But if you choose the wrong paint, you can end up staining your books. To pick out the correct paint, you need to consider some essential factors.
We’ve put together a quick buying guide to help you in picking out the proper paint for your bookshelves.
1. Paint Type
Acrylic paints are primarily preferred for painting bookshelves. They adhere better to wood, MDF, plywood, and other types of shelves. What’s more, they don’t have any sticky feel once they dry.
Also, chalk painted bookshelves have become trendy in recent years. Chalk paints are available in numerous vibrant colors and are absolutely effortless to apply. That’s not all, your bookshelves get a scuff & fade-resistant finish.
Gloss and semi-gloss paints give a more contemporary look to the bookshelf. On the other hand, matte and chalk finishes add a more edgy, chic look. However, matte finishes attract more dust and dirt and they are harder to clean. But you can’t deny the ease of application and color vibrancy of such finishes.
Glossy finishes dry with a hard film that is more durable and you can easily wipe them clean. Yet glossy finishes can be distracting in a library. A middle ground can be satin finishes which are considered the best paint finish for bookshelves. With them, you get to enjoy the benefits of gloss without the blinding shine.
3. Adhesion & Durability
Painting your bookshelves is not a cheap project especially if you own several large shelves. Hence, no one wants to use paint on their shelves that’ll chip off in a few months or peel right off when you go to pull a book out. Therefore, look for paint that will last for at least a few years.
Adhesion plays a major role in making sure the paint stays intact for a long time. So, make sure the paint you are buying can adhere properly to the bookshelf material.
Also, apply primers and a top coat to increase both the adhesion capability and longevity of the paint. Lastly, use good-quality acrylic paints for enhanced coverage and fade resistance.
Bookshelves are meant to hold books. If you pull out books regularly, you need to apply paint that will not get scuffed by the books. Also, the paint should be able to handle the weight of heavy books.
5. Drying Time
If a paint takes a long time to dry, it faces higher risk of getting scratched or chipped. Water-based paints take 20 minutes to an hour to dry. So, you can apply several coats of paint in one day.
However, oil-based paints take about 6 to 24 hours to dry properly. Therefore, it will be difficult to finish the project in one day.
How To Paint A Bookshelf?
Painting your bookshelf is not difficult at all and color painted bookshelves can brighten up a room instantly. With the right tools and guidance, you can freshen up your precious shelves all by yourself.
You can paint a bookshelf using spray paint or brush-on paint. We’ve explained both of the processes to make sure you achieve the best results.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
Before starting, gather all the required supplies you’ll need for painting the bookshelves. For starters, you’ll need drop cloths, tack cloths, primer, a soft-bristled brush, a foam brush, and good quality spray paint or brush-on paint.
In addition, get yourself a pair of rubber gloves, goggles, and a ventilation mask for safety.
Step 2: Prepare The Work Space
First of all, open doors or windows to ensure proper ventilation into the room. Proper airflow allows the paint to dry faster and protects you from harmful paint fumes.
Now, if your bookshelves consist of detachable parts, you should consider taking them apart. Painting separate pieces will be easier than painting the complete shelf.
Nonetheless, place drop cloths around the bookshelf to avoid getting paint on the floor. Use old newspapers or cardboard boxes if you don’t want to spend money on drop cloths.
Step 3: Clean The Bookshelf
Painting on a dirty surface will result in uneven paint. A dry cloth can remove dust and dirt. Then, use a tack cloth to take off the remaining dirt, dust, and lint effectively. If your shelves have stubborn stains or dirt, use a damp cloth to clean them properly.
Step 4: Sand The Shelves
If you are worried about adhesion, it’s a good idea to sand the bookshelf first. This is especially important if your shelves have old paint. Use 150-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the entire shelf. Then, wipe the shelves with a tack cloth to remove the sanding dust.
Step 5: Apply Primer
Some paints include primer in their formula. However, primer is indispensable to make sure the paint sticks properly to the shelves.
You can use either brush on or spray primer. In the case of a spray primer, shake the primer properly before spraying. For a brush on primer, use a soft-bristle brush to apply the primer all over the bookshelf.
Make sure to apply a thin even coat of primer and allow it to dry for 20 minutes. If needed, apply a second coat.
Step 6: Apply Paint
- Spray Paint: First of all, shake the paint can vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Then, start spraying in a side-to-side and up & down motion. Try to spray in light and consistent layers to avoid drips. Cover the bookshelf with the first coat of paint. Allow it to dry for at least 30-40 minutes before applying a second coat. It is recommended to apply at least two coats of paint to get the true color. If you are painting over an old dark color, you may need more coats.
- Brush On Paint: You can apply chalk or acrylic paint with paintbrushes. Stir the paint to make sure everything is mixed properly. Then, pour out some of the paint into a paint tray. Use a foam brush or soft-bristle brush to avoid getting brush strokes on the pipe. Apply the paint in smooth long strokes. Start at the bottom of the shelf and go upwards. Acrylic paint will take longer to dry. You’ll need to wait about 6-8 hours before applying the second coat. Chalk paints on the other hand take about 30 minutes to dry. Apply additional coats after the first coat dries. Avoid using too many coats as it’ll show paint drips and uneven coats.
Step 7: Cure The Paint
After you are happy with the color of your bookshelf, allow the paint to dry for at least 24 hours. Check the paint can or tub for the exact recommended cure time. You need to let the paint cure sufficiently so that it can withstand scuffing, scratching, and everyday damages.
How To Paint A Wooden Bookshelf?
There’s little difference between painting metal and a wooden shelf. However, if you need specific tips for painting your wooden bookshelf follow our tips.
- Gather all the similar tools mentioned in the previous section. But this time make sure to get high grit sandpaper, wood primer, and paint that can adhere well to the wooden surface.
- Then follow all the steps for preparing the bookshelf for paint. Start by cleaning the shelf properly.
- Now, check your wooden bookshelves for any dents or damage. Fill the dents with wood filler.
- If your bookshelf already has multiple layers of paint on them, it’s a good idea to strip the old paint. Use a good quality paint stripper for this and get rid of the old paints.
- Sand the entire bookshelf with high grit sandpaper to take off the shine from previous paint and increase surface adhesion. Moreover, sanding makes the uneven wood surface smooth.
- Then, apply the wood primer all over the bookshelf. After the first coat dries, apply a second coat.
- After the primer is completely dry, get your preferred spray, acrylic, or chalk paint and start painting. Chalk paints are great for wooden shelves as they don’t require much preparation.
- Make sure to apply thin even coats. Allow each coat of paint to dry completely before applying the next coat.
- At last, let the bookshelf dry for at least 24 hours and enjoy your chic painted wooden bookshelf.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
1. Can You Spray Paint Bookshelves?
Yes, you can spray paint bookshelves. However, spray paint tends to spread to a wider area and in the case of bookshelves, it’ll be harder to control. So, make sure you cover surrounding areas and yourself before spray painting your bookshelf.
2. How Do You Protect Painted Bookshelves?
If you use high-quality paint the painted bookshelves will be protected by the paint itself. However, for further protection, you can apply several coats of sealer. Polycrylic or wax sealers can shield the painted shelves from stains, fading, and peeling.
3. Do I Need To Prime A Bookshelf Before Painting?
Primers create an ideal base for the paint and help the paint adhere properly to the bookshelf. What’s more, primer makes the paint last longer without fading and chipping.
So, yes you need to prime a bookshelf before painting if you want the paint to stay fresh for a long time.
4. What Color Should I Paint My Bookshelves?
You can use any polyacrylic or polyurethane color on your bookshelves. Acrylic or chalk paints protect from the elements while giving a matte finish that’ll not stick to your books.
5. What Color To Paint Built-in Bookshelves?
This entirely depends on your personal preference. Bookshelves should bring about cozy and relaxing vibes. Hence, go for dark grays, greens, or blues.
If you prefer a lighter shade, make sure to stay in the light gray or white shades. Because brighter shades can be distracting in a library.
6. Can You Paint A Bookshelf With Wall Paint?
Well, you can paint your bookshelf with wall paint. But you’ll have to make sure the paint can adhere to the material of your bookshelf. Otherwise, the paint will peel and chip off in a few weeks.
7. What Do I Need To Paint My Bookshelf?
First of all, you’ll need the paint. Along with that, paintbrushes of both medium and small size, tack cloth, drop clothes, primer, rubber gloves, etc.
8. Can You Paint Ikea Bookshelves?
You can paint Ikea bookshelves if you prepare the shelf properly before painting. To make sure the paint sticks to the shelf, sand the entire surface and then apply several coats of a good-quality primer.
If you are noticing scuff marks, chipping paints, or other exterior damage on your bookshelves, it’s time to show them some love. Painting is an affordable and easy way of revamping your old bookshelves. You can give them a new life with the best paint for bookshelves.
We have shared some invaluable advice regarding choosing quality paints for your bookshelves. So, pick the paint suitable for your project and get your paintbrush in hand to make your bookshelves the centerpiece of your house.