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Can You Paint MDF With Gloss?

MDF is a great material for cost-effectively building all sorts of furniture and decorations. But once you have built with MDF how do you paint it? Can you paint MDF with gloss? Well worry not, we have done the test for you!

So what is the test?

Well, it’s quite a straightforward test as far as tests go. I grabbed two pieces of MDF, one would be painted with gloss straight onto the MDF, the other with wood primer first followed by gloss.

I will then test how well the paint has adhered to the surface of the MDF by scratching it with some rough timber, followed by a threaded bolt.

Finally, the MDF will be left outside, exposed to the elements, this is to test how well the gloss can protect the MDF.

Painting MDF with gloss

The MDF was painted easily with gloss. MDF is very absorbent so the first coat does get sucked in quite a bit, this is where the primer can be a big help in sealing the MDF before painting. I put two coats of gloss on both the unprimed and primed MDF.

With MDF having a very smooth surface it is relatively easy to paint, so don’t be worried about just getting stuck in.

Testing the MDF

Here we can see the painted MDF. As you can see the gloss has covered the MDF really well, so as long as it has adhered to the surface then it most certainly looks like you can paint MDF with gloss.

MDF Painted With Gloss

MDF Painted With Gloss

So it is time for the scratch test. Beginning with a piece of rough sawn timber I run it across the surface of the MDF to see if any of the gloss will chip off. The gloss paint holds up really well here with no chipping at all.

Looks like I will need something stronger to really test the finish on this MDF. I find a threaded bolt which will be great for really testing this paint finish.

I run the bolt across the paint very aggressively, if the gloss is ever going to chip off, now would be the time.

After Scratch Test

After Scratch Test

So here we can see how the gloss has performed. Very well I would say, there are a few spots you can see where the paint has chipped off, but this was dirt specs under the paint chipping off rather than the paint coming away from the MDF. I obviously didn’t paint with massive amounts of care when painting these samples, so if you take your time to remove any dirt you will avoid this problem.

Apart from these dirt specs, the paint has stuck really well. Even scratching with a metal bolt couldn’t remove the paint. It is also worth noting that the unprimed MDF performed just as well as the primed.

So can you paint gloss on MDF?

From my testing, you definitely can. MDF is really absorbent so a mist coat or primer is still a good idea, but when it comes to whether or not gloss will adhere and cover MDF then the answer is a resounding yes!

Further Testing

I will now move these samples outside so they are exposed to the elements. This will test how well the gloss is protecting the MDF underneath. With MDF being so absorbant it doesn’t cope well in wet areas, so let’s see how well the gloss can improve that.

MDF Gloss Test Update No Primer

MDF Gloss Test Update No Primer

MDF Gloss Test Update

MDF Gloss Test Update Primer

So after over a year out in the elements, the MDF is still holding strong. There are no obvious signs of swelling or deterioration in the MDF itself.

The finish is obviously very dirty and has got some fungal and or plant growth on it, I’m not sure which or maybe both? But apart from that, it is doing well.

The primed sample is faring better than the non-primed one. On the non-primed one there are a few raised areas whereas on the primed one there is nothing like this. I would definitely say if you are going to do this then it would be a good idea to prime the MDF first.

Also on MDF



Wednesday 24th of November 2021


Daniel Berry

Thursday 17th of February 2022

Hi Joe, the update to the test is now live. Have a look at the new images and see how the MDF has held up after a year.

Christine Edgar-Hainsworth

Friday 15th of October 2021

Having an absolute nightmare painting a Grinch on to mdf . Primed it , an then used acrylic red which keeps blotching. Im gonna order red gloss an hope it sticks .

Daniel Berry

Saturday 16th of October 2021

You Shouldn't have any problem with the red gloss. We used red gloss and red Hammerite in this article here:

Onto both primed and un-primed MDF.