The main problem with finishing a piece of plywood by painting it is that even a piece of plywood with a smooth veneer presents a grainy and often knotty surface, and those features remain visible even through the paint. No amount of paint will ever fill in those features enough to blot them out, so they must be filled prior to the application of the paint.
Spread a thin layer of wood putty over the surface of the plywood with a putty knife, much as you might spread peanut butter on a piece of bread. Allow this to harden for several hours.
Sand the wood putty and wood surface of the plywood with fine-grit sandpaper. For a small plywood panel, you can use a handheld rotary tool fitted with a 240-grit sanding disc, but for a large surface you will need a handheld orbital sander with 180- to 240-grit sandpaper.
Prime the plywood with an acrylic latex primer, brushing it on with long, even strokes. Allow the primer to dry for several hours.
Paint the plywood with a high-quality acrylic latex paint, using long, even brush strokes. Allow the first coat of paint to dry for several hours before applying at least one more coat of paint.
Tips & Warnings
- Alternately, you may choose to use spray cans instead of a brush to apply the primer and paint.
- If you are only painting the plywood to protect it from the elements, and do not care about achieving a smooth, finished appearance, there is no need to fill the plywood surface with wood putty first.
- Sanding the wood putty down on the plywood creates a lot of particulate matter. Wear a dust mask.
Things You'll Need:
- Wood putty
- Putty knife
- Handheld orbital sander with fine-grit sandpaper
- Handheld rotary tool with 240-grit sanding disc
- Acrylic latex primer
- Paint brush
- Acrylic latex paint
- Dust mask
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images