How To Make Plywood Furniture Look Good (8 Tips)

Plywood is often considered cheap and challenging to use when creating furniture with it. Thankfully, making furniture from plywood doesn’t have to be complicated or look bad. There are various methods you can consider to make your plywood furniture look good.  

You can make plywood furniture look good by using higher-grade plywood, sanding, and staining/painting it. Applying a quality finish to the plywood can give it an elegant finish, while molding or changing the texture can help disguise that it’s plywood. 

In the rest of this article, I will discuss several tips and tricks to improve the look of your plywood furniture. Plywood is a cheap material, but the furniture you make from it will look anything but this if you follow these steps. So, if you want to learn more about making your plywood furniture look good, read on! 

1. Use High-Grade Plywood

First, it’s essential to use high-grade plywood. The higher the grade of your plywood, the better your furniture will look. Plywood grade refers to the overall quality of the wood used in the plywood sheets. 

The most common grades of plywood are:

  • Grade A. This plywood is the highest grade and best for exposed wood projects like cabinets, desks, or chairs. Grade A is more expensive than other types of plywood, but it also has fewer imperfections and often comes pre-sanded. 
  • Grade B. This grade is only slightly lower quality than A and generally has minor imperfections in the wood. With some work, this plywood can be excellent for exposed wood projects and usually has few wood knots. 
  • Grade C. As you may have guessed, Grade C has more imperfections, and the wood is of slightly poorer quality. This wood is excellent for hidden projects like subflooring or sheds. The plywood isn’t the prettiest, but it will get the job done. 
  • Grade D. This grade is the cheapest plywood you can purchase and is considered the lowest quality. Typically Grade D will have the most imperfections on its surface, making it less ideal for exposed woodworking projects. 

Along with choosing a good grade of plywood, the type of plywood used is also essential. Using hardwood plywood like birch is recommended if you’re making furniture. This wood is sturdy and flexible and looks great once cleaned up. 

2. Fill Imperfections With Wood Grain Filler

Next, filling the imperfections in the wood with a grain filler is essential. Even high-quality plywood benefits from having its blemishes filled in and buffed. Using a grain filler is especially important if you are making furniture from lower-grade plywood with many imperfections in the wood. 

There are several excellent wood grain fillers on the market, most of which come in a thick paste. This paste is easily applied to your plywood using a flat tool or even your finger. The goal is to press the paste/putty into every hole and imperfection to even out the wood’s surface. Once your filler dries, it can then be sanded to ensure your plywood is perfectly smooth and uniform. 

So, which wood grain fillers are best? Here are some great recommendations:

The Best Wood Grain Fillers for Plywood 

As I previously stated, there are many brands of wood filler. However, not all of them are created equally. When choosing a wood filler, selecting one that adheres well and will sand down without issue is essential. 

With that in mind, here are the top choices of wood grain filler you can purchase from Amazon: 

Minwax Stainable Wood Filler

This wood grain filler is fantastic because it’s formulated to accept wood stains so that you don’t experience discoloration when you want to add color. You can also use this filler on both indoor and outdoor plywood furniture. 

It’s also fast-drying and is purchasable in several sizes to best suit your woodworking needs. 

Gorilla All-Purpose Wood Filler

This wood filler is also an excellent choice since it’s all-purpose and known for its strong bond. The formula is easy to use and will spread without difficulty. Plus, this filler can easily be sanded, stained, and painted. Additionally, this multi-purpose wood filler is water resistant, making it great for items out in the elements or those that interact with water. 

Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler

If you’re looking for a smaller tube of wood filler, then Elmer’s has you covered. This wood filler is fantastic because it’s resistant to shrinking and cracking. You can also easily sand, stain, and paint this formula once it’s dried. Plus, the formula cleans up easily using water and can be purchased in wood or white color. 

3. Sand the Plywood

Another crucial step in making your plywood look nicer is sanding. Most plywood is coarse and needs sanding to become smooth and look good. Therefore, you need to sand your plywood several times to achieve the smoothest texture. However, if you dislike sanding, you can purchase pre-sanded sheets of plywood. 

Also, once you apply a wood filler, your plywood will need additional sanding to smooth out the formula. Typically you will need to first sand your plywood with 180-grit sandpaper a few times before switching to a higher grit like 200. After sanding the wood with the 200, it’s essential to increase the sandpaper grit to something like 220. 

You should pass each type of sandpaper grit over the plywood 3-4 times to achieve the smoothest finish. Once you’ve finished sanding, remove the dust and feel the texture of the wood. It should feel smooth; if not, more sanding is needed. 

4. Dress Up the Plywood With Molding

Adding molding is a unique way to make plywood furniture look even better. The plywood itself isn’t the most fantastic wood, and embellishments like molding can make it look elegant and create the illusion of quality. 

For example, if you make a chair or headboard out of plywood, adding some molding along the furniture will give it a more elegant feel and distract from the lesser quality of the wood. Molding is found at most home improvement stores or online. You can add as much or as little as you like. 

The key is to be creative and to draw the eye to the beautifully laid-out design. Molding can be made of materials such as:

  • Wood
  • Foam
  • Rubber
  • Polyurethane
  • Plaster

5. Change the Texture of the Plywood

Another way to improve the look of your plywood furniture is by altering its texture. Plywood doesn’t have the best texture, but it can be easily altered to mimic higher-end materials. So, what textures are suitable for making plywood look higher quality?

Plywood texture change ideas to try include:

  • Distress the plywood. A great way to make plywood look good is to age or distress it. Aged wood looks incredibly stylish, and mimicking things like barn wood can disguise that your furniture is made of plywood. 
  • Apply a laminate surface. There are tons of stunning laminate stickers on the market that mimic stonework like granite. These vinyl sheets stick to your furniture’s flat surface and will make it look like stone or whatever texture you selected. 
  • Mimic wood grains with paint. Sometimes it’s incredibly apparent that a piece of furniture is made of plywood, especially if it doesn’t have wood grains. Luckily you can mimic wood grains using a brush and paint. If you’re patient, the result can be compelling. 
  • Cover the plywood in another material. Another option is creating a concrete top if the furniture you’re making is a table. You can also add drywall before painting to create a different look. As you can see, the options are endless if you’re creative. 

There are several things you can try to change up the look of your plywood furniture. Most of these methods are pretty cost-effective and straightforward to do. Plus, they’re easily reversible if you don’t like how the plywood looks after it’s finished. 

6. Stain the Plywood

Staining your plywood furniture is a more obvious way to make it look good. Of course, using a stain will look best on high-grade plywood. However, for the most part, using an excellent stain will significantly improve the aesthetics of your furniture piece. 

Below are some great recommendations for plywood stain: 

The Best Stains To Use on Plywood 

As the name suggests, stains don’t completely cover the wood beneath them like paint. Instead, they stain a color onto the wood. Therefore, when staining plywood, it’s essential to ensure the wood has been sanded correctly and that you have picked a good stain. So here are a few of the best wood stains for plywood on Amazon:

Minwax Oil-Based Wood Finish Stain 

One of the best wood stains you can use is Minwax’s oil-based stain. This stain is fantastic because it comes in many shades and is known for applying evenly. The colors are also vibrant, easy to apply to plywood and dry quickly. In addition, you will generally only need 1-2 coats for your plywood furniture to look amazing. 

Varathane Premium Wood Stain 

Another great brand of stain is Varathanes. This stain is fantastic since it mimics more natural wood colorations and penetrates deeply into the wood’s surface. Another benefit is that the stain only takes 1-2 hours to completely dry and can be found in over 20 different fast-drying colors/shades. 

Storm Stain Protector and Sealer 

If your plywood furniture is spending any time outdoors, using a hardy wood stain like this one is a great idea. Storm prides itself on the ability to keep your wood safe from UV rays and enhance the color of your wood. This stain works best on higher-quality plywood like Grade A, and the formula is fairly straightforward to use. 

7. Apply a Coat of Paint

If staining your plywood furniture doesn’t sound appealing, applying a good coat of paint is a great way to make the wood look great. Of course, prepping plywood before painting is extremely important. 

Additionally, if you don’t purchase paint with a primer already in it, you will need to prime the wood before painting it. 

Here are some of the best paints to use for plywood furniture: 

The Best Paints for Plywood Furniture 

There are several paints on the market, and choosing one that will look great on your plywood furniture can be tricky. As mentioned above, not all paints contain primers, and not all paint types will look good on plywood. 

So, here are my top picks for great plywood paints you can buy on Amazon:

Country Chic Chalk Style Paint

This paint is an excellent option for plywood since the paint is creamy and leaves a chalky finish. It also adds a distressed or old-fashioned feel, carefully disguising the plywood furniture. This product is excellent because it’s eco-friendly and contains a primer and a topcoat. 

The Country Chic brand is also excellent if you want to mix colors that will easily blend. 

Rust-Oleum Milk Paint Finish

This brand is well known for providing an excellent finish to your paint projects. A milk paint finish will ensure your furniture has a more high-end look. This paint is a fantastic option because it comes in several colors and it’s water-based. This paint will also dry with a more matte instead of a glossy look. 

Jolie Paint Matte Finish Paint

This excellent paint is explicitly made to be applied to indoor furniture and is considered non toxic. Additionally, Jolie’s paint comes in a variety of colors and no preparations like sanding or priming to apply with ease. The formula is water-based and dries to a matte finish in as little as 30 minutes. 

8. Use a Smooth Finish

Lastly, applying a good finish over the paint or stain is essential if you want your plywood furniture to look good. Fortunately, most paints and stains available today contain some top coat already. However, it’s essential to double-check as finishes help prevent chipping and future discolorations. 


Making plywood furniture look good is much easier than you might think. The most important thing is to be creative and to prepare the wood for stains or paint. Using a well-sanded high-quality hardwood piece of plywood will also help make your furniture look better. 

The time and effort you put into making your plywood furniture look better will show. So do your best to increase its quality where you can. 


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