9 Ways to Make Plywood Look Good

Ways to Make Plywood Look Good

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Plywood is a very common building material. However, despite this, it doesn’t look all that nice, but there are many ways to make it look much better.

Right now, we’re going to cover nine ways to make plywood look good.

1. Use Sandpaper

One of the easiest ways to make plywood look a little bit better without having to do much work is to use sandpaper on it. Plywood can be fairly rough, so you won’t be able to start with fine grit.

You’ll have to start with fairly coarse sandpaper, and then work your way to finer pieces. However, the fact is that by simply sanding down plywood, you can make it look and feel much smoother.

Generally speaking, sanding down plywood is something that we always recommend doing if you want to make it look better, whether you just want to leave it as is afterward or you want to apply something else afterward, such as varnish or paint.

2. Use Wood Grain Filler and Sandpaper

With plywood, you can see a whole lot of wood grain, although it doesn’t look like authentic wood. This is something that many people don’t like, and many people prefer to have a much smoother finish that looks extremely uniform.

Therefore, one option you have at your disposal is something called a wood grain filler. Wood grain filler is designed to fill all of the small gaps within wood and sit on the surface, therefore creating one smooth and uniform finish.

People usually use it to fill small holes and gaps, although it can also be used to create a nice, polished look for your plywood.

If you are going to be using wood grain filler, be sure to choose the right color. The really neat thing about this substance is that it comes in many colors, so you can essentially change the color of the plywood.

Moreover, you don’t really need to sand down the plywood before applying wood grain filler, but you will likely want to sand it afterward to achieve an extremely smooth finish.

Sand Plywood to Make It Look Good

3. Use Stain and Sandpaper

Another option that you have at your disposal is to use stain on the plywood. Stain is a special type of coating designed to sit on the surface of the wood and change its appearance. Stain comes in many different colors and is usually designed to make wood look darker than it originally is.

Therefore, if you want your plywood to look a little darker and more conservative, then using a dark stain is ideal. Yes, there are also lighter colored stains, although they will always make it look a bit darker than it originally was.

What you need to know here however is that you do need to sand the plywood before you apply stain, and you need to sand it in between every layer of stain as well. If you stain over imperfections in the wood, it’s actually going to highlight those imperfections.

Therefore, you first want to remove all imperfections with sandpaper, then apply a layer of stain, sand again, and then apply a second layer of stain. Stain isn’t overly durable or weather resistant and is better used for indoor applications, although it can work well enough for outdoor jobs.

Yes, many people might consider varnishing their plywood to make it look better, although this probably won’t work too well. Varnish actually tends to preserve the original look of the wood underneath.

That said, if you want to add an extra layer of protection to your plywood, then varnish is a great way to go. You could always first stain your plywood or even apply wood grain filler, and then follow that up with a layer of varnish for added protection from the elements.

For more details on this, read my detailed guide on how to stain plywood.

4. Paint the Plywood

One of the things that most people do to make their plywood look better is simply paint it. Of course, painting plywood will not preserve its natural look in any way, and it probably won’t look much like wood at all anymore. However, this is something that some people desire.

The thing with plywood is of course that it’s not smooth at all, so you have to sand it down first and then prime it. Once you have primed it, you might even have to repeat this process again. You’ll then have to apply a layer of paint, sand that down, and then apply a second layer of paint.

However, the good thing about this is that there are many different kinds of paint out there, both for interior and exterior applications.

You can use a high-quality, oil-based polyurethane paint to make the plywood relatively or even totally waterproof. Moreover, with paint, there are tons of different colors to choose from, as well as high gloss and low gloss options. As far as changing the appearance of plywood goes, paint is one of the most versatile options at your disposal.

Paint Plywood to Make It Look Good

5. Cover It with Drywall

If the name of the game is making interior walls, then one of the best things you could do to make plywood look better is to cover it in drywall. Of course, drywall is not something that you want to use for everything, especially when it comes to exterior purposes or anything that involves a lot of moisture.

However, if we’re talking about just basic interior walls, then drywall is rather perfect. Drywall isn’t overly expensive, it’s pretty easy to install, and you can paint it any way you see fit.

Drywall is also much easier to paint than plywood, so that’s another bonus.

6. Turn It into Barn Wood

Barn wood has become extremely popular due to its beautiful appearance, but it’s also extremely expensive. Therefore, one thing that you can actually do is turn plywood into barn wood, or at least make it look like barn wood.

To make plywood look like barn wood, you’re first going to attach a wire brush attachment to a power drill, and then go over the whole piece of plywood, as this will increase the texture. Make sure to follow the direction of the wood grain when doing this.

You then want to use 180 grit sandpaper to sand down the plywood. Once this has been done, you’re going to apply the wood stain of your choice, but remember that you do usually want to use a darker color. Use your paintbrush to apply the wood stain in the same direction as the grain. Next, you will want to use a lint-free rag to remove as much excess stain as fast as you can.

Once the stain has been allowed to dry, sand it down with 180 grit sandpaper. You’re now going to mix a whitewash, which is one part water and one part paint cleaner, and then apply it over the surface. After this, immediately remove the whitewash using a lint-free rag. Now, you are going to let the whitewash dry. After this has been done, you need to apply a polyurethane sealer.

7. Coat It with Polyurethane

If what you’re going for is an extremely smooth and shiny finish, then there’s not much better than a polyurethane sealant. One thing to be aware of, however, is that polyurethane will only take care of the shiny part of things, but not the smooth part.

Therefore, you’re first going to want to use sandpaper of varying grits, starting with relatively coarse and ending with very fine.

You need to get that plywood as smooth as humanly possible, as this is essential for achieving a good end result. Once that has been done, you then want to apply your polyurethane sealant. Not only will the polyurethane sealant allow for a really shiny and glossy finish, but it will also help protect against moisture and the elements.

Coat Plywood with Polyurethane to Make It Look Good

8. Use a High Gloss Finish

If you like that smooth and shiny appearance, but you want to take things to the next level, then a dedicated high gloss finish is something to consider. The process of applying it is more or less the same as with the polyurethane sealant listed above.

There’s a whole lot of sanding involved, followed by the application of the high gloss finish. This is a great thing to use especially for interior and exterior furniture.

9. Choose High-Quality Plywood

One thing we do want to mention here is that there are many different grades and types of plywood. If you want your plywood to look as good as possible, you need to start with a high grade. Therefore, go for grade A plywood, as it has the least inconsistencies and the smoothest finish.


As you can see, there are plenty of things you can do to plywood to make it look much better. Exactly which method you choose really depends on what your preferences are.