Besides being a nauseating yellow color, there were a lot of cosmetic defects, like knife-cuts on the counters (i.e., someone not using a cutting board) and even some areas where small chunks had been chipped off of the laminate. There was also a small burnt area near the stove that was there before we moved in (looks like someone tried to put a hot pan on the counter). To make matters more awesome, some of the edge/trim pieces were coming loose on the ends and I kept having to glue them back on.
I looked into replacing the counter tops, but something else caught my eye on Pinterest - PAINTED COUNTERTOPS. I felt like this would solve all of my problems - I could make them LOOK totally different and cover up all of the cosmetic problems (AND keep the trim firmly in place under layers of clear coat).
On Pinterest there are a lot of tutorials for how to paint countertops. Most of them use complete kits that you can buy (that includes all of the paint, brushes, clear coat, etc) such as http://gianigranite.com.
The kits are really nice looking, but ultimately I went with THIS tutorial: https://lifeoflaurenlou.wordpress.com/.../finally.../amp/ because I already had a lot of these supplies and didn't want to buy a kit!
To get the pattern I wanted, I first looked at photos (of different marble, granite, etc) countertops online until I found one I liked, then I used that photo as a guide for colors, pattern, etc.
Basically you start by taping off the edges (to keep paint off of the walls, appliances, cabinets) like you would if you painted a wall. (I was concerned about the metallic-y trim around the backsplash that I hated, but I just painted right over it and it looked fine!)
Next, I filled in any chips and gouges in the laminate with paintable caulk. I also glued down the loose edges very well. I did not do anything to the tiny knife-cuts in the laminate, because I figured the paint would fill those in (it did).
Next, use a primer to prep the counters for the paint. I already had an off-white paint that contained primer and that worked fine for me. I had to use 2 coats to cover all of the yellow. If you want a white or light colored background, you use a light colored primer. If you want a dark colored background, you will need to use a darker primer (or use whatever primer and paint over it with a dark color). You can read more about this in the links with complete instructions above.
I rolled a layer of regular white interior paint (that I had) over the primer before starting the design. This gave me the white base color that I wanted.
After your layer of paint has dried, you can start with your design. I used regular craft paint (the small bottles of 50 cent craft paint that they sell at Walmart or any craft store). I started with broad strokes and then adjusted it as I went (added more stripes if an area looked bare, or added more white if it seemed too busy). I used a variety of colors to add depth. This photo shows an early stage of painting the design.
I felt like layering the paint gave a more realistic look, so I took my time. I would often go over a (dry) painted area with a slightly watered-down white paint to mute the colors and brush-strokes.
After I was ok with how the design looked, I went back in with small paintbrushes and sponges to add detail- splotches, etc. I used a variety of colors (using the photos I found online) - dark gray, black, tan, grayish green, light gray, dusty blue, and purple.
Since this took a while, I only did one section of counter at a time so we could still prepare food, wash dishes, etc.
The most time-consuming part of this process is the final step - the clear coat. I used Clear gloss Minwax Polycrylic. You have to let it dry for several hours in between coats (and then lightly sand and wipe off before adding another coat). I applied 6 coats to each painted area because I wanted it to be durable.
One of the articles that I read said to use small amounts of ultra-fine glitter in some areas (between layers of polycrylic) for a more realistic look. John was nervous about glittery counters, but if you don't over-do it and just add it to select areas of the design where glittery deposits might naturally be, it really adds a nice depth and makes the counters look more like "real" rock.
In the end, since I already had brushes, craft paint, painters tape, and primer, the only thing I bought was the Clear coat (about $16 at Walmart). I probably spent about 20 hours on this project (not counting drying time).