What Kind of Paint Should You Use On a Lamp Shade? And How?

what kind of paint do you use on a lampshade

Why purchase a new lampshade when you can dress up your old one with a new coat of paint?

It’s when the fabric of your lampshade starts to look dull or dingy; you can paint it a new color that will change its appearance significantly.

In other words, if you are looking to redecorate a room, it is not only cheaper to paint a lampshade, you can also match it to the new décor with a lot more accuracy compared to finding a new lampshade.

Based on my personal experiences chalk, fabric, or acrylic paint will most of the time, work best depending on the material used to make the lampshade.

While chalk paint is perfect for an aged antique look; fabric paint works best to provide a solid appearance to the fabric lampshades.

Acrylic paint you can choose for – more solid than fabric and stiffer looking appearance.

Given that you can use a brush or spray paint to quickly add a new coat of paint or the designer paint stripes, you can quickly provide it with a new look for your home.

Plus, the work can be accomplished quickly and with relatively little cost.

What follows are a few tips in detail that will help you choose the right type of paint depending on the lampshade itself.

Also, I will discuss the exact steps you can follow to DIY paint your lampshade in a way you will like it most.  

What Kind of Paint to Use on Lamp Shades?

Whether the lampshade is made of fabric, paper, or metal you can use paint to change its look along with the appearance of the room.

Plus, it is quite inexpensive especially if you have some leftover paint from another project to use.

1- Fabric

You will need some fabric paint to do the job, but you can find it at arts and craft stores.

It’s actually made from cloth, so it is quite durable even with a hot bulb underneath.

Plus, it will bond with the fabric of the lampshade and not crack over time.

Start by cleaning the lampshade, then adding one layer of paint followed by another layer of darker paint.

If the lampshade has a pattern, it may take several layers of paint to fully cover it.

You can edge the lampshade by using cloth tape that provides clean lines which will accentuate the beauty of the lamp itself.

2- Metal

Any paint that is suitable for metal should work for your metal lampshade.

It does help to know the type of metal, so you can find the paint that works best.

Two layers applied well with a brush should do the job, but you may want to add more depending on the color of the paint itself.

3- Paper

Watercolors can help transform a simple paper lampshade into something quite colorful.

This is particularly true if you use iridescent watercolors.

The bright colors can be applied with a brush over the shade which has been dusted and cleaned.

While it is true that watercolors tend to be uneven in their layers, this actually adds to the unique appearance.

Watercolor craft paints are perfect for bamboo and paper pendants along with the paper lampshade itself.

Keep in mind that the colors will eventually fade, but you can re-paint it quickly to create a new color combination if you desire.

4- Spray Paint

Fast, simple, and efficient, spray paint is perfect when you have some extra cans around.

Matte or high gloss works fine depending on the results you want.

Choose the color, apply the first coat, and let it dry.

Then, check the lampshade by putting it on the light, turning it on, and seeing where the first layer may be too thin.

Then, apply the second coat and be sure to cover the thin areas.

5- Hobby Paint

Simple hobby paint can do wonders all while being quite inexpensive.

This is particularly true for metal lampshades.

Verdigris is a great choice for metal lampshades, especially if you combine it with acrylic paint.

Choosing the right paint for your lampshade means creating an entirely new look both for the lamp and the room where it sits.

how to diy paint a lampshade

How to Paint a Base Coat on Your Lamp Shade?

Once you have purchased the paint and the brush that may be needed, the next step is to get started.

Below are the DIY steps you will need to follow…

Step 1 – Remove & Clean the Lampshade

Start by taking off the lampshade from the lamp.

Most lampshades are attached to the lamp by a single screw at the top.

Once removed, clean the lampshade of any dust, dirt, or debris.

Step 2 – Cover & Tape

You’ll want to cover the following parts of the lampshade with a plastic bag and some tape.

  • Top
  • All Metal Parts
  • All Surfaces You Do Not Want to Paint

Plastic bags are a lot cheaper to use than just tape.

But you should use masking or painter’s tape to hold the bags in place.

If you are painting a particular design, you can use painter’s tape to create the pattern on the surface that the paint will fill.  

Step 3 – Cover the Work Area

With the lampshade ready, cover the area in which you are going to paint.

If you are painting on a table or floor, then cover it with old newspapers.

At least two to three layers are preferable so that none of the paint can leak through.

As a side note, be sure the area where you are going to paint is well-ventilated.

Preferably, working outside is best. But if that is not possible you should open the windows and turn on a fan to keep the air moving.

Step 4 – Place the Lampshade

Put the lampshade in the middle of the area that you have protected.

You’ll want a good 12” to 18” of coverage on all sides, especially if you are using spray paint.

If there is anything nearby that you do not want to be touched by the paint, remove or cover it.

This is why working outside is often the best if you can get away from everything else.

If you are in a garage, then try to paint in the center away from the walls or objects that you do not want to be covered by the paint.

Step 5 – Spray Evenly

Now that you are ready, spray the lampshade with an even coat of paint.

Hold the spray paint about 6” from the surface and move in a smooth manner.

Spray until you have a single even coat of paint.

To keep it even, always work in the same movement such as left to right or up and down.

Although you can use a foam or bristle brush, spray paint tends to work best for lampshades, especially when applying the base coat.

Step 6 – Let the Paint Dry

It will take an hour or two before the first coat will completely dry.

Once it is dry, check the evenness of the layer by putting the lampshade back on the lamp and turning on the light.

If you see any thin areas, take off the lampshade and add another coat noting the areas that were thin.

However, if the coating is even and you like the way it looks, then attach it to the lamp, and you are done. Otherwise, be prepared to add a second layer.

Step 7 – Paint by Brush

Once the base coat has been applied, if you want to brush the paint on the lampshade to achieve a particular effect, then use the same technique as with the spray paint.

This means applying an even coat using the same motion, either up and down or side to side.

Be sure to use long strokes to create an even coat.

As with the spray paint, let it dry and test it by putting the lampshade back on the lamp and turning on the light.

Not any thin areas, take off the lampshade and apply another coat.

You have now painted your lampshade. But what if you want to add stripes or other designs?

Let’s get into details on how you can do it…

painting stripes and patterns on a lampshade

How to Add Stripes and Other Designs on Your Lamp Shade?

As with painting the lampshade entirely, you must remove it from the lamp first.

Then place the lampshade on a smooth surface and set aside the rest of the lamp.

Step 1 – Create the Stripes or Designs

You can use painter’s tape along with a pencil to map out the strips that you want for your lampshade.

Start by using a pencil since the markings can be erased.

A vinyl tape measure will help you get a precise, repeated measurement for your stripes.

Mark all of the areas to be painted with a pencil first.

Hint: Tape one end of the vinyl tape measure to the lampshade, this will help hold it in place.

Step 2 – Cover Areas Not to Be Painted

Then, you can use the tape to cover the areas that will not be painted which includes the spaces between the stripes along with the edges of the lampshade if you desire.

You should select a painter’s tape with the width necessary to cover the areas not to be painted.

Remember that you can double up on the tape if needed.

Or you can purchase different widths of the tape, your choice.

For lampshades that are tapered, you may need to trim the tape so that it does taper from one side to the other for an even look.

Step 3 – Prep the Area where You will Paint the Lampshade

In other words, cover the surface where the lampshade will sit.

Plus, cover any areas that you do not want the paint to reach.

It is best if you work outdoors on a table, so all you have to cover is the table. A few layers of old newspaper will do the trick.

If you are using acrylic paint designed for indoor use, then you need not have a well-ventilated area, although that does help.

Step 4 – Place the Lampshade & Paint

Put the lampshade in the middle of the surface which is covered.

Turn the lampshade gently as you paint in the design.

Be sure you have enough light to see the areas that you want to paint.

Hint: If you can place the lampshade on a lazy Susan, that will let you rotate it easily while not having to reposition your body.

Use a large, flat piece of cardboard on the lazy Susan to protect it from the paint.

Step 5 – Paint Brush & Acrylic Paint

For stripes, this combination works best.

Be sure to squeeze out the needed amount of acrylic paint onto a plastic or paper plate.

Use a 1” flat brush to apply the paint evenly in an up and down motion.

You may want to use special fabric paint for fabric lampshades. You can find them at local arts and craft stores or online.

If you are not sure about what fabric paint will work, then stick to acrylic paint as it will work with virtually all fabrics.

Few Extra Tips for Creating Stripes and Patterns

If you want to create different sizes of stripes, then use different widths of paintbrushes to apply the paint evenly.

Lighter colors allow more quantity of light to pass through.

You can use different colors of paints to create a unique design or stripe pattern that really stands out.

Chalk paint can create an aged or distressed look that may be desirable depending on the type of look that you want.

Fabric paint is, rather unsurprisingly, designed for fabrics.

This means that it will soak into fabric lampshades easier compared to chalk or acrylic.

You can use masking or painter’s tape to create different patterns apart from stripes. But you do have other options as well.

1- Stencils:

If you have a really complex design, then stencils may be the way to go.

You can simply draw out the stencil on a piece of paper, cut it out, and tape it to the lampshade.

Dab some paint on it to transfer the design, but do not soak the paper because it may bleed through.

You can purchase some pre-made stencil designs for your lampshade.

Plus, you can purchase a stencil brush that will apply the paint better for your design.

2- Sketching:

You can freehand design on the lampshade itself using a pencil.

Once you are happy with the design, paint over it with a brush.

Use different size brushes to achieve the effect that you want.

Do not forget to let it fully dry once you have painted the pattern and stripes on your lampshades, put it back on the lamp, and turn on the light.

See if there are any thin spots to paint over again. Otherwise, you have a completed project.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing the best type of paint for your lampshades, you can choose a wide variety of paints to cover them effectively.

Be sure that they are best suited for the material that your lampshade is created.

For most DIY projects chalk, fabric, and acrylic paints are best suited.

These can have different effects when applied to a lampshade in a proper way.

Plus, by using them you can quickly turn an old lampshade into a new one to add that extra warmth this Christmas season.

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