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How to Paint an Outdoor Umbrella

M.T. Wroblewski

If your outdoor umbrella has seen better days, try not to worry; just about everything can be revitalized with a fresh coat of paint, and your umbrella is no exception. So rather than throw it away and buy an expensive new one, you can transform your umbrella for a fraction of the cost with a few cans of spray paint.

View your faded umbrella as an opportunity to revitalize it.

The biggest challenge of this fun project just might be waiting for the right day to undertake it outdoors.

  1. Wait for a day with a moderate temperature and low humidity – neither too cold nor too hot -- and little to no outdoor breeze to begin work on your umbrella. A day without full sun, or one that is partly cloudy to cloudy, will help ensure that the paint dries evenly and doesn't bake onto your umbrella.

  2. Dismantle the umbrella and pole so you are working on only the top half of the umbrella, and at a height that allows you to reach it and move around it with ease. You might be able to set the umbrella in the stand, or you might have to secure it in a vise. In the worst case scenario, and depending on your height, you might have to keep a stepladder handy to reach the tallest parts of the umbrella. Either way, the umbrella should be in an outstretched position and that the fabric is not bound, wrinkled or overlapped.

  3. Wash the umbrella with a mild dish soap, cool water and a sponge. Remove mildew, bird droppings or other difficult stains with a brush. Dry the umbrella with rags and let it air dry completely.

  4. Cover any trim on the umbrella with painter's tape. Apply one coat of an oil-based spray primer to the umbrella. The primer will help the forthcoming paint adhere to the surface, whether it's plastic or canvas. Let the primer dry thoroughly.

  5. Apply a first, thin coat of spray paint to the umbrella by working in small sections of about 2 feet square from the top of the umbrella to the bottom and from left to right. Keep the paint can at a distance of about 10 to 12 inches from the umbrella and in nearly constant motion, unless you have to climb on a stepladder occasionally to reach the tallest parts of the umbrella. Don't worry if you see small, uneven patches of paint at this point. A second coat of spray paint almost always balances out such imperfections. Let this first coat dry thoroughly. Depending on the temperature and humidity, the umbrella should be ready for a second coat in one or two hours. But check the instructions on the spray paint can to be certain.

  6. Inspect the umbrella for any areas, such as crevices, that you might have missed entirely. Spray these first and let them dry before applying the second coat of paint in the same way that you applied the first coat -- working in small sections and keeping the spray paint can in almost constant motion.


It might be tempting to radically alter the color of your outdoor umbrella, but remember that unless you want to prep and paint the underside, too, it might be better to stick with a similar color.

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