Table of Contents

How to Paint a Lampshade

Michelle Radcliff
Table of Contents

Different types of paint and application techniques can be used to add color and designs to ordinary white or off-white lampshades.

Use paint to give an old lampshade new life or customize a plain white lampshade to fit into a room’s color scheme. Lampshades can be spray painted or hand-painted, depending on the look you want to achieve.

Spray Paint

Use a multipurpose spray paint that's safe to use on fabric if you have a fabric lampshade, or choose a paper lampshade. Spray paint is a good option for painting a lampshade all one color. If you are experienced at spray painting, you can also try multiple colors -- but you may find it's easier to control the color variations with hand painting.

    Make a protective cover.

  1. Remove the lampshade from the lamp. Tuck a plastic bag or circular piece of paper cut from a paper bag inside the top of the lampshade, to cover the metal hardware. Tape the cover in place to protect the inner lining and hardware from overspray.

  2. Prepare the work surface.

  3. Cover a workbench, craft table or the ground with newspapers or a dropcloth. Work in a well-ventilated, outdoor area such as an open garage, driveway or backyard patio. Wear rubber gloves.

  4. Apply the first coat.

  5. Shake the can of spray paint well. Begin spray painting the lampshade, going up and down from top to bottom in short vertical strokes. Slowly turn the lampshade as you spray, applying a light, even coat all the way around. Continue to shake the spray can periodically to ensure the paint stays mixed. Let the paint dry.

  6. Apply a second coat.

  7. Apply another light, even coat of spray paint, going side-to-side this time in short, horizontal strokes from the top of the shade to the bottom. Turn the shade slowly as you spray, ensuring even coverage all the way around. Allow the shade to dry before placing it on the lamp.

Hand Painting

Hand painting provides you with a variety of paint options and application techniques. Oil-based enamel paint dries to a lacquer-like finish on paper lampshades. Let the first coat dry overnight before you add a second coat. Glossy latex paint needs only a couple of hours to dry between coats on a paper lampshade. On fabric lampshades, use diluted latex, acrylic, specialized fabric paint or fast drying chalk paint for the least wait time between coats.

Applying the Paint

Foam Roller

For quick, all-over coverage of paint on a lampshade without brushstrokes, use a small foam roller. Apply a thin, even coat, rolling from top to bottom at a slight diagonal angle unless filling in horizontal stripes, then paint horizontally. Keep the strokes and the paint consistent as you cover the shade. A one inch foam brush can also be used. Allow the first coat to dry before applying a second coat.


When using a bristle paintbrush, it’s important to use consistent strokes, and paint in one direction. Vertical brushstrokes are typically best unless you're filling in stenciled areas. Apply a thin, consistent layer of paint around the entire shade. Once that's dry, apply a second coat to minimize brushstrokes and fill in thin spots.

Protect your work surface in the same manner as when spray painting -- always paint in a well-ventilated area. If you notice bare or thin coverage areas after placing the shade on the lamp and illuminating it, you may need to apply an additional coat of paint.

Stencil Designs

Painter’s tape helps you create simple designs such as stripes or chevrons, or you can use it to hold a stencil in place. The seam in a lampshade provides a natural dividing line to begin and end a stencil design.

Apply the paint with a specialized stenciling brush, offloading excess paint on a paper towel before applying it to the lampshade. Use light, even pressure and a circular motion as you move the brush around inside the stencil edges. Check the color periodically by lifting up the edge of the stencil.


Pick an accent color from a piece of wall art, an area rug or throw pillows to use on painted lampshades. For better paint adhesion, cover the shade with a spray primer or gesso, sanding it smooth after drying before applying the paint.

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