How to Paint Window Shutters

Interior and exterior window shutters, whether they are made from wood, vinyl or plastic, or metal, can be easily renewed with a fresh coat of paint.

Interior and exterior window shutters, whether they're made from wood, vinyl or plastic, or metal, can be easily renewed with a fresh coat of paint. Paint products made especially for shutter and siding projects make it easy to achieve a professional-looking paint job with minimal effort.


For best results, remove the shutters and hardware from windows before painting and work in shaded areas away from direct sunlight.

Wood Shutters

  1. Dust off and clean dirty surfaces with a soap and water mixture. For exterior shutters, use a mixture of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water applied with a sponge or spray washer. Make sure the wood has time to dry before attempting to paint.

  2. Prepare the wood by lightly sanding existing paint and rough surfaces with sandpaper. A chemical paint stripper can also be used to remove an old finish. Fill in any cracks or holes with wood filler or putty. Wipe down the surface with a clean rag.

  3. Use a primer before painting for better adhesion and coverage. Select a primer/sealer product that is appropriate for the location of the shutters. For example, use a primer marked specifically for exteriors for shutters that are outside the house. Use an interior latex primer for indoor shutters.

  4. Also select a paint product that is specifically formulated for exterior or interior surfaces. A semi-gloss or gloss latex or oil-based exterior paint works well for outside shutters; it creates a weatherproof barrier that protects the wood from wear and tear caused by extreme weather conditions. Latex interior paint with a satin or glossy finish works for interior wood shutters.

  5. Start painting at the tops of the shutters using a nylon/polyester paintbrush that is close to the size of the slats or stiles. Continue downward before starting on the sides and frame. Begin at the inside of the shutters and paint the outside last.

  6. Use quick, light strokes to avoid paint streaks. Apply two or three light coats instead of one thick coat for best results.

  7. Tip

    If you are painting shutters with movable louvers or stiles, use a paint sprayer or spray paint to achieve the best coverage between the grooves and to avoid paint seals in between stiles. Start with the louvers first, using a slightly upward angle and work your way down each slat before starting on the frame. Quick, light coats work better than a single heavy coat and will prevent paint drips and runs. Smooth out any rough spots with a dry paintbrush.

Vinyl or Plastic Shutters

  1. Clean shutters with a soap and water mixture to remove any dirt or chalking. If mold or mildew is present, spray on a mixture of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water and allow it to sit for a few minutes before thoroughly rinsing with water. Allow shutters to dry before painting.

  2. For better paint adhesion and coverage, begin with a primer made specifically for use on plastic and vinyl surfaces.

  3. Use a high-quality latex or acrylic paint for both exterior and interior shutters. Select vinyl-safe colors for vinyl shutters. Check to make sure the product is made especially for plastic or vinyl surfaces.

  4. Use nylon or synthetic bristle brushes to apply paint to vinyl or plastic shutters. A paint sprayer may also be used. Start at the top and work your way down.

  5. Tip

    Exterior vinyl or plastic shutters may warp in response to heat caused by extreme climates. Choose lighter paint shades to decrease heat transfer and lengthen the lifespan of vinyl or plastic shutters. Interior shutters that are subject to long periods of direct sunlight may also benefit from lighter paint colors.

Metal or Aluminum Shutters

  1. Clean shutters with a non-phosphate soap-and-water mixture and allow them to dry completely.

  2. If the shutters have a glossy surface, apply a deglossing liquid with a dry rag to the surface. Lightly sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper to allow for better paint adhesion.

  3. A primer made specifically for use on metal or aluminum surfaces may be applied onto shutters before painting. When in doubt, do a paint adhesion test by applying paint to a small area of the shutters. An acrylic bonding primer will bond to almost any surface and is an excellent choice for use on metal or aluminum shutters.

  4. Choose a 2 1/2-to 3-inch synthetic bristle brushes if painting by hand, or use a paint sprayer for more even coverage.

  5. Select a latex or acrylic paint product that is made for use on metal or aluminum surfaces. An eggshell or satin finish is especially good for exterior shutters.

  6. To preserve the integrity of metal or aluminum shutters, be sure to paint all sides of the unit. Apply two or three light coats of paint instead of one single heavy coat.

About the Author

Tanya Soraya Ruys is a published author who writes about home improvement, interior design, alternative medicine, culture, film and social media. She is currently working on her master's thesis in film and creative writing at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif.