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How to Paint Wood Picture Frames

Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media

Those old wood frames looked great when you first got them, but over time, they became worn and dated. Where they used to complement your color scheme, now they stick out like a sore thumb. Rather than tossing them out, invest a little time and repaint them. Whether they're raw wood, varnished or painted, you can update them to suit your tastes. Painting all the frames in one room with similar colors will pull the space together and help draw the eye from one picture to another.

Things You'll Need:

  • Dish soap
  • 60-grit sandpaper
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Disposable gloves
  • Spray primer
  • Spray enamel
  • Paper towel


Clean a very dirty frame with a general household cleaner instead of soap and water.

If the frame is unfinished, skip the sanding step.

Paint the frame outside on a dry, windless day to avoid over-spray issues.

If the frame is initially a dark color, you may want to either sand more heavily to remove most of the color, or prime twice before top coating.

Read the directions on the primer and enamel before beginning, to discover whether to apply a second coat while the paint is damp or to wait until it is completely dry. You may not need a second coat, but it's best to know what the procedure is before you start.

You can hang the frame from a tree or shepherd's crook to paint both sides at once.

Consider using a metallic color to emulate a metal frame.


  • Open windows and cover all nearby surfaces if you're spray painting indoors. Wear a dust mask when spraying.
Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media

Disassemble the frame and remove the glass and hardware. Clean the frame with mild dish soap and water. Allow the frame to dry completely before proceeding. Put a tiny dab of petroleum jelly on any hardware you can't remove but don't want to paint.

Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media

Sand the surface of the frame lightly on all sides, first with 60-grit sandpaper and then with 120-grit sandpaper. Sand enough to lightly abrade all areas, front, back and in the lip where the picture sits, to allow the primer to bite into the wood's surface.

Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media

Lay down cardboard or newspaper on the grass or driveway to create a work surface.

Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media

Wipe down the frame with a tack cloth to remove all sanding debris. Shake the can of primer for at least one minute and occasionally during painting. Put on the disposable gloves.

Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media

Spray the frame back with primer. Spray in short bursts, keeping the can from 6 inches to 1 foot away. Keep your hand in constant motion, back and forth over the frame's surface, and only press the nozzle to release the paint as you pass over the frame. Allow the back of the frame to dry.

Hang the frame on one finger and spray the outside edges. Lay the frame on its back side on the work surface. Spray the front, including the inner edge and the small lip where the picture sits. Let the primer dry completely.

Masha D Trujillo/Demand Media

Shake the can of enamel paint for at least one minute. Topcoat the back of the frame using the same technique that you used to prime.

Add a second coat to the back of the frame, if needed, according to the manufacturer's directions. Allow the back of the frame to dry.

Spray the sides, and then flip the frame over and spray the front.

Allow it to dry. Remove any petroleum jelly with a paper towel.

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