How to Paint Your Frames

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Things You'll Need

  • Water-based soap
  • Sponge
  • Rags
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Professional painter's tape
  • Masking paper
  • Canvas drop cloth
  • Acrylic spray primer
  • Shellac spray primer
  • Metal-etching spray primer
  • Spray enamel

A glossy paint can add color and beauty to ordinary picture frames. Unfortunately, most every type of picture frame is poorly suited for paint. If you try to add a painted finish to a bare picture frame, peeling will follow. You can paint your frames if you properly prepare them beforehand. Learn the appropriate way to condition your frame based on its composition. Apply the primer base and enamel finish, using techniques that encourage a flawless finish free from ugly brushstrokes.

Wash the frame with soap, using a sponge. Rinse the frame with rags. Don't skip this critical step; even unseen dust particles keep primer from sticking. Let wooden frames dry for six hours -- let metal, plastic, fiberglass and vinyl frames dry for one hour.

Scour vinyl, plastic and fiberglass frames with sandpaper until they feel rough. Sand varnished wood frames until they look dull. Don't sand bare wood or metal frames.

Remove the glass from the frame. Cover any part of the frame you'd prefer unfinished, using tape. Set the frame on a thick drop cloth.

Coat the frame with spray primer. Use the proper type of primer for the specific type of frame you are working on. Acrylic spray primer is suited for bare wood and abraded plastic, vinyl and fiberglass frames. Shellac spray primer is required for stained frames. If the frame is metal, use an etching primer.

Let the frame dry for two hours. Paint it as you primed it. Use a durable enamel. Remove all tape before the enamel dries or peeling could result.


  • To prevent ugly dripping and sagging, maintain 8 full inches between the frame and each spray can.

    The above instructions explain how to paint picture frames. Don't try to paint eyeglass frames, or flaking may occur.