How to Paint a Lampshade

how to paint a lampshade

Heirlooms at Home 

Painting lampshades is a fun and inexpensive way to update your decor, and there are countless lampshade ideas out there that will inspire you. This technique is perfect for creating a whimsical look for a child's room or a statement piece for a living room.

We'll show you how to paint a lampshade in a few simple-to-follow steps. Crafters use fabric paint, spray paint, and other finishes to change the look of old lampshades. We opted to use watercolors because these paints create a one-of-a-kind look that is eclectic and art-inspired.


  1. Gather Supplies

    Just about any watercolors will do, so don't feel like you have to invest in a very expensive set of paints for this project. Pick out 3 to 6 colors that work well with your existing decor. Here is everything you'll need on-hand:

    • Watercolors
    • Paint brush
    • Paper towels
    • Palette
    • Water
    watercolor a lampshade
  2. Pick a Lampshade to Paint

    We opted for an all-white shade that had a felted design. This built-in design gave us an instant pattern to follow instead of needing to create our own.

    If you can't find a shade with a felted design, you can follow this technique on any fabric shade to create an ombre shade without any patterns.

    painting lampshades
  3. Vacuum Any Lint or Debris

    Starting off with a clean lampshade is important because any dust or debris will get stuck in the paint. Make sure you vacuum the fabric prior to the next step. If a vacuum won't work due to the fragile nature of the lampshade, try a lint roller.

    how to paint a lampshade
  4. Start Painting With the Lightest Color

    Pick out your first shade. If you're going for an ombre effect, it's best to start with the lightest shade first and build up layers from there.

    Add a dab of paint to a palette and slowly start adding water until you get the color and consistency you desire. Using a small paint brush, paint the color onto the felted design. Don't worry if the paint goes outside the lines.

    If you've never worked with watercolors before, this might take a bit of practice. Try out some strokes on a sheet of paper until you understand how the addition of water changes the paint.

    watercolor lampshade
  5. Blot the Watercolor With a Paper Towel

    In most cases, the watercolor will bleed into the surrounding fabric, especially if you use a lot of water when painting.

    To have more control over the finished look, take a wet paper towel and blot the watercolor around the fabric and blend it into the surrounding white before it dries.

    how to watercolor a lampshade
  6. Blend in a Second Color

    Once you have added the lightest color around the entire shade, go back in with a second color. Use the same paper towel technique to blend the excess color into the surrounding fabric.

    If you're having trouble visualizing the final product, mix some colors together on watercolor paper and finalize your color palette that way. But remember, watercolors can be unpredictable in how they drip or blend on fabric.

    watercolor lampshade tutorial
  7. Continue Adding New Colors

    This painted lampshade technique is highly customizable because you can choose how many colors you want to add. The more layers you add, the more dimension the finished result will have.

    If you want your colors to mix together evenly, consider brushing a small section of the fabric with a layer of clean water before painting.

    watercolor lampshade diy
  8. Go Back and Layer Darker Shades

    Once the entire lampshade is covered with watercolor paint, go back in with some darker colors. Paint the darker shades on top of the existing paint and blend it into the lighter colors using water.

    If an area is too dark, wet a paintbrush with clean water and use that to lift away some of the watercolor from the fabric.

    painted lampshade
  9. Continue Layering Colors Until You're Happy With the Final Result

    This painting technique is very relaxing and easy to get lost in. After a while of painting, put the lampshade down and take a few steps back. Examine the paint and see if you are content with the result.

    At times, it might be helpful to let the paint dry completely to see what it looks like. If the paint dries and you see spots needing some work, go back in and add more paint at that point.

    how to paint a lampshade

    Painting lampshades with watercolors is a very easy and forgiving process. The idea isn't to paint between the lines but to create a blotted, beautiful mix of colors.

    All images by Heirlooms at Home.