Do you have an old lamp that could use some sprucing up? While you may be tempted to toss it out and buy a new one, giving new life to a lamp you already own is an easy and budget-friendly DIY way to redecorate. 

This article will guide you through the steps for transforming a dated lamp by spray painting it and updating your lampshade. With just a few inexpensive supplies and a little creativity, you can give that outdated lamp a modern, stylish makeover. Here’s a simple guide on how to do it.

Prepare the Lamp for Painting

Before starting any spray painting project, it’s crucial to properly prepare the surface you plan to paint. These tips can help you prep a lamp base or other decorative item before painting:

Remove anyhardware or lampshades to access the base surface fully. Set these pieces aside until it’s time to reassemble.

Clean the surface thoroughly with mild soap and water to remove dirt, grease, or oils. Then, let it dry completely.

Use painter’s tape to mask off any areas you don’t want painted, like lamp sockets, cords, or delicate trim. The tape helps create clean paint lines.

Lightly sand the surface to help the paint adhere better. Use fine-grit sandpaper and sand just enough to rough up the surface slightly.

Wipe away dust with a tack cloth to help the paint go on smoothly.

Work in a well-ventilated area and place down tarps or newspapers to protect your floors and work surfaces.

Tips for Spray Painting Lamps

When you’re ready to start spray painting your lamp base, follow these tips:

  • Shake the spray paint can vigorously for at least 60 seconds before starting. This step mixes the paint pigments properly.
  • Hold the can around 10 inches from the surface as you spray. Get a feel for the spray pattern on cardboard first.
  • Use smooth, even strokes and slightly overlap each pass. Move the can at a constant speed.
  • Apply several thin coats rather than one thick, wet coat. Thin coats dry better and faster. 
  • Let each coat dry completely before adding another.
  • To avoid drips, apply only a little paint in one area. Keep the can moving.
  • Be patient. Rushing the process can lead to drips and uneven coverage. 
  • Finish with even horizontal and vertical passes to ensure smooth, consistent coverage.
  • Let the paint cure fully before reassembling your lamp — around 24 to 48 hours. 

How To Update a Lampshade

An updated lampshade can give your newly painted lamp a whole new look. Choose a lampshade style and color that complements your lamp’s painted finish rather than matching exactly. 

Today’s Homeowner Tips

We recommend looking for lampshades made of fabric, parchment, raffia, bamboo, or stained glass to add visual interest. Make sure the lampshade is the right size for the harp and lamp base by checking the manufacturer’s guidelines. 

You can also consider a fun, unique shape like a drum, empire, or bell to accentuate your lamp’s new style. Or, keep it simple with a classic tapered or cylinder shape. Don’t overlook unique styles, such as distressed, vintage, or handmade lampshades. These can jazz up your revamped lamp with shabby chic flair.

So, Is Spray Painting Old Lamps Worthwhile?

Spray painting old lamps with finishes like Rust-Oleum’s universal spray paint adds new metallic flair and style to outdated pieces. With some simple preparation, patience, and smart spraying techniques, you can transform flea market lamp finds or outdated finishes on existing lamps in your home.

Although you’ll need to carefully prep and apply spray paint, the ability to DIY upgrade your lamps on a budget makes the effort worthwhile. Finally, consider upgrading to dimmable smart bulbs and voice assistants for ease.

FAQs About Spray Painting Lamps

What safety precautions should I take when spray painting a lamp?

Work in a well-ventilated area, wear a respirator mask and gloves, and read the paint can directions. We also recommend covering nearby surfaces to protect them from overspray.

How long does it take spray-painted lamps to dry?

A light coat dries in about 30 minutes. However, we recommend giving one to two hours between coats to ensure dryness. Let the paint cure for at least 24 to 48 hours before use.

Can I spray paint over an existing lamp finish?

Yes, lightly sand and use a primer first so the paint will better adhere to glossy or stained finishes.

What kind of paint adheres best to ceramic and metal lamps?

For metal and ceramic, use spray paint explicitly formulated for those surfaces. Rust-Oleum makes great options for spray-painting ceramic and metal lamps.

Is spray paint durable on lamp bases?

Yes, once fully cured, spray paint is highly durable on lamps. You can also add a top coat in clear sealer for added protection.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Amy DeYoung

Amy DeYoung


Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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