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What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Picture Frames?

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Picture Frames?

What kind of paint do you use on picture frames?

The good news is that you have a variety of excellent paint options to choose from and can easily update your metal, plastic, or wood picture frames for a new look.

What Paint Is Best for Picture Frames?

For a piece on what kind of paint do you use on picture frames, a natural wood frame around a plain white piece of paper sitting on a teal shelf


Painting is an inexpensive solution to update old picture frames. So whether the finish is chipping away or you’re simply ready to update your color scheme and room décor, a fresh coat of paint is the answer.

You can purchase paint at home supply stores, craft stores, or online. Four of the most popular paints for photo frame projects are:

  1. Acrylic
  2. Chalk paint
  3. Latex
  4. Spray paint

4 Paint Options for Picture Frames

For a piece on what type of paint to use on picture frame, a woman sitting cross legged on the floor painting a frame

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The type of paint you use primarily depends on the picture frame material, the time you’re willing to invest, and what types of paint are within your budget. You can’t go wrong with any of these four popular options!

1. Acrylic

Acrylic paint is a popular and versatile kind of paint that comes in a wide range of colors. It’s water-based and an excellent choice for wood. Acrylic can also be used to paint plastic and metal.

But it requires some additional preparation for these materials. The advantages of acrylic paint are that it’s inexpensive and dries quickly. However, it will be difficult to remove when dry, so working quickly and accurately is essential.

2. Latex

Latex paints are affordable and come in a wide range of colors and finishes, creating unique effects. Latex finishes include:

  • Matte or flat: smooth, non-reflective
  • Eggshell: low sheen and smooth finish
  • Satin: pearl-like finish and soft sheen
  • Semi-gloss: shiny and sleek
  • High-gloss: the highest level of reflection

Although easy to apply, painting with latex requires extra steps for a high-quality result. Before using latex to paint a picture frame, be sure to sand the frame, apply a coat of primer, and paint multiple coats for full color and coverage.

3. Spray Paint

Spray paints are a quick and easy solution for painting frames. They work incredibly well for plastic or metal materials. Spray painting is a fast process that requires minimal equipment. In addition, most spray paints include primer, saving an extra step.

When spray painting, it’s best to apply multiple coats. Use smooth pressure and a slow side-to-side motion to apply the paint evenly with each layer. Spray paint is available in a wide range of colors, finishes, and formulas specific to the type of surface you’re looking to paint.

4. Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is another quick method to update a picture frame. If you like to decorate in a farmhouse, rustic, or shabby chic style, this finish will be a fantastic complement to your décor. As the name implies, chalk paint leaves a chalky, matte finish when the paint dries.

Don’t confuse this with “chalkboard paint,” which creates a dark surface you can write on. Chalk paint comes in a variety of colors and isn’t for writing on. A distinct advantage of chalk paint is its easy prep.

Sanding and priming are not required. The drawbacks of chalk paint are that it can be more costly and difficult to find. Applying a sealer to chalk paint is also strongly recommended.

Things to Consider When Painting Picture Frames

For a piece on what type of paint should you use to paint a picture frame, a number of brushes sitting in a canvas holder


When painting picture frames, it’s crucial to have the right environment, setup, and materials on hand. Take the following steps to get set up:

  • When choosing your paint color, ensure it coordinates well with the picture content, and be sure to test a small area before painting the entire project.
  • If you’re painting indoors, choose a well-ventilated area and open doors and windows if possible. 
  • If painting outdoors, check the wind and position yourself to avoid any splatter or debris that could blow in and ruin your project. 
  • Use a drop cloth, an old sheet, or painter’s tape to cover your work area.
  • Have your paint and brushes (or spray paint) clean and accessible. 

Next, you’re on to painting the frame. Here are the general directions for all picture frame materials and types of paint.

  1. Remove the glass and backing (or cover thoroughly with scrap paper and painter’s tape).
  2. Clean the frame with dish soap and dry thoroughly with a microfiber cloth.
  3. Lightly sand down the frame.
  4. Apply a coat of primer (if needed).
  5. Apply a coat of paint and allow it to dry completely.
  6. Apply additional coats of paint as needed, drying between each application.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wooden painted picture frame sitting on a barn wood shelf

Maria Kolpashchikova/Shutterstock

Here are some frequently asked questions about painting picture frames:

How Do You Paint a Wood Picture Frame?

If you’re using a wooden picture frame, it’s essential to sand it down first. Sanding is necessary whether the wood is new, used, or previously painted. Wood is porous, so the paint can seep into the surface holes and cracks, creating an uneven surface.

Use 60-grit sandpaper followed by 120-grit sandpaper. After sanding the wood to create a smooth surface, apply a coat of primer before painting.

How Do You Paint a Metal Picture Frame?

Metal is a nonporous material. Although the smooth surface prevents the color from seeping into cracks, metal is more difficult for paint to adhere to and dried paint can easily flake off.

To ensure your paint sticks to a metal frame, lightly sand the surface with 80-grit and then 120-grit sandpaper. Then, clean away any residue and allow it to dry. Acrylic and spray paint are both excellent options for metal picture frames.

How Do You Paint a Plastic Picture Frame?

Plastic picture frames are inexpensive, but you can upgrade them with paint to look more upscale and match your other décor. Like metal, paint won’t adhere well to a smooth plastic surface unless you sand it and apply a coat of primer first.

Spray paint, or paint that is designated explicitly as suitable for plastic, will yield the best result. Why should you paint your picture frames?

It’s a fun and inexpensive way to customize your home décor while saving money. A wide range of color and finish options provide you endless possibilities for updating your home, office, or workspace.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Picture Frames?

There are a lot of options to choose from when painting a picture frame.

Whether you choose acrylic for a quick job or chalkboard paint for an easy prep, there’s no going wrong with any of the options.

Just remember to consider what type of frame you’re painting to choose the best option for your home.