How to Paint Picture Frames and Pick the Right Paint Type

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Picture frames are a must have for décor. But, what if standard black and white colors don’t suit your trendy taste? You can quickly learn how to paint picture frames and pick your frame colors. This gives your home a pop of color or a more stylish look.

Best Paint to Use on Picture Frames

You are ready to start painting. When you visit the home improvement store, you may feel overwhelmed by how many paints there are to choose from.

Not just color, but type, primer, type of sealer, and loads of brand names.

Let’s break down a few popular choices to see how they work and what will be the best paint for you.

Acrylic Paint

This is a popular type of paint because it is water soluble and fast drying. If you opt for an acrylic paint, you will need to pre-sand your frame so this paint will better adhere.

A woman sits down and paints a lare picture frame

Acrylic paint also gives you various creative ways to paint. You can use it in full color for a vibrant finish. Or, you can add some water and give your finished product a watercolor look.

​Spray Paint

​Using spray paint on picture frames is always recommended because it is quick, simple, and easy to use. With spray paint, little prep is needed. Simply wipe down your picture frame to remove dirt and dust, then begin painting. You should also do the same for repainting mirror frames​.

Spray paint also will not need a primer nor a sealer. It is an all-in-one paint that lets you add color without an added mess of brushes. However, if you’re looking for a similar alternative to spray paint in a can, you can check out our reviews of top paint sprayer options for ideas.

​Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is another easy-prep way to paint picture frames. For chalk paint, you will do the same quick wipe down of the picture frame and then begin your painting.

After you finish with the number of coats you desire, you can seal the chalk paint with a special wax or opt to sand the frame down for a matte finish.

​Paint For Plastic Frames

​If you want to ​paint frames that are plastic​, you can get a specialized plastic paint or a ​plastic primer​. You will need to use these.  Unlike wood, plastic is not porous and regular paint will not stick well to it.

An added step for plastic frames is to gently sand them before you begin. ​Just like sanding wood surfaces, sanding the plastic frame ​will scuff the surface and help the primer or paint adhere better.

​How to Paint Picture Frames

A close up of a woman painting a black picture frame

Things You’ll Need

​When you have chosen the best type of paint and color for your frames, it is time to prep your frames and paint. What you will need for painting are:

  • ​Paint
  • ​Newspaper
  • ​Brush (bristled or foam)
  • ​Sand paper
  • ​Painter’s tape (optional)

The newspaper can be used to cover the glass or to protect your work area from paint. You can also use it outside to protect your pavement or grass from being dyed from spray paint.


​If you are able to remove the backing and glass from the frame, then do so to make the process quicker and easier. If you cannot remove the frame and glass, you can use newspaper and painter’s tape to cover the glass.

If your ​paint requires you to sand down​ the frame, do that first. Make sure you are not over-sanding down the frame.  

Use a cloth to wipe down the frame after sanding, to remove any chips, dirt, dust, or grime. If you do not have to sand down your frame, wipe it off. You can also use rubbing alcohol on a cloth to help get rid of any residue on the frame.

Adhere your painter’s tape if needed and get your paint out for the next step.


​When you are ready to paint, prepare your paint with any special instructions that are on the can. You can use a bristle or a foam brush, whichever you prefer painting with.

Paint the first coat with even brush strokes. The first coat is always the worst because it can have variations in certain areas of thickness. Also, the previous paint may shine through. Don’t let this discourage you. ​

Allow the first coat to completely dry for 1-2 hours. Then, you can start on the second coat. This coat will better enhance your color and fill in the gaps from areas will too little paint.  

Allow the second coat to dry. If you want a third coat, you can go ahead and paint it once the second coat has fully dried.

It is important to ​let your coats dry in between​ to reduce ​mistakes and chance of any chipping, paint blobs, or discoloration in the finished product.

If your finished product requires a sealer to be painted or waxed on, go ahead and do this after the final coat is dry.

​How to Spray Paint Picture Frames

If you opt to spray paint your picture frames, you will want to do it outside if possible or in an open and well-ventilated area.

Spray paint droplets can sometimes travel and adhere to other surfaces, especially if you are outside in the wind. Be mindful of this and adjust as needed.

For spray painting your picture frames, make sure the can is shaken well to activate the paint and mix it well. Some cans have been sitting for long periods of time and the paint has separated. Not shaking will give you uneven results and blobs of paint.

Spray paint the frame and let it dry between coats. Being outside in the warm weather will help your spray paint dry faster versus doing it inside or on a cold day.

A can of white spray paint
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Knowing how to paint picture frames is a great way to choose your own colors. You can also save a bunch of money if you opt to purchase used frames at thrift stores, and then make them match by painting them.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.