Tutorial: Painted Lampshade

I have had this lampshade in my living room for a while and I am not entirely happy with it. I love the lamp stand but the shade is a left over from my Mum’s house and if I’m honest I think the shade probably needs to be a different shape and size to go with stand. But until I find something more suitable I wanted to jazz this one up a bit as the cream colour is a little dull, and with all the snow outside I have no where else to go! I didn’t really want to spend lots of money, as it is only a temporary fix, so I hunted around my supplies and found some acrylic paints.

Now, there are lots of arguments on the internet about painting lampshades, all to do with the shade heating up when the light is on. As far as I am aware acrylics are non-hazardous and should not emit any toxic gases as long as it is only exposed to ambient temperatures. Higher temperatures may melt acrylics (160 degrees Celsius and above) but if your light bulb emits this kind of heat I would suggest changing it anyway (that kind of temperature could bake a cake!). So basically acrylics are safe to use on lampshades but not with halogen light bulbs (halogen light bulbs tend to be hotter so might be best to avoid).


  • Lampshade (mine was a textured fabric covered shade, plastic ones might not work but give it a go and see)
  • Paper
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Pens
  • A light (for example a torch)
  • Acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Pot of water

1. Remove your lampshade and line the interior with paper. Using masking tape, tape the sections of paper together.

2. Remove the paper from the interior of the lampshade. Cut the paper down one side so that you can lay it flat – remember which side was in contact with the interior of the shade as this is the side you will draw your design on to.

3. Next you need to prime the surface of the lampshade. I just used a basic white acrylic paint and did a couple of coats. If your lampshade is causing problems rolling around then you can always fix it back on to the stand to keep it still.

4. Whilst you let the primer dry get creating your design. I chose a simple chevron pattern and decided to pick out colours that were already in my room – green, blue, black, yellow and red. When drawing your pattern it is best to use a nice thick dark pen – you will see why later.

5. Next, place the paper with your design on back inside the lampshade. Fix in place using masking tape.
6. Now, for this part you can either place your lampshade back on the stand or grab yourself a torch of some kind. Use the light from the stand or the light from the torch to illuminate the pattern through the shade. This trick is very useful as it means you don’t have to draw directly onto the lampshade and have pencil marks visible under your painting.

7. Then get painting. I slowly built up the different colours until the entire sides were full.

Once the painting is dry you can pop it back on your lampshade and use it as it is. But if you want to give your shade a nice finish you can always find a varnish to seal the surface – remember to make sure it is a varnish that will not react to heat and will not dissolve your paint (a spray adhesive would be an ideal solution but nothing water based). I left my shade as it was, after all it is just a temporary fix, and I like the matt look without any varnish added.

It even looks nice lite up and adds a bit more pop of colour into the room. A boring lampshade no more!

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