What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Picture Frames?

You may not realize it, but picture frames are a small thing that can make a big impact. One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to change the appearance of your home's interior is with picture frames. You don't have to go out and buy all new frames just to change them up. You can simply paint them. But what kind of paint should you use on picture frames? We've researched the answer for you in this post.

When it comes to choosing paint, there are several kinds to choose from. The paints that work best for picture frames are:

  • Acrylic
  • Latex
  • Oil-Based
  • Chalk

The best type of paint to use ultimately depends on what the frame you're wanting to paint is made of. In this article, we'll look at the pros and cons of each type of paint as well as the best frame materials to use them on. We'll also give you an overview of how to paint a picture frame. Keep reading to learn more.

Woman painting on a clean canvas, What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Picture Frames?

Best Paints To Use On Picture Frames

Whether you're just looking to touch up the paint on an old picture frame or you've found a frame you love but it doesn't match your color scheme or your other frames, you can fix it with paint. The different paints mentioned here can be found at any arts and crafts store and work very well for use on picture frames.


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Paint Brushes dripping paint of various colors of palette

Acrylic paint is water-based. It is one of the most versatile paint types and comes in a wide range of colors as well. If your picture frame is made of wood, acrylic paint is a good choice because you don't have to prepare the surface first. Acrylic paint can also be used on plastic and metal, but you will need to properly prepare the surface first in order for the paint to stick.

Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of acrylic paint.


  • Durable
  • Dries very quickly
  • Great color payoff
  • Inexpensive
  • Versatile
  • Water-soluble when wet


  • Color may be darker when dry
  • Difficult to remove when dry
  • Have to work quickly before it dries


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Paint can and brush on green background, top view

Latex paints are also water-based and great for use on picture frames because they come in a range of finishes. Some of the finishes that latex paint comes in are flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Each of the different finishes creates a different effect when dry.

  • Flat- no luster
  • Eggshell- low luster
  • Satin- slight luster
  • Semi-gloss- subtle shine
  • High-gloss- high shine

Latex paint works on pretty much any surface as long as you prepare the surface properly. The best finishes to use on picture frames are flat, eggshell, and satin.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of latex paint.


  • Affordable 
  • Comes in a wide range of colors and finishes 
  • Easy to clean up
  • Fast-drying


  • Chips easily
  • May not stick to glossy surfaces as well
  • Might require multiple coats
  • Needs primer
  • Requires sanding when used on wood


many color paint tubes macro on white background

Oil-based paints stick to almost any surface, including picture frame materials like plastic and metal that other types of paints don't adhere to. They also work well on wood picture frames because they expand and contract with wood to adapt to changing temperatures in your home.

As with other paint types, there are advantages and disadvantages of oil-based paint as well.


  • Covers well
  • Durable 
  • Usually, only one coat is needed 


  • May require primer
  • More expensive than acrylic/latex
  • Requires special brushes
  • Slow-drying

Chalk Paint

Chalk paint is a type of paint that is used mostly for decorative purposes, such as furniture and home decor like picture frames. When applied, chalk paint gives frames a chalky and matte appearance. This is a popular paint choice if you want your picture frames to have a rustic or shabby chic look.

Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of chalk paint.


  • Blends easily
  • Easy to clean up
  • Fast-drying
  • Requires no preparation, including sanding and priming


  • Can't be purchased everywhere
  • More costly
  • Sealer is required

Click here to see this chalk paint on Amazon.

You May Also Like: Should Picture Frames All Be The Same Color?

Do You Need To Sand A Picture Frame Before Painting? 

Sanding before painting anything is a good idea, especially for wood or pre-painted surfaces. The purpose of sanding is to create a smooth and more consistent surface with which to paint on.

If you purchased a brand new wooden picture frame, sanding it beforehand is a must. It is necessary to sand wood frames before you paint them because wood has pores in it that absorb the paint. Sanding helps to close the pores, creating an even finish. 

Woman painting on a clean canvas

If you have a wooden or plastic frame that has previously been painted, running coarse-grain sandpaper over the old paint helps to remove any dirt and inconsistencies from the surface. Use fine-grain sandpaper to smooth out the edges. This will help your new coat of paint to stick better when you apply it.

Can You Spray Paint Picture Frames?

Aluminum spray cans with differently colored nozzles

Spray paint is a quick and easy option to use on picture frames, especially ones that are made of plastic or metal. Most spray paints are oil-based and already have a primer included in the formula. Using spray paint on these materials cuts down on the time it takes to paint and gives you more even coverage.

To spray paint a picture frame, you will need:

  • Plastic or metal frame
  • Newspaper or drop cloth
  • Microfiber cloth 
  • Dish soap
  • Sandpaper
  • Spray paint

Follow these steps to spray paint a picture frame.

  1. Remove the glass and backing from the frame, if necessary.
  2. If the frame is metal, clean it first using dish soap and a microfiber cloth.
  3. Lightly sand the surface of the frame to make it more even.
  4. Wipe the frame again with the microfiber cloth to remove any dust.
  5. Lay the frame on the newspaper or drop cloth and spray an even coat of paint over the frame.
  6. Give the paint plenty of time to dry, then apply additional coats if necessary.

How Do You Tone Down A Gold Frame?

Gold plated wooden picture frame

Toning down a gold frame can give it a vintage or antique look. It may seem like it takes a lot of work, but it's actually very easy and inexpensive to make a gold frame look duller. There are several options available, but the best option for you depends on if you want to keep the existing gold finish or repaint it with a duller color.

If you just want to dull the existing finish, you can:

  • Sand it with a fine-grit sandpaper
  • Spray a matte clear coat over the frame

Check out this matte clear spray paint on Amazon.

If you want to repaint the gold to create a duller color, you can:

  • Mix together matte acrylic paint in burnt umber and raw umber, then dab the paint onto the frame and sand the edges when dry.
  • Spray paint it matte gold or bronze.
  • Use Rub N Buff to change the color.

Click here to view Rub N Buff on Amazon.

See More: How To Use Rub N Buff On Metal [A Complete Guide]

How Do You Paint Shabby Chic Picture Frames?

Distressed white painted picture frame. Weathered white timber.

Shabby chic is a design trend that is gaining popularity again. You can paint any furniture or decor to look shabby chic as long as it is made of wood. To paint a shabby chic picture frame, you will need:

  • A wood picture frame
  • Sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Paintbrush
  • Acrylic paint (one or multiple colors)
  • Satin acrylic paint sealer

Follow these steps to paint a shabby chic picture frame:

  1. Sand the frame and wipe the dust off with a tack cloth.
  2. Apply a coat of paint to the frame and let it dry.
  3. After the paint dries, sand the frame again until you see the original wood start to show. Vary the amount of sanding in certain areas depending on the amount of distress you want.
  4. Seal it with a satin acrylic paint sealer (optional).

You can also create a shabby chic picture frame using chalk paint. Watch the video below to learn how.

 In Closing

Colored picture frames painted by acrylic paints

If you want to paint your picture frames, we hope this article helped you learn what type of paint to use based on the type of frame you have. No matter what type of frame and paint you choose, remember to sand the frame before you paint it to help the paint stick better. We're sure your new picture frames will look beautiful. Thanks for reading!

Colored picture frames painted by acrylic paints, What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Picture Frames?

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