How To Paint Over Wallpaper

How To Paint Over Wallpaper

How To Paint Over Wallpaper

Introduction to Painting Over Wallpaper

At first glance, painting over wallpaper might seem counterintuitive. Many people might be inclined to believe that wallpaper should always be removed before painting. However, this isn't always the case. Sometimes it's simply not practical or possible to remove the wallpaper - it may be too time-consuming, or there may be layers of ancient wallpaper underneath that are difficult to remove. In these instances, painting over wallpaper can be an excellent solution. It can save time, effort, and often yields brilliant and breathtaking results.

However, it's not a task you can just dive into without any preparation. Painting over existing wallpaper involves a different set of techniques and considerations compared to painting over bare walls and surfaces. Your wallpaper's condition, the type of paint to be used, the preparation needed, and the painting process itself all play significant roles in achieving the best results.

With proper knowledge and guidance, painting over wallpaper can transform your room or home into a place that exhibits a fresh and vibrant atmosphere. In the next sections, we'll explore the necessary steps and key considerations of painting over wallpaper in detail to help guide you on this unique home improvement journey.

Despite its challenges, this method brings many advantages. If the wallpaper is solid and well-adhered, painting over it hides outdated designs and infuses new life into your spaces. It can also provide a unique texture to your walls that may not be achievable with normal paint jobs. Read on to explore this in more detail and learn the steps for this process.

Understanding the Challenges of Painting Over Wallpaper

When choosing to paint over wallpaper, it's critical to understand the inherent challenges that come along with it. Assessing these beforehand can save you from potential disappointment after completing the project. Painting over wallpaper is not as straightforward as you might think.

Existence of Seams

The first challenge is that wallpaper has seams. Once paint is applied over it, these seams can become more visible, especially if the wallpaper starts to peel. If the wallpaper is not properly sealed before painting, it can lift or bubble at the seams due to the added moisture from the paint.

Type of Wallpaper

The type of wallpaper you've on your walls can also present challenges. Some wallpapers, especially vinyl and metallic ones, don't take paint well. For such wallpapers, the paint might not stick properly and could peel off over time. Additionally, textured wallpapers can result in a paint job that mirrors this uneven texture.

Colour Bleeding through

Another potential problem to consider is colour bleed. This is when the colour of the wallpaper shows through to the new paint. This usually happens with dark or brightly coloured wallpapers. To prevent this you'll need to use a good quality primer beforehand, which adds more steps to the process.

The Difficulty of Future Removal

Lastly, painting over wallpaper makes future wallpaper removal much (more) difficult. Assuming that one day you might want to remove the wallpaper altogether, you'll find that the task is quite complicated if the wallpaper has been painted over. The paint tends to bond the paper to the wall, and it may chip or tear in places during removal.

While painting over wallpaper can certainly serve as a viable quick fix, it's essential to be aware of the potential issues that might arise. Taking these into consideration, you can better prepare and undertake steps to mitigate the challenges, resulting in a smoother finish and increased longevity of your painted walls.

Tools and Materials Required for The Job

Before you begin the process of painting over wallpaper, you will need to gather some essential tools and materials. The following is a detailed explanation of what items will be needed for the task.


The primary material that you will need is the paint. Choose a high-quality paint that is known for its durability and is resistant to chipping or peeling. The type of paint you select will also be dependent on your personal aesthetic preferences, as well as the type of wallpaper you are planning to paint over. A latex-based paint is often recommended when painting over wallpaper.


Before you apply the paint, you will need to apply a primer. The primer is crucial as it helps to seal the wallpaper, leading to smoother paint application. It also prevents any pattern or colors in the wallpaper from showing through the paint. An oil-based primer or a shellac primer are considered the top choices when painting over wallpaper.

Paint Brushes and Rollers

Next, you will need paint brushes and rollers. Brushes are used to paint smaller areas and edges, while rollers can cover large sections more rapidly. It is recommended to use a high-quality roller to ensure a uniform application of the paint.

Sanding Paper

Sanding paper can be used to smooth out any imperfections on the wallpaper before you begin the painting process. This helps to create a neat and polished finish once the paint is applied.

Other Tools

Last but not least, you will require a paint tray, a quality paint can opener, a paint stirrer, and painter's tape. The paint tray is used to hold the paint, and a paint can opener is used to open the paint can. A paint stirrer ensures that the paint is mixed correctly before you start painting. Painter's tape helps to protect areas that you do not want to get paint on, such as trim and windows.

With all these tools and materials in hand, you are now well-prepared to begin the process of painting over your wallpaper.

Stay tuned for our next section where we will guide you through the step-by-step process to ensure a professional-looking finish.

Prepping Your Wallpaper for Paint

Preparation is a key step before painting over wallpaper. This process is instrumental in making sure that the paint sticks and stays on the wallpaper for a long duration. Incorrect or inadequate preparation can lead to unwanted peeling or bubbles.

Checking if the Wallpaper is Suitable for Painting over

Firstly, not all wallpaper is suitable to be painted over. Before moving ahead with the painting process, it's important to check the wallpaper's condition. If it's peeling or damaged, it's better to remove it. However, if the wallpaper is smooth and well adhered to the wall, you should be good to go.

Cleaning the Wallpaper

Just like any other surface, wallpaper needs thorough cleaning before you can paint over it. You can clean it with a solution of warm water and mild soap or a commercial wallpaper cleaner. Make sure to remove any dirt, dust or grime from the surface. Don't forget to let it dry completely before moving on to the next steps.

Sanding the Wallpaper

After the wallpaper is clean and dry, gently sanding the surface can create a more adhesive surface for the paint. Using a 120-grit sandpaper should be enough. You should aim for an overall smooth surface, being careful not to tear the wallpaper during the process.

Applying an Oil-Based Primer

The next step is to apply a coat of an oil-based primer. This creates a waterproof seal over the wallpaper, preventing any moisture from the paint from soaking into the wallpaper and causing bubbles or peels. You should apply at least one layer of primer, keeping in mind that a smoother surface usually requires more layers for the best results. Let the primer dry fully before applying the paint.

Now, with your wallpaper perfectly prepped for the paint, you are all set to initiate the actual painting process. This process might seem like it’s time-consuming, but these steps are crucial and helpful in achieving an ideal end product.

Choosing the Right Type of Paint and Primer

Choosing the right type of paint and primer is an essential step when it comes to painting over wallpaper. It can be the deciding factor between a disappointingly poor look and a professionally polished look.


Firstly, a good quality primer is necessary as it will prepare the surface and give the paint something to adhere to. It seals the wallpaper, preventing the wallpaper's pattern from displaying through the paint. Do not overlook the need for primer, as its absence can leave your colors looking washed out and flat, no matter how much paint you apply.

Oil-based primers are highly recommended. They work exceptionally well on wallpaper and prevent the wallpaper from peeling away. However, shellac-based primer is also an option as it provides a strong barrier with less odorous fumes.


After the primer, comes the paint. When choosing paint, consider using oil-based or latex paints. They provide a durable, cleanable surface and hide surface imperfections. One or two coats of paint are usually sufficient, but if the wallpaper has a bold design or dark colors, additional coats may be necessary.

If you prefer the 'wipe-clean' feature, then semi-gloss paints, egg-shell, or satin latex paints might be your best bet. These types of paint are brilliant for rooms that may need regular cleaning, such as a kitchen or bathroom. They are a little shinier, but they're durable and often resist stains better than flat paints.

Whichever paint you choose, remember that preparation is key. Applying both a good primer and paint will ensure the best outcome when painting over wallpaper.

Also, don't forget about the aesthetics. Choose a paint color that complements your home decor and reflects the mood you'd like to create in the room.

Moving on to the next step in a painting project, we’ll look at the correct technique for painting over wallpaper.

Detailed Steps to Paint Over Wallpaper

Even though removing wallpaper is generally recognized as the best course of action before painting, there are situations where painting over wallpaper makes the most sense, especially when removal of the wallpaper would cause more damage to the wall. Herein, are steps for painting over wallpaper effectively:

Step 1: Check the Condition of the Wallpaper.

Before starting, ensure the wallpaper is in good condition. Any loose or peeling portions should be glued down or removed to avoid bumps on the final painted surface. Wallpaper with texture or patterns will also result in a less smooth finish after painting.

Step 2: Clean the Wallpaper.

Remove any dust or grime from the wallpaper. You can use warm soapy water and a soft sponge for this. Rinse with clear water and allow to dry.

Step 3: Apply Primer.

Priming the wallpaper is critical to ensure the paint adheres well. Use an oil-based primer instead of water-based one to prevent the wallpaper from peeling. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

Step 4: Apply Joint Compound for Smooth Finish.

You can optionally use a thin layer of joint compound over the wallpaper, especially if it has a texture or pattern. This will result in a smoother final painted surface. Sand down the joint compound once dry.

Step 5: Paint the Wall.

Once the joint compound is sanded and smooth, you can proceed with painting. It's advisable to use a roller for larger areas and a paintbrush for edges. Apply at least two coats for an even finish, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

Step 6: Dry and Clean.

After painting, allow the wall to dry thoroughly. Once dry, clean up any paint spills or smudges.

Painting over wallpaper is a quick, relatively easy process that can provide good results if carried out properly. Always remember to work slowly and carefully to ensure a smooth, professional-looking finish.

Tips and Tricks for a Smooth, Professional Finish

Painting over wallpaper can be quite a challenging task, especially if you're aiming for a smooth, professional finish. However, with the right techniques and adherence to these top tips, you can deliver outstanding results at the very first attempt.

1. Primer Application

Primer is essential before painting on wallpaper as it helps in sealing the surface and reducing the chances of the wallpaper absorbing the paint. You should apply a good oil-based primer as it does a better job at sealing the adhesive than a water-based one.

2. Smoothen the Surface

An uneven surface can easily diminish the outcome of your painting. Therefore, before commencing, ensure you smoothen the surface by filling in any gaps, seams, or uneven areas.

3. Use High Quality Paint

In the quest for a professional finish, high-quality paint is non-negotiable. This is because it is less likely to peel or show roller marks.

4. Emphasize on Edges

Edges are quite challenging to get right; hence you should emphasize on them. Consider cutting in the edges with a smaller brush before proceeding with the larger roller for the rest of the wall.

5. Add Texture

If you're still struggling to hide the underlying wallpaper pattern after the primer application, consider adding texture to your wall.

6. Try Multiple Coats

Sometimes, one coat of paint is not enough. Always examine your work during the process and be ready to apply multiple coats as necessary.

7. Use a High Quality Roller

It's hard to achieve a smooth finish without a high-quality roller. This tool can aid in the even distribution of paint on your wall, thereby preventing patches or uneven thickness.

Using these tips and tricks will undoubtedly help you while painting over wallpaper. Make sure to take your time, be patient, and most importantly, enjoy the entire process.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Painting Over Wallpaper

While painting over wallpaper can save time and effort, there are several common mistakes that homeowners make that can lead to disappointing results. Being aware of these can help ensure that your newly painted walls look professional and last for years to come.

Not Preparing the Wall

One of the most common mistakes is failing to properly prepare the wall before painting. This involves cleaning the wallpaper to remove any dust or grease, and priming it to help the paint adhere to the surface more effectively. Without these preparatory steps, the paint may not stick properly, leading to peeling or bubbled paint down the line.

Not Sealing Seams and Edges

Another mistake is neglecting to seal the seams and edges of the wallpaper before painting. If these are not properly sealed, the paint can seep underneath the wallpaper, causing it to bubble or peel away from the wall. Using a good-quality sealer can prevent this problem.

Using the Wrong Type of Paint

Using the wrong type of paint can have disastrous results when painting over wallpaper. Water-based paints, for instance, can cause wallpaper adhesive to dissolve, leading to peeling or bubbling wallpaper. Oil-based paints or an acrylic sealer prior to a water-based paint can avoid this problem.

Rushing the Job

Patience is key when painting over wallpaper. Rushing the job can result in uneven paint, air bubbles, or visible wallpaper seams. By taking the time to apply multiple thin coats of paint and allowing each to dry thoroughly before applying the next, you can achieve a smoother, more professional finish.

By avoiding these common mistakes, painting over wallpaper can be a sensible, timesaving solution that yields beautiful results.