How to paint a frosted glass lamp shade

Updated April 17, 2017

Frosted glass is a semi-transparent glass that has been sandblasted to make it more opaque. When used on a lamp shade, it will soften the light and diffuse it more evenly than a clear lamp shade. You can treat it much like clear glass if you decide to paint a design on it or change the colour of it. Because of the frosted quality, it will give you different results than if you had started with clear glass, but that will add to the unique quality of your lamp shade.

Wash the lamp shade to remove any grease or dirt. This is very important because the paint will not adhere correctly to any areas that are greasy. Dry your lamp shade completely with a lint-free towel or paper towel.

Squeeze paint onto your paper plate. If you want to change the colour of your frosted lamp shade to a solid colour, use a 1-inch-wide flat art brush to paint the new colour onto your shade.

Paint in the same direction, overlapping each stroke. Be careful not to overwork each area as the paint will dry fairly quickly. Let the first coat dry and apply a second coat of the same colour.

Choose two or more colours of paint for a more mottled paint treatment. Squeeze puddles of paint onto paper plates, using one for each colour.

Dampen a sea sponge in water and wring it out. Dip a corner of it into one of the paint colours and then blot the paint on a clean portion of the paper plate. Dab the lamp shade with random patches over about half of the surface.

Dampen another sea sponge and pounce it over the areas not yet covered with new paint. Applying a new paint while the first colour is still wet will create a soft look and will make the colours easy to blend. If you want an edgier look, allow each colour to dry before applying the next paint colour.

Use painters' tape to attach a stencil to your clean lamp shade. Squirt a small amount of paint onto a paper plate. Use a stencil brush and dip just the tip into the paint. Swirl it around to evenly distribute the paint.

Blot the brush onto a clean part of the paper plate in order to remove some of the paint. Use circular motions to apply paint in the openings of your stencil. Remove the stencil right away.

Clean the back and front of the stencil before reapplying it to another spot on the lamp shade. If you are stencilling with more than one colour, be sure to allow each colour to dry before applying the next one.


Practice your design on a piece of paper before stencilling or using a sea sponge on your lamp shade. Use a hair dryer to speed up the drying time for the glass paint if you're adding an additional colour.


Use a well-ventilated room when working with paint. Clean your brushes right away to prevent paint from drying on them.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint for glass in colours of choice
  • Art paintbrushes
  • Sea sponge
  • Stencil
  • Stencil brushes
  • Paper plate
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About the Author

Clare Bills is a writer, speaker and artist living in Ames, Iowa. She holds three Bachelor of Arts degrees, as well as a Master of Science in journalism/public relations. Bills worked in public relations for more than 15 years and now writes for several magazines and online sites. She is also the author of a foodblog: Nana Clare's Kitchen.