How to Paint Bathroom Light Fixtures

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Painter's tape
Drop cloths
All-purpose cleaner
Paint primer
Tack cloth
Spray paint
Sponge or rags
Blocks or toothpicks

When it’s time to update the bathroom, there are many things you can do. A fresh coat of paint always has a big impact, while if you're willing to go more labor-intensive, you can install wainscoting, switch out the sink, or redo the flooring. Another high-impact change is updating the light fixture. Perhaps it’s outdated brass or the chrome is too dark for your decor. Whatever the case, if you like your light fixture and it's still functional, there's no reason to buy a new one. Simply change the color instead, which will save you time and money! Here’s how.

Step 1 - Plan

Any home improvement project begins with a plan. Start by selecting your paint. Spray paint is easy to use and Rust-Oleum makes great products for adhering to metal surfaces. Other paints can be brushed on with equally dynamic results. Decide what you would like to use and gather the necessary supplies, which may include primer, drop cloths, painter’s tape, a screwdriver (to remove the fixture), paint, brush, and blocks or toothpicks to prop the fixture up while you paint. You may also choose to hang the fixture outside while you paint.

Step 2 - Prepare the Area

You will need to prepare the area before opening the paint can. You can either remove the light fixture from the wall or ceiling or you can paint it in place. If you choose to leave it in place, carefully tape the surrounding area. (This is best when painting with a brush since spray paint has a tendency to dust everything in the room.) Turn off the power to the light fixture for safety. Safety note: Make sure you have cut power to the fixture before attempting to disconnect it. You will want to plug in auxiliary lighting so you can see what you’re doing. If you decide to remove the fixture, cap off loose wires and label them and/or take pictures of each step so you remember how to reattach it. Remove the light bulbs and globes from the fixture. Take care to not get paint into the socket area. Whether you work in the bathroom or move the painting portion elsewhere, make sure to protect the surrounding area with drop cloths.

Step 3 - Prep the Fixture

Before you apply paint to the fixture, make sure you've cleaned it thoroughly because paint does not adhere well to dust or grime. You can use an all-purpose cleaner for this. Once clean and thoroughly dry, lightly sand the fixture. Note: If your finish is a smooth shiny surface, avoid scratching it with sandpaper. Instead, use a primer specific for metal. Use tack cloth to remove any remaining dust or debris.

Step 4 - Apply Paint

Using either a brush or spray, apply one thin coat at a time. For a more rustic look, apply with a sponge or rag. Be patient and allow each layer to dry completely before applying another coat. Also be aware of the temperature. Paint will not adhere correctly if it is too hot or too cold in your workspace. Read the directions specific to the paint you chose for the best results. Some will require several coats while others only need two.

Step 5 - Finish Up

Once you’ve finished painting your fixture and it's completely dry, you're ready to put things back together. Remember to do this in reverse order of how you took it apart or you will find yourself redoing things multiple times to get it right. Reattach the fixture if appropriate. Check the wiring by flipping the circuit back on before mounting the fixture completely. Then, turn the circuit back off before screwing the fixture into place. Finally, reattach globes and bulbs. Enjoy your new look!


Use tack cloth between coats. This removes any debris that may have collected and helps the paint bond.

Watch for drips around screws and other beveled or uneven surfaces. Paint tends to collect in these areas, causing it to run or drip.