Don’t Pass on Brass: How to Paint a Brass Lamp


Lamp After Closeup

Being on a tight budget, I love to thrift shop. I can be frequently seen pushing Hailey in her stroller down the street to The Salvation Army Thrift Store. I do sometimes have to get creative in how I fit my larger purchases into the stroller basket to push it back home again. This was the case with this long, heavy brass lamp. The lamp was on the shelf with a gigantic cylindrical lampshade that didn’t fit the lamp well and would never have made it into the stroller basket. Instead of wearing it on my head as I walked home, I opted to gift it back to the Salvation Army.

Here is the hard-to-look-at before:

Lamp Before

Quite ugly, but I liked the shape. Here are the steps I took to paint the lamp:

1) Taped off the bulb socket and the cord.

2) Sprayed the lamp with two layers of a white oil-based spray primer I had on hand.

3) Lightly sanded the drips with a fine-grit sandpaper. Wiped down with a damp cloth.

4) Painted the lamp with a layer of Valspar flat Bistro White using a brush like this trimming and edging brush to get into all the nooks and crannies. Since the primer was also white, I only needed the one layer.

5) Lightly sanded the drips with a fine-grit sandpaper. Wiped down with a damp cloth.

5) Painted two layers of Minwax Water-Based Polyurethane I had on hand. This protects the paint and adds gloss to the lamp.

After scouring thrift stores and Marshalls, Ross, and Burlington Coat Factory for a discount shade, I finally gave in and bought a drum lampshade at Target for $24.99. The lamp cost $7.99. All other supplies I already had on hand. Total cost: $32.98. Considering the fact that the lamp I had in mind from Z-Gallerie as I repainted mine is $139.00, I think I did pretty well.

Z Gallerie Lamp:

Z Gallerie Lamp

My lamp:

Lamp After

For more thrift store finds and tutorials, see Mirror Mirror and The Gift of Thrift.



  1. Posted August 20, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

    We love this party link and I wanted to let you know that we are planning on featuring it. We hope that you get a bunch of new visitors.

  2. Posted August 22, 2010 at 5:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    I love it! I would never of thought to paint brass. Great project!

    • Posted August 22, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink | Reply

      Thank you Nancy! I was initially afraid it wouldn’t work, but spray-primer is a wonderful thing.

  3. Posted August 29, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink | Reply

    I think the white is stunning! I love it!

    • Posted August 29, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks Nikki! I fell asleep last night thinking what red would look like in our bedroom. 🙂

  4. Jena
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    Very nice!! So, if a bit of primer will work for brass, am I safe attacking my laminate “oak” bookshelf?

    • Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink | Reply

      Yes! I have a friend who used a can of spraypaint to cover her laminate Wal-Mart bookshelf, no primer needed!

      • Jena
        Posted February 3, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        Great! Thanks!

  5. Kimberly
    Posted May 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I love what you did to that lamp! I actually just bought a set of Hampton Bay table lamps for my bedroom because they were on sale and thought they looked fine on the box. But, when I took them out when I got home, they’re not very nice at all. I was thinking of spraying them white… Here’s my problem–They’re touch sensitive. So, they turn on and off by touching it. Would you happen to know if painting it would ruin the touch sensitive feature? Because clearly, there’s no point in painting it if it’s going to ruin the lamp. Pleeaaasssseee, give me your thoughts! 🙂
    Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Posted May 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Wow – I have no idea if it would ruin the sensitivity! Here’s an idea – wrap the lamp in plastic wrap or put a few pieces of packing tape on it and see if it can still sense touch through the plastic. If so, I bet you are fine to paint them!

  6. Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I really like the shade on yours! What brand of primer did you use?

    • Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’m sorry I don’t remember! I think it was just from Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer. I’ve seen now that you can get combo spraypaint/primer.

  7. Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you so much, this is I think the exact lamp I bought at a thrift store today, and now I know exactly how to paint it!! Thanks!!!

    • Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      That’s great – it’s going to look gorgeous!

  8. Maureen
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love your website! As a true believer of Reuse, Redo, Reinvent, Re-purpose, I’ll be back to check out your other cool projects! Thanks for the tip on priming and painting a brass(ugly) lamp!!! into a great piece.

    • Posted February 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thank you for the kind words Maureen!

  9. Maureen
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hey, I got a problem…I primed the lamp with the oil based spray, no problems. 2 coats and I was done. I let the lamp sit overnight and then, I bushed the 1st coat of paint on. It didn’t cover well and was streaking from the brush strokes. So, since the spay went on so well, I went to the Ace hardware store and got a can of flat, white spay. When the 1st coat dried, I applied a 2nd. BIG mistake. The paint cracked in several places. So, I’m wondering…too much paint?, do I sand it down and start over?, or do I just spray the poly coat and hope for the best? Any suggestions???? Maureen

    • Posted February 13, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Sorry about that! How frustrating. How thick did you apply the spray paint? I do thin, even coats, usually about 3. I’ve seen spraypaint/primer in one, that might be worth a try next time. How many cracks are there? Maybe you could spray a thick “puddle” on a piece of cardboard and use a paintbrush to cover them? Then once it’s dry you could use a fine-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the blemishes before the poly coat. If they are all over, I think you could lightly sand off the spraypaint coat and try thinner layers.

  10. Maureen
    Posted February 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    My husband thinks that it could have been too cold in the garage when I sprayed the last coat. So, I thought I might try giving the cracks a “marble” look. I’ve done this before on an old dresser top, so I’m going to give it a try. If it looks horrible, I can always sand it down an start again. I’ll keep you posted.

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