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How To Update a Brass Light Fixture with Spray Paint

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This post explains how to update a brass light fixture using spray paint.

How to Update a Brass Light Fixture

I have been eager to update a few things in my kitchen – mostly to update a brass light fixture that hangs over my table.

When I decorated this kitchen, shiny brass was popular.  I like the warmth of gold over silver, bronze, or black, but a muted gold – not shiny anymore.  I want to add more white with color pops and less black to the room.

Dream kitchen
Source: BHG

Here is my inspiration photo. I love these white metal lights.  They are simple and classic, yet a bit unique.   The light fixture in my kitchen is not quite the same, but I knew I could spray paint the brass on mine, white – to start giving my kitchen the light and airy feel I am after.

How to update a brass light fixture

The hardest part of the brass light spray painting project was taking the light down and putting it back up. I asked my hubby to do that.  He had in down it a few minutes.

I was going to spray paint it outside since I have been banned from spray painting in the garage since I unintentionally spray painted our cars, but I didn’t want any bugs to land on it while it dried as well as it looked like rain.

How to make a mini spray booth when spraying smaller decorative items.

 

I ended up setting up a spray booth in my basement using a big box I got in the dumpster behind my local dollar store. (They always have nice clean boxes).  I have been a little too cavalier in my spray painting ways –no more over-spray on surrounding objects – like cars. Back to good spray painting practices.

When spraying bigger items I use this set-up or a tent shelter.

How To Update a Brass Light Fixture Using Spray Paint to Get a Glossy Finish

supplies needed:

  • Spray paint and primer in one formula of spray paint
  • Tack cloth
  • Paint mask to help lessen breathing in the paint fumes
  1. Clean the surface well with hot sudsy water, rinse and let dry.

2. Lightly rub 100 grit sandpaper over the surface to lightly scratch the surface to provide some “tooth” for the paint to adhere. Remove sanding grit with a tack cloth.

3. Spray a light coat of spray paint in a glossy formula over the object you are working on, after about 3 – 5 minutes spray another light coat on. Repeat every 5 minutes until the surface is covered. Let dry.

4. Let dry completely for at least 4- 6 hours or more if the weather is humid.

TIP: Before applying the next coat of paint, check to make sure no dust or bugs have landed on the surface. If they have, just use your fingernail to gently remove them and smooth over the areas with your finger, then go over the surface with a tack cloth.

How to update a brass light fixture with paint

My light now looks like it has a right from the factory finish.

How to Make a Chandelier Chain Cover

While my light was down and I was waiting for the paint to dry, I took the chain cover apart that I had made for the light previously.  I sewed the fabric into a long sleeve to cover the chain.

  • The previous one was made using a method that doesn’t require removing the light fixture from the ceiling.  You can find out how I made that one here – How to Make a Chandelier Chain Cover

Brass Lamp Makeovers

Want more light fixture painting ideas?

How to paint a chandelier

How to Update a Brass Light Fixture

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45 Comments

  1. I spray painted a mirror (not wood) but a fake wood look material. Using rustoleum universal metallic. All went very nice but I tried to fix a smudge and it flunked up a spot 3″x 1″. I’m letting it super dry overnight then plan on light sanding it before re painting it. Am I correct in sanding the smudge???

    1. Hi Nancy –

      This has happened to me and I was able to fix, but you need to be patient. You can sand the smudge, but wait at least 24 or better, 48 hours. Gently sand and then re-spray. If you sand too soon you will make a bigger problem as the paint will gunk up. Also – respraying needs to be done 24 – 48 hours after the initial coats were put on. Every brand states respray time on the can’s label.

  2. Hello, Diane. I’m hoping you can help me with a problem. I have a really gorgeous chandelier, vintage, rewired, and the details are really special. However it has a very shiny brass finish. My decor is french farmhouse and the furniture is a mish mash of eclectic and vintage pieces. i also have some very timeworn french lamps that have a rather dull finish, so the shiny brass is just too much. Is there a way to make the brass look tarnished or more aged? I have painted the lampshades a pretty duckegg blue. I like the pop of color but I am willing to change it if needed. I have an idea that the finish is shellac, and that this is what is preserving the brassy finish. But i do not want to go to the trouble of stripping. Ideas/

  3. What spray paint did u use please and would it matter if it is water or oil based? Thank u :)

    1. Hi Becky – I used Rustloleum Gloss enamel. You can see the can in the one photo, but any brand name of spray paint will work as long as you sand and prime first. Since I wrote the post, many brands now have Primer + Paint in One formulas that would be good to use also. All spray paint is oil-based. You can make your own with water-based craft paint and an craft paint atomizer, but I would not recommend this. It won’t hold up. If you have a paint sprayer to add latex paint to, I would use acrylic and or enamel based.

  4. When spray painting a light fixture, have you ever had problems with the heat from the bulb cracking or blistering the paint? I’m planning to spray a galvanized metal shade with a Krylon paint that’s supposedly formulated for metals, but I wanted to ask your advice. Thank you!

    1. Hi Hillary – It could happen if the paint is not cured before the lamp heats it up. I would sand the surface with 100 – 160 grit sandpaper, clean it off and then use a light coat of metal primer spray paint. Let it dry and read the label to see how long you need to wait to apply a coat of paint. Apply very light coats of paint, every 5 mins until you get the coverage you want. Do not recoat after an hour or the paint will wrinkle. Then let the lamp sit for a few days so the paint has time to cure. Doing this should be enough to stop the heat from cracking the paint. If your lamp gets really hot to the touch, you may want to use engine paint. It comes in some basic colors and is glossy. It can withstand temps up to 500 degrees. It is sold at auto parts stores. You use it in the same way you use regular spray paint.

  5. We have remodeled a house built in the early 60’s, old brick, large front porch, traditional style, chrome faucets. We used some things we loved and had collected, and now I have collection of brass fictures,a couple of oiled bronze, some in the same room with gold picture frames and/or with the chrome fauets. I am happy with this some what, but is there anything that I can do about it. I am very fashion minded . I realize that I love some of these things because they were given to me, or I have found them and just really like them !! I can’t change the faucets !!!

    1. Hi Barbara – You should know that you are not alone in your dilemma. It is a very common one as homeowners update homes they often times can’t do it all at one time, so they have a mix of finishes. It is totally OK and if you look closely as high end decorating magazines – often times the finishes are all different. The homes featured in these mags are more eclectic and have more personality. They are not cookie cutter decor mags where the decor is perfectly matched.

      To make the mix of finishes work in your home is to make it like you did it intentionally. Add more metals to the room in the way of a gold vase and a chrome bowl filled with fruit. This will allow the eye to see the finishes around the room and balance the mix of finishes throughout each room and space. I hope this makes sense. Happy decorating XO

  6. Hi Diane,
    The light came out perfectly. I’m just starting to restore a few items and my first project is 15 lights. The only thing is, I am unsure what material they are, be it brass, copper or steel. Would you know if there is a way to differentiate? Any advice much appreciated.
    Warm regards,
    Marco

    1. Hi Marco – I am no expert in this, but have cleaned quite a bit of metal and these are just my observations. Brass and steel are much harder metals than copper, so if a piece bends or is dented – it is probably copper. Copper ages with a red tinge, while brass ages golden brown and may even have some turquoise oxidation on it. Steel looks more gray black with age. The best thing to do is to use a basic metal polish – one made for most metals. Apply it to one small area to expose the metal to see the color. Also if you use brass polish on say steel and nothing is happening – it is probably not brass. Play around with the pieces and different cleaners and polishes. I am sure if you did a Google search asking the question – an actual test to determine the difference may turn up.

      1. If a magnet sticks to it, it’s neither copper nor brass, thus steel… copper is much softer than brass… if you scratch it it will gouge… brass will only scratch… brass looks more gold, where copper is a reddish tint.

  7. Thanks for your blog and this entry, Diane. I had been meaning to spray paint our brass fixtures but hadn’t yet gotten around to it. Fortunately, your blog entry came up in the Google search.

    The one little glitch I had (my bad) is that I used an old carboard box as my spray box. But I forgot to dust it out first and ended up picking off cat hair from my newly sprayed items. At least it was just the primer. And the spray-painted cobwebs in the corners looked kinda cool.

    I have special ordered brushed nickel spray paint from the hardware store…so it’ll be another week before I get the final result.

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  9. Lovely job on the light! And I can sure attest to spray paint blistering if you don’t wait long enough between coats. I’ve had it happen time and again. I guess I’m too impatient or maybe I just like sanding off ruined paint finishes a whole lot.

  10. Diane, I LOVE IT!!! Is there a way to do this successfully with door knobs? Or maybe tarnish them in some way? All my door knobs are brass:( Lisa

    1. Hi Lisa – Yes you can spray paint brass door knobs the same way. They will eventually wear since hands are constantly touching them, but if you spray them the right way – the paint will wear and not peel off. I have seen a few bloggers successfully spray paint all their doorknobs in oil rubbed bronze. They look great. Clean the knobs well to get all grease and fingerprint build up off. Then spray a few light light coats to build the paint gradually – let each one dry, before applying the next. This will lessen the chance of peeling. Once they are up, they will gradually wear in spots – if that happens – you would need to do a light touch up. There are many metal toned spray paints on the market now to choose from. Chrome – oil rubbed bronze, etc. Rustoleum makes quite a few.

  11. Your lamps look great! Just as good if not better than the inspiration photos :) Thanks for the the painting tips, you crack me up about painting the cars! I thought I was bad! I got the dog once, and always overspray the newspaper I lay down and have all these squares of overspray on my back patio ;)

  12. OopS!! I have an old floor lamp. It’s really OLD but I neglected to tell you what!!

  13. Thanks Diane!!
    This is a great How To and just in time. I have an old (originally brass I think) from my grandparents homestead. It’s been rewired and I’ve been itching to spruce it up and actually let people see it.
    Your lamps look great! Thanks for all your great ideas.
    I recently covered a lampshade. My husband decided it was so faded, he threw it out. Could not find anything close to that. Visited a local thrift place and found the right size for $1.00. Covered it in fabric and some trim I had and it’s perfect!! Thanks also for your instructions on lampshades.
    Looking forward to more great ideas!!
    Anne

  14. I love how they turned out! I like these better than any of the fixtures provided at regular hardware stores like Home Depot or Lowes.

  15. It turned out great! Now what are your plans for the other gold light I saw hanging above the island?

    1. Since I want a light and bright look to my kitchen I am probably going to do the same thing that I did to the light above my table. I would have taken them both down at the same time, but I wanted to make sure we still had light at night if it took longer than expected to paint them.

  16. Oh, I think the all white is just gorgeous! I am the same way about chrome… I have never cared for chrome. Many years ago my daddy bought me a round dinette table with four chairs and all the legs were chrome, but the vinyl chairs seats and backs were black with brown on the back and the table a semi darker wood veneer. I left the brown, the wood, the black trim around the table, but spray painted all the legs black and it looked so much more expensive. Or so I thought. lol

    I have a question. My little daddy Poodle chewed the cross legs of my table chairs and they are not real wood. I am not doing well at all on trying to sand them smooth…. got any tips for ‘fixing’ them?????

    Also I have a tip. Do NOT ever leave a bottle of Future Floor Wax anywhere on a table. Be sure to put it away behind a cabinet door. I thought I had the lid mashed down and a kitty kat knocked it over and it leaked out all over one of my expensive coffee tables… I have yet to be able to sand that stuff off or even get it somewhat smooth to even think about painting them. Of course I did not notice the spill for about two days later.

    1. Hi Sheryll – I know the type of furniture you are talking about. It just crumbles away when you sand it. Perhaps you could glue wood moulding over the existing piece and then paint all of it the same color. If you did this on all of the chairs the molding would look like an integral part of the chairs.

      1. Oh thank you so much Diane. I knew you would have the answer for my delimna. You have been so much help to me so many times. I really do appreciate you. I wonder if folks realize what a diamond you are to us?

  17. Great DIY redo! One of my own mottos is “Never underestimate the power of a can of spray paint!” :-)

    It always amazes me how people pass up wonderful light fixtures (or many things for that matter) at thrift stores/garage sales because it’s the wrong color. A little spray paint and patience, and they could have a wonderful “new” piece.

    I’m excited to see what your chairs will look like too!

  18. Wow – very nice. I love how you reinterpret the high end items with a simple DIY! I always enjoy your projects — you have inspired me to do many DIY’s in my home. Thank you!
    Curious about spray painting on foam — the one time I used it as a steady base, the spray paint melted the styrafoam and I had a gooky mess on my kitchen knobs that the foam was propping up. You don’t have this problem?
    Thanks again for all the inspiration! Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    1. Hi Shar –

      Good question. Some foam does melt away when spray paint hits it – STYROFOAM brand does this. I save the foam blocks that pad TV’s, and knock-down furniture to protect the item in the box. This foam is made by compressed little pebbles of foam. It does not melt as much. If the foam melted away for you – you may have been applying the paint too heavy. Light coats sprayed over the object may not melt the foam as fast or at all. I will add this to the post so readers know to use the pebble style foam. Thanks for bringing it up. :)

      1. Diane, I was wondering if she covered the foam with freezer paper it would keep the foam safe? Since I have not tried this yet, I don’t really say it will work, but was wondering.

  19. You light looks factory perfect. I have pinned this on Pinterest so it’s at my finger tips to use later this week. Thanks

  20. Beautiful! Really, they look brand new! Spray paint can work miracles and you’ve got the technique down to an art!
    xo
    Robin

    1. Hi Robin – Thanks – I have spray painted more things in my life than most. When I first worked in display, I was the go-fer and sent to the roof of the store to spray paint. I would come back down and another person would hand me a piece they needed for another display and back up I went with a new can of paint. I used to come home and tell my husband that my title should be “spray-painter”.

  21. Diane, your light fixture turned out perfect! Nice to revamp an item and it feel almost new again. Now I am looking forward to the chairs revamp. I hope you post on that as well. I have kitchen chairs I am ready to renew but unsure of the painted seat. I am afraid the paint will just wear off with daily use. I bet you have a tried and true method for this. Happy painting!

    1. Hi Linda – the seats on my kitchen chairs are oak and I haven’t painted that part – only the top and bottoms. I have however painted many chair seats and they don’t wear away that fast. The key is to make sure 1. You sand well and prime each seat with a gripping primer. 2. Use a good quality paint and apply it in light coats – letting each one dry before applying the next. Once it is dry you can seal it with non-yellowing polyurethane. Another option would be to use Chalk Paint and age the chairs to begin with – so that whatever abuse they take it will look like the style of the chair :)

    2. I will get brave here soon and tackle the chairs. Thanks for the instruction! I first have to finish painting the living room but its almost done. Finish one and add two more projects!

  22. My daughter “accidentally” painted my wicker chair. Unfortunately it was one of the good chairs. Sigh! I guess I have to paint both of them another color. There is too much “junk” in the garage to paint. Luckily I have a huge yard to paint in. My big issue is the trees. In case you need to know, I know what to do if your trees get painted. We got vandalized and have to fix my trees. You use metal brushes to clean the tree, then paint it with mud. This won’t hurt the bark and the mud will stain the tree the right color. I haven’t tried it yet and hoping to get a bunch of teens to help out. I’m hoping a pizza party will be incentive enough, never mind all the time I’m the neighborhood chauffeur. :)

  23. GREAT job, Diane! It looks so summery and sweet! You have the most patient hubby. Better hang on to him! lol!

    xoxo laurie

  24. Just recently found your blog, and I love it! I also love your light. Now I want one like it. I need to adhere to these spray-painting do’s and don’t’s. I never wear a mask, and I have asthma. Thanks for reminding me.
    Brenda

  25. It looks great, Diane! Yikes on the spray paint on the cars. That is always a fear I have ~ my husband would kill me. I usually wait and spray paint in the garage when he is at work {and didn’t carpool that day} and I put mine outside on the driveway. I don’t really have anywhere else to do it now. In our old house I used to go out in the yard.