How to Paint Recessed Lighting

How to paint recessed lighting in an afternoon.

Kitchen showing how black recessed lights look before painting to white

While I was painting my kitchen cabinets a few weeks ago, my eyes kept going to the 5 recessed lights under the soffit that runs along both sides of my kitchen.  They were staring down at me saying “Paint Me, Paint Me”. I knew it was time to learn how to paint recessed lighting!

I have always wanted them white so they would disappear. I love the light they produce, but not the black color.

How to paint recessed lighting

Can You Paint Recessed Lighting?

I asked my electrician friend if I could paint them and he said sure – it is done all the time.  Light bulbs, especially newer bulbs don’t get hot, so you don’t have to worry about heat blistering the paint.

How to Paint-Recessed-Lighting

That was all I needed to hear.  Goodbye black…

Kitchen-Decorating-Ideas-Paint Recessed Lights

…Hello white!    Amazing what a little white paint can do – like magic the lights have disappeared.

Paint Recessed Lighting

How to Paint a Recessed Light

It was a quick and easy job. These are the two products I used:

The paint to use to paint recessed lights in a ceiling
  • Make sure the power is turned off to the lights (ideally at the breaker).  As an extra safety measure, you may want to tape the light switch in the Off position so a family member does not inadvertently turn them On.
  • Remove bulb and pull down the recessed can from the ceiling.
  • Rough up the black baffle with  a piece of 60 – 100 grit sandpaper
  • Clean with a tack cloth.
  • Using a 1” angled brush, apply one light coat of gripping primer. I used Glidden Gripper. Let dry.
  • Apply a light coat of paint. I used Rustoleum Protective Enamel in Glossy White.  Let dry.  It needed, apply a second light coat.
  • When paint is dry, put the can and baffle back into the ceiling.  Replace the bulb.
  • Turn the power back on.

No more eyesore! Yay!  This is one of those projects I wish I did years ago.


When I took the window treatment down over the kitchen window, I had to also remove the grass cloth wallpaper around the window since it had holes in it from the curtain rod. (Before photo) I had extra, so after I painted the window, I replaced the wallpaper. (After photo)

See how my kitchen cabinets look with a fresh coat of white paint on them and the trick I used to add color to the shelves

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  1. Just a note, I do hope that when you’re painting recessed or other lighting trim that you make sure it’s a ‘high heat’ paint. Since most paints are safe up until about 90 degrees and others even have their ‘flash point’ at around 156 degrees, you may be creating a ‘fire trap’! Paint away but make sure the paints you use will take the heat of the bulbs used. ;)

    1. I used high heat Rustoleum white spray paint for my light baffles and now they are a little too white. Any suggestions on a high heat paint that is slightly off-white. Like normal trim color? It is not stark white.

  2. Carol Randleson says:

    Hi I’m in the process of painting my kitchen, I took your advice on painting spotlights when I had painted my ceiling. I now wish to paint my cabnets , I love your kitchen please can you tell me the paint and colour and how to go about it . Thank you

  3. Shanaya Oberoi says:

    Good post, According to your ceiling painted light its looks too brightener then before and it is looking more beautiful in kitchen.

  4. I saw it time and time again, it’s amazing what a little paint can do!!

  5. Such a little thing…But, boy, what a difference! :)

  6. I feel so dumb asking, but I’ve wondered for a long time…what exactly is a ‘tack cloth’? I’ve never seen anything labeled ‘tack cloth’ in stores.
    Thanks for the all the great posts, Jane

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Jane – Do not feel dumb :) A tack cloth is a piece of treated cheese cloth that is folded and packaged usually 2 cloths to a package. They are sold at all paint stores, Home Depot, Lowes, True Value and even Walmart in the paint section. They are made by more than one brand and cost about $2. When you open up the package – remove one cloth and unfold it. Make sure to keep the other wrapped up so it will not dry out. It will be very sticky and waxy feeling. When it is run over a sanded surface – the stickiness picks up all the grit and dirt after sanding. You can reuse it. When it loses its stickiness – then throw it away and use another one. The package is pretty flat and is about 4″ square. It will say Tack Cloth on the label. Go to Google and put in the search bar “tack cloth” It will bring up lots of images of different brands of tack cloths so you can see what to look for.

  7. Jann from Newton Custom Interiors says:

    Wow, the lights look so much better white! Great job.

  8. Fantastic idea! They look great. I have always wished those black spots on my kitchen ceiling would disappear but I never would have thought to do this, and if I had thought of it I would have been too afraid to try it. Adding this to my to-do list. Thanks!

  9. Sheryll & Critters. says:

    Oh yes, much better with them all white.

  10. Hi Diane..enjoyed your post as always. I wanted to pin your post on Before and After Mirror Makeover Using Glaze from the Snap Conference. It will not let me…(image too small) do you have this under one of your Pinterest boards??? if so, which one?? You are the “BEST”..Thanks a bunch

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Pam – I can get you the image you need. Can you tell me where the exact photo is you would like to pin?

  11. Christina says:

    The white is so much better! Very nice

  12. Nana Diana says:

    Ours are all white, too. They really do look better- xo Diana

  13. Barbara Fox says:

    Now I’m looking at mine in my kitchen… Great idea and I bet it’s even brighter in your kitchen now. I have 6 can lights in the ceiling of my kitchen and now have another project to do :-)

  14. Mary Anne says:

    Did you use spray paint?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Mary Anne – I used brush on paint since I didn’t want to remove the baffles from the ceiling. You can easily pop them out of the ceiling holes to paint them, but I did not remove them all the way, so spray paint would have gotten all over everything, not just the baffle and rim.

  15. We built our house in 1991 and everyone was doing those black recessed lights. But I knew I didn’t want black spots on my ceilings!! I’m so thankful I insisted on white even though everyone tried to talk me out of them.