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How to Paint Over Wallpaper

By Jim Dugan
Professional Contractor & DIY Expert

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Contrary to popular belief, you can paint over wallpaper if you've taken the appropriate steps to encourage adhesion. Unfortunately, if you don't take the time to employ the proper preparation procedures, the finish will ultimately peel up. Learn how to properly prepare wallpaper to encourage paint adhesion, or you are bound to end up with disappointing results.

Removing Wallpaper

For best results, you should remove your wallpaper prior to painting. Unfortunately, many amateurs don't have the patience or know-how to completely remove all of the paper and glue. If you can't or don't want to spend hours stripping off the existing wallpaper, take the following steps.


Most wallpaper is slick and nonporous; this leaves it ill-suited for painted finishes. To make the paint stick, scour the paper using a relatively fine-grit sandpaper. Don't be over-aggressive; the goal is merely to slightly roughen the wallpaper to give the primer or paint something to latch onto. You should also use this strategy if you are working on a vinyl wallcovering or a wallpaper border.


Though not always necessary, you should probably apply a coat of primer to promote coverage and encourage a long-lasting finish. Choose a latex primer if the wallpaper doesn't have a lot of pattern to it. If it is busy-looking, you may want to use a shellac stain-blocking primer to prevent any potential bleed-through.

Painting over Wallpaper

If you've employed the appropriate preparation strategy, you can paint over the wallpaper as if it is an ordinary wall. Unfortunately, since wallpaper is usually slick, you may end up with runs. For best results, roll on a pair of thin coats, allowing two hours of dry time between each one.

Fabric Wallpaper

If the paper is made of fabric, you'll need to employ a different application strategy. Skip the sanding and primer base; instead, apply a coat of diluted paint to encourage better absorption. Add one to three ounces of water to your latex paint and stir well using a wooden stirring stick. Once this coat has dried for two hours, apply a finish coat of non-diluted paint.