Remember my great thrift store find, Old Brassy?

He needed a lampshade, and this past weekend I found one that was the right size, the right shape, and the right price… $5.99 at TJ Maxx. Alas, it was not the right color.

I’d already decided I wanted a black lampshade to keep His Brassiness on this side of fresh, and a few Google searches and store browses later, it became clear that for the price I was willing to pay I would have to transform a white or beige shade with my DIY craftiness. I was OK with that.

Here’s what I started with.

Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I browsed the lampshade tranformations of other bloggers before me. Recovering with cloth seemed like the most bulletproof method, but I was working with a square shade with cut corners.  Unfortunately you can’t just wrap some fabric around that like you could with a drum shade, so I checked out the spray paint method.

I knew that the trick with painting a lampshade, especially in a dark color, was going to be keeping it from looking blotchy when the light was on.

I looked through many pages about spray painting fabric, and it seemed like there were a few main tips for ultimate results:
– Don’t start spraying directly at the fabric, to avoid round blotches. Start by pointing away from the project and bring the mist over to it.
– Do light coats from far away – 12″-18″. You may lose some paint to the air but your coats will be more diffused and end up more even.
– Keep your spray can moving all the time

I bought some fancy automotive spray paint that was satin black and made for vinyl. I liked the low satin sheen and figured this brand was more likely to bond to a synthetic (plastic-based) fabric and still remain flexible. Also it had a high quality sprayer that I knew wouldn’t spatter at any point in the process. However, I’m sure most regular spray paint would work well too.

And so I began. I took my shade outside and carefully taped off the top.

Here I am speculating whether this crazy paint project is going to work, and hoping I’m not about to waste $15 between the shade and the paint and end up with an ugly, useless lampshade.

Several (4? 5?) very lightly misted coats later, applied as evenly as I could, I had this:

Looking good!!  Nearly there.  I  gave it a couple more coats, let it dry to the touch, and brought it inside to test on the lamp with the light on.

How handsome is the black/brass combination?

Very, that’s how.  And now for the moment of truth…  let’s turn on the light.

Hm… not terrible… but not quite where it needed to be either.  Two sides were fairly evenly coated but needed more paint, and two sides had big dark blotches despite my best efforts at evenness.  The original fabric had some texture that did not disappear, kind of like veins in a rock or something, and I could tell this would actually help the slight unevenness of the spray paint be not so glaring.

I took it back out for the last 1/3 of the bottle of spray paint, marking with bits of tape which areas needed or didn’t need more paint, in hopes of keeping things even on this last step.

The end result was better than I expected after the blotches of the first try.  The whole shade got a lot more opaque with the light on after the final coats of paint, which is what I wanted.  I still had two sides that were fairly evenly coated, and that was enough to keep it looking good in the spot it will live.  I could fudge it so that the two sides that had shiny spots where the paint got too thick were not too noticeable.   A little light still came through the shade, especially where there were striations in the fabric, but it mostly looked intentional.

The final reveal:

Oh, and it looks Really Excellent with the light off.

The moral of the story is that it’s very, very difficult to put a coat of spray paint on something so evenly that it still looks amazing when it’s backlit :)  I wonder if I could have covered the panels with fabric, using a paper template to get the shape right, then used trim where they met at the edges?  That’s probably what I’ll try next time I have a shade like this if I want to change.  But if you ever considered spray painting a lampshade black, now you know how it will go!