tips and tricks3 min read

Can you cover wallpaper with paint?

Man smoothing Lick Botanical 03 Wallpaper onto a wall

WordsMaha Elley


Can you paint over wallpaper?

The short answer? Yes. 

Save yourselves from the time-consuming process of wallpaper removal and replacement by just painting over it. It can be the easiest way to cover up tired-looking wallpaper you’re sick of the sight of, while also adding a fresh splash of colour. 

Wallpaper removal can also sometimes be damaging to surfaces, especially if your wallpaper is attached to drywall. In these instances, painting over may even be the best option. With the right tools and techniques (more on that below), learn how to revive a room without having to touch a stripping knife.

Man sanding walls
Sanding is an important step not to miss

What you'll need

First up, get yourself ready with the following:

  • A small paint brush for edges 
  • Paint roller for the rest of the surface 
  • Wallpaper paste to deal with peeling or damaged bits 
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Masking tape  
  • Primer paint 
  • Cleaning supplies - sponge and a mild detergent
  • Protective sheets for your furniture and flooring 
  • Your chosen paint

How to paint over wallpaper

Now, onto those techniques we mentioned: 

  1. Cover up your furniture and protect your flooring with drop sheets.
  2. Start by inspecting surfaces for any damage. Deal with any curled seams or ripped parts. You’ll need a smooth working surface to paint over so stick down any loose bits and deal with any rips. Fill in any holes or gaps and lightly sand down any bumpy bits. 
  3. Put in the prep to avoid any curling of the seams and edges - this involves cleaning with a mild soapy water mixture and a sponge. Let surfaces dry before reaching for that paintbrush.  
  4. Tape the edges of your wall and around skirting boards using masking tape.
  5. Prime to give your paint a good base to sit on. Use a good multi-surface primer paint before applying your colour coat on wallpaper.
  6. Using a 2-inch brush, start to cut in at the edges, working your way through in long, sweeping movements. 
  7. Pick up your paint roller and get to work on the central areas of the wall, starting in one corner and working your way across in sections.

(Tip: Priming is especially important if you’re painting over a dark colour, heavy patterns or vinyl paper. Make sure your coat of primer is bone-dry before you get to painting.)

Blue chair in room with patterned wallpaper and floors
Sometimes it's best to remove wallpaper, rather than paint over it

When you shouldn’t paint over wallpaper

Okay, so it’s not always the best idea to cover wallpaper with paint. Here are the scenarios in which you should avoid it and opt for wallpaper removal instead: 

If your wallpaper shows signs of damage, such as rips or peeling seams, it’s probably best to remove it. Otherwise, your paint job will just emphasise any imperfections. Bit embarrassing, no? 

If you’re working with embossed or deeply textured wallpaper, remove it rather than painting over it. If you do paint over it, you’ll find it much trickier to remove later on. 

(Tip: Removing wallpaper isn’t as much hassle as you might think. Here's how to remove wallpaper with a steamer.)

Deciding whether to paint or wallpaper? Grab some samples and test them out!