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Ideas & Advice > Rug Size Guide > How to Paint a Rug

Rug Size Guides

How to Paint a Rug (DIY Style)

Sometimes, it’s just time for a change. Whether you’re painting a rug you’ve had for years or one you picked up at a store, you can personalize your rug and give your room a new pop of color or beautiful design. However, in order to get the best results, it’s important to go into the process fully informed of what it takes to paint a rug.

Learn More About Painting Rugs

  1. Choosing the Right Rug
  2. Preparing the Rug for Painting
  3. What Tools to Have On Hand
  4. The Process
  5. Caring for a Painted Rug
  6. How To's
  7. How to Hand Paint a Rug
  8. How to Paint a Cotton Rug
  9. How to Spray Paint a Rug
  10. Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing the Right Rug

The first step of the process is to choose the right rug. It may be tempting to paint a shag rug, but rugs with high piles are incredibly difficult to paint. Instead, go with a low pile or flat-weave rug. That way, you can easily apply the paint exactly where you want it and create perfect images or tidy patterns. We also recommend painting cotton or jute rugs, since these natural fibers will have a better reaction to the paint.

Finally, it’s important to realize not just any rug can be painted. Rugs that have deep matting, frayed surfaces, or other blemishes aren’t suitable for painting. Choose a rug that is in relatively good condition to ensure that your final product will be both beautiful and comfortable.

Queen Size Runner Rug

Preparing the Rug for Painting

Once you have your rug, take a few moments to prepare it for the process. Vacuuming is a good start, but in order to clean the deepest dirt and debris out of the rug, shake out the rug, use a rug brush, or use other cleaning methods approved for your rug material. Also take the time to treat any fresh or set-in stains out of the rug. You may think that’s not necessary since you’ll be painting over that portion of the rug, but cleaning will help rejuvenate those fibers and relieve any matting that the stain may have caused. Be sure that your rug is completely dry before you start painting.

What Tools to Have On Hand

Painting a rug is surprisingly easy and requires very few tools. Depending on the type of design you want to paint on your rug, you may want painters tape or stencils. The specific type of paint brushes you use will depend on what sort of look you want with your rug. Foam paint brushes are one popular option since they are incredibly affordable and easy to use. Standard paint brushes for painting canvases or walls are also well-suited for this project. Even sponges and rollers are viable options for applying paint in unique ways. Again, consider your specific design and the size of each line/brushstroke to help you choose the best brush size and type.

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Queen Size Runner Rug

The Process

Applying the Paintg

  • Finally, it’s time to start painting. Using your designated brush, start off light with just a little bit of fabric paint on the brush. Even if you just do a rough outline with your first swipes, that will give you confidence and help show what your final design will look like. This will also give you time to pivot if you’re unhappy with how the design is turning out.

    The paint will dry quickly if you go in light coats, so as you finish one portion of the rug, you can go back to other areas and give them second and third coats. If you don’t wait long enough for the paint to dry, you may see the colors blending.

    This is great for contemporary, abstract designs, but not so much with patterns that are supposed to be perfect. Consider what your ultimate design will be and how colors interact with one another when painting common areas.

The Process (continued)

Drying and Curing

  • Once you’re satisfied with your rug’s design, take the time to let the rug dry and cure. For optimal results, lay your rug on a flat surface in a well ventilated room. It may be tempting to immediately move it to its new spot, but patience is key in letting the paint cure so it doesn’t come off on wandering feet or nearby furniture.

Sealing and Protecting the Painted Rug

  • Sealing the rug is a great way to extend its longevity and improve its durability. Products like Scotch Guard, fabric sealers, and clear topcoats help seal the paint and protect the rug from future stains. Whenever you apply one of these optional finishes, be sure to follow the specific product instructions.
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Caring for a Painted Rug

Whether you’ve sealed the rug or not, it’s essential to take care of your rug like any other. Vacuum the rug, spot clean any stains as they pop up, and avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive cleaning methods. After all the work you’ve put into curating your rug, simple maintenance will preserve your hard work and keep your rug beautiful for the long haul.

Queen Size Runner Rug

How to Hand Paint a Rug

Hand painting a rug with beautiful designs and artwork is a fantastic way to have a one of a kind rug in your home. If you’re especially confident in your design and how it will fit on your rug, you can simply freehand paint the design onto the rug. However, if you’re unsure of how the design will fit on the rug, we first recommend drawing the design on a grid-like paper that scales to the exact size of your rug. Then, you can use a similar grid mentality to paint the image onto your rug in the proper scale. You may even create a grid on the rug using thin painters tape or other markers.

How to Paint a Cotton Rug

Cotton rugs are ideally suited for DIY rug painting. Their pile height and ability to absorb different types of paint gives you plenty of options with freehand painting your rug or applying a stencil. Fabric paint is the most popular paint option for cotton paints, but if you have an acrylic paint that you want to use, create a mixture of the acrylic paint and an acrylic medium. Acrylic mediums are made to expand the possibilities of acrylic paint and help them work as fabric paints. 

Aside from the specific paint you use, the rest of the process is simple. Follow the instructions detailed above of cleaning and preparing your rug, planning your design, and applying it with different types of brushes or rollers. The end result will be a stunning cotton rug unlike any other.

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Queen Size Runner Rug

How to Spray Paint a Rug

When you spray paint a rug, you still have plenty of options with including different patterns and designs. You can also spray a solid color, create an ombre effect, or go wild with some other look. Before you get too far in the process, it is absolutely vital to take your rug to a well ventilated area like a driveway or deck. Then, cover the ground with a dropcloth, large pieces of cardboard, or some other material that will keep the spray paint from getting on nearby surfaces. 

In terms of applying the spray, it depends on what look you want to achieve. If you want specific lines, use painters tape or lay a straight-edged piece of cardboard over the area you don’t want to paint. If you’re doing ombre, apply the paint in a thick, perfect line and then gradually do lighter sprays over the rest of the rug. Solid coats are the easiest, since you simply apply a consistent coat to the entire rug. In each of these cases, you can go back and touch up the rug with spray paint later if you’re not satisfied with the initial results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Paint a Rug with Fabric Paint?

Fabric paint is one of the most popular options for painting rugs. The nature of the paint allows it to adhere to the rug thoroughly and help you create defined patterns/lines. Fabric paint can also help maintain a soft and flexible painted surface while spray paint can create a more rigid, firm rug. 

Can You Paint a Wool Rug?

Wool rugs can be painted, but there are some unique challenges with this material. The pile height is one aspect to consider, since plush wool rugs are difficult to paint. In addition to that, wool is an incredibly soft material, so you want to use fabric paint that doesn’t take away the material’s comfort. 

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Painting rugs is a great way to express your artistic side and add a unique work of art to your home. Even if you’re simply doing a pattern or solid color, you are still infusing your style, time, and effort into transforming a rug. When you tackle this project, be sure to properly prepare the rug with thorough cleaning and drying before you apply paint. After it’s all said and done, regular vacuuming and cleaning will help you maintain the rug’s beauty and comfort for years to come.


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