How to Paint a Faded Outdoor Umbrella

***See Update below to find out how this technique lasted***

Revive a Faded Outdoor Umbrella with Spray Paint - An Oregon Cottage

We’ve had our black canvas outdoor umbrella for about five years. During most of that time we did not have a garage or anyplace to store it for the winter and the constant exposure has caused the black to slowly fade to gray. Surprisingly, though, it’s still in good shape with only a few small holes at the top thanks to birds who like to hang out there. It’s surprising because I found a really good deal on this- I paid $40 for it and it’s an easy to open hand-crank design instead of the cheaper wooden pulley system.

This season, though, I could no longer ignore it:

The umbrella was no longer just gray, but a washed-out gray that contrasted dramatically with the black underside (what you don’t see, though, is the green moldy stripes that were also on top – I threw it in the washer and laid it out to dry first and it came out looking great!). Since the underside was still black, and the canvas in decent shape I decided to try to get another season out of it by painting the top. What did I have to loose?

Since I wanted to make this as easy as possible (always a goal of mine!), I used spray paint – and the cheapest indoor-outdoor paint I could find, at that, since I don’t expect this to last more than a season and this was just an experiment.

Note: I should mention that I did not research this in advance, so I didn’t know there was an article on eHow about painting a faded umbrella. But I can tell you this: I would not used regular paint and a brush or sponge like the article suggests. I tried it when I ran out of spray paint and it takes a LONG time, plus soaks into the whole fabric, created a stiff, ugly pattern on the underside. I also found it impossible to apply evenly with a sponge- maybe a small roller would work better for even distribution, but there’d still be the problem of soaking into the fabric.

Here’s what I learned and how you can spray paint a faded umbrella, too:
  1. It takes a lot of spray paint. Ours is a nine foot umbrella and I used 5 cans of paint. It probably could use another can, so I’d plan on about a can per section of umbrella (however, at .97 a can – flat is great for this – it’s a total investment of $6!).
  2. Your finger will not last, so use a spray-paint gun that attaches to the top of the can. They are another $3-6 dollars, but you will love it.
  3. Remove the cover from the frame (unscrew the finial and pull the cover out of the supports) and lay it out flat on the grass (we will just mow the black edges away) or cover an area with paper or drop cloths if you don’t want to use the lawn.
  4. Start at the top and spray the vent and vent edges and undersides.
  5. Spray one section at a time, being careful to get all the seams and edges.
  6. It won’t cover evenly – plan on a second coat after it dries a bit and spray in a different pattern.
  7. Let it dry and put it back on the umbrella frame and then use a ladder to add a third coat (you can make this step the second coat and not do 3 coats, but it will be more mottled). It was really easy to stand and turn the umbrella as I sprayed, but I’d still do the first coats with the umbrella flat to get the tops, seams and edges without worrying about getting paint on the frame.

I think it looks 100% better. Actually, a million times better than green mold on faded gray.

Especially for six dollars.

Up close, you can see that it’s still a bit mottled. My daughter thought it looked like those photographers backdrops that are supposed to be that way, so I’m going with that.The eHow article did mention spraying it with a water-repellent spray after painting, which, since I like out it turned out, seems like a good idea.***see update below***

Oh – and did you notice our new gravel patio? I’m so excited to show you the whole backyard transformation from huge, ugly, rotting deck to four new outdoor rooms! So to be sure you see this, and all the other great things we have planned for you, you’ll want to subscribe to An Oregon Cottage!
***2013 Update: I never did spray any protective coat on the umbrella, but I’ve gotten three seasons of life from it with only this one time painting!! I simply cannot believe how that cheap spray paint has held up all these years – this is definitely a way to get more life out of an outdoor umbrella!***


  1. says

    It looks a ton better. I wonder if you could dye them with something like Rit (is that how it’s spelled?) Dye? Ours was faded and beat up too, so this year I bought a new one at Ace Hardware – super sale – $19.99. They only had one brownish color for that price, but I thought it was a steal. Hand crank and tilt even!

    • Snooz says

      I did read that you can dye them. Research it, because I can’t remember which website I read it on. Home Depot blog has some umbrella painting instructions, beginning with using a primer. My umbrella is a very heavy, waterproof canvas. Still trying to find exactly the right technique. Some advice said “some paints” will keep it from being waterproof.?? Don’t know how it would it the fabric already is.

  2. Anonymous says

    Not to be fussy but it’s really important to wear a respirator and eye protection when using any kind of paint in spray form. Even if you think you have enough ventilation or are spraying with the direction of the wind. I had a painting/ airbrush teacher warn us over and over (with accompanying horror stories) of this very thing. You would be surprised to see how much paint ends up inside even an ordinary paper mask at the end of a painting project- meaning paint that you have inhaled and then exhaled back out again and caught in the mask so without any protection is pretty scary. It has to be a real full-on respirator. That’s why teens get into trouble huffing paint (among other things) because you can get high off the inhalants and damage your lungs and nervous system. Even an air gun without propellants suspends pigments in the air ripe for breathing which will coat your lungs. A good one should cost only about 25-30 bucks so pretty frugal. :) Particularly important since you’re using multiple cans at close range…
    Necessary “scary” link on inhalant side effects:

    I might try putting something like that through the washing washing with a packet of black dye if it is made of natural canvas. If it is a synthetic fabric it may not work or need a different process.

    Sorry for being such a downer… still loving reading your blog!

  3. says

    I think you did a great job with the repainting. I wouldn’t have attempted to fix it. It looks cool…and I’m looking forward to seeing the new pics of the back patio area 😉 :) Have a great weekend. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :) :) :)

  4. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Anonymous- I was waiting for someone to mention the lack of mask/respirator!

    Since I was outside, I didn’t think about it until I saw the picture where it looks like there’s a lot of overspray. Like you said, the wind was whipping it around, but I only did it for a few minutes like that- when it was flat on the ground I didn’t need to be as close when spraying.

    Thanks for the reminder, I’ll have to remember that next time. 😉

  5. says

    What a good idea. We just purchased an outdoor table from Ikea, but couldn’t pay extra for a new umbrella. I’d like a little more life out of our existing one as well.

  6. says

    I tried this last year with a brush and latex paint and only got one section done before I gave up.
    The umbrella still needs painting so I think that I will try the cheap spray paint. The fact that it is a really good umbrella, old but well made in USA, is the reason I just have to try it. Besides, I NEED an umbrella at my store, Random Arts, in Saluda, NC. Thank you so much for all the tips.

    • says

      I bought the paint at Walmart, Lauren, and I think’s it still the same price. We’re on our 4th summer and I haven’t even touched it up yet. :)

  7. Alison Harbin-Nesbeth says

    Finished doing this today with 5 cans of green Krylon Fusion that I had purchased last year to paint my shutters but wound up changing my mind about the color. My umbrella is about 10 years old and after paint it looks like new. Maybe I can get a few more years out of it before buying and new one. Thanks for showing how to do this.

    • says

      Awesome, Alison – so glad to hear that! And if yours is like mine, you totally will get a number of years more out of it. :)

  8. Jaime says

    Bought 2 umbrellas 3 years ago at Christmas Tree Shops. Mine look exactly like your “before shot. Like you said, what have I got to lose. Bit windy here today, but will be spraying mine this week. So glad to hear that you had good results.

  9. M says

    Hi there! It’s always a good idea to apply a primer coat (outdoor) first- that should prevent the mottling/uneven application, and one or two cans of spray paint (max) should be sufficient. Without the primer coat, the paint has nothing to adhere to and will just soak through the fabric.

  10. JIm says

    Do you think using a “clear paint” would also protect as well as other colours?; as I’m interested in preserving the existing beer logos on the umbrella.


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