Save money with this easy technique to paint a faded outdoor umbrella instead of tossing it in the landfill, plus find out how it looked years later!
***See 2013 & 2016 Updates below to find out how this technique lasted***
Do you have a perfectly good umbrella on your patio that has faded from the sun? If everything else is working – the opening mechanism, no holes, etc. – then it’s worth it to take an hour or so to revive it with spray paint. Ours looked 100 times better after using basic spray paint on it, so I’m confident yours will, too!
Our story: We had a basic black canvas outdoor umbrella for about five years. During most of that time we didn’t have a garage or other place to store it for the winter and the constant exposure caused the black to slowly fade to gray.
Surprisingly, though, it was still in good shape with only a few small holes at the top thanks to birds who liked to hang out there. It’s surprising because I found a really good deal on this- I paid $40 for it with an easy to open hand-crank design instead of the cheaper wooden pulley system.
When it got to this point, though, I felt 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. TIP: 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? (Some links in this article are affiliate links and if you click on them I will receive a small commission at no cost to you – thanks for your support!)
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 didn’t expect this to last more than a season and this was just an experiment. (That was a huge success – see update below!)
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 use 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, creating 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.
How to Paint a Faded Outdoor Umbrella & Tips
- It takes a lot of spray paint. Ours was 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 (I found paint for $1 a can of flat black paint, it was a total investment of $6! I know that’s not normal – here’s a paint I use a lot for other things).
- Your finger will not last, so use a spray-paint gun that attaches to the top of the can. Trust me, this is worth the price and you will love it.
- Use a painting mask for safety – here’s an inexpensive, 10-pk of respirators with valves for painting odors.
- 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.
- Start at the top and spray the vent and vent edges and undersides.
- Spray one section at a time, being careful to get all the seams and edges.
- It won’t cover evenly – plan on a second coat after it dries a bit and spray in a different pattern.
- 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 just a few 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 updates 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! Click here to see the full backyard reveal.
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!
I should note, though, that we built a garage and were finally able to store it in the winter, which may have helped it last.
2016 Update: You guys, look at this from our 2016 Garden Tour before we put our house up for sale:
That’s a full FIVE years of use from a couple cans of paint!! Yes, it’s more mottled looking. I could’ve painted it again, but by now it did have holes and we were just waiting until we moved to finally toss it.
But this was a wonderful surprising result from my painting experiment – you CAN paint them and they DO last – with not top coating and just basic spray paint!
Let me know if you’ve used paint on a faded outdoor umbrella, too, and how it worked for you!