How to Paint a Tent?

Painting a tent is a great way to personalize it and make it stand out
Painting a tent is a great way to personalize it and make it stand out

Ready to paint your tent?

Camping in a basic tan or green tent is kinda boring these days. Why settle for drab when you can easily give your canvas crib a vibrant new look?

Paint your tent for a fresh & custom makeover!

Why You Should Paint Your Tent

Sure, you could just buy a pre-colored tent. But where’s the fun in that?

Painting allows you to get creative and make your tent truly one-of-a-kind.

Awesome Customization

You can really put your own personal stamp on things by painting epic patterns, designs, murals, or messages across canvas tents. Get creative!

Mood Lighting on Point

A painted canvas tent interior can add a funky vibe, especially if you use glow-in-the-dark or neon paints for some tripped-out camping vibes after dark.

Branding

Reflect your style and identity by branding your tent using paint
Reflect your style and identity by branding your tent using paint

For guides, expeditions, or rental companies, a personalized tent makes your branding and promotions way more visible than generic tents.

Hide Nasty Stains

Got stains on your tent? Don’t even worry about it.

You can cover up all of those with a fresh new paint job, which is way easier than trying to deep clean the whole thing.

Extra Weatherproofing

Some specialty tent paints even add an extra protective layer against harsh weather elements, increasing the lifespan of your tent.

Just for Fun

Why not just do it for fun?

Painting your tent is a unique creative outlet to let your inner artist shine without worrying about messing up someone’s walls. It’s a win-win.

Tips Before You Start Painting

Not a pro? That’s fine.

Before you go busting out the acrylic paints, keep these tips in mind:

Practice on Scrap First

Practice your design on a scrap piece of fabric before the actual painting
Practice your design on a scrap piece of fabric before the actual painting

Don’t start painting your tent first thing!

Grab an old canvas tarp, tote bag, or jacket to test out your paints and techniques first. This lets you get a feel for how the paint moves on fabric surfaces and decreases the chance of messing up the painting on your tent.

Use the Right Paint

Since you’re painting fabric, not all paints are ideal. Stick to one specifically designed and labeled for canvas, nylon material, or tent use.

Set Up the Tent

It’s way easier to paint when the tent is fully set up, with the rainfly removed, so you can cover entire canvas surfaces.

Work in the Shade

Direct sunlight won’t allow the paint to properly cure or adhere and can cause cracking or bubbling later on. Wait for cloud cover or set up your tent in a shaded area.

Cover the Surroundings

Use plastic sheeting or a drop cloth to protect any ground areas around the tent base that you don’t want accidentally painted.

Go Slowly

Though it’s tempting to slap that paint on quickly, take it nice and easy so your coverage is smooth and even. Rushing leads to drips, streaks, and missed spots.

Plan Your Design Ahead

Have a plan in place to get sense of how it will all come together
Have a plan in place to get sense of how it will all come together

Rather than just winging it, sketch out your pattern for the tent design ahead of time to save time and reduce mistakes.

What Type of Paint is Best for Tents?

Because tents are made from specialty synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester, not any old craft type of paint will do the trick.

You need paint options designed specifically for these materials, such as:

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is great when painting tents
Acrylic paint is great when painting tents

For a hand-painted look, nothing beats acrylic paint.

Acrylic paint is flexible after the drying process, so it doesn’t crack or peel on the fabric as you move and pack up the tent.

A good one is Arteza Outdoor Acrylic Paint: it can be used on tents, tarps, patio furniture and more and it’s water-resistant and super vibrant.

Fabric Spray Paint

Grab a fabric spray paint for a quick and easy job
Grab a fabric spray paint for a quick and easy job

If you want a quicker & all-over coverage, go with spray paint made for fabric or vinyl surfaces.

Krylon Outdoor Decor, Rust-Oleum Outdoor Fabric, and Craftsmart Multipurpose Spray Paints are popular paint options.

Just be sure to properly ventilate the tent after spray painting by running fans inside for a while before packing it up. The chemical smells can get pretty intense.

Latex House Paint

Suitable or not, latex paints can work in a pinch
Suitable or not, latex paints can work in a pinch

We don’t really recommend it, but as a budget option, good old latex house paint from your local hardware store can work in a pinch.

Pro tip: use 100% acrylic latex paint, which has way more flexibility than vinyl-based versions.

Since it’s much thicker than actual tent paint, latex house paint needs to be thinned down with water before going to the canvas so it doesn’t get too gloppy or create hard and cracked sections.

Preparing Your Tent for Paint

You need to prepare your tent to ensure that the paint adheres and lasts
You need to prepare your tent to ensure that the paint adheres and lasts

If you want that tent paint job to look fresh and to last, you have to prepare your canvas tent properly first.

Once you’ve selected your paint, follow these tips to set your tent up for a flawless paint job:

  • Clean the tent thoroughly: remove dirt, debris, bird droppings or stains first so the paint adheres properly

  • Let it dry completely: after cleaning it, make sure that the entire tent is completely dry before even thinking about painting it

  • Set it up fully: with the rainfly removed, set up the entire tent body so that you can paint sections while the fabric is taut and unwrinkled

  • Cover the ground: layer plastic sheeting, tarps or drop cloths all around the tent base to protect the ground from spills and overspray

  • Ventilate the area: last but not least, set up fans inside to keep fresh air flowing through while you work

Take your time preparing, and your canvas will become a work of art; rush through the process and you’re asking for a drippy mess.

Pro Tips for a Smooth Paint Job

Everyone can use expert advice
Everyone can use expert advice

Whether you hand paint or spray your tent, pay attention to our pro tips to ensure the smoothest & most durable finish:

  • Use thinner paint: tent fabric is quite thin, so heavy coats of paint can easily crack or peel over time

    • Thin it out a bit

  • Work on a breezy day: light wind will help with faster drying between coats, so you can keep moving

  • Cover any zippers: run painter’s tape or paper over the zippers to keep them nice and paint-free

  • Rotate the tent setup as you go: move and rotate the pitched tent as needed so you can access all areas

  • Load paint sparingly: too much paint leads to drippy runs, ruining all your hard work

    • Less is more

  • Be patient: don’t rush the process: allowing each coat to fully cure for a few hours before adding more is better for adhesion

  • Reapply a top coat yearly: maintain your awesome paint job by adding a new sealing top coat each season

Final Thoughts

So now that you know painting a tent is totally possible and surprisingly easy with the right materials, what’s stopping you?

If your old tent is looking tired, dingy, or just plain boring, give it new life with some fresh paint. Feel free to pick up that brush or rattle some cans for both aesthetics and practicality.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Spray Paint a Canopy Cover?

Whether you want a fresh color or just to restore that faded canopy to its original vibrant shade, spray paint is the move. The key is to use good quality spray paint made specifically for outdoor fabrics and vinyl.

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