How To Paint A Ceramic Lamp And Change Lives

posted by on 09/13/2010 | 90 comments (leave one of your own)

We desperately needed a lamp for our living room. There is an overhead ceiling light with four bulbs that throws enough light, but currently two bulbs are out and we could use another lighting source. I mean, we could also just stop being so damn lazy and actually change the two burnt out bulbs, but every time I’m sitting in the living room and look up and remember they need to be changed, it’s nighttime and I’m usually two glasses of wine in and probably shouldn’t be on a ladder. The ceiling is also vaulted and way high up, translation: danger. I shopped around online and I found a yellow ceramic table lamp with a linen shade that I loved. And it was $199. I ran it by Jeff and told him we are adults and work and we are just as deserving as anyone to have a pricey lamp in our presence. He politely told me to get bent and issued a big No Thank You to the lamp of my dreams.

Being the stubborn woman that I am, by god I was determined to have a yellow ceramic lamp. Just not one for $199 because even though I might be stubborn and like to defy authority (Jeff), I am not the type of woman to drop two bills on something that is going to sit on my sofa table that my kids may or may not break within 38 seconds.

I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Brace yourself, it’s about to be do-it-yourself all up in this b.

1.  Drive around with your cranky toddler to a few thrift stores and then call your husband to whine about how you never find any thing good and he says we don’t really need a lamp. Tell him if any more bulbs burn out in the living room, we will have to watch nascar by candlelight. He tells you that sounds romantic. Hang up on him.

2. Find the perfect lamp at the next thrift store. Celebrate. Celebration is reduced moderately when cranky toddler drops his slushy in parking lot and is reduced to tears. Console him by telling him he can hold the lamp all the way home, but only if he stops crying. It works. Celebrate silently from the driver’s seat at your magical way with children.

3. Take lamp home and prepare to make dreams come true.


4. Realize lamp has some issues (nothing major, just some peeling in places) and that you actually have no idea what you are doing. Go inside to consult the internets on how to paint lamps. Get distracted and end up goggling whether or not toddler is old enough for karate (no). Remember what you are doing and educate yourself extensively on DIY lamp painting (like for three minutes). Drive to home improvement store for supplies.


5. Sand the crap out of the lamp with a fine grit sanding sponge because google told you to. Focus on smoothing out the surface.

action shot.

6. After sanding, you are supposed to wipe the dirties off the now sanded lamp with white vinegar, water, and a towel. Consult your cabinets and discover you only have apple cider vinegar. Go back inside to google whether or not vinegar is vinegar and end up watching a squirrel fight a snake. Forgo vinegar and just use water.

bath t

7. Once the lamp is dry, tape off everything except surface to be painted. Realize you could have just taken off the shade holder harp thingy and not painstakingly taped the whole thing. Eff.


8. Hit the whole thing up with spray primer. Try to capture the magic with an action shot. Freak out when primer blows back all over your camera lens. Don’t do that again.


9. Apply two coats of primer. Debate whether or not a white lamp would work because the project would be finished, but continue on with the hopes of creating lamp magic in your heart.


10. Apply three coats of summer squash spray paint to your primed lamp. Forget to take photos of this part because it takes three days to complete because you keep forgetting that you are in the middle of a super important lamp project and only remember when you walk past it on the front porch. When your husband asks why the lamp is still on the porch, just tell him you want to make sure each coat is thoroughly dry. Once you decide it is “dry”, hit it up with a light coat of spray gloss.

Behold, the hotness.

yellow lamp

I spent more than I thought I would, but the new shade was a necessity. It originally came with a shade, but it was mega gross and smelled like cigarette smoke/meth.

Project budget breakdown:

1 thrifted ceramic lamp with paint issues-$10
1 reusable square sander block thingy-$2
1 can of white primer-$3
1 can of spray paint in summer squash-$4
1 can of clear gloss-$0 (already had it)
1 roll of painter’s tape-$0 (had it)
1 queen sized fitted sheet aka project drop cloth-$0 (stolen from my mother’s hoarding pile in the garage)

1 linen lamp shade-$25 (Target)

Grand total: $44

That’s right, I saved us $155. Too bad no one is allowed to touch the lamp. Don’t walk near it, don’t touch it, don’t talk about it. Just admire it lovingly with your eyeballs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hug my new lamp. With my eyes.

  • Patricia Hart

    This is the best tutorial I have ever read! I have tried to google/youtube etc tutorials and they LIE or else I can’t follow instructions (could be true) so please show more stuff like this. Off to paint my thrift-store lamps!

    • W. Lord

      My kind of instructions. Thank you for the laugh and list of items to buy.

  • Anita O'Bryan

    I don’t remember ever making a comment on a tutorial before, but then I have never read one that made me as happy while teaching me something. I really needed the giggles tonight, AND, I now know how to make beautiful the ugly flea market lamps. Thank you

  • Deborah

    This had to be one of the most entertaining articles I have read. You are amazing and hope to see more of your work in the future. I have 2 really blah cream colored ginger jar lamps that i “want” to paint chrome – I figure I can give it a shot as they are destined for the trash or donation center. Thanks to your article I am going to give it a try.

  • Arlene

    Thank you for making me laugh, and I mean laugh to the point of almost falling out of my chair! I have the “most hideous” lamp very made, but now I know that I can make it “eye candy” for much less than a new one. Keep the laughs and stuff coming. You are truly gifted with instructions. Thanks.

  • Mary

    The story about the yellow lamp made my day. If she’s not already a writer, she should be. Oh yea, I’m so inspired and can’t wait to paint this horrible vase I’ve had since the 80’s. I spray painted it once (without prepping it) and the paint was peeling off and laying in the floor the next day. How embarrassing.

  • Gina

    I love you.

  • Sharron Wells

    What brand of spray paint makes the summer squash paint? I love that color!

  • Liana

    Funniest tutorial ever. Thanks!

  • Brenda

    First comment, and most probably last in response to any tutorial. Your wit inspired me, you deserve to be commended on your “realness”. You made me want to be real. Let’s all be real. I really want to make a lamp now…going to redo a toile lamp I got at a yardsale. Thanks. Hope you go viral, I mean that in a good way. 🙂

  • jane

    Oh I so love your tutorial. Sometimes I get bored when I am reading them but I didn’t get that way with yours, it just kept me laughing and laughing but through all the laughter I really did learn how to fix the lamp. You’re very talented keep it up.

  • Susan

    You have an awesome writing style and if I still didn’t really need to know how to do this (I do) I saw someone’s comment online about this being the funniest DIY blog post – she was right!
    I could envision you at the thrift store all the way thru to the end and laughed the whole time!
    Keep it up and post more! You’re an awesome writer!

  • Robin

    I think you and I should be friends! My fiance is extremely cheap and unimaginative, while I tend to spend a little too much and have lots of ideas!
    I happened to have two very large lamps that are from the eighties and not very attractive. I did not use a primer because I used a paint and primer in one. Also, I painted the hardware a metallic silver, because it was a very hideous gold. I bought two lamp shades (they were not cheap because of the lamp size). I am going to wait a couple days and I am going to stencil them. I hope they turn out as beautiful as your lamp!

  • Gail

    Your instructional was so funny? I am so bad about starting something and then sidetracked just like you did. Maybe that’s why I laughed so much because I saw myself in you.

  • Bobi

    You are hilarious

    • Priest

      Inmfaortion is power and now I’m a !@#$ing dictator.

  • Candy

    I have a pair of Peach?pink lamps. I love them until I redid my living room. Was perplexed about what to do with them for weeks. Now I have gotten hope. You make it seem easy and fun.I’m going to paint them bronze or gold.!!!

  • Lana

    Your blog is one of the most entertaining that I have ever read. You ought to be a comedian. I laughed through the whole thing and yet still learned. I am the same way of getting side-tracked, eventhough my kids and grandkids are all grown and gone. But you sure brought back some good old memories. You have a sense of humor that cannot be beat. Keep up the good work and please keep your sense of humor.


    Bought a red plaid shade but the blue lamp looks ‘pucky’ – after the holidays will follow your wonderful directions – wish you had named the brand of paints, etc.

  • Arlene Puentes

    Thank you for this post! Well done! Well written!


    I woke up thinking “I want to paint my red bedside lamps green… hmm better google how to paint a porcelain lamp” This was the most hilarious tutorial ! Thank you for making me laugh & also congrats that the final result ! Success & so beautiful! Now I want to go back & read your older posts!!! RoseAbdoo

  • Awentia

    Love this tutorial!!! May I ask what kind of spray paint? Is it some special kind??

    Thanks…keep up the entertaining and good work!!!! Love your lamp!

  • Adrienne

    Hysterical! Have you thought of becoming a writer like Erma Bombeck? I would buy your books.

  • LeeAnn

    Great lamp , even better post . Put a smile on my face !

  • Wendy

    Oh my goodness! This is so me! Getting distracted, forgetting, in a hurry, etc… Lol!!! You are so funny and you should definitely write more tutorials!! So entertaining reading it!!! ????

  • Morgan

    Great instructions! Painting pottery pieces can be so much fun and the results are worthwhile! Nicely done! Thanks for sharing!

  • Fin Ally

    Hahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
    I totally get your humor! Smashing job too! Carry on lamp Queen!

  • Brenda

    Super discription and step by step explanation of how to paint a ceramic lamp!! One of the best explanations – you must be, or should be, a teacher!! Thank you!!!!

  • Rose

    I was looking for a way to paint ceramic cookie houses the easy way (AKA spray paint) and came across your yellow lamp story. I haven’t laughed so often while ready an article for a long time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Sara

    I love this….. The lamp,the humor….All. 🙂

  • Shelly W.

    Amazing! I absolutely love this tutorial. I can’t wait for your next idea.
    Shelly W. recently posted..I’ve Read The Script And The Costume FitsMy Profile

  • Aaron C.

    Excellent article. I never knew painting a ceramic lamp could be so easy. Thanks for writing!

  • Donna

    Loved your monologue. Laughed so hard (I had bronchit is at the time), I nearly coughed myself unconscious. But you sold me, I’m going to try it.

    leave a comment
    Your email is never shared.
    Required fields are marked *

    CommentLuv badge