How to Paint a Shed [Step by Step Guide]

Do you have a shed that needs a little sprucing up? Maybe you’ve just built a shed, and want to make sure it suits the aesthetic of your home and yard. If you’ve ever wondered how to paint a shed, you’re in luck. With a little bit of time, know-how, and some materials, you’ll be able to transform the look of your shed easily. 

We had a new shed installed in our backyard last year, and I never got around to painting it. Now that I have a free weekend ahead, I decided to research the best tips for painting a shed that will preserve the look for years to come. 

Painting a shed requires a bit of prep work and the right materials. All in all, the process is pretty straightforward: 

  • Remove any loose or flaking paint (unless the shed is brand new)
  • Seal any cracks or gaps to prevent water leaks 
  • Prime the shed 
  • Choose a color, and get painting! 

While the majority of this article discusses tips for painting a wood shed, I’ll also show you the best method for painting a metal shed. Don’t underestimate what a coat of paint can do to transform the look of your shed, as well as your outdoor space! 

How to paint a shed

Why Should You Paint Your Shed? 

You may think that the only reason to paint a shed is to make it look finished, or to match the color of your home’s exterior. While these are certainly valid reasons, there are multiple maintenance-related reasons also to consider. 

Over time, the sun’s harsh UV rays can cause your shed’s wood to wear out and even crack. Small cracks and gaps allow water and insects access to your shed, and both are unwelcome guests.

It’s important to preserve and protect your shed’s exterior wood with a coat of paint, but you might be wondering, “Should I bother painting the inside of the shed?” As it turns out, there are multiple benefits to slapping a coat of paint on your shed’s interior, too. 

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on a Shed? 

You can’t just use any old paint on a wooden shed. You’ll want to look for an exterior paint that is heavy-duty, mildew-resistant, and fade-resistant. You should also be on the lookout for a paint type and brand that’s meant for rough-sawn lumber.

To ensure the finished product looks stellar, I recommend priming the wood before you start painting. While there are many great paints that offer a built-in primer, buying a separate wood primer is also an option.

Cuprinol Garden Shades is an industry favorite when it comes to sheds, specifically because it comes in so many great colors, offers great coverage, and includes a built-in preserver to keep the wood looking great. Ronseal Garden Paint is another excellent choice. It’s quick-drying, weather-resistant, and doesn’t require the use of a primer. 

When it comes to choosing a color, you’ll probably want to choose a shade that complements the rest of your yard and home. You may decide to match the shed color to the color of your home’s exterior siding.

Maybe your patio furniture is wicker with navy cushions, so you choose a shed color that’s navy or grayish-blue. The choice is yours – just be sure you’re not picking an outrageous color that you’ll grow tired of quickly. 

What Is the Best Time to Paint the Shed?

Before you start priming and painting, make sure you’re doing so on the appropriate day and time. Aim to paint on a day that’s warm or mild and completely dry (morning or early evening are best). Recommended temperatures depend on the type of exterior paint being used, but here’s a general tip:

  • Latex-based paint: between 50° to 85° F
  • Oil-based paint: between 40° to 90° F

If you paint on a day with high humidity, there’s a good chance the paint won’t dry evenly. If it’s too hot outside, the paint will dry too quickly, leading to cracking and flaking.

Moreover, if it’s too cold, the paint likely won’t dry at all! Plus, who wants to paint when it’s either sweltering or freezing? Certainly not me! 

What Tools You’ll Need

Here’s your suggested materials shopping list:

Shed paint and accessories

How To Paint A Wood Shed

Step 1: If your shed has loose or flaking paint, this will need to come off first. Strip the original paint and sand if necessary to ensure you’re working with a smooth, even surface. If your shed is covered in cobwebs, dried leaves, or dust, use a stiff brush to wipe off the exterior wood. 

Step 2: Take a walk around the outside of your shed, paying close attention to any cracks or gaps. You’ll want to use a wood filler or paintable caulking to repair these splits so that water and insects don’t make their way inside your shed. 

Step 3: Once the wood filler is dry (one to two hours depending on the size and severity of the cracks), you can sand down any excess. You’ll then be ready to prime the wood.

Before priming, apply masking tape around any windows or metal hardware, and place drop sheets around the shed’s perimeter. 

Step 4: Prime away! Be sure not to overload the roller or brush with paint to prevent dripping. Always paint in the direction of the wood’s grain, and reapply paint to the roller when it starts to thin out. You can use a roller for the long or wide sections of wood, and a brush for any smaller sections or hard-to-reach places. 

Step 5: If you’ve used a separate primer, allow about four hours of drying time before painting. If your paint has a built-in primer, there’s no need for Step 4.

When painting, remember to follow the direction of the grain, avoid overloading the roller or brush, and to use long, sweeping strokes. 

Step 6: Check the paint’s label for approximate drying times, which will likely range between two to four hours. If you’re doing a second coat, simply repeat Step 5. 

Step 7: Ensure the paint is completely dry before removing the masking tape. Once dry, I’m willing to bet your finished shed has really spruced up the look of your outdoor space! 

How to Paint a Metal Shed

If you have an old and rusty metal shed that needs a little TLC, this section is for you. While the steps and required materials are a little different than when painting a wood shed, the process is still relatively simple and hassle-free. First off, you will need: 

  • Sanding Block or Pad 
  • TSP (Trisodium Phosphate)
  • Exterior Metal Primer 
  • Exterior Latex-Based Paint 
  • Roller
  • Paint Brush
  • Drop Sheets or Newspaper 
  • Masking/Painter’s Tape
  • Gloves
  • Face Mask 

Step 1: If your metal shed is really rusty, you will likely need to use a sanding block to remove the rust before you can begin painting. If your shed is only slightly rusty, proceed to Step 2. 

Step 2: Use TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) to remove the remaining rust from your shed’s surface. This agent can be found at most hardware stores, and when mixed with water, can be used to scrub the metal.

It will help to remove light rust and other residues to ensure you have a smooth, clean surface to paint. Be sure to follow the instructions and wear a protective face mask and gloves. 

Step 3: Once your metal shed is prepped, it’s time to prime. Throw down your drop sheets and use masking tape to protect any hardware or windows.

Choose an exterior metal primer (usually advertised as “multi-surface primer”) to ensure the primer bonds with the metal. Prime as you normally would, using a roller for larger areas and a paintbrush for smaller sections. 

Step 4: Once the primer is dry (drying times will vary, so read the label), you’re ready to paint. Most experts recommend using an exterior latex-based paint that will not only bond with the primer but will bond with the metal.

This type of paint is also long-lasting and will protect your shed from harsh weather. Once the paint is completely dry, determine if you’ll need to do a second coat. 

Step 5: When the paint is dry, remove the masking tape. You’ll no longer see an old, rusty-looking shed in your yard that’s been an eyesore for ages. You’ll have a weather-resistant, new-and-improved shed that your neighbors will be envious of! 


If your shed has seen better days, it may not be necessary to buy and install a brand new one. With some basic maintenance and painting knowledge, you can completely revitalize your wood (or metal) shed in less than a day. 

Not only will painting your shed revive the look of your yard, but it will also protect your structure (and the objects inside) from the elements. You already know that your home requires a little love every now and again – well, so does your shed! 

If you enjoyed this article and found it informative, please let us know in the comments below. Share these tips and tricks with your friends and family members who are looking to give their shed a little facelift.

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