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How to paint windows: Tips for the perfect finish

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If your windows require a lick of paint, the good news is most windows can be painted, like any other exterior feature of your home. 

Some types of windows, such as wooden ones, should be repainted periodically to ensure their longevity. 

You can paint any main window materials, including wood, metal, such as aluminium or steel, and uPVC, though the exact process differs somewhat for each type. 

This is a step-by-step guide to painting different types of windows for a flawless, professional finish.

What equipment do I need to paint my windows?

When painting your windows, having the right equipment can mean the difference between a professional-looking finish and a messy job. 

Plus, being stuck midway through the job without the necessary tools is highly frustrating. 

Here are the items you’ll need:


A high-quality primer is essential for ensuring your paint adheres well to the surface of the window. For uPVC windows, make sure to use a uPVC-specific primer. 

Wooden windows often benefit from an oil-based primer, which helps to block stains and offers a good base for paint to stick to. 

It’s not entirely necessary to prime already-painted wooden windows, unless you’re going from a dark colour (like black) to a light one (like white), in which case primer will reduce the number of coats you’ll have to apply. 

In any case, using a high-quality wood primer will increase the longevity of the windows. 


Before applying any paint, you’ll need to prepare the surface. 

Sandpaper helps to remove old paint and smooths out any imperfections. Moreover, a sanded surface improves paint adherence. 

Choose sandpaper with smooth to medium grit (80, 100 and 120 grit – the higher numbers indicate finer grits). 

Paint brushes and rollers

The quality of your brushes will significantly affect the quality of the finish. Consider buying a variety of high-quality synthetic-bristle brushes. 

Low-quality brushes often shed hair, which can ruin the finish and cause a nuisance. 

A two-inch angled brush works well for painting window frames, but you might need a smaller brush for edges and intricate details. 

Rollers are ideal for evenly coating broader frames. Choose smaller 2in and 4in rollers. 


Your choice of window paint depends on the material of your window frames. An acrylic latex paint is often the best choice for wooden windows due to its durability. 

For uPVC, ensure the paint is compatible. Some brands offer uPVC-specific paint. 

Metal windows usually require a special metal paint or enamel for long-lasting results.

For window sills, you’ll need paint suited to the material your window sills are made from, which could be metal, uPVC or wood. 

Dust sheets

Painting usually gets messy. Spread out dust sheets or old newspapers to protect your flooring and furniture.

Painter’s tape/masking tape

Masking tape helps to protect areas you don’t want to paint, such as the glass pane or surrounding walls. 

Press down on the edges to prevent paint from seeping through.

Ladder or step stool

Depending on the height of your windows, a sturdy ladder or step stool will be necessary for reaching the tops of the frames. 

Ensure that whatever you use is stable and positioned on a flat surface.

Painting windows can be prompted by necessary maintenance or a desire for a new exterior appearance. As a rule of thumb, timber windows should be painted every two or so years, while painted uPVC windows should have a fresh coat every 10 or so years, depending on condition and exposure (Adobe)

What paint should I choose for windows?

Selecting the correct paint is vital to ensure a successful and durable window-painting project. 

The best paint for the task will depend on the material your windows are made from – be it wood, metal or uPVC. 

Paint for wooden windows

Wooden windows benefit from high-quality exterior paint designed to be durable and weatherproof. 

Here are your best options:

  • Acrylic latex paint: This water-based paint is a top choice for wooden windows for several reasons. First, it’s user-friendly and dries quickly, often within one to two hours, enabling you to apply multiple coats in a single day. It’s resilient against cracking and chipping due to its flexible nature. Acrylic latex is also easy to clean up; just water and soap will do the trick. Finally, it’s less toxic than oil-based paints.
  • Oil-based paints: Although less commonly used nowadays, oil-based paints have their merits. They offer a rich, glossy finish that can add depth and character to wooden windows. While they require a longer drying period – often eight to 24 hours, depending on the conditions – they can produce a smoother surface, as the paint has time to level before drying. 

Metal windows

It’s probably less likely that you’ll need to paint modern metal frames, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. 

  • Enamel paint: This oil-based paint is specifically formulated for metal surfaces and is excellent for exterior metal windows exposed to varying weather conditions. It adheres exceptionally well, reducing the likelihood of flaking and peeling. It also provides a hard, glossy finish that can withstand wear and tear 

uPVC windows

If you’re wondering whether you can paint uPVC windows, the answer is a resounding yes – but you’ll need to take a few extra steps to ensure a quality, long-lasting finish. 

  • uPVC-specific paint: Regular paints simply won’t adhere to uPVC, so choose a specially formulated uPVC paint instead. These are designed to bond securely to the plastic, ensuring a durable and long-lasting finish. Before you start painting, you should apply uPVC primer to maximise adhesion. You can use other exterior paints, but always check the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure they specifically mention uPVC.

Different types of paint for painting windows

There are three primary paint finishes: satin, gloss and matte. Here’s a quick guide to each:

  • Satin finish: This is likely the most popular choice for windows and offers a low-to-medium sheen. It’s easier to clean than a matte finish. Satin finishes provide a soft, velvety look and work well in both traditional and contemporary settings.
  • Gloss finish: Known for its high-reflective qualities, it offers a shiny, glass-like appearance. It’s extremely durable and stands up well to repeated cleaning, making it ideal for high-traffic areas or windows that are exposed to more dirt and grime than typical. 
  • Matte finish: Offering little to no sheen, a matte finish provides a flat, textured look. This finish is less durable than satin or gloss and is more susceptible to dirt and grime. 

Do you need different paint for inside windows?

The short answer is no, you generally don’t need a different type of paint for the inside of your windows as compared to the outside. 

Even though the interior side of the window isn’t as exposed to external weather conditions like rain and wind, it can still be subject to moisture from condensation, especially in rooms with higher humidity like kitchens or bathrooms. 

Plus, the inside of the frame can get wet if rain or mist comes in through your windows. 

Additionally, for aesthetic reasons, you’ll likely want to maintain the same colour finish on both sides of the window. 

Therefore, using the same durable, weather-resistant paint on the inside of your windows that you would use on the outside is often the best practice. 

What else do I need to do before I paint my windows?

As the adage goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail – which applies to paint projects, too!

Here’s what you need to do prior to painting. 

Check the weather forecast if painting outside

Window painting is relatively straightforward but still requires time and planning, including checking the weather forecast. 

If you’re planning to paint the exterior of your windows, pick a day with fair weather and no rain forecast. Humidity levels should be low, and the temperature should be neither too hot nor too cold, typically between 10 and 29 degrees. 

Try to rule out the chance of rain for at least 24 hours. 

Remove old paint using a scraper or sandpaper

Old, peeling paint can interfere with the new coat you’re planning to apply. Therefore, it’s crucial to remove it before you start painting. 

Use a paint scraper or medium-grit sandpaper to remove old paint or varnish. For stubborn areas, you may need to use a heat gun or chemical paint stripper. This doesn’t mean you need to remove all the old paint – just any areas that are overly thick, peeling or flaky. The idea is to achieve a relatively smooth, even surface. 

Removing old paint before painting your windows is a difficult but necessary step (Adobe)

Remove window fixtures such as handles or locks

Removing hardware such as handles, locks or latches from your windows makes it easier to paint the entire surface evenly. 

It also prevents paint from getting onto your window hardware. Store these items safely, and remember to keep all screws and small parts in a separate container for easy reassembly once you’ve finished painting.

Clean the windows to remove dirt and debris

An often-overlooked step is the importance of cleaning your windows before painting. 

Dust, dirt and other debris can stick to the paint, creating a rough and unattractive finish. This includes mould, which will need to be removed prior to painting. 

Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the surface, ensuring you remove any cobwebs, dust, mould or grime. You can also use a mild detergent for more robust cleaning.

How to paint windows neatly and professionally

To professionally paint your window, use a cutting-in brush with angled bristles to achieve neat and precise edges.

For the main parts of the frame and sash, a small straight-edge brush works well. You can also use a roller to evenly coat broader frames. 

The key is to use long, steady strokes, working from one edge to the other, to minimise brush marks and streaks. It’s always best to have a selection of high-quality brushes at the ready, as well as a couple of mini rollers. 

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Best practices for painting wooden windows

Painting wooden windows boosts their longevity, especially if you do a good job. 

Here are the best practices for painting your wooden windows. 

Step 1: Prepare the window frame

Before you start painting, it’s essential to properly prepare the wooden window frame. 

This could take some time, depending on the state of the frame. If it’s in a state of disrepair, fill gaps and cracks with wood filler. 

You may also need to remove and repair mouldy sections and apply mould or anti-fungal treatments. If so, ensure the windows are fully dry before continuing. 

Remove any old paint or varnish using a paint scraper. Once that’s done, sand the window frame using medium-grit sandpaper to smooth out any rough areas and provide a surface to which the paint can adhere effectively. 

There’s typically no need to prime wooden windows if you’re sanding the original painted surface. However, if you’re drastically changing the colour – such as going from black to white – then primer will reduce the number of coats you’ll need to apply to achieve a well-defined finish. 

For intricate details or tight corners, consider using a sanding sponge. After sanding, clean off any residual dust using a vacuum cleaner or damp cloth.

Step 2: Apply masking tape to protect other areas

After sanding, apply masking tape to protect areas you don’t want painted, such as the window glass and surrounding walls. 

Make sure the edges of the tape are firmly pressed down to prevent paint from seeping underneath. 

Consider also applying tape to the weather stripping and moving parts to avoid painting them.

Step 3: Paint primer and first coat

Primer ensures your final paint colour will be even and more vibrant (Adobe)

After prepping the surface and applying masking tape, you can begin painting. 

If necessary, start with a high-quality, wood-specific primer to create an even base for the paint. 

Use a quality paint brush to apply the primer using long, even strokes, covering all corners and crevices. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions before proceeding.

After the primer has dried, you’re ready for the first coat of paint. 

Opt for a paint specifically designed for exterior wood if painting outside, and apply it using a clean, high-quality brush. Like with the primer, use long, even strokes to achieve a smooth finish.

Step 4: Paint second coat

After the first coat has dried completely, assess the surface to see if a second coat is needed. 

If the paint appears uneven or the underlying wood is still visible, a second coat will be necessary for optimal results. There’s typically no harm in applying two good coats to wooden windows, as this will vastly improve their longevity. 

Step 5: Leave to dry

Allow the paint to dry thoroughly. It’s essential not to touch the freshly painted surfaces. Ideally, windows should be left open for the duration of drying, as otherwise you risk sealing them shut. 

Keep an eye on your windows to ensure no debris, such as leaves, blows onto them while they’re drying.

After the paint is completely dry, carefully remove the masking tape. Reattach any window hardware you removed earlier, and that’s it – enjoy your freshly painted windows. 

Best practices for painting uPVC windows

Painting uPVC windows is slightly more complex than painting wooden ones, as you’ll need to prime the window carefully before painting. 

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown for achieving the best results.

Step 1: Prepare the surface

Before applying primer, prepare the uPVC surface to receive the paint. 

Clean the window frames with warm, soapy water to remove dirt or grime. 

After drying thoroughly – including edges and recesses – lightly sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper (100 or 120 grit). This provides a bit more “tooth” for the primer to adhere to. Be gentle.

After sanding, wipe down the frames with a damp cloth to remove any sanding dust, then allow them to dry thoroughly. 

Step 2: Apply masking tape

Before you start painting, apply masking tape to protect the areas you don’t want to paint. 

Place the tape carefully around the edges of the window panes, the seals, and any adjacent areas such as walls or sills you need to protect. 

If your windows open, you may also want to tape off the weather stripping to prevent painting over it.

Step 3: Apply uPVC primer

Using a uPVC-specific primer is crucial. Missing this step will lead to the paint peeling from the windows. 

Apply a generous coat of primer using a high-quality brush or foam roller for even distribution. 

Use long, even strokes to cover all areas thoroughly, including corners and edges. 

Don’t rush this step – ensure you get full, even coverage to set a good base for your paint.

Step 4: Wait for primer to dry

After applying the primer, it’s vital to allow adequate drying time. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for drying times, which usually range from one to three hours. 

Adhering to the recommended drying time is crucial, as a wet or semi-dry surface will lead to poor paint adhesion and an uneven finish.

Step 5: Paint the uPVC windows

It’s best to choose paint specifically formulated for uPVC when painting uPVC windows (Adobe)

Once you confirm that the primer is completely dry, proceed to the painting phase. As mentioned, select a uPVC-specific paint. 

This is available from most DIY stores. You can also use all-surface exterior paint, but choosing uPVC-specific paint from trusted brands like Rust-Oleum and Ronseal offers peace of mind. 

Use a clean, high-quality brush or foam roller, and apply the paint in long, smooth strokes. 

It’s better to build up the paint layer by applying several thin coats rather than one thick one. 

Step 6: Wait for paint to dry

Like the primer, the paint will also need sufficient time to dry, likely a few hours. 

It’s crucial not to touch or operate the windows during the drying phase to prevent smudging or sticking.

Step 7: Inspect and finish

After the paint has thoroughly dried, inspect your work to ensure even coverage and no missed spots. 

If necessary, apply additional coats. Finally, carefully remove the masking tape and clean up any minor errors with a small brush or cloth. 

Reattach any hardware, such as handles or locks, that you removed before painting.

Best practice for painting metal windows

Painting metal differs from wooden or uPVC windows, as you’ll need a metal-specific primer and paint (usually enamel). Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of the process:

Step 1: Prepare the surface

First, you’ll need to clean your metal window frames well. Use a mixture of warm water and a gentle detergent to remove dirt and grime then dry the surface thoroughly with a clean towel.

If there’s any old paint or rust on the windows, you’ll need to remove it. You can use medium sandpaper (80 grit) or a wire brush for this task, but be gentle as you don’t want to scratch the raw metal. 

After you’ve prepped the surface, wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any remaining debris and allow it to dry completely.

Step 2: Apply masking tape

Before painting, apply masking tape around the areas you don’t want to paint. 

This usually includes the window panes and adjacent areas like the wall or window sills. 

Step 3: Apply metal primer

It’s crucial to use a primer designed for metal surfaces. This helps the paint adhere better and provides an extra layer of protection against rust.

Apply the primer with a high-quality brush or roller, using long, even strokes. Pay extra attention to corners and crevices where moisture can accumulate and lead to rusting.

Step 4: Wait for primer to dry

Once you’ve applied the primer, allow it to dry properly. 

Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for the recommended drying time, varying from a few hours to overnight.

Step 5: Paint the metal windows

After the primer is dry, you can start painting the windows. Use a high-quality enamel paint that’s suitable for metal surfaces. 

Apply the paint using a clean brush or roller and use long, even strokes for a smooth finish, like with the primer. 

Applying several thin coats rather than one thick one is better to prevent drips and runs.

Step 6: Wait for paint to dry

Allow sufficient time for the paint to dry. Again, consult the manufacturer’s instructions for specific drying times. 

Avoid touching or operating the windows during this period, as it can lead to smudges or the paint sticking.

Step 7: Inspect and finish

Once you’re confident that the paint has dried completely, carefully remove the masking tape. Inspect your work for any uneven areas or spots needing a touch-up. 

If necessary, apply additional coats. Finally, reattach any fixtures like handles or locks you removed before painting.

A fresh coat of paint can bring new life to your windows without having to replace them (Adobe)

How do I paint casement windows?

Painting casement windows requires many of the same basic steps as painting other types of windows, but there are some considerations to keep in mind. 

Paint your casement windows at the hinge edge, painting the vertical sides, then the top and bottom rails. Then, paint the interior edges, starting from the hinge side, followed by the top, leading and bottom edges. Finish by painting the inside face of the open window, working top to bottom.

For the frame, start with the left upright, then move across the top, followed by the remaining uprights and the bottom. Paint the top and underneath of the sill last.

Once the exterior is fully dry per the manufacturer’s instructions, paint the interior frame. Open the windows and start at the top, then paint the vertical sides and finish at the bottom. Always ventilate your home when painting window interiors. 

How do I paint sash windows?

Sash windows, consisting of one or more movable panels or “sashes,” must be painted in a specific order. 

To paint them effectively, start by removing – or at least loosening – any sashes that can be taken out. This will make it easier to paint all sides of each sash and ensure an even coat.

Begin by sanding down any rough or peeling spots to create a smooth surface for the primer and paint. Be careful of the window’s sliding mechanism – applying too much paint to the tracks might cause it to stick. 

Remember to paint the window tracks and any other parts exposed when the window is open. After all coats of paint have been applied and completely dried, carefully reassemble any sashes you removed.


Painting windows yourself is entirely possible if you’re adequately equipped and plan carefully. 

The key is to take your time and perform all necessary steps, such as sanding down old paint and applying primer. Rushing is a sure-fire way to cost yourself more time and money in the long run. 

If you select the right primer and paint, clean and sand your windows and apply multiple thin, even coats, there’s no reason why you won’t achieve an immaculate, long-lasting finish.

Frequently asked questions about how to paint windows

Yes, painting uPVC windows can be a DIY project. The process involves applying a uPVC-specific primer, allowing it to dry, applying paint formulated for uPVC and giving ample time for the paint to dry. 

However, if your windows are hard to reach, have complex details or you have many windows to paint, consider hiring a painter or decorator.

The type of paint you’ll need for your windows depends on the material of the window frames. 

For wooden windows, acrylic latex paint is often recommended due to its high durability and ease of use. Metal windows typically benefit from enamel paint, which offers excellent adhesion and rust resistance. uPVC windows require uPVC-specific paint and primer to ensure proper adhesion. Various exterior paints with uPVC, wood and metal, but always check the tin. 

In every case, choose a high-quality paint formulated for your needs, no matter what material your windows are made of. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure the paint suits your window type.

You can use both. Brushes offer greater control, simplifying the process of painting intricate details and reaching into corners and crevices. Choose an angled cut-in brush for details and a flat 2in brush for the frame, though it’s best to have a few options available. 

Rollers evenly cover larger, flat surface areas. Small 2in to 4in rollers are ideal for broad, flat-framed windows. Using a roller might also provide the rougher texture and appearance of powder-coating metal windows, which might appeal to some homes. 

Sam Jeans


Sam is an experienced writer whose expertise lies in home improvements and renewables, as well as technology, where he is especially interested in the world of machine learning and AI. He has written for Vested, Age Times, and the Royal Mint.

For the Independent Advisor, Sam writes about windows and solar panels.

Amy Reeves


Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.