Try one of our simple projects to dress up plain roller shades or bamboo blinds with paint, stencils, and stamps. A list of materials and instructions are included.

By Judith Stern Friedman; Photographs by Hopkins Associates

Decorating on a budget? Like the look of painted moldings? Pattern and practicality finally meet -- in these affordable, ready-made window shades that can be painted in minutes to perk up any decor. They leave woodwork in view, and they're quickly adjusted to show as much of the shade pattern as you want, so you can change the look with a flick of a wrist. Let the ideas and techniques shown here inspire your own showy shades.

For a balanced design, repeat a bedroom's motifs and color schemes. Borrow patterns such as flowers, stripes, and falling leaves from bedspreads, borders, and upholstery.

Think beyond the bedroom to the screen porch, where matchstick shades can temper the rays of a setting sun. Add color in the kitchen to a Roman shade above a breakfast table. Paint a shade in a powder room, home office, or entry.

Using basic painting supplies along with sponges, stamps, and simple stencils, the technique is easy, fast, and fun. No one has to know how little time it takes to brush up such a lavish look!

Overview of Painting on a Roll

  • Choose a window shade, old or new, in a color that reflects the look you want. A soft dry-brush technique works well on cotton; bold, colorful designs look good on heavy weaves.
  • Select your paint. Use water-base acrylic crafts paints. The paints on these shades are adaptable to other surfaces such as lampshades, furniture, and floors.
  • Experiment first. If possible, work on a spare shade or remnant to practice your technique, test paint absorbency, and explore colors.
  • Clean up. Rinse sponges, stencils, and brushes in water, and you can reuse them for other projects.

How to Dry-Brush Stencil

  1. Squeeze a dime-size dab of paint onto a paper plate.
  2. Dip a dry stencil brush into the paint.
  3. Scrub the loaded brush onto a paper towel to remove as much paint as possible.
  4. Apply paint, moving the brush in a circular motion.

This geometric pattern adds movement to a room. Use the end of a dry makeup sponge to dab color with varying pressure between taped-off lines. To change the look, use different tape widths and work in the existing shade color as one of the stripes.

Add a final touch with squiggles, accomplished with a stiff, dry, round-tip brush. Push the paint into the shade fabric to leave a strong, solid line. The shade's tabs extend the stripes and help guide design placement.


  • Roller shade
  • Scotch blue medium-tack painter's tape: 3/4 and 1 1/2 inch
  • Makeup sponges
  • DecoArt Americana acrylic crafts paint: French Vanilla (FV)
  • Benjamin Moore color samples: Coral Gables 2010-40 (CG)
  • Artist's brush: #2 round-tip stiff-bristle
  • Delta Ceramcoat acrylic crafts paint: Village Green (VG)


  1. Apply blue painter's tape to mask the stripes that will remain unpainted. If the shade has tabs, use them as guides for stripe spacing. Depending on the shade you choose, you may vary width, number, and colors of stripes.
  2. Using the square end of a makeup sponge -- one for each color -- apply FV to some stripes and CG to others in desired sequence. Dab the paint using light and heavy pressure and rotating the sponge tip to create a mottled look; let dry before removing tape.
  3. Using the round-tip brush and VG, paint a loose squiggle along the outer edges of each CG stripe.

A single stencil (and no measuring) makes painting these bold blooms a snap. Low-tack spray adhesive helps hold the stencil in place while you apply color. Keep the paint very light around the outside edges and let some areas fade into nothing.

Leave the stencil in place while you add shadows, and remove it before you paint detail lines. With both large and small spaces to fill, you can use various diameter stencil brushes. The larger the space to fill, the larger the brush you can use.


  • Roller shade
  • Permanent marker
  • Clear acetate: .05 millimeter
  • Crafts knife
  • Low-tack spray adhesive
  • Brushes: #1, #4, #8, #10 stencil; #8 flat stiff-bristle; #2 round stiff-bristle
  • Benjamin Moore color samples: Coral Gables 2010-40 (CG), Ravishing Red 2008-10 (RR)
  • Delta Ceramcoat acrylic crafts paints: Hydrangea Pink (HP), Village Green (VG)
  • Plaid FolkArt Apple Barrel acrylic crafts paint: Pastel Green 466 (PG)
  • Deco Art Americana acrylic crafts paints: French Vanilla (FV), Green Mist (GM), Yellow Ochre (YO)


  1. To make a stencil, use a permanent marker to trace the stencil pattern from the pattern packet onto clear acetate. Cut out the acetate stencil with a crafts knife. Spray the back of the stencil with low-tack adhesive and gently position on the shade.
  2. Stencil using a dry-brush method (see "How to Dry-Brush Stencil" above). Choose a stencil brush that best fits the area to be painted: larger brushes for larger spaces; smaller diameter brushes for smaller spaces.
  3. Lightly apply CG to petal areas and center circle, allowing color to remain transparent. Lightly apply RR along some of the edges to create shadow and depth. Next, apply VG to leaf and stem areas, and add PG to create shading and depth.
  4. Remove the stencil. Fill in flower center with FV using the #8 flat brush. Apply YO to create shadow and depth. With the #2 round brush, paint outlines where desired using RR for flower petals, GM for leaves and stem, and HP for dots in the flower center. Following your paper layout, remove patterns one by one and stencil remaining designs onto the shade.

Light-color paint on a cranberry shade creates dramatic contrast at this window. To align the ferns, first tape and mark horizontal and vertical gridlines. When positioning the design, place the same part of the stamp (such as the tip of the fern) at the same point every time.

For accurate placement of a store-bought stamp such as this one, gently remove the foam backing and replace it with clear Plexiglas.

You can adapt this "rows" technique for other shade ideas; for example, use primary colors and geometric shapes for a child's room or a lineup of fruit to brighten a kitchen.


  • Sausalito shade
  • Plaid Enterprises Stamp Decor Wall Decor stamp: Fern #53643
  • Clear Plexiglas, cut to fit fern stamp
  • Clear glue
  • Scotch blue medium-tack painter's tape
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil
  • Makeup sponge
  • Benjamin Moore color samples: Coral Gables 2010-40 (CG)
  • Deco Art Americana acrylic crafts paint: French Vanilla (FV)


  1. For more accurate stamping, gently remove the foam backing from the fern stamp. Cut a piece of clear Plexiglas to fit the fern motif, or ask a hardware store to cut it. Glue the Plexiglas to the stamp.
  2. Measure and tape a grid to guide stamp placement on the shade. With a makeup sponge, gently dab CG to cover but not soak the stamp surface. Apply paint-covered stamp to the window shade in measured intervals, stamping all rows of the same color at one time. Rinse the stamp and dry until damp before reusing.
  3. Repeat process using FV on alternating rows.

Decorative painter Vicki Nail matched this design to the feel of the shade. Because bamboo is natural and casual, paint the leaves loosely, allowing some tan background to show.

Apply shades of green using a damp dry sponge stamp to form the mottled leaves, then add outlines, veins, and stems with a liner brush. Using a compressed sponge to create the stamp simplifies this project.

The sponge starts as a dry, flat, paper-thin substance. You can cut it to any shape and easily trim finished edges. Once hydrated, its uneven texture helps accomplish a variegated look.


  • Matchstick window shade
  • Scotch blue medium-tack painter's tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Loew Cornell compressed sponge
  • Scissors
  • Makeup sponge
  • Delta Ceramcoat acrylic crafts paints: Pastel Green (PG), Village Green (VG)
  • Artist's brush: 10/0 liner
  • Deco Art Americana acrylic crafts paints: Green Mist (GM), Sable Brown (SB)
  • Plaid FolkArt Apple Barrel acrylic crafts paint: Country Tan 20778 (CT)


  1. Cover the shade's fabric border with painter's tape to protect the edges.
  2. Using a permanent marker, transfer the leaf design from the pattern packet onto the compressed sponge. Using scissors, cut the leaf shape from the sponge. Dip the sponge into water to hydrate.
  3. Lay out paper patterns as suggested in the Notes section of the "Flower Power" project. For interest, vary leaf directions and allow some leaves to bleed off the shade's edges.
  4. Using the makeup sponge, apply PG and VG to the leaf sponge before stamping. Following your paper layout, remove patterns one by one and stamp leaf designs onto the shade, pressing firmly and leaving space between leaves for outlines and stems. Apply more color to the stamp as needed.
  5. Use the liner brush and GM, SB, and CT to outline the leaves and add stems and veins

Tools, paint, and other supplies are available at crafts stores and home improvement centers.

Decorative painter: Vicki Nail