How to paint a bath – give your tub a new look with our step by step guide

Follow our top tips to turn your bath from drab to fab with just a lick of paint

white wall with potted plant and bathtub
(Image credit: TBC)

Is your bathroom a little lacklustre? Does it need a little bit of love? Get ready to become your very own DIY designer, as we talk you through how to paint a bath in just an afternoon's work.

Our bathrooms have a hard task to fulfil. They need to be practical, they need to be comfortable but they need to be attractive, too. We use them everyday without fail, and as we're spending more time at home than ever, they are understandably feeling the pressure to stay looking fresh.

One way to show your bathroom some love, it a complete colour refresh and there are plenty of bathroom colour ideas you could choose from. If your walls don't need the attention and it's that lump of metal in your bathroom that does, then painting your bath could be the ideal solution.

'Colour blocking is a simple, contemporary way to introduce colour to a small space, without it being overwhelming. Pair contrasting shades for an interesting combination and a striking finish that really frames the features of a space. The bath itself is a wonderful place to add a burst of colour,' says Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director at Little Greene.

How to paint a bath

Bathroom with bathtub and brick wall

(Image credit: Future Plc/Colin Poole)

We promise it's easy to transform your tub, but don't go grabbing that paint brush just yet. Make sure you read through our guide and gathered what you need first. Bathrooms get hot and steamy so it's important to make sure you're using the right materials. These need to be able to cope with the moisture and humidity in the room.

Whether you have a classic freestanding cast iron bath, or a fitted, plastic one, both can be painted and both can benefit from a lovely lick of paint. Ideally you should paint your bath before being fitted and plumbed into your bathroom, but they can be painted retrospectively, too. So whether you fancy grey bathroom ideas, or something a bit brighter, here's how to paint your bath to give you bathroom a mini makeover.

What you'll need

  • Newspaper or plastic sheets to protect your floors
  • A multi-surface primer
  • A fine sand paper
  • A good quality paint brush
  • Your chosen paint colour in an eggshell emulsion

1. Prep your surface

Before you start, put down the newspaper or plastic sheeting to protect your floors. Check the surface of your bath for any dirt, dust or scuffs. Give the surface a quick clean with a damp cloth. If it's been previously painted, it will need a quick sand with a fine paper.

Patrick O'Donnell, Brand Ambassador for Farrow & Ball advises: 'If you have a cast iron claw foot bath, you can give it an easy makeover but don’t skimp on the preparation! Firstly, sand back the original paint colour and then wash clean with warm, soapy water.'

2. Apply your primer

Use a good quality paint brush and apply a thin layer of primer all over the outside surfaces of the bath. With roll top baths, just paint up to the 'lip' but not over it and for baths without a lip, paint the outside to the edges. Take care not to paint inside the bath.

Blue indigo wall with wooden flooring and bathtub

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

3. Apply your paint

Allow your primer to dry for at least 4 hours. Then it's time to apply your chosen paint colour. 'Apply one coat of top colour in your chosen colour and finish. We recommend Modern Eggshell for the task,' says Patrick. 'Allow to dry as per manufacturer’s instructions and give the bath another light sand with fine grade paper. Apply a second coat and leave to dry.'

It comes down to personal preference whether you paint your feet in the same colour. Alternatively you can paint them white to match the inside of your tub, or even go for another shade entirely! This is your chance to get creative. As you've seen from our simple guide above, it's so easy to paint your bath that you can change the colour whenever it takes your fancy.

Wallpaper on wall with mirror and bathtub

(Image credit: Little Greene)

What kind of paint do you use on a bathtub?

Depending of what sort of finish you want, we recommend an eggshell paint. This will give you a soft, low sheen, that's not too shiny. If you prefer a more glossy look, then opt for a paint with a mid to high sheen, like a satin or gloss paint.

Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director at Little Greene, offers this advice: 'There are two bath types which we are often asked about decorating the exterior surface of – cast iron & fibreglass. Application of paint is the same for both, but priming and preparation are understandably subtly different.'

'If in doubt, use a small magnet to check if your bath is plastic or cast iron (the magnet will stick to cast iron),' she continues. 'Prime and undercoat to form a tenacious bond with exposed metal and compatible existing coatings, then finish with two coats of our Intelligent Eggshell or Intelligent Gloss paint.'

Can I paint my bathtub myself?

Yes, absolutely! It's super easy to paint your bath, even if it's already plumbed into your bathroom. Just make sure to remember it's all in the preparation. It's also well worth investing in a really good quality paint brush to give you the best finish possible.

If your bath isn't freestanding, but is fitted instead, you can still have fun painting the front panel. Whether it's a smooth plastic front, a wooden panelled front, or even a tiled surface, all of these can be painted to give your bathroom a new look and feel. There are plenty of other bath panel ideas to give your bath a quick and easy update, too.

'Fibreglass bath panels are typically produced with a gel coat finish. To ensure adequate adhesion a specialist primer should be used before finishing with your colour choice. Make sure bathroom door is left open during all painting and drying stages to provide ventilation and correct drying conditions,' says Ruth.

Will you be using colour to make a splash in your bathroom?

Holly Walsh
Content Editor

Holly Walsh has been Content Editor at Ideal Home since 2021, but joined the brand back in 2015. With a background of studies in Interior Design, her career in interior journalism was a no-brainer and her passion for decorating homes is still as strong as it ever was. While Holly has written for most of the home titles at Future, including Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, Homes and Gardens and Style at Home, Ideal Home has always been her ideal home, and she can be found sharing her expertise and advice across both the printed magazine and the website too.