How To Paint a Piano

If you’ve been thinking about painting your piano, then run, don’t walk, to your nearest paint shop and get yourself a quart of high-gloss enamel. You don’t have to paint it green, or any particularly bright color. But if you feel like your piano needs a fresh start, this is the cheapest, fastest way to go.

I had been wanting to do this project for 9 years and kept getting intimidated by it. But there was no need for fear. It was actually very straightforward and is one of the most satisfying projects I’ve finished in ages. Here are my notes, in case you’re considering a paint job.

 

how to paint a piano

Choose a Piano That’s Not Worth Restoring

The best candidate for something like this is a piano that’s not worth restoring. Ours was perfect. It was the piano I grew up with and it was pretty beat up when my parents originally picked it up for a bargain $300. By the time I inherited it, it was even more war-torn and the first thing I did was get 3 bids on having it refinished and restored. All three refinishers told me it would be about $2000 to restore the inside and $2000 to restore the outside and that the inside was just old, and even if it was restored it wouldn’t be as good as new. All 3 recommended sending this one to the junk yard and buying new.

But new was out of our budget. And so was a $4000 restoration. I got some other opinions, and it was decided that the piano was good enough for lessons for the kids (the kids were babies at the time), and that we could get a more serious piano when and if our kids became serious piano students.

So we just kept the piano as it was and I dreamt of at least giving it a shiny coat of paint. I kept the dream alive for 9 years. Some years I thought a glossy black would be lovely. But then I felt like black would seem like I was trying to make the instrument more formal than it really was. Later I thought maybe a white coat that we could sand down and make sort of rustic would be nice. Then for about the last 3 years I decided turquoise would be the right thing to do, but I never made it happen. When we were moving, the piano was so depressing I almost left it behind. But Ben Blair said we should bring it to Colorado.

Saturday morning I was craving a challenge so I decided to finally tackle the piano paint job. When I got to the paint store I had a vision: go big or go home. I decided on Grass Green then and there. I bought one quart of hi-gloss enamel, one quart of primer, tinted to match the paint, and a paint brush. Grand total: $40.

By Saturday afternoon I had primed it and painted 2 coats of paint. At that point, I decided the green was a little too yellow, so I took the remaining paint back to the paint store and asked them to green it up a bit. 

Saturday evening, I added one more coat and then came back to the project on Monday. Monday I did two more coats. Tuesday I did some touch ups. And tada! It’s finished.

Unexpected thing: I can already see this will be the signature piece in our home. I had never thought about a signature piece for our home, but because I went with a bold color, now we have one. Every person that comes in the house is drawn to it. Everyone wants to touch the keys. It’s been played more in the last two days than it has been in years. Ben Blair wants to host a recital and call it Variations on the Green Piano.

Other unexpected thing: a piano is big. Physically and visually. It’s not just a small accent piece. Once you have a green piano, you basically have to design the room around it instead of just work it into the existing space. Which means I need to talk to the landlord about painting the walls…

Seeing our newly painted piano makes me super happy. Green wouldn’t be right for every home, but it’s perfect for ours. I feel like I just bought this piano 10 more years of life. Next up: time to get it tuned.

Updated To answer some of your questions:

1) The color is Benjamin Moore Yellow Green (but in my mind it looks more like grass green).
2) I didn’t use oil-based paint.
3) According to the paint store: yes, you should sand off any existing hi-gloss finish before you prime.
4) I don’t have any “before” pictures to share. I did have some. But they are gone. Because I am an idiot and mistakenly erased them.
5) Yes, I painted the bench as well. When I have the room more put together, I’ll share a photo tour.
6) I did not disassemble the piano, but an expert or less-lazy person would have. I painted with the keyboard closed. Once the paint was dry, I opened the keyboard and painted around it with a smaller brush.

Happy painting!

P.S. — More green piano photos. Plus, at what age should your child start piano lessons?

149 thoughts on “How To Paint a Piano”

  1. I.LOVE.IT!

    PS They usually recommend you wait for the piano to acclimate before getting it tuned. Not sure how long.

  2. You are my hero! Our piano is currently hiding in our coat closet (yes, we play it that much). The kids (ages 5 and under) like the C.S. Lewis feel of playing a hidden piano, but painting it would be awesome!

  3. I love it and everything it represents! It is a bit of you, tradition in the children learning an instrument, green for a new beginning, a fresh start and that it is a bold and boisterous statement piece for a family who love to enjoy life and celebrate their surroundings! Congratulations on the leap of faith!

  4. It looks great! Pssst, new knobs would also be fabulous.

    My cousin and his wife loaned us their old piano when they moved to Manhattan about 5 years ago. We’ve been so grateful to have it since a new piano wouldn’t have been in our budget and still isn’t. My cousin’s still in New York (I think they’ve moved to the Bronx) and we still have the piano, and I still haven’t gotten it tuned, although that’s been on my to-do list the whole time we’ve had it. Now I’m sorely tempted to paint it, but I guess it’s have to belong to me first. I think I’d have to go with robin’s-egg blue. Or maybe a cheerful, buttery yellow.

  5. um yes please! i told my husband i wanted to paint ours fire engine red, he looked at me like i was crazy. and now i’m going to send him a link!

  6. love, love, love it! we just bought a very old, very banged up piano at a college campus sale, and i’ve been thinking of painting it a bright color. the only problem is this piano is MASSIVE! it’s a lot bigger than yours, and i’m worried that it would just be TOO much. but you’ve inspired me, and now the wheels are turning…

  7. p.s., in response to kt’s comment about waiting to get it tuned, they do recommend that you wait. the guys who moved ours said at least two weeks, but i’ve also heard two months.

  8. Maybe it’s because we are canceling piano lessons for all 4 of our children next year because of this “economic downturn” or maybe it’s because I’m a big sap but reading this make me teary. Our piano is just like yours. When we have the tuner out every other year, he just shakes his head. We love it though and we love what it means to us. Music is a part of our family. We are hoping that by stopping formal lessons for a time our children will play just because they want to. I think your post may be what it takes to convince my husband that painting the piano (I’ve suggested many times) is not crazy. It’s awesome. Sorry for the long comment. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. I got your ‘wink’ and I for one – who’ve studied piano forever AND am a former English teacher – LOVE the new, hip integrity you brought to this piece of art! Fun stuff

  10. I love it! We had an upright piano growing up that my mom painted red. It was so festive. Reminds me of that. I love it when people aren’t afraid to paint something just because it is wood.

  11. Very impressive!! So, for clarification (in case I want to copy you!), did you go w/ Yellow Green or Grass Green? I think we might have ourselves a Memorial Day weekend project . . .

  12. i LOVE it! :) I wish so badly I’d held onto my childhood piano…but I do love our used studio grand… but you’re right that the high gloss black is SO formal and SO dusty most of the time. :)

  13. Oh, Gabby, I love it. I really do. OF COURSE it is getting played more now. It is irresistible! You’ve made that piano very happy and created a happy spot in your home.

  14. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!! I’ve always wanted a piano in the home – even though it has been years since I have played. I would paint mine pink (where that would fit in my family home decor…I dunno) I admire you for having the courage to do it! Stay Fabulous Design Mom!

  15. I love this! And I have always wanted a red piano, so this is absolutely inspiring.

    But did you sand yours first? Did I miss reading that step?

  16. I love it! You may have just inspired me to finally paint ours black like I’ve been wanting to do for years…. But did you sand it all or just start with the primer?

  17. So cool…sounds like you have inspired a lot of other piano owners to jazz theirs up, too. May be you could open a second hand piano store where every piano is a different color. Call the store “Rainbow Connection” after the muppets’ song, or something more witty. Just a crazy thought. Makes me wish I had taken piano lessons when I was younger. ;)

  18. I love the green. I’ve wanted to paint my piano forever, but couldn’t decide between red, aqua or a lima bean. I think you are converting me to green. Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. I love this idea so much I totally want to do it, but getting my husband on board would probably take years.

    I have a request–could you post a few more pics of how it looks from farther away? I’m just wondering just how big of an impact it makes in a room. We’re moving into a smaller house today and so I’m just curious what it would do to the space. I think everyone would love it if you’d post a few more, it looks great!

  20. I wouldn’t think the idea of a green piano would look great, but it does!!! I love how it takes a traditional piece and makes it look so young and kid friendly!

  21. That is the most amazing thing! I would never in a million years thought to paint a piano. And I thought it would be a million years before I could afford one. Now I’m on the hunt for one someone else thinks is beyond repair!

  22. We are moving in a few months and I am so looking forward to the refreshing task of decorating a new home. I love the green piano. A few weeks ago I decided to paint a side table orange… a little too orange once I was done. It is now green and I love it.

  23. I LOVE this. I have a piano that looks almost identical to yours (pre paint!) and I really want to paint mine now… I also teach lessons so I think it would be great to be the lady with the cute piano!! Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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