One of the easiest and cheapest ways to update a bathroom is to with paint. You can paint the walls, sure, but why not paint mirror frames, fixtures, lights, towel holders, and even doorknobs?
What’s “in” can change pretty quickly – much quicker than your lights, doorknobs, or mirror frames break or stop working. Rather than wasting money on buying new and figuring out how to switch them out, you can easily update what you already have without breaking the bank.
Our bathroom needed a refresh but just wasn’t in the budget, since we’re focusing on the kitchen. So instead, we chose to go after some small and simple wins by choosing to renew pieces rather than replace them.
One of the pieces we focused on renewing was our bathroom mirror. My husband hated the silver, heavy finish, and candidly, it was pretty dated.
So with a couple of hours to kill and $20 burning a hole in my pocket, I set off to paint the mirror frame.
How to Paint an Old Mirror Frame
What paint do I use to paint a mirror frame?
There are a lot of different options out there, and this is a small enough project that it’s perfect for trying something new.
While I did a mix of chalk paint, acrylic, and wax in layers on my mirror frame, you can easily try something else. Some paint ideas include:
I love, love using chalk paint on mirror frames because they tend to have a lot of details and crevices. It makes it easy to layer colors, play with tinted wax, and build a layered look to your color palette. Plus, you don’t have to use a primer with chalk paint. It adheres great to wood, metal, and plastic mirror frames.
If you’re not looking for a lot of layered color or dimension, spray paint can work. You can get it textured, matte, metallic, hammered and even chalkboard. Plus, some spray paints have primer and paint in one, so you don’t always have to use a primer. Spray paint would work if your mirror frame is flat without a lot of crevices or detail work, and you can easily remove it from the wall.
If you have a wall color that you love, you can use latex paint on your mirror frame. Make sure to use a foam roller to avoid brush strokes. I would only recommend this if your frame is relatively plain and doesn’t require a lot of brushwork. Also, you’ll need to use a primer to get solid coverage. If your mirror belongs in a bathroom or an area with high moisture, consider latex paint specifically for bathrooms.
If your mirror frame is wood, you can sand down the old stain (or paint) and restain it with a stain like this. Sanding, restaining, and sealing can be time-intensive but will produce a beautiful wood finish.
This paint often comes in a powder that you mix to create your perfect hue. Since mirror frames are small, this could be an excellent opportunity to try out milk paint. It produces a more ‘chippy’ look and will distress more over time. Milk paint also ages over time, creating a sheen that gives it an authentic antique look.
Salt wash is perfect if you want an aged and antiqued look. It creates a very textured surface that makes the piece look like it’s been sitting out in the sea air and sun for ages. Combining salt wash with any of the paints above creates a unique and beautiful piece!
If you want to learn how to paint a mirror frame antique gold, try gold leaf. Once painted, you apply thin sheets of gold leaf to create a beautiful and luxurious finish. If you’re want to change a gold mirror frame to silver or bronze, they make silver and bronze leaf as well. The gold leaf look can be acheived with paint without the work – I would recommend using something like this paint.
What you will need to paint a mirror frame:
To paint this mirror frame, I used chalk paint since I knew I could create some beautiful textures and layers with the details of the frame. My frame is plastic, so I knew that chalk paint would be easier to use since I wouldn’t have to mess with a primer.
- Chalk Paint (this is your base/primary color, I chose this white)
- Various brushes (small are great for crevices, big for quick coverage; I had cheap ones like this sponge one and these brushes)
- Chalk paint wax (this is the tint that goes in the cracks, I used a dark one like this)
- Painter’s tape and cardboard (if leaving mirror in the frame)
- Screwdriver (if removing the mirror)
- Acrylic or metallic paints for dry brushing/highlights (optional)
How to protect a mirror when painting a frame
My mirror and frame are the door of a medicine cabinet. Luckily, I was able to use a screwdriver to dismantle the frame and remove it entirely from the door.
On the inside of the door were screws around the entire oval. I removed the screws from the top so that I could slide out the glass part of the mirror before removing the plastic frame. I then placed the mirror in a safe place (ekkk!), removed the rest of the screws, and popped off the mirror frame.
If your frame doesn’t come off, try removing the full door/mirror.
If you can’t remove the mirror from the frame, you’ll want to cut a piece of cardboard to place over the mirror area. Then, you’ll use painter’s tape to tape under the edge of the frame, so that paint doesn’t end up on the mirror.
An alternative idea: Another interesting idea is to use vaseline, however, then you have to worry about it getting on the frame and preventing the paint from sticking well, especially since vaseline can be used to distress chalk paint. Plus, then you have to clean vaseline off your mirror, which seems like it could be a smeary pain in the butt.
Next, prep your mirror frame for painting.
If you’re choosing to stain a wood frame, now is when you would use a sander or sandpaper to strip the wood down. Once the sanding is done, make sure to wipe the frame down with a damp cloth or a tack cloth to remove all the bits of dust. If you don’t, your paint job will be a bumpy, hot mess!
If you’re painting your frame (whether metal, wood, or plastic), wipe it down and clean it with a damp cloth or Magic Eraser. This removes any stray toothpaste chunks, dirt, or gunk that’s made its way onto the frame over the years.
Paint your base coat.
I chose FolkArt’s White Adirondack and put down two layers with a small sponge brush. Using a sponge kept the frame from having brushstrokes that would create a different texture than I wanted.
Here’s the mirror frame after one coat of chalk paint:
And after the second coat of chalk paint:
Now that I have my base down, I could do several things. I could add some wax (from a candle) or vaseline to create spots where I can show this bottom color through. I did that on this dresser, to show the blue through.
If I did a second chalk paint color, I could paint and wipe to show some of the base color. Or, I could let it dry and sand where I’ve added the vaseline/candle wax to create a chunkier removal of paint, as I did here.
However, for this project, I decided to just stick with one chalk paint for the mirror frame to keep it from being too heavy and dark.
Next, use wax to seal the frame.
Since we have rubbed oil bronze in our bathroom, I decided to pull some brown into the mirror frame. I did this by sealing the frame with brown wax.
You can see it best in the coils around the frame here:
Wax comes in various colors, including clear, white, brown, and even grey. It will give a beautiful tint to your piece. Remember that wax settles in the cracks and crevices of your frame, so that’s the color you’ll see in those areas.
To use the wax, brush it on over a small area. Then, use a clean white cloth to wipe it off.
Bonus Tip for Using Wax: If the brown is too dark, you can mix your wax with clear wax before brushing it on. Or, if you’ve already brushed and wiped your brown wax off, you can brush on a clear wax over the top. Then, use the cloth to wipe and help pick up and remove some of the brown wax. Using the clear wax will help soften that heavier color.
Once you’re done with your wax layer, you want to let it dry overnight. Then you’re going to want to use a soft, white cloth to buff the wax to a dull shine.
Add some highlights to your frame.
You can choose to stop here, but since I was attempting to match the rubbed oil bronze look, I opted to do some dry brushing of highlights.
Dry brushing is a method where you use very little paint to highlight spots of your frame. Start with a dry brush and dab the tip in the paint. Then, you’re going to use a paper towel to dab the brush onto to remove any excess paint.
You want to make sure the brush is dry and not saturated with paint. Once you have most of the color off, you’re going to hit the high parts of the frame to create a highlight with your accent color. I went through and did a round with a beautiful rose gold metallic paint:
And then the second dry brush was with a metallic bronze acrylic paint:
If you feel like it’s too much of a highlight, use a cloth to wipe off the excess. You just want to hit the high points of the mirror frame with paint to give it a little pop.
Seal the entire frame (optional).
If you’re feeling especially froggy, you can then seal the entire frame with a coat of clear wax. This wax layer ensures that all the layers of paint set and are covered.
The final wax coat is entirely optional and up to you! At this point, I just wanted to get the finished piece back in place – and then mirror back in the frame before a kid or cat knocked it over!
Clean the mirror.
Now that your mirror is done, remove any painter’s tape and cardboard. If you got paint on the mirror, no worries! The easiest way to remove any paint is to use a flat razor blade like this one to scrap off the paint. Luckily you aren’t likely to scratch the mirror since it’s flat to the surface when it scrapes.
As a final step, make sure to use window cleaner (or vinegar and water) to clean the glass after you’re all done. Here’s the final outcome:
Now that you know how to paint a metal, wooden or plastic mirror frame, what do you plan to try out? Leave a note in the comments below!