How to Paint a Piano – Step by Step Instructions

We all love our pianos, but sometimes you really want your piano to have a new color.  But if you don’t want to buy a new piano with a different color or finish, you might just be wondering how you can change the color yourself.  So, in this article, you’ll learn how to paint a piano by yourself, as we provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how you can make your piano feel brand new—even if it’s old.

What You’ll Need to Paint a Piano

Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • A bucket of soapy water
  • Rags (enough to keep some dry throughout the process)
  • Drop cloths (several)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Sandpaper (depending on the existing finish of the piano)
  • Two cans of your paint of choice
  • A wide painting brush
  • Some smaller painting brushes of varying sizes (for smaller nooks and crannies)
  • Paint sprayer (optional)
  • Wax (specifically for pianos)
  • Lint-free rag

How to Paint a Piano Yourself: Step by Step Instructions

1) Clean the Piano

The last thing you want is to paint over a dirty piano, especially if you’re going to do a varnish or aim for a glossy finish. If there are big dust or dirt particles, odds are you’ll paint over them, trapping them to the wood of the piano, making the paint job look ugly or rushed. 

So, first, use soapy water and rags (wring out the rags) to wipe down the piano; make sure you don’t miss any spots and pay attention to areas that may seem hard to reach!

When you’re done, wipe the piano down with a dry rag so it doesn’t stain.

2) Protect the Inner Piano and Surrounding Areas

Although you’re going to paint the entirety of the piano body, there are a couple parts of the piano that absolutely can’t be touched with any of the products you’ll be using. The most important section is the inside of the piano—the inside is comprised of thousands of small, very delicate pieces. Getting paint or gloss on any of them could cost several hundred or thousand dollars to fix.

Use a drop cloth secured with painter’s tape to protect the inside of the piano. You’ll need to open the top and make sure that it’s virtually impossible for anything to accidentally drip inside. 

When in doubt, use more tape and more cloth, so long as it doesn’t inhibit your ability to paint the outside. You’re also going to want to take the same level of care in covering and securing the keys (with another drop cloth and painter’s tape). 

Additionally, it’s advisable to place a large drop cloth underneath the piano. Painting a piano can get messy, and it’s difficult to avoid getting anything on the surrounding floors.  

Now, I know if you’re painting an acoustic piano, that you’re going to be dealing with a very heavy acoustic piano.  So, it’s probably wise to just place a drop cloth under the piano and around the legs, rather than trying to left the legs of the piano itself.  You don’t want to cause yourself an injury here, so be smart and err on the side of caution.  Getting a little paint on your rug or hardwood floor is far better than suffering a back injury.  Be careful and be smart.

3) Remove High Gloss Finish

This step will depend on the current finish of your piano. If there is no high gloss finish, you don’t have to sand it down, though it may improve the overall texture and painting process of the piano (I would recommend doing some additional research on sanding the piano if you don’t have to remove any sort of finish). 

If you do have a high gloss finish, you’ll have to sand off the gloss before you paint. If you paint directly onto the gloss, it won’t hold the paint well. 

If you need to sand, use a fine grit sandpaper. Once you’re done sanding a section, wipe it down with a dry rag to clear the dust and ensure you haven’t missed any spots. If you miss a spot and the gloss remains, the paint will hold unevenly. 

4) Apply a Coat of Primer

You’re probably going to need to apply a coat of primer before you start actually painting. Some specialty paints can work without a primer, but most of them do need one.  I recommend heading to your local hardware store and asking for their advice when you’re purchasing your cans of paint. 

When priming, you’ll want to apply the primer with a wide brush on all surfaces of the piano and wait for it to dry (this should take around an hour). 

5) Painting Your Piano Yourself

You’ll probably need two cans of paint for your piano, unless you’re working with a larger than average instrument (like a grand piano). If you don’t want to use matte or gloss, you could always use chalk paint! Although it’s not a very common method, it’s fun for a very creative project—it makes your instrument stand out, and you can draw on it, if you’d like to decorate it or add your own style. 

If you want a demonstration on how to paint a piano with chalk paint, check out the video below:

You’ll need to apply at least two coats, and you’ll need to wait for the first coat to dry before you apply the second coat. You can use a wide brush (this is the most common option), but some people prefer using a spray painter to minimize the texture of the brushstrokes. 

Don’t confuse this with spray paint—spray paint will most likely damage the wood, and it will be harder to keep out of the inside of the piano and the keys. However, a spray painter applies even coats of paint, where brushes can sometimes leave distinct brushstrokes that may not be appealing. 

Although you’ll need at least two, you can apply coats of paint until you’re happy with the result. Make sure you always wait for the previous coat to fully dry before applying another one. Once you’ve decided you’re happy with the result, leave the piano to dry overnight to ensure that it’s completely ready for the final steps.

6) Wax Your Piano

You’ll need some wax specifically safe for pianos—this outer layer will protect the paint and guard against what would be minor scratches or bumps. You’ll need a lint-free rag (to make sure no dust or lint gets trapped under the wax, as well). 

Dip the rag in the wax and use circular motions to wax the piano—you’ll need to cover every surface. Wipe off any excess clumps of wax when you’re done—do this before it can dry onto the piano. Wait for it to completely dry before you use it; consider letting it dry overnight again, to be sure. 

Different Ways to Paint

Although the most common pianos come in finishes of matte or high gloss, there are several to choose from. Matte and gloss options both have their pros and cons—matte paint works better to hide damages and imperfections, while gloss highlights them. 

However, gloss is much more eye-catching than matte paint, if that’s what you’re going for. If you’re not sure which paint is right for you, I’d encourage you to call around some local piano shops with some pictures of your piano to see what they think.  It’s always a great idea to ask professionals for their thoughts and opinions.

Will Painting a Piano Harm It?

Can you damage a piano by painting it?

Painting the piano will not harm it if you do it correctly and if it’s properly protected. You’re going to cause a lot of damage if you don’t protect the keys or the inside of the piano, but if you stick to the body alone, you should be in a much better state.


Although it may seem daunting to paint a piano without a professional, it really is doable, and you can go as fast or slow as you feel comfortable. Sometimes it can be difficult to narrow down exactly how to paint a piano with all the various tools and combinations and options at your disposal, but just remember that as long as you protect the inside of the piano, its keys, and the instruments’ foot pedals, you should be good to go.

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