A Definitive DIY Guide to Painting Pegboards

custom pegboard

Let’s find out how to paint pegboard.

Pegboards are skyrocketing in popularity – with good reason too. Not only are they a great storage system for workshops or garages, but people are also finding great ways to use pegboards in kitchens, bathrooms, kids’ rooms and pantries. Because the use of pegboards expands to various rooms in your home, it’s important that you can customize their look and feel to complement each unique environment.

At PegBoarder, we believe the best way to do so is with our custom pegboard service. Simply choose your own color and design to save time and get the best results. However, we understand that some people prefer the hands-on approach. That’s why this article will outline everything you need to know about painting a pegboard.

Can you paint pegboards?

Yes, you can! However – there’s a few guidelines to take into consideration. Even more so when your pegboard is used in more humid areas such as bathrooms. It’s important that we adhere to a few rules that will guarantee the longevity of your painted pegboard.

Here’s what we’ll discuss in our fool-proof guide to painting your pegboard the right way:

  1. The best paint for pegboards
  2. What other supplies are required
  3. How to prep your board
  4. Importance of primer paint
  5. The best way to paint a pegboard
  6. Painting galvanized steel
  7. Some pegboard painting ideas!

Please note that we’ll first be discussing how to paint a classic brown MDF perforated hardboard. For instructions on painting a galvanized steel pegboard, please scroll down to the end of this article.


Painting brown MDF pegboard


This is our boring MDF sheet bought in home depot.

This is that same boring sheet of MDF with a splash of (PegBoarder-)red paint on it!


Step 1 – Get the right supplies

What you’ll need for sure:

– 220 grit sandpaper
– Dust mask
– Spray paint gun (Alternatively: spray cans or roller)
– Solvent-based primer
– Paint
– Drop cloths
– Duct tape (if you’re feeling creative and applying multiple colors)

One addition to that list is a pegboard that you want to paint. Don’t have a pegboard yet? Try and find a light colored or white pegboard. Most pegboards in the home improvement department will be dark brown. The lighter your board, the easier and quicker it’ll be to paint it and give it that consistent color.

Obviously, you’ll need to pick a paint color before anything. While the first instinct would be to pick a color that would blend in with the wall or surroundings, you can obtain great results by going for a contrasting color. If you’re feeling brave, you might pick multiple colors and paint different parts of the board in different colors or use stencils to create patterns on your board. Be aware that you’ll need to use duct tape to cover off different parts of the pegboard if you’re looking to achieve a clean result.

Best paint for pegboard

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for pegboard paint:

    1. MDF does not mix well with water. For that reason, it’s not advisable to use water-based primer. Instead, go for a solvent-based primer, such as Zinsser or XIM.
    2. Once your pegboard is primed and sealed off properly, you’re good to use your favorite water-based or non-water-based paint to finish off painting your pegboard. Once priming is out of the way, finding the best paint for pegboard is simply a case of using a trusted brand, checking reviews and choosing a color that you love!
    3. When painting pegboard, we would recommend using a paint gun (or spray paint) over rollers. When using rollers, it will be much easier to get the pegboard holes clogged up, which makes it harder to fill your board with all your pegboard accessories once it’s painted. By using a paint gun or spray paint the right way this can be avoided. Ideally, you’ll use a professional paint sprayer. If you don’t have this, cans of spray paint will do the trick.

Waterproof your pegboard

MDF reacts terribly to water. If you want your board to be water resistant, it’s advised to paint both sides and the edges with primer and glossy paint. As a rule of thumb – the glossier the paint, the more water-resistant your board will be. More information on waterproofing comes later in the article.


Step 2 – Prep the pegboard panel

MDF is generally smooth, so it doesn’t require much sanding. If you’re looking for professional results, however, it’s best to go over your pegboard with sandpaper for a few minutes using medium grit sandpaper (around 220 grit). The most important part to sand is the edges and corners of the panel, because non-smooth edges will not soak up the paint as well.

When sanding, be sure to wear a face mask and do the task in a properly ventilated area. While it might seem trivial, tiny particles will be released when sanding, which can make their way into your airwaves. As well as the wood itself, those particles contain anything the material has been treated with, which could lead to toxic particles entering your body – best to avoid for sure!

Before painting your pegboard, be sure to make the area completely dust free. Especially when opting to spray paint your pegboard, dust is a huge buzz kill. Your paint might dry up, only for little dust particles to come off the board and leave paint-less spots – we’ve all been there!

It goes without saying that you should put old newspapers or plastic cover underneath the surface that you’re about to give a new color. This is simply to protect the floor or carpet underneath. Trust us, it’s impossible to paint anything without a couple of drips – and you’ll enjoy the pegboard painting experience much more if your floors are protected.

Important note

When maneuvering pegboard, it is almost unavoidable to hit surfaces with the corner of your board. That might be a wall as you turn the board around, a doorframe as you move it from room to room or even the floor as you put the pegboard down.

This isn’t just an issue for the surface you’re knocking. A light bump at a slight angle can and will damage the corner of the MDF board – and that will decrease the quality of the final output of your pegboard painting job.

Try and be mindful by placing the pegboard parallel with the floor, grass or any surface you’re placing it on. Wherever possible, get another person to help you move your pegboard, even if it’s just to guide the way by opening doors or moving obstacles.


Step 3 – Apply solvent-based primer (with a spray gun)

“Do I really need primer?” Course you do! Most MDF board is dark brown, so it would take a substantial amount of colored paint to hide that tint. It goes without saying that you’ll always want to use the minimum amount of paint necessary to do the job. Fewer coats will reduce the overall cost of the job, as well as the effort involved.

A coat of primer will not only reduce the number of paint coats needed for good coverage and even color but it also improves the waterproofing of the finish. Just a thin layer of paint without primer may still be permeable to water. Water can penetrate into the MDF and cause dry rot and warping.

Especially when living in humid areas (such as parts of Texas or Louisiana) it’s important not to underestimate the amount of damage long term humidity can do to your pegboard. On top of that, MDF board is often not completely smooth. Applying primer will smoothen the surface, making it much easier to spray paint the pegboard afterwards.

Go easy on the primer, we just want to apply a thin coat. A thick coat is waste of primer – and might get the holes clogged up. Let the primer dry according to the instructions. As discussed in the next point, a paint gun is the absolute best option for painting a pegboard, and also when applying the primer. If you’re using a roller, be sure to apply a thin coat – again, to avoid clogging up the pegboard holes.

Waterproofing tip

If you’re planning on using your pegboard in a humid area such as a kitchen or bathroom (or a humid workspace) you’ll want to ensure some extra waterproofing when painting your board.

In this case, you’ll want to treat both sides of the board. Be sure to apply primer to the back of the board as well as to the front. If you don’t, water particles will enter the board from the backside.


Step 4 – Paint the surface of your pegboard

Once your pegboard is primed and sealed off properly, you’re good to use your favorite water-based or non-water-based paint to finish off painting your pegboard. Here’s how to paint a pegboard for the best results:

  • Make sure the primer is completely dry before applying the first coat of paint.
  • Make sure the area is dust-free. We can’t stress this enough! Especially when working in a workshop where carpentry happens and dust settles – it’s worth going in there with a vacuum cleaner before starting to paint.
  • Apply coats in different directions. This will generally result in a better coverage with less ‘stripes’.
  • Cover with multiple light coats rather than filling up all the lighter spots in one go. It might be tempting to fill up lighter spots all at once, but you should really try to avoid this. Accept that good spray painting might take a couple of layers and a bit more time.
  • If you’re spraying, keep the spray 10-12 inches away from the board to avoid drips. This will also avoid holes getting clogged up.


Best way to paint pegboard – spray vs rollers

A professional spray gun offers multiple advantages over painting with a brush or using spray cans:

  1. Spray coating is applied in thin layers. This makes small imperfections and scratches less visible.
  2. Spraying is usually cleaner because the paint dries faster. Paint applied by a spray dries faster than paint applied with traditional painting methods. This not only saves you time – but minimizes the time that dust can settle on your board.
  3. No clogging up of the holes. When you spray paint a pegboard, you’re able to adjust air pressure, fluid flow and fan size to make sure that you’re applying light coats to the surface of your board that won’t result in clogging up the holes in your pegboard.
  4. No brush stroke patterns in your board. Spraying results in a consistently colored pegboard. You also won’t have to worry about drips on the surface.

As mentioned previously with the primer, you can use a paint roller for the finish paint layer as well. In this case, use a high quality and/or new roller that will not leave any traces of hairs or dried-up paint residue on the board.

Also be sure to apply thin layers on the board, again, to avoid clogging up the holes. In comparison to painting a bedroom wall, here you’re painting a ‘high impact’ surface. You’ll be placing tools on and off the board, fitting in hooks, and occasionally scratching the surface. A patient and consistent paint job consisting of multiple thin paint layers will substantially increase the lifespan of your paint job.


Painting a galvanized steel pegboard


Recently, people have been switching over to galvanized steel pegboard. It makes sense – there’s less wear and tear and it’s stronger than the MDF counterpart.

If you’ve ever attempted to paint a galvanized metal before, you’ll know that it’s not simple. After steel has been galvanized, a layer of zinc is left on the metal to prevent corrosion. This layer of zinc eventually causes peeling when painted over.

That doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to paint galvanized steel pegboards. You should be good, as long as you adhere to a few important steps:

Step #1 – Smoothen the pegboard panel
Make sure to remove any imperfections, dust particles or inconsistencies on the board. It can pay dividends to stroke the panel lightly with a steel brush.

Step #2 – Apply vinegar to the pegboard panel
Wipe your pegboard panel down with vinegar. That’s right, vinegar. Why? First of all, it’s mighty convenient as you should have a bottle laying around in your kitchen. It’s also cheaper than most industrial solvents. And, worth mentioning, it’s a lot safer as well. Use a vinegar-soaked rag to wipe down the surface of the panel. Due to the acidic nature of the vinegar, the steel surface will become more adhesive to paint afterwards.

Step #3 – Choose the best paint for galvanized pegboards
You may want to choose a type of paint that’s designed for painting galvanized surfaces. Some types of paints will need a primer, such as acrylic latex paint. It’s important to note that you’d best stay away from alkyd-based or oil-based primer.

Step #4 – Have we mentioned the spray gun before?
Ideally, you’ll now start to paint – and we can recommend the spray paint gun for that. As mentioned before, the spray paint gun will allow you to paint more evenly than traditional brushes would.

Pegboard tool outline – pro tip:

Have you ever heard of ‘chalk paint‘? You can apply this paint to your pegboard, so you’re actually able to write on it! You can then use chalk to outline your tools, allowing them to be placed back more easily once you’re done using them. You can also use it to write motivational quotes or DIY and craft goals.


Painted pegboard ideas

Now we’ve covered the how to paint a pegboard, it’s time to get inspired. In truth, the best way to paint your pegboard depends on your personal preferences – it’s all about you. But it’s also worth considering how much time you want to put into the painting project.

It goes without saying that the simplest painted pegboard idea is a block color. While it sounds basic, there’s no better way to make sure you’re happy to see your pegboard every time you go to grab something from it. Remember that there will be plenty of hooks and accessories on your pegboard, so it won’t look boring or empty with just the one color.

Alternatively, you can use multiple colors to give your pegboard a layered look. Why not color code different parts of the pegboard depending on what you’re storing? Blue for work tools. Green for gardening bits. Red for stationery. Or have two or three block colors to give each person their own area of the pegboard.

Finally, and this takes some skill – a custom pattern. Birds, bees, flowers, trees, lines, stars, or a completely custom work of art. The choice is yours. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of time and patience to get it right!


An alternative to painting your pegboard

With our guide on how to paint a pegboard, you’ll have everything you need to know to achieve the best results. And it can be hugely satisfying transforming your existing pegboard into a vibrant, personalized piece. That said, there is an easier way.

At PegBoarder, our custom pegboard service allows you to choose any color or design you like – then let us do the hard work to create a pegboard that’s 100% you. Choose from a gallery of existing artwork or create your pegboard from scratch, with a choice of premium birch plywood or standard MDF in a full range of sizes.

And our product range doesn’t end there. We stock pegboard hooks and accessories – and so much more!

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