How to paint pegboard - A definitive DIY guide | Madd Tools

How to paint pegboard - A definitive DIY guide

December 23, 2019

Pegboards are gaining in popularity, and for good reason. They are not only a great storage system for workshops or garages, people are finding great ways to use pegboards in kitchens, bathrooms, kids rooms and pantries. And as the use of pegboards expands to various rooms in your home, it's important that we can customize their look and feel to compliment each unique environment.

Can you paint pegboard?

- Yes, you can! However - there's a few guidelines to take into consideration. Even more so when 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 a foolproof guide to painting your pegboard the right way.

What we'll talk about 

  1. What paint to use
  2. Importance of primer paint
  3. What other supplies are required
  4. How to prep your board
  5. How to apply the paint
Please note that we're first discussing painting classic brown MDF perforated hardboard. For instructions on painting galvanized steel pegboard, please scroll down to the end of this article.

Painting brown MDF pegboard 

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)

 I'm assuming you already own a pegboard that you're looking to paint. Don't have a pegboard yet? Try and find light colored or white pegboard. Most pegboard 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.

Classic brown MDF
Classic brown MDF

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.

What type of paint should you use?

There's a few things to keep in mind when shopping for paint.

    1. MDF does not mix well with water. For that reason, it's not advisable to use water-based primer. Instead, go for 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. When painting pegboard, I would advise you to use a paint gun (or spray paint) over rollers.


And here, you'll find the best, indestructible pegboard hooks & accessories in the world.


Pegboard supplies

When using rollers, it will be much easier to get the pegboard holes clogged up. 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.

Spray Gun, Färgpistol, Airbrush, Painting, Nozzle



Waterproof 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 pro results, however, I would recommend going over your board with sandpaper for a few minutes using medium grit sandpaper (Around 220 grit). The most important part to sand are 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 (if you're reading this during a pandemic, chances are you're already wearing one!) and do the task in a properly ventilated area.

Be sure to make the area completely dust free. Especially when opting for spray paint, 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. I know, 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. 

Important note

When manoeuvring pegboard, it is almost unavoidable to hit surface with the corner of your pegboard. Try and be mindful to place the pegboard parallel with the floor, grass or any surface you're placing the board on. A light bump at a slight angle can and will damage the corner of the MDF board - and that'll decrease the quality of the final output of your pegboard-job. 

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

"Do I really need primer?" Course you do, dummy!

    1. Most MDF board is dark brown, so it would take a substantial amount of colored paint to hide that tint. You'll always want to use the minimum amount of paint necessary to do the job. 
    2. 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. 
    3. MDF board is often not completely smooth. Applying primer will smoothen the surface, making it much easier to spray paint the board afterwards. 

At Madd Tools, we've tested multiple primers and found this one to be the best one.

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 this - also when applying the primer. When using a roller, be sure to apply a thin coat - again, not to clog up the pegboard holes.



Waterproofing tip

If you're planning on using this 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 with a paint of your choice

Compressor, Gun, Tool, Painting, Paint, Paint Tools

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.

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. 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 surface. You also won't have to worry about drips on the surface.


Make sure the primer is completely dry before applying the first coat of paint. Keep these tips in the back of your head when spray painting:

  • Make sure the area is dust-free. I 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 vaccuum 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.
  • Spray from 10-12 inches away from the board to avoid drips. This will also avoid holes getting clogged up.

- But.. I don't have a spray gun or even spray cans. Can I just use traditional painting methods? 

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, you'll be fitting in hooks, you'll occasionally scratch 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 galvanised, 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. 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 imperfection, dust particle or inconsistency 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 a type of paint
You may want to choose a type of paint that's designed for paint 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 I mentioned the spray gun before?
Ideally you'll now start to paint - and I 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 in order to be able to place them back more easily once you're done using them. You can also use it to write motivational quotes or DIY and craft goals. 

Oh, by the way... Have you downloaded our free eBook yet? It's full of handy, space-saving pegboard tips. And it's free to download for our readers.



James from MADD TOOLS


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