How to Handpaint Knobs for a Room

Handpainted decorative hardware is everywhere--and it's not cheap! Follow these simple instructions to get the designer look yourself.


  1. Image titled Prepare the knob Step 1
    Prepare the knobs. Unfinished knobs are available in a variety of materials, each requiring a different preparation. Wooden knobs will need to be sanded lightly with 220 grit sandpaper to remove any surface irregularities. You may prefer not to use primer if you like the grain of the wood to show through a bit. Metal knobs will need to be primed with a spray metal primer (i.e. Rust Oleum). Resin knobs require the least prep--a light sanding with 220 grit if the surface is uneven. No primer required--just start painting!
  2. Image titled Base the knob with 2 3 coats of paint Step 2
    Base the knobs with 2-3 coats of paint. It's best to keep paint off the bottom of the knob (the part that will go against the drawer or cabinet face) as this can cause a ridge that makes it hard to get the knob to screw in tightly. Let each coat dry thoroughly before re-coating.
  3. Image titled Design the knob Step 3
    Design your knob. It's best to figure this out before you start painting. Keep it simple or go wild. Look at fabrics or wallpaper in the room for inspiration. In the beginning, keep it simple! A couple lines for a stripe, a few more for a plaid. You can base your designs on the fabrics and wallpaper in the room. Just take the original material to your local copy shop, (along with the knob for scale) and reduce or enlarge them to fit the knob.
  4. Image titled Make a pattern Step 4
    Make a pattern. Trace the knob shape onto paper, then transfer your design to the traced shape. You can transfer this design to the knob after you've basecoated it by using graphite paper, or you can do it freehand.
  5. Image titled Decorate your knob Step 5
    Decorate your knob. Here's the fun part. If you transferred your design with the graphite paper it'll be just like those paint-by-number projects you did when you were a kid. Keep a damp sponge handy--if you don't like what you've painted, and you've let your earlier coats dry completely--you can wipe off anything you don't like. Just do it quickly. If it's dried and you're not happy, just grab some sandpaper and take it down to what you do like!
  6. Image titled Varnish the knob Step 6
    Varnish your knobs when you've got them just the way you like them. Use 4-5 coats for a kid's room. Also be sure to use water-based varnish. It dries quickly, it's really durable and it's safer for kids to be around.
  7. Image titled Doing handpainted knobs Intro


  • Have fun. Paint's cheap. Sand it if you're not happy and do it again.
  • You could use templates to help.
  • In the beginning it can be hard to make each knob exactly alike. An easy solution--make each one different! Mix and match your patterns--a flower on one, stripes on another, plaid on another.
  • For perfect color matching use leftover latex paint from the walls and trim.
  • If the decorative painting is more challenging than you're up for, buy unfinished shaped knobs. Then you can just follow the inherent design contours and not worry about patterns. Instant success!


  • The single thing that leads to success or failure is the consistency of the paint. If it's too thick you can't get a smooth line or soft edge (think Van Gogh's Sunflowers!). If it's too thin you can't get a consistent line. The paint should flow off the brush smoothly and easily--you've heard it before--like heavy cream. But if you're having problems, play around with the paint consistency; add a little water and see how you like it.

Things You'll Need

  • Unfinished drawer knobs or pulls
  • Tracing and/or graphite paper (if desired for making your patterns)
  • Paint--latex house paint or acrylics artist colors
  • Water-based polyurethane (i.e. Diamond brand)
  • Artist paint brushes: 1" flat for basing and finishing, #5 round for decorating
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Primer - appropriate for the surface you're painting on.

Article Info

Categories: Decorative Home Paintwork