How to Decorate Lamp Shades

A plain lampshade is like a blank canvas, just waiting for the artist’s creative touch. The best type for decorating is a simple shape made of plain smooth fabric or thick paper. If you are experimenting, it is best to use the least expensive type because you will feel less restricted knowing that failure won’t cost a fortune. A fabulous result can always be repeated on a better quality shade.
Mix colourful hand-painted stripes with pieces of velvet ribbon to an old lampshade to give a rich variety of texture and colour.
This lampshade has been enhanced by an Elizabethan border design, applied using a combination of sponge and stencil techniques. The pattern would also look sumptuous using a deep blue or red with gold.
Stencils, stamps or freehand brushstrokes can be used to paint colourful motifs and patterns. The simplest are often the most effective and it is worth trying a light behind the shade to see how the pattern will show up at night. Try a pattern of dots, zigzags and stripes in earthy colours on a cream background to give an African look, or use black silhouettes on a terracotta-coloured shade for a classical Greek effect. Sky-blue stripes on a white shade look really fresh and burnt-orange patterns on a yellow shade seem like instant sunshine. Before you embark on the whole shade, first paint a small area to check the effect on the fabric or paper.
Photocopy a black and white image, then make copies to cut out for a decoup-aged shade. Use wallpaper paste to stick the photocopied cut-outs in place on a paper shade, then apply clear varnish to give a smooth finish and prevent any curling at the edges. Another good alternative is to use your lampshade as an unusual photograph album. Stick old photographs all around the outside. They will fade with age, creating a nostalgic feel.


Armed with a glue gun and a plain shade you can really go to town. Almost anything can be stuck on to the surface or dangled from the edge. The range of trimmings available today is very extensive and you can buy fringes, ribbons, beads and baubles to suit every style.
Large shades look particularly striking dressed up with upholstery fringing and matching tassels glued around the bottom edge.
Add beautiful ribbons in shot taffeta and silk tied into swags and bows. Or use milliner’s velvet finished off with fake flowers or fruit.
Dress smaller shades with finer decorations such as borders of beadwork or fine fringing.
A border of hold buttons looks good in primary colours against a plain background and wooden or leather buttons have a solid country feel.
Alter the hard-edged shape of a shade by covering it with another material, such as coloured net (tulle) or draped butter muslin, both of which allow plenty of light through. It is best to use lightweight fabrics otherwise the softening effect will be lost when the bulb is lit.


  1. Measure the length of trimming needed to go around the shade plus a small seam allowance at each end. Stitch the seams flat to prevent the raw edges from fraying.
  2. Heat a glue gun and apply some glue to the surface of the shade. Attach the trimming immediately. You will get an instant bond as the hot glue cools on contact. If you are working with very fine trimmings it may be neater to stitch the trimming on to the shade.

Laced Lampshade

  1. Carefully cut a strip of card to use as a spacer to accurately mark the position of the holes around dye top and bottom edges of the lampshade.
  2. Set the punch to the required hole size and make a hole at each dotted mark.
  3. Attach one end of the string to the inside of the shade using the glue gun or a dab of all-purpose glue.
  4. Lace thick string in and out of the punched holes. Cut the string when you reach the end and secure it at the back with glue. Repeat with the other line
  5. These delicate-looking shades, made from Japanese handmade paper and photocopies of real leaves and flowers, match the soft glow of candlelight. They have been treated with fireproofing spray for safety.