Staircases are one of the first things guests see when they enter your home. Is your stair railing giving off the right impression? Chipped paint and dated colors can make your house look old and uninviting. Repainting your stair railing is easy and a great way to introduce the style of your home to newcomers! Whether you like classic, eclectic, or earthy color combinations, the perfect stair railing can be found in a bucket of paint.

The stair railing is an important area of your home. Its colors should not be chosen lightly. Do you want your staircase to stand out or blend in? Is this a DIY project you want to do again to keep the colors trendy? With unlimited options to choose from, settling on paint colors for your stair railing can be difficult. Get inspiration from common combinations based on your decor style.

What Style and Color Should I Use for My Stair Railing?

The style of your stair railing should complement the rest of the decor in your home. There are several color combinations you can choose from to get a contemporary, classic, eclectic, or farmhouse style. 

Stair railings are composed of 3 parts. There is the top rail that you hold on to when you walk up and down the stairs. The spindles are the thinner posts that run from the floor up to the top railing. Finally, there are the larger posts that stand at the corner of the top and bottom of the staircase. You can paint all the components of the railing the same color for a traditional look, or use different colors to create modern designs. 

Consider how the stair railing colors will look against the walls, floor, and carpet runner. Your stair railing doesn’t have to be an exact match to its surroundings, but the paint should complement the colors or patterns.

Modern: Gray, Navy Blue, or Black-Green

Trending colors are dark blue and dark green. These dark jewel tones are used in place of black to add more dimension and color. Mixing them with a popular neutral gray, will give a contemporary vibe to your stair railing. Try painting the top rail and large posts navy blue or black-green and painting the spindles gray. This will give your stair railing a touch of modernity while primarily focusing on neutrals.

Classic: Black, White, and Yellow

If you want to paint your stair railing a color that will withstand the test of time, there is nothing more classic than black, white, or yellow. Painting the entire stair railing white will hide dust and is easy to touch up. Black stair railings are bold but classic. It will make your railing an elegant statement piece. Yellow is a traditional stair railing color that responds well to sunlight. Painting your stair railing yellow is a classic design choice that will brighten up your entryway.

True Neutral: Black and White

Black and white paint combinations are the pinnacle of chic and modern. Paint the spindles black and the handrail white to elongate your staircase. The sharp contrast is startling but classy. The effect is particularly powerful on stair railings with sharp angles and clean lines.

Eclectic: Multicolor

Let your creativity shine! Pick out bright, contrasting colors to give your stair railing an eclectic look. Choose 3 deep colors, one for the top rail, one for the spindles, and one for the larger posts. Shades like fuschia, turquoise, and orange complement each other for a funky vibe.

It is also becoming popular to paint the spindles in ombre. For example, if you pick purple as the color, paint the top spindle a deep plum and progressively lighten the purple with each spindle. The last spindle (at the entrance) will be lilac. Playing with shades within the same color is a great way to embrace your eclectic style without introducing lots of colors.

Smattering: Jewel Tones or Pastels

Accent one color with neutrals. Paint the spindles a bold color like emerald green and keep the handrail and large posts white. The green will offer dimensional contrast while the neutral-white will soften the look on the eye. This is a fun way to introduce color that will not overwhelm the staircase. Unsure which color to pick for the spindles? Take a look around the rest of your house. What colors are your throw pillows and accent rugs? The best inspiration comes from design elements you already love!

Courageous Contrast

Make your stair railing the star of your home by painting it in a bright, contrasting color. If the surrounding rooms are decorated in neutrals, going bold with the stair railing is an easy way to liven up your foyer. Startling colors like pink, turquoise, and neon yellow are unexpected. They add interest and liveliness to an otherwise soft palette. Why not take a risk? You can always paint the stair railing again later!

Monochromatic Mellow

For the opposite effect of contrast, choose monochromatic colors. If you want your stair railing to blend into the background of your home, choose varying shades of gray, white, or black. Monochromatic coloring is a classic choice that complements contemporary, mid-century, and farmhouse styles. It is one of the most versatile choices for stair railing paint designs. 

Elementary Earthy

Colors from nature are always in style. Get inspiration from the green in your houseplants or the deep browns of the soil. Earthy tones are warm neutrals that provide a calming effect. You can mix various shades of green if you want a touch of eccentricity. Otherwise, choose beiges and creams accent with a deep olive for a more zen design. 

What Supplies Should I Use for Painting?

  • Smooth painting applications are only achieved when the correct supplies are used. To paint your stair railing, you will need the following materials:
  • 120 and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Degreaser 
  • Sanding blocks
  • Stain-blocking Primer
  • Fine detailing paint brushes 
  • Synthetic paint brushes
  • Lint-free, clean, dry cloths
  • Wood fillers 
  • Paint
  • Painter’s tape
  • Dropcloth or newspaper
  • Shop-Vac

Tips for Painting the Stair Railing

Stair railings have a lot of parts with small, intricate detail. The best painting method involves taking your time and consistently reviewing your work for areas that you may have missed. You want the new paint to last a long time. The durability of the finished product is based on the amount you prep the surface beforehand. Make sure you buy more paint than you need. This is helpful to have on hand for touch-ups in the future.

Clean and Prepare

Paint will not stick to dirt and grime. Stair railings are constantly exposed to oil from our hands. Using a degreaser will break down oils and built-on grime. A microfiber cloth works best at scrubbing and removing dust. Once you have cleaned the railing with a degreaser, give it a second wipe down with dish soap and warm water. Let the stair railing dry completely before you start sanding.

While you wait for the railing to dry, prep the surrounding floors and walls. Use painter’s tape to block off areas you do not want to paint. You may want to consider taping newspapers or pieces of dropcloths over your stairs. This will prevent drops of paint from staining your carpet and ruining your hardwood floors. 

And, of course, don’t forget to remind the rest of the people in your house about your DIY project! You don’t want fingerprints in the wet paint.

Smooth the Surface

Inspect the stair railings for any holes or dents. Fill any damaged areas with wood filler. Apply the wood filler directly into the hole or dent. You want to overfill a little bit as the wood filler shrinks as it dries. Allow the wood filler to harden completely. Don’t worry if it looks a little messy. You will sand over these spots with the rest of the railing. 

Wood stair railings need to be sanded so that the primer and paint can adhere properly. Start with coarse sandpaper like 100-grit. Wrapping sandpaper around a sanding block will speed up the process and protect your fingertips and nails. Sand with the 100-grit sandpaper until the railings are completely smooth. Remember to sand in the direction of the grain.

Remove Any Dust

It’s time to break out the Shop-Vac! Suck up all the dust you sanded. Use a damp rag in small areas that are hard to vacuum. If you paint over dust, you will get little bumps along the surface of the stair railing. Remove as much as you can. Besides, wiping down the railings is also a great way to double-check that you didn’t miss a spot while sanding!

Maximum Bond

Stair railings are constantly touched and pulled on. Go back over the top of the railing with an electric sander. This will make sure the wood is extra smooth and will get the best results from the primer and the paint. You can use 100 or 150-grit sandpaper for this. The goal is to get the wood so smooth you second-guess whether or not to paint it. 

Use an Oil Primer

Apply high-bonding, oil-based primer with a brush. Follow the direction of the grain and cover the stair railing in a thin, even coat of primer. Oil-based primers are best to use on stair railings because it seals over the pores in wood which creates a smoother painting surface. Oil-based primers are also better at covering knots in the wood and sealing over nailheads.

Primer serves multiple purposes as a preparation step before painting. Paint adheres better to primer than to wood. Primer will prevent the paint from chipping, peeling, and cracking. Primer also blocks stains. If your stair railings are old and discolored, a high-quality primer will stop stains from coming through the paint. This reduces the number of paint coats you need.

Next, move on to finer sandpaper, like 220-grit. Use this sandpaper to gently scuff the primer. Do not use pressure. You want to keep the railing smooth to the touch, but give the paint a little extra grip. Wipe off the dust with a microfiber cloth or towel.

Apply Multiple Coats of Paint

Wait for the primer to dry completely before you start painting. If you are painting the top rail, spindles, and posts in different colors, tape off the area you want to start with. Paint in thin, even coats. It is better to apply a lot of thin layers than one thick layer. The paint will be smoother and there will be fewer imperfections. Paint in the same direction that you applied the primer. 

It’s time to pick up the sandpaper again! Sand with 220-grit sandpaper in between coats, wiping away the dust before you start painting again. While tedious, this extra step will help to lock in each layer of paint, giving you a more durable finish. You will need to apply at least 2 coats of paint. Some colors may require 3-4 coats.

Once you have painted the last coat, use a razor blade to cut off the painter’s tape. Do not pull the tape off. This will likely crack the edges of the paint. Repeat the painting step for each color you are using on the stair railing. Make sure each area is completely dry before putting painter’s tape over it.

Give Time to Cure

The number one mistake DIYers make when painting stair railings is to rush the priming and painting process. Each coat needs to dry completely. This can take up to 24 hours per coat. The process is long, but the final results are worth it!


Painting your stair railing is a great way to liven up the entrance of your home. There are several paint combinations to choose from. Bright, contrasting colors make a bold statement. While soft neutrals and earth tones are calming and complementary. In most homes, the staircase is one of the first things guests see. Make sure you are giving off the right impression by painting your stair railing a color that best represents your style. 

Resources & Related Articles

What Color To Paint Stair Railing? [4 Design Options] – Home Decor Bliss

Stair Railing Paint Ideas – Designing Idea

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