How to Paint RV Walls

by Ashley

Use these RV interior painting ideas and tips to learn exactly how to paint RV walls. We’re breaking down the exact steps we used to paint our RV walls, cabinets and ceiling to give our camper a brand new look! This is a RV remodel project you don’t want to miss.

RV Interior Painting Ideas & Tips

Paint is one of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to transform any space. That’s especially true when it comes to remodeling an RV. Painting the interior of an RV can be intimidating, but don’t worry, you can handle the project!

Today we’re breaking down the exact process we used to paint our RV. I’m not gonna lie, it isn’t an easy – but in the end it is SO worth it! Trust me! Before we get into the steps, here’s a little before & after motivation.

Painting RV Walls – Before and After

RV mid reno ready to have interior walls painted
RV interior before paint

And here’s the same view after 2 long days of work.

RV interior walls and ceiling painted in white
RV interior after paint

See what I mean? Worth it!

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Alright, let’s get into the steps. Here’s everything you need to know before you paint RV walls (and cabinets, ceiling, trim, etc.).

How to Paint an RV Interior

How to paint rv interior walls and cabinets, a step-by-step tutorial

This post contains affiliate links, please see my disclosure here for more information.

Supplies Needed:

Step 1: Prep The Walls For Paint

Whether you’ve completely gutted your RV or just wanting to give it a fresh paint job, you’ve probably got some imperfections in the walls.

Sanding The Walls

While sanding the walls of an RV, you want to be careful not to destroy the outer layer of the RV wall panels. This outer layer seems kind of like wallpaper, but it’s actually usually made from vinyl.

It’s possible to give the whole wall a light sanding without ruining the vinyl coating, and the vinyl seam tape that you find every 4FT between wall panels. Vinyl seam tape is what hides the seams between the the interior wall panels.

I recommend using 220 grit – fine sandpaper (Amazon) to do a quick sanding on all of the wall, ceiling, and cabinet surfaces that you plan to paint. This light sanding will help the primer adhere properly to the walls and other surfaces.

Next, find and fill any holes in your walls using wood filler. We used Elmer’s Carpenter wood filler from Amazon. Our trailer had tons of random small holes from screws, especially in the areas were we removed walls, cabinets and window valances.

Once the wood filler dries, sand it down to create a smooth surface.

Wash the Walls with TSP

Once you’ve finished sanding, and filling all the holes, it’s time to clean the walls to prepare for paint.

While it’s always a good idea to wash down an area before painting, it’s extra important to do so before painting RV walls and ceilings. With all the hauling, camping, and in our case, demo-ing, the interior of RVs can get dirty quick.

RV indoor walls are notoriously difficult to paint because the it’s really difficult for the primer to adhere to the vinyl ‘wallpaper’ coating. Because of this, you want to do everything you can to help it adhere properly. Doing a light sanding helps, and then finishing your prep with a TSP wash essentially guarantees that your primer will adhere properly.

TSP is a heavy duty cleaner that is preferred by painting professionals to remove pretty much anything from any surface. Because we bought our RV used, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t any hidden grime on any of the surfaces. We used TSP on every inch (Amazon) of the interior.

The TSP worked great and it’s really easy to use. We simply followed the instructions on the packaging and mixed the powder with water, applied to the area with a sponge and then followed up with a clean sponge to rinse.

There are many important factors like temperature, and humidity that will affect how paint adheres to a surface, so make sure to follow the manufacturer recommendations for your primer and paint. See ‘Step 3: Use the Right Primer’ to see which primer I recommend.

Step 2: Tape Off Windows and Doors

To help this step go by quickly, we used a hand-masker dispenser from Amazon. The dispenser applies tape to a roll of paper in one step so you can easily tape off large windows and doors quickly.

Make sure to cover up any and all surfaces that you don’t want painted. Since we were replacing the flooring in our trailer, we didn’t have to worry about covering it up. However, if you’re not replacing your floors then you’ll need to cover them.

Step 3: RV Paint – Use the right primer!

This step is super important! Like I mentioned in the previous step, RV walls aren’t made of sheetrock like in a normal house, so you need to use a specific type of primer to prep the walls for paint. Although this isn’t specifically labeled as RV Paint – it’s perfect for the job.

Product image of KILZ adhesion bonding primer used to paint RV interior walls

We used KILZ Adhesion Bonding Primer from Amazon and highly recommend it. KILZ Adhesion is a unique latex primer developed to bond securely on slick surfaces where traditional water or oil-base primers will not adhere properly.

This couple from Mountain Modern Life used Glidden Gripper Primer (Home Depot) when remodeling and painting their class A motorhome.

Step 4: It’s time for paint!

Now that your RV walls are smooth, cleaned, and primed – you’re ready to pick a color, and start those final coats of paint.

If you want some help choosing a color, I wrote a ‘White Paint Guide’ that helps you choose the perfect paint color for your unique house or RV. The color we chose in our RV is Alabaster by Sherwin Williams (SW 7008).

Once you’ve picked a color, it’s time to choose an application method. You can choose to use a paint brush,  a roller or, my personal favorite – a paint sprayer. Each of these three options have unique advantages. However, I choose to use an airless sprayer whenever possible!

To paint the walls and ceiling, we used a paint sprayer. On the cabinets, we used a combination of the paint sprayer, and paint brushes to get even coverage around all of the corners and grooves.

Using An Airless Paint Sprayer

Using an airless paint sprayer will save a ton of time when painting large walls, ceilings, and cabinets. That time savings gets even bigger when you consider doing multiple coats.

We used a sprayer to apply almost every drop of paint inside our RV. After the initial coat of primer, we ended up spraying two coats of finish paint. If you choose to paint use a sprayer, be sure to use a respirator. Your lungs will thank you.

I was surprised at how cheap I was able to buy this Graco Magnum airless paint sprayer from the listing on Amazon. It worked extremely well for me, and I’ve used it for several projects since then. So far, it has held up great and I highly recommend it.

Depending on the color, you should be able to achieve a flawless looking finish with one coat of primer, and 1 to 2 finish coats. Using quality primer will help make this very feasible. We recommend using this high quality Kilz Adhesion Primer from Amazon.

Because we painted the interior of our RV white, a second coat of finish paint was applied just to be safe, and to ensure that no dark spots, or stains showed through.

Tips For Using A Paint Sprayer

These tips will help you get started using a paint sprayer, and maximize your painting productivity.

  • Mix your paint thoroughly before spraying. This helps to prevent clogs. (We learned this one the hard way.)
  • Prime the sprayer thoroughly. Follow all the priming instructions that come with your specific model of paint sprayer.
  • Practice the technique on a test wall (a sheet of plywood, or an extra large cardboard box work well).
  • Paint with long, even strokes. You’ll have to develop your own technique with practice, but you’ll catch on quickly!
  • Don’t make your coats of paint too thick. It’s tempting to try to pack on all the paint you can in one coat, but thick coats don’t always try properly, and have a tendency to drip, and run. If you end up with drips that you have to sand down and start over, you’ll regret it!

My Related Articles: RV Remodel Ideas & Tips – 9 Projects That Will Transform Your RV

Interior of an RV during remodel painted in white

Final Thoughts On Painting RV Walls

The interior walls in recreational vehicles are usually made from thin plywood panels and have a special vinyl coating. The special covering is similar to wall paper, and it’s not really designed to be painted.

Because of this, painting the interior of an RV is more difficult than painting standard walls in a residential home. Being meticulous with your prep work is key for painting a RV successfully.

For the best results, be sure to use bonding primer, and follow all the steps in this tutorial!

I hope these tips helped give you the confidence to start painting your RV! It may be a tedious job, but with a little elbow grease, it will make your RV look brand new.

Don’t Renovate An RV Before Doing These 9 Things First!

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Have you ever painted the interior of an RV before? Have any tips I may have missed? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

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How To Paint RV Walls

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49 comments

Brooke February 2, 2019 - 5:35 pm

Thanks for the helpful info! Do you remember about how much paint and primer you used to complete the project?

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Ashley February 8, 2019 - 10:46 am

We don’t remember for sure, but we would guess around 4 gallons of primer and 4 gallons of paint.

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Amy F. February 10, 2019 - 11:23 pm

How did you handle seam tape? Did you just leave it in place and paint directly over it?

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Ashley February 14, 2019 - 12:21 pm

Yep, that’s exactly what we did!

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Lisa March 28, 2020 - 7:55 am

Hi..what type of paint did you use on the walls? Satin, semi gloss? And did you use a different texture for the cupboards?

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Ashley April 3, 2020 - 2:48 pm

Hi! I used an eggshell finish everywhere for the sake of simplicity.

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Breanna February 12, 2019 - 7:06 am

Thank you for the info! What specific type of Sherwin Williams paint did you use?

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Ashley February 14, 2019 - 12:21 pm

We used the Lowe’s brand of paint and had them mix it to match the specific Sherwin Williams color I wanted. The specific paint we used was their Valspar Ultra line.

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Alena Gallardo March 6, 2019 - 6:52 am

Thank you for the VERY EASY TO READ steps! I’ve looked at many and you were straight and to the point! Can’t wait to get started in my RV!!!

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Ashley March 6, 2019 - 3:31 pm

Oh I’m so glad! Good luck with your RV project!

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Karen Schramm March 18, 2019 - 6:43 am

What finish (flat, eggshell, semi gloss, etc) did you use on the walls & cabinets? How has it held up? I’m ready to get started as soon as the weather warms up a little. Thanks!

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Ashley March 19, 2019 - 6:13 pm

Hi Karen! For the sake of simplicity, we used eggshell finish everywhere in the RV (walls, cabinets, doors, trim). They have held up fine, but I do kind of wish we would have went with a higher sheen for the cabinets. Ultimately, our timeline was tight so it is what it is. I’d recommend eggshell for the walls and trim to keep it easy, and then a semigloss finish for cabinets if you can! Have fun painting, that step was one of my favorites!!

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Sierra March 21, 2019 - 9:46 am

Hello, did you paint right over the wallpaper? I really want to repaint my camper but it is intimidating! Just wondering if I need to try and scrape off all this wallpaper or can prime and paint right over it? Thank you!!

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Ashley March 21, 2019 - 9:53 am

We painted right over it! The only wallpaper we removed was one detailing stripe that was inside the living room slide. Everything else we just painted over!

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Jen April 15, 2019 - 2:08 pm

Thank you so much for the info! When painting over the wallpaper did you sand that as well?

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Ashley April 16, 2019 - 4:30 pm

Yep! We did the exact same process over the entire thing.

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Lynnette n desjarlais April 25, 2019 - 9:03 am

Did you take all the drawers and cubboard doors off before painting

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Ashley April 25, 2019 - 2:40 pm

Yes, we removed them and painted separately so they could dry flat!

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Deena Jaime April 26, 2019 - 6:56 am

Did you use an oil based or water based paint?

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Ashley April 29, 2019 - 3:39 pm

We used the Home Depot brand of water based paint mixed using the Sherwin Williams color Alabaster

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Michelle June 9, 2019 - 8:47 pm

Does the waterbased paint work well on the wallpaper? How is it holding up?

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Ashley June 13, 2019 - 3:01 pm

It does! So far so good! We don’t have any issues with chipping or peeling, and it’s been roughly 10 months since we painted.

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Anna May 18, 2019 - 8:29 pm

Did you paint the back side of cabinet doors or cabinet interiors? Wondering where I can cut corners…

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Ashley May 23, 2019 - 11:03 am

We did not! We were looking to save on time also and skipped that step – it isn’t noticeable until you open the cabinets and doesn’t really bother us!

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Suzanne June 9, 2019 - 7:35 am

Hi – I was wondering where you got the ruler containers? I’m in Australia but I can get someone to ship things to me from the US.

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Ashley June 13, 2019 - 3:00 pm

Hi Suzanne! They are from decorsteals.com – it is a flash sale type of website so they only have a limited supply available at any given time. However they DO rotate through products, so if the ruler crates are not available now, there’s a good chance they will be in the future! I’d recommenced signing up for their email list which lets you know when certain products go live. 🙂

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Meredith July 28, 2019 - 7:36 pm

Did you sand the cabinets at all or just did primer and then paint? How long did you let the primer dry before you painted? Thank you!!

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Ashley July 29, 2019 - 8:56 am

Hi Meredith! Yes, we sanded the cabinets just a little bit to smooth out any rough areas. We let the primer dry overnight and applied the finish paint the next day!

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Brooke July 30, 2019 - 11:19 am

Hi, thanks so much for the tips!
It’s unclear to me if you sand down all the walls, if so do use a harsh sand grade or a fine sand grade?
Also, you said you spray painted the cabinets. Do you take all the cabinets off to spray paint the entire cabinet so you don’t get paint in walls? Or just detach doors to spray paint the doors?

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Ashley August 1, 2019 - 3:57 pm

Hi Brooke! Thanks for your question, I actually went back and revised the sanding section of the article to help future readers understand the process a little better. So I’m glad you asked! To answer you directly, yes – we lightly sanded all of the walls using a fine grit sandpaper. As for the cabinets, we chose to use the same paint color for both the walls and cabinets so we were able to spray them at the same time without worrying about overspray. We did remove the cabinet doors and sprayed them separately to ensure full coverage. (We chose not to paint the inside of the cabinets to save time, but this is personal preference.)

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Melissa August 19, 2019 - 6:39 am

Looks great. Did you brush on the primer or use the sprayer?

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Ashley August 22, 2019 - 9:59 am

We used the sprayer for the primer. Super easy!

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jonathan l louthan December 16, 2019 - 4:34 pm

Hi, did you guys use power sanding tools or just hand sanding?

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Ashley April 3, 2020 - 2:00 pm

We used mostly power sanding tools. The exact one we used is linked here.

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Samantha October 4, 2019 - 5:17 pm

Hi Ashley! Super helpful info as we’re about to paint our own RV! Quick question- did you sand the interior with a sander or just by hand?

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Samantha October 7, 2019 - 7:21 pm

What was the final top coat of paint/ sealer that you used? How are the walls holding out?

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Ashley October 17, 2019 - 1:11 pm

Hi Samantha! We used Glidden Premium (Eggshell) mixed in the color: Alabaster by Sherwin Williams.
It has held up great so far and it’s washable so small messes on the walls don’t become permanent. I recommend it!

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Erin November 6, 2019 - 12:24 pm

Hi! What color paint did you use on your bathroom wall and wainscoating?

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Ashley November 8, 2019 - 9:47 am

Hi Erin! All of the white paint in the RV is Sherwin Williams Alabaster.

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Reed Elling December 12, 2019 - 7:30 am

Did you back roll your primer or paint, we are doing this exact thing with a sprayer and I’m trying to decide if I need to back roll

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Ashley April 8, 2020 - 10:44 am

We did not have to back roll anything! We were able to do everything with the sprayer and no roller. We made sure to do light coats of paint with the sprayer to make this possible.

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Toni January 19, 2020 - 8:20 am

Would you prime before putting textured wallpaper on?

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Ashley April 3, 2020 - 2:13 pm

I think using the kilz primer would be a good idea to make it extra grippy.

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Melissa March 12, 2020 - 6:03 pm

Hi!
I’m just wondering if these priming/sanding steps would work on the enormous pleather dash etc in the front of the RV?

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Mike Carpenter April 8, 2020 - 7:29 am

Unless it is a huge mirror that would cost a ton to replace, I would just try to chip off the tiles and hope for the best. If you end up breaking the mirror, it would be a bummer, but Home Depot has most standard sizes of plain vanity mirrors that cost between $30 – $50.

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Ashley Granger March 22, 2020 - 10:55 am

Hi Ashley, thanks for sharing this great info. My husband and I are looking to possibly do this in our motorhome. I have a question regarding the durability of the paint with weather. Do you keep your trailer under covered shade in the summer time or just leave it out? I’m afraid in the hot summer months it’s going to peel and possibly even leave drip stains on the walls… we live in an area that can get up to 100+ sometimes in the summer. Have you had any experience with this? Thank you!

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Ashley April 8, 2020 - 7:58 am

Hi! We’ve had our trailer in 100+ and never had any issues with the paint. Our trailer is not covered or in the shade. One weekend last summer we were out of town staying in a hotel for a few days when it was around 100 degrees. When we got back home, the greenhouse effect had made it at least 120+ degrees inside the RV, possibly hotter. The paint was perfectly fine through all of it!

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Lynda CAPORN March 29, 2020 - 2:32 pm

One of the comments left by reader Suzanne talks about Ruler Containers. What does that relate to? I have read all your instructions, and can find no reference to this term. Please explain.

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Ashley April 3, 2020 - 2:52 pm

Hi Lynda, she was referencing the wood crates that we have in the kitchen and bathroom. You can see them in the photos in the kitchen reveal post as well as the bathroom reveal post. Sorry for the confusion!

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