Stair risers (the vertical space from one step to the next) actually offer a lot of versatility in terms of design. They can be made of a completely different material than the stair steps or have an intricate design on them that pops and catches your guests’ attention.
Painting stair risers on your own is one of the best DIY options that can quickly transform the look of your entryway & staircase. It can also be beneficial to add visual separation that way your risers and your stairs aren’t the same color.
Top 3 - Paints For Stair Risers
RTG Deck Anti-Slip Paint
Valspar Porch/Floor Enamel
INSL-X Floor & Patio Paint
I’ve used several different types of paint for stair risers over the years. Here are some of my top picks, followed by everything you need to know in order to pick the right option for your project.
Best Paint for Stair Risers - My Top Picks
Table of Contents
- Best Paint for Stair Risers - My Top Picks
- Things to Consider When Choosing a Paint for Stair Risers
- Riser Painting Guide
1. RTG Deck Anti-Slip Paint
There are currently three available colors (four if you count the clear) that would be a great choice for those wishing to add a neutral color to their risers. The colors are Gray, White, and Sand.
This paint is specifically made for outdoor use on patios and decks, so it’s considerably more durable when compared to indoor only paints.
It stood up to scuff marks fairly well (especially when combined with a clear coat), which is a plus, because feet are bound to make contact with risers.
It is a fairly thick formula, so it will need to be applied by hand instead of a spray mechanism. But the dry time was faster than expected - tack-free after 4 hours and dry to the touch after 12.
After it dries, it does have somewhat of a rough texture, but that is by design because it provides anti-slip properties. The texture isn’t noticeable visually though & having a bit of a rough finish helped with the cleaning process.
In my experience, its anti-slip properties are quite commendable, and noticeably better than that of its many cheaper alternatives.
2. Valspar Porch/Floor Enamel
Another great option for if you are wanting a neutral color on your risers but with a little bit of shine is this Valspar Enamel. It’s available in 2 shades: white and gray.
First impression after application was that the gray was a tad bit darker than had appeared in the color swatch, but this was forgivable because the finish was still aesthetically pleasing.
There was almost no odor with this paint and it was dry to the touch within 4 hours. It went on with the same viscosity as latex wall paint and dried with a somewhat satin finish.
It should be noted that this paint is only recommended on indoor staircases. Attempting to paint porch stairs may lead to a slippery surface and a quick fade.
Before buying it, as I was browsing a few paint forums, I saw some people complaining about its tendency to bubble up under heavy rain when used outdoors. That’s why you should strictly stick to indoor stair risers.
Just like with most paints, the durability would be greatly improved with a coat of polyurethane on top after it has cured.
3. INSL-X Floor & Patio Paint
Another great indoor/outdoor option, I especially like the color variety available for this paint — four different colors ranging from neutral to more bold.
I found one coat to be sufficient in covering the risers but it wouldn’t hurt to do two if you wanted.
One interesting thing to note is that while being applied, it had a somewhat of a “pink/orange” hue, but as it dried it became more true to color. So, don’t panic if you notice a noticeably pinkish hue when you first apply it!
Drying time is along the lines of the other paints that I covered. Tack-free after 2-3 hours and dry to the touch after 8. This is pretty decent, in my opinion.
The finish could be described as satin with a little more “slip” - a very light, pleasing sheen.
If the area is high traffic, I would recommend a clear coat over top (as with most paints) because it will add more sheen & protect the color longer.
If you are painting outside stair risers, a primer and a clear coat are highly recommended to avoid damage by the elements.
As a bonus, this paint is also sprayer-friendly. So, if you’re looking for a versatile paint that you can also use elsewhere and apply with a paint sprayer, this one would fit your needs perfectly.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Paint for Stair Risers
Indoor vs. Outdoor
Some paints are formulated for both indoor and outdoor use, while some are only formulated for indoor use.
Make sure you don’t choose an indoor paint for your outdoor stair painting project or you may end up having a paint job that doesn’t last long.
Style vs. Substance
Your options for colors and finishes will be greater if you are looking for a paint that will simply complement the decor of your home.
If you want something that will withstand the high traffic of your house, choose your product accordingly and make sure to finish with a clear coat.
Primer vs. No Primer
Most paint projects would suggest you use a primer in order for the paint to have something to grip onto and to give an even base for painting.
With some of the outdoor options on this list, a primer may not be necessary if you are painting indoors.
Use your own judgment on whether or not you need a primer for your project. It can help a finished paint job look more clean.
You could test an area of the risers by painting a small amount of primer on one half and laying your paint over the primed and unprimed area.
After it has sufficiently dried, examine to see if there is a visual difference and if that difference is enough to warrant primer throughout the whole project.
If during the project you wish to paint your stair treads as well, make sure you avoid any semi-gloss paints and this can make them slick & prove dangerous.
Always choose satin or flat finish paints and make sure they are specifically floor paints - wall paint won’t stand up to the wear and tear that stair treads typically see.
It’s more than likely that you and your family use the stairs everyday, so be sure to plan ahead during the actual painting time!
A minimum of 5 hours after the last coat of paint is put on is sufficient enough time for it to be dry to the touch.
Avoid high traffic for at least 2 days, and take care when walking up your freshly painted steps so you don’t ruin your hard work!
Here’s a bonus tip: you can paint every alternate stair riser at a time, allow them to dry completely, then take care of the other half at a later time. Doing this would mean that you could still use the stairs normally by simply climbing two stairs at a time.
Riser Painting Guide
After you’ve picked out your paints (and optional primer & clear coat), start prepping the risers for the first coat.
Wash & Dry
Remove dust and debris with water & a microfiber cloth. Allow it to air dry completely before you proceed.
You don’t want to be painting over any dirt. Be sure to do all parts of the stair, not just the riser. Tape won’t stick well to dirt and may cause gaps in the paint.
If there is peeling paint or clear coat already present, it is advisable to sand the risers and scuff up the surface a bit.
Tape Off & Protect Surroundings
Use painters’ tape to box out each riser that is to be painted. Take extra care around carpet runners or steps. Don’t forget about the railing bottoms and floor trim.
You may even want to double tape if you have natural wood steps with a grain, as paint can seep in under the tape and will mess up your clean lines.
There’s also the option to use green tape (FrogTape) instead of regular blue painters tape. Green tape can create a better seal against paint bleeds.
Tip: Invest in a large tarp to be draped over the stair steps that are currently not painted. Should the paint can or tray get knocked over, this will help protect from a large mess as it tumbles down your stairs.
Painting the stairs can be fun but it also brings a fall risk. Hopefully a tumble wouldn’t scrape you up too bad, but there are many things that can go wrong.
Be vigilant while painting!
Pay attention to where your feet are, lean against a wall for balance, and if possible, have a friend or family member within ear shot that you can call out to them should you end up hurting yourself.
If you have opted not to use primer, you can skip to the next step.
Lay down whichever primer you have chosen in one even coat; two coats if you are painting over a dark stain.
Start at the top step and work your way down to avoid touching freshly painted areas. Allow at least an hour for the primer to be dry to the touch before you begin painting.
Starting at the top riser, apply your paint. Apply it around the edges first and then “color it in”.
It is best to use a brush instead of a roller as it gives you more control of where you place the color & helps you get into the corners easier.
Since you will be painting a vertical area, don’t overload your brush with too much paint or else drips will occur. Wait a few hours and go look for areas that need to be touched up.
Clear Coat (Optional)
If you’ve chosen to use a clear coat after painting, wait until the paint is dry to the touch and apply in the same method as the paint. Start at the top and don’t overload your brush.
Wait at least 24 hours after the last coat of product to remove the tape. Remove it slowly and methodically, checking for areas that are “stuck”.
You may want to run a utility knife between the tape edges to avoid peeling.