How to Paint PVC to Look Like Bamboo

PVC is a difficult surface to paint in any fashion because the smooth plastic does not allow paint to adhere. Clean your PVC pipe thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner to remove the grease and dust from manufacturing and storage before you attempt to paint it to look like bamboo. Sand it before painting as well. This roughens the surface and allows the paint to stick better. You can spare yourself the primer fumes and coat the PVC with tape instead if it will only be used indoors. The tape method allows you to add texture to your bamboo as well.

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Base your paint on an image of real bamboo.

Preparing the PVC

Step 1

Sand the surface of your PVC with sandpaper in the 120- to 200-grit range.

Step 2

Spray a coat of plastic primer onto your clean, sanded PVC. Choose a primer specifically made for plastics that allows acrylic paint as a topcoat. Plastic primers bond chemically to the plastic rather than sitting on top of it, making a lasting coat. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before applying any more paint.

Step 3

Observe an image of real bamboo, noting how the bamboo swells near the joints between each section, if you are using the tape-coating method.

Step 4

Build up a similar set of swellings on your PVC with rolled masking tape, and then coat the entire PVC surface with overlapping vertical tape strips. Acrylic paint will adhere to the tape, and the tape will adhere to itself as it overlaps around the PVC.

Rough-in Painting

Step 1

Paint on a base color of acrylic paint that closely matches the light yellowish-brown of the bamboo in your reference image. Use vertical strokes with a 2-inch-wide paintbrush. Allow it to dry completely.

Step 2

Paint rings around your PVC pipe to represent the places where each segment of the bamboo changes. If you used the tape method, this will be in the indentations of the swellings. Use dark brown acrylic paint and an artist's detail brush. Paint similar rings at the top and bottom of your pipe.

Step 3

Mix a bit of white paint with your base coat color and smudge it on with an artist's brush above and below the dark rings to add highlights.

Step 4

Dip just the tips of a dry 2-inch paintbrush into the dark brown paint, and then blot off most of the excess. Drag the brush lightly down the full length of the pipe, all the way around, to simulate the natural vertical streaks in the bamboo.

Detail Painting

Step 1

Thin your brown paint with clear acrylic satin finish sealant. Repeat the process of dragging the blotted-off tips of your paintbrush along the length of the pipe to create a series of lighter stripes.

Step 2

Add any other details you see in your reference image. Some bamboo has small blotches or speckles hear the joints, which can be painted with the brown paint and detail brushes. Bamboo poles often have split ends, which you can simulate with black or darker-brown paint.

Step 3

Paint the entire pipe with a layer of clear satin acrylic to give the pipe a little bit of bamboo's natural shine.