Can You Paint Acoustic Panels?

Written by
Last update:

Painting acoustic panels

If you plan on painting acoustic panels, the goal should be to make them soundproof and to preserve the quality of their intended purpose. Of course, there are a couple of reasons why you may want to spray paint a pair of acoustic panels. Perhaps you got them from a different space and want to repurpose them for a different use. Or, you may want invisible paint on the walls, or you may have already decided on your own paint color when you purchased the panels.

If you have a pair of acoustic panels that you plan on painting, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

The biggest thing you should know before painting your acoustic panels is that they were designed for another purpose before you got your hands on them. Acoustic panels are designed to absorb and contain sound. The secret to effectively painting acoustic panels is to maintain their integrity and their effectiveness while they’re soundproofing. Especially if the panels are not the type that can be painted on.

Acoustic Panels vs Foam

One of the more common acoustic treatment materials used in recording studios and homes around the world is the acoustic foam panel. Acoustic foam panels are effective at absorbing sound but they’re often not very visually appealing and can add a lot of visual clutter to your recording or music room.

Another less frequently discussed alternative is the acoustic fiberglass panel which has a different look and design. Fiberglass acoustic panels are made with a woven fiberglass face which comes in a variety of thicknesses and colors. Acoustic fiberglass panels are also effective at absorbing sound but in the opinion of some, appear less visually cluttered.

Acoustic panels can add a sense of style to your room and because of their flexibility can also help save space. They are less obtrusive than foam panels but can still reduce noise in the same way, so most people won’t notice much a difference when using them.

While acoustic panels can both look great and effectively reduce the amount of unwanted noise in a room, only acoustic foam panels are easy to paint. The fabric grille on acoustic fiberglass panels will absorb paint so it’s not recommended you paint these types of acoustic panels.

So, should you paint them?

Recently, we have covered a TED Talk, given by a guy named Roman Mars, about the problem with bad design. He gave lots of examples of bad designs, and one that was particularly noteworthy is the acoustic panels installed in sound booths. They feature logos and other distracting designs. In his talk, he said something along the lines of “if you really want sound to happen here, put a big blue dot.”

Painted soundproofing panels may not seem like a big deal, but if you put it on a microphone, it will definitely throw it off. In that case, it’s a neutral color, but the point of soundproofing is to block any kind of sound.

Any sound that gets into the recording studio is going to cause issues and requires a lot of editing work. A lot of the time, the person who inspects the studio will have to check the walls and whatever else and also have to practically inspect every square inch of the room to make sure what is going on. If they have to look for anything they will need to move any instruments or furniture which will be a hassle.

Will painting acoustic panels affect their performance?

When acoustic panels are new, they can be painted. As they are used over time, they can begin to lose their acoustic properties. When this happens, they will need to be replaced.

You can generally paint acoustic panels as long as they are not covered with adhesive. If your panels are covered with adhesive, the paint may become detached and flake off in time or large air bubbles may form with varying degrees of performance.

Which paint is better?

When you are painting your acoustic foam panels, the question of what kind of paint you should use often arises. There are quite a few paints and varnishes you can use for painting foam panels, and it all depends on the application and your intended result �Ý you want your foam panels to take on a certain color, have a certain reflection/ballistic coefficient, look shiny, or something else.

Acoustic panels are generally meant for sound insulation, and most of the time, this is your prime consideration with sound absorption. We use acoustic foam panels for sound absorption because of the porous nature of the foam. The quality of the reflectance/ballistic coefficient is more important than the actual look of the foam, as we want to be able to reduce the sound level at maximum decibels while retaining the sound quality.

As a general rule, we should use paints that are designed for sound insulation and absorption, and they are commonly called �Ýnoise control paints.�Ý These paints are applied the same way you would apply any other kind of paint, but they are more specialized than other kinds of paints that you would normally use for coating walls, for example.

Noise control paints are usually white or off white. They also have a matt/flat appearance or reflectance coefficient (1% or 0.1%).

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

How to change the color of acoustic panels

It's surprisingly easy to paint internal wall surfaces using drywall spackle, though you do need to be careful not to get any on the actual acoustic panels. The main idea behind painting all the internal surfaces is that you're creating an acoustic-friendly environment, which results in higher indoor sound quality.

If you understand the basics behind how acoustic panels work, it's easy to understand why painting them can help. This is also why acoustic panels used to be white in the old days. They have evolved significantly since then to improve sound quality.

As you can see in the image above, there are three different panels with three different patterns of covered holes. Each panel contains a hole every few inches that will help with the acoustics and improve sound quality. If all of these holes are open and exposed, any sound that is reflected or trapped in the room will be amplified before it escapes.

When you paint the wall surfaces in your studio, you're getting rid of all the open holes, re-covering them in the form of paint (drywall spackle), and in the process, significantly reducing the amount of sound that escapes. This in turn results in a higher level of isolation and a higher level of sound quality in your room.

Buy colored acoustic panels

Yes, you can paint acoustic panels. Just take the time to make sure you have covered all of the hard surface areas with blue painters tape.

For a bigger project, you may want to brush on a light coat of primer first to block out any potential bare areas where the paint could chip off easier. Here you can use a filler primer like Kilz to help fill in the tiny grooves in the surface of the Acoustic foam.

Next, apply the thickest texture paint you can get where the decoupage medium will be applied and only across the decoupage surface. This will prevent the normally flexible decoupage medium from cracking or peeling off from the sound insulation surface.

Once the thick coat of texture paint dries, carefully peel off the blue painters tape.

Follow the directions on the package of decoupage medium for applying the medium and ensuring long-lasting results.

Once the medium has dried, apply the glossy finish on top to seal and protect the painted surface.

When finished, learn how to hang your acoustic foam panels.

Build your own acoustic panels

Acoustic panels are a great way to reduce sound in a room. They are commonly used in recording studios to reduce sound leakage or to create a specific sound. Alternatively, they are used in home theaters to make the listening/viewing experience a bit more enjoyable for others in the room. The latter often want to add acoustic panels to their theater as it makes the room feel more enclosed.

The most important part of acoustic panels is that they are not treated in any way, shape or form. You must remember that acoustic panels are meant to absorb sound, not reflect it. This is why sound waves are not reflected back to the source.

There are many factors that make a room reverberate and echo – the size of the room, shape, the materials on the walls, how the room is positioned; the list goes on. If reflections are off the wall at the same rate and level as the decibels you scattered on that wall, then it’s too much. The same can be said about the low frequencies. The way that the different parts of the room interact create the reverberations that keep the sound waves bouncing around.

Acoustic panels break that cycle by absorbing sound at the correct rate and the correct level. When you get it done right, you’ll have a much more pleasant listening/watching experience.

Buy flocked foam panels

The two main reasons why people flock acoustic foam is to upgrade the acoustic quality of the panels or to upgrade the aesthetics. While we mainly concentrate on the acoustic properties of the foam, the aesthetics are also important to take into consideration.

Painted foam acoustic panels are still quite popular, but you should definitely consider flocking your acoustic foam instead. Flocking gives you an opportunity to upgrade both the acoustic and aesthetic qualities of your panels for the same amount of money. You can get flocked foam at a lower cost than painted foam and the finished flocked foam panels are just as effective at insulating sound.

Flocking helps by creating a thin layer of "fuzz" holding the structure of the foam together and also by strengthening the panel. It starts by spraying an adhesive onto one side of the foam and then mechanical agitation disturbs and sticks the fibers to one another. It’s a process that bonds the fibers together at the micro level.

The fibers will firmly hold the texture of the drapery fabric. So, you can go ahead and choose any fabric that you desire. A flocked acoustic foam panel will absorb the frequencies of noise in the same manner whether the fabric is organic or synthetic.

Dye the fabric

On the surface?

You can take control of the visual appearance of acoustic panels with a few simple steps.

Many acoustic panel manufacturers offer both fabric-covered panels and the flat panel, uncovered versions of their panels. Fabric covered panels are much more suited for painting or other decoration. You can easily treat the fabric covering on the panels with a simple spray paint or fabric dye.

When you choose to apply a paint or dye finish to your panels, there are a few things to keep in mind. You’ll want to seal the panels by first applying a coat of primer to the panels before applying the paint finish. Also, be sure to choose paints or dyes designed specifically for acoustic panels.

Remember, if you want to do all that hard work and paint your acoustic panels, you got to do it indoors. A lot of overspray and dust will come from painting in an area with inadequate ventilation.

Some final tips

Before starting your painting project, remove the tape from your acoustic panels completely before painting. This will help you prevent paint from seeping under the tape.

Before painting, wipe down the surface of the acoustic panel with a thin clear coat. This will ensure the paint seamlessly adheres to the surface and will prevent the paint from chipping off.

Once you’ve completed your painting project, seal the surface of the acoustic panel with a clear coat. This will further protect your acoustic panel from absorbing paint and moisture since it will help to seal the pores of the material.

Conclusion

Paint is not recommended for hanging acoustic panels. Sheets of cloth are not usually intended for painting and the thick coating will alter the texture and break down the fibers of the foam core board. Sealing the acoustic panels with clear sealant will help to protect them, but you cannot paint the under side of the screen and expect it to look as smooth as the factory coating.

Share this post:

You can paint acoustic foam panels, but this isn’t something you should do on a whim without any preparations. If you simply pour some paint on your acoustic panels and bring in a paintbrush, you might end up ruining them.

Before you bring in the paint and your brush, you need to prepare your panels in several ways. First, you need to clean them thoroughly. You can do this with a mixture of warm water and detergent. If you have a stubborn stain that won’t come off, it’s best to use a commercial cleaner or solvent, but be sure to test the cleaner first in an inconspicuous area.

If you have a large but unstained space, you could create an artistic design with your acoustic panels, but doing this requires a lot of space and a lot of paneling that you may not actually need. The vibrations caused by a drum makes the panels move. This can cause your paint to chip and fall off with repeated use, so it’s wise to put your panels in place first.