Can you paint straight onto plasterboard?

by Daniel Berry | Last Updated: 20/01/2021

This is a popular question asked all over the internet, clearly, lots of intrepid DIY’ers just want to get on with painting their newly plasterboarded walls. But is this a good idea? Read on below as we discover if you can paint straight onto plasterboard.

can you paint straight onto plasterboard

can you paint straight onto plasterboard

Can you paint straight onto plasterboard?

Yes, you can. But as with all things DIY, it can be a little more complicated than that and there are definitely some tips and tricks to achieving a good finish. If you want to paint straight onto the plasterboard paper surface then you need to do a few things to the plasterboard before painting.

Joint filler

You will need to ensure you are painting onto a really nice smooth surface as the level of surface finish will show in the final result. If you are painting straight onto plasterboard then you obviously don’t have a skim coat. This is not the end of the world and you can achieve a really good level of finish without a skim coat. But you will need to ensure any imperfections are filled and that your joints are filled well with a good joint filler.

The plasterboard joint will be one of the hardest areas to get smooth. Don’t be afraid to sand down and then re-apply filler if you are finding it tough to get a really smooth finish on the plasterboard joints.

You can use paper jointing tape in coordination with joint filler to help fill the gaps between plasterboard sheets. Then sand down the joint filler to achieve a nice smooth joint.

Mist Coat

The first step you want to take when painting straight onto plasterboard is laying down a mist coat first. A mist coat is simply a coat of emulsion watered down by roughly 20%. So add a 1 to 5 ratio of water to your first coat of paint. To do this simply pour a reasonable amount for the size of your wall into a separate bucket and then add some water.

This mist coat essentially acts as a sealer. It will soak into the plasterboard but this is good, this is what you want it to do. This initial mist coat will give you a really good base to build on.

Paint as normal

Once your first mist coat is down you can then paint as normal with a regular emulsion.


Do you need to PVA plasterboard before painting?

No, in fact, I would advise against it. This seems to be an old trade secret that is widely touted but that very few people in the know actually do. The idea is that watered down PVA gives the effect of a sealer. I have found a mist coat of watered-down emulsion works much better. In fact, I could see the PVA giving quite a poor surface to paint onto.

Which side of the plasterboard should you paint?

There used to be a system where the grey side of a plasterboard sheet was for plastering and the white side was for painting. This seems to have changed recently and now the white side is commonly used for everything. I always advise using the white side for painting. You may sometimes see a note printed on the plasterboard saying which side to use.

If you can’t see anything then try and contact your supplier as all plasterboard can be different.

Do you need to prime plasterboard before painting?

You don’t need to and as I have said above I advise using a mist coat of watered-down emulsion as your primer. Some people will say that primer is cheaper than regular paint so it makes sense to use a primer. I can see the logic here and have no real problem with it, I just don’t like having to buy another tin of paint and have all the extra hassle of cleaning another set of brushes.

Hey, I'm Dan, I studied computer science with artificial intelligence at Loughborough University. I try to bring my tech knowledge to the posts where it is needed while also offering a DIY view to go with Sam's professional view on tools. I am a very keen DIY'er and have experience of doing everything the completely wrong way.