Can you paint straight onto plasterboard? We have the answer

Paint roller painting ceiling white
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Answering the question 'Can you paint straight onto plasterboard?' with an affirmative yes means that you can say goodbye to getting in a plasterer and do the job yourself. While it's often better to skim walls first, this route saves you a few quid and means you can get the job done much quicker than having it skimmed first.

Plasterboard is covered in paper so it is much like painting a wall in the traditional way, although the right prep is required. If you have lining paper, anaglypta wallpaper or bare plaster you will need a brush, roller and of course paint to get the job done. 

Here we tell where you can paint plasterboard, how to prep and paint and when you definitely need to skim.  

Can you paint straight onto plasterboard? 

The answer is yes, you can paint straight onto plasterboard, but it depends very much on the location of the plasterboard and how the room is going to be used. General purpose plasterboard is made up of a layer of gypsum – a type of plaster – between two sheets of paper. This is most commonly used on walls, ceilings and stud walls.

But standard plasterboard is not waterproof, which means it is not suitable for areas that are in contact with water or moisture on a regular basis i.e kitchens and bathrooms. In these areas you will need to skim to prevent water damaging the plasterboard. 

If painting new plaster you will need to add a mist coat before you apply any paint to ensure that it adheres properly to the plaster. 

How do I prep plasterboard for painting? 

Before you start painting plasterboard you will need to make sure that any joints and holes are covered. For this you will need a plasterboard joint filler such as Gyproc Easifill 60 and a six-inch jointing knife to apply.

  • Mix up the joint filler according to the manufacturer's instructions. 
  • Take the jointing knife and add a decent dollop of filler and run along the join starting at the top. 
  • Continue until you reach the bottom and go back and smooth out as best as possible with the knife. 
  • When dry, rub down with a fine grit sandpaper. 
  • Do the same to cover any screw holes so you have a smooth surface.  

Joint knife filling join in plasterboard

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is the best way to paint plasterboard?

How to paint plasterboard is very much the same method as how to paint a room

1. After finishing the prep you will need to get a brush and brush off any dust, followed by a damp cloth. Now get a vacuum and hoover up any dust and debris so you have a clean area to paint in.

2. Get a two or three inch paint brush and start by painting any edges such as corners, where the walls meet the ceiling and skirting boards to create a border. 

3. Now get a roller tray and a 9-inch roller, add paint and roll onto the walls. Use an extension pole for quick and easy access to harder to reach areas and a quicker job. Start at the top in one corner and use a V or W rolling pattern to apply the paint.

4. Leave the first coat to dry — which will be quick if emulsion. Now add another coat and wait for it to dry. You will probably need a third coat to get a good solid colour. Once finished, leave to dry and the job is done. 

Do I need to skim plasterboard before painting? 

Yes and no. This will be determined by where you are putting up the plasterboard and what type of finish you are looking for. Standard plasterboard is not good for kitchen and bathrooms, but is fine for halls and living rooms and is a great alternative for the plastering novice as they can simply paint straight onto the plasterboard. That said, it if often better skim all plasterboard.

However, a competent DIYer can learn how to skim a plasterboard wall to get a smooth durable longer lasting finish that can have different finishes applied to. If the new plastered plasterboard is in a bathroom or kitchen you can tile over the top. If elsewhere in the home you can wallpaper over the plaster or simply add a few coats of emulsion.

Plasterer skimming a plasterboard wall

(Image credit: Matt Gibbs)
Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.