Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior

I’ve been meaning to write this post for AGES. I’ve had so many messages from people over recent months, asking what I use for painting a caravan exterior.

So I thought I’d finally jot down my method; before another year passes by.

Caravan painting is nothing new — people have been doing it for years! These days, however, most vehicles are factory finished. So a caravan respray at home fills a lot of people with fear.

My first DIY caravan makeover post — Tips For Decorating a Caravan — concentrated on painting and wallpapering a caravan interior. So this next instalment concentrates on the outside! What caravan exterior paint to use etc…

Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

Can I Paint The Outside Of a Caravan?

In a word yes!

When we were renovating Dolly 1, I did a little bit of research on paint suitable for caravan exterior. Seeking the advice from other caravan enthusiasts in particular.

Googling ‘can you paint a caravan’ led me to various forums. Where I learned that although standard  gloss paint may seem like a good idea (and look good initially) I was warned that it may crack and peel over time.

The same can be said for any ‘standard’ exterior paint.

The surface of a caravan flexes and moves, so the paint you use needs to work with this.

Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
The surface of a caravan flexes and moves, so you need to use a specialist paint
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

What Paint do I Use for Outside of Caravan?

After speaking to various train, boat and motor enthusiasts, I decided to do as they all suggested. And use Tekaloid — or coach enamel paint.

I have written a whole post on what paint to use on the outside of a caravan. But in a nutshell this is it.

Apparently Tekaloid 318 is ‘a superior coach paint with excellent flow characteristics. It is particularly suitable for brush application but can be sprayed. It has excellent gloss and colour stability, a superb appearance and durability’.

Sounds great doesn’t it?

Also a bonus that you can get it mixed to any colour you choose.

I had a look online and found a fab company who sell coach paint (amongst other things), mixed to order.

You can imagine my joy when the little pots of Tekaloid paint arrived. In exactly the right shade of powder-blue that I’d picked from my Pantone book.

Definitely a case of easier said than done

When it came to painting with said coach enamel, all the promise of ‘excellent flow’ kind of fell flat.

Coach Enamel Paint

All the years that I’ve been using paint — everything from oils, enamel, gouache and watercolour — to emulsion, gloss, eggshell and chalkpaint — I have never come across anything that behaves quite like Tekaloid.

For a start, you can’t paint the middle then cut in the edges afterwards (or vice versa). If you do, you’re left with a really uneven texture; you can almost see the division between the different coats.

And if you paint in wind or sun, you get really odd strands of paint — almost like spun sugar — coming off your brush. It’s bizarre.

That said, it does give a lovely high gloss finish and it’s tough and flexible, so no cracking or peeling. Even after a few years — that I can vouch for.

So would I use it again?

Yes.

And I did!

When we bought Dolly 2, I decided that I’d use the same coach enamel paint. But — using the knowledge that I’d gleaned from Dolly 1’s makeover — a different method to apply it.

With Dolly 1, I’d used a brush for the edges and filled the middle in with a roller.

I was left with (what I thought was) a very visible paint line around the edge. The paint layers didn’t merge at all, they literally just sat on top of each other.

So with Dolly 2, it was all about the prep.

This is what I did.

Method For Painting a Caravan Exterior

How To Paint a Caravan Exterior

How To Paint a Caravan Exterior

Yield: 1

Instructions

  1. Give the paintwork a good wash, using sugar soap, to get as much grime and grease off as possible., then give the surface a really, really light sand (medium grade sandpaper) to the surface of the areas you wish to paint.


  2. Remove vent covers, handles — and any other bits and pieces that can be removed. You can spray these separately.


  3. Mask off the edges of any areas that you don't want to paint with automotive masking tape.


  4. Once all the edges are masked off, begin painting the outside of the caravan with your coach paint. I used a mini gloss roller.


  5. I let the paint cure for a full 24 hours before painting a second coat. If I'd had more time, I think I would have left it even longer between coats. We don't have a garage — or covered space — large enough to fit Dolly though, so painting took place over a dry bank holiday weekend.


  6. Remove the masking tape then stand back and enjoy your handiwork.

Notes

Hand-painted coach paint is never going to give the same modern, professional finish as vehicle spray  paint; but for a vintage caravan look — which I wanted for my caravans — hand painted coach enamel is, by far, the best option

Granted, it's not going to be totally perfect and without it's defects, but that's how people used to paint caravans in years gone by, and the flaws and imperfections are part of the charm.

Dolly 2 before her mammoth caravan makeover! ABI Tristar — before painting
Dolly 2 before her mammoth caravan makeover!
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Tips for decorating a caravan and Painting a caravan exterior. This pic shows Dolly The Caravan before her makeover. ABI Tristar.
Definitely no curb appeal
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Removing vent covers makes it easier to paint a caravan exterior
Taking off vent covers etc makes it easier to paint the caravan exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

Automotive Masking Tape

Just a quick mention about investing in automotive masking tape.

This stuff is BRILLIANT. It’s really flexible, low tack and gives a lovely clean, crisp edge, when you peel it back after painting.

It’s absolutely key to use this — rather than standard decorator’s masking tape.

Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

After Masking

Once all the edges were masked off, I began painting the outside of the caravan with the Tekaloid coach paint.

I used a mini gloss roller (make sure you definitely use the foam gloss kind, not the hairy emulsion ones!!) to fill in between where I’d masked, stroking over the joins with a soft decorators paintbrush to get a lovely even finish.

Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

This worked SO much better than trying to paint the middles and cut in the edges separately!!!

Hand-painted coach paint is never going to give the same modern, professional finish as vehicle spray  paint; but for a vintage caravan look — which I wanted for Dolly 1 and Dolly 2 — hand painted coach enamel is, by far, the best option.

Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Automotive masking tape is brilliant when you're painting a caravan exterior.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

If you’re painting the exterior of your caravan outside, make sure that the weather is going to play ball! It’s imperative it’s a dry day and doesn’t rain — you definitely don’t want water marks on your new paintwork!

Dolly the yellow and white caravan. Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
The yellow paintwork after removing the masking tape! A million miles better than before.
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

I waited a couple of weeks before painting the white section.

I used a window scraper to remove the Tristar decals and ‘go faster’ stripes, and followed the same procedure as above; sanding the area, before masking it off and painting the areas with a gloss roller.

You could potentially leave any white bodywork, but I loved how much fresher the overall look was after a lick of white Tekaloid paint.

Touring Caravan Paint

Whilst a sunny yellow painted touring caravan may not be everyone’s cuppa, it’s definitely ours!

Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

But — even before I painted Dolly 2 — we’d agreed that the caravan makeover wasn’t going to stop at just the paintwork.

I had designed some vinyl decals and the next stage was to find a company to make them. But more on that in another post.

Our little yellow and white caravan! Dolly the caravan after her makeover.
Dolly after her makeover!
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.

For now, this was a good start.

Roller Painted Van By Hand — or Professional Caravan Respray?

Just to reiterate, hand painting a caravan is never going to be a match for spray-paint; if you want an unblemished, modern paint finish (similar to that of current day vehicles) get it done professionally.

But if you’re wanting to renovate a vintage caravan — or give your ugly old caravan a new look, coach paint is a brilliant option.

Both our caravans were in a pretty sorry state when we first bought them; and it was never my intention to spend lots of money on renovating them.

But I did want to give them a little makeover; and give them the look and feel of a vintage caravan. I’m so glad I didn’t go down the route of painting the caravans with exterior gloss. I’ve spoken to so many people who’ve done this and said that it’s cracked over time and has ended up looking really awful.

Tekaloid — or coach paint — has been designed for this job; it’s what people have used for donkey’s years. The difference these days is, you can get it in literally every colour under the sun.

It’s definitely a tricky paint to work with; however, it gives a brilliantly, shiny finish that protects the van and will last for years and years.

Pin or Save This Method For Painting a Caravan Exterior For Later

Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior
Photo Credit: The Listed Home.
Caro Davies editor of The Listed Home
 | Website

Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.

Home | The Listed Home Blog | Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior

59 thoughts on “Tips for Decorating a Caravan | Painting a Caravan Exterior”

  1. Hello! I love your caravan makeovers, you have inspired me to finally be brave enough to do the exterior of our old Caravan!! I done the interior a few years ago and is still an ongoing project. So, I was wondering, before you done the first coat of exterior paint, did you not do an undercoat first? Or is there no need for an under coat with Tekaloid?
    Many Thanks Caroline

    Reply
    • Hi Caroline! Fab news — it’s really exciting having a caravan project in the pipeline!

      I painted both vans exactly as I said in my post; gave a light sand to the surface and painted directly on — giving two coats.

      If you want to undercoat your van, I guess it would probably give a better finish but — as I said in my post — the finish of our van is by no way perfect and without it’s defects, but the flaws and imperfections are part of the charm.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      • Hi
        I am just about to paint the exterior of my 1993 eldiss caravan which needs a bit of a face lift. I have the tekaloid paint and am going to follow your guide for painting. I was wondering you used the tekaloid paint on the fibreglass sections as well as the metal?
        Thanks

        Reply
        • Hi Colin, YES! I did. On our first caravan, I left the front fiberglass section and only painted the metal side panels. You can see that in this post.

          When I painted Dolly 2, I decided to paint the front section of the van too. The Tekaloid works beautifully on fibreglass. I’m planning to paint our new van in the same way. Hope this helps! Good luck with your van makeover! I’d love to see how you get on.

          Reply
  2. thank you for this. I have bought a old caravan, 1992 , I think, and it looks tired, worn and ugly. I was going to vinyl wrap it, but after looking at videos, I decided not to, apparantly its not a good option . Then I thought, just paint it, but what with? so this was really helpful. I love what you have done, and the colours are not overwhelming, but it looks like new, and and nice and cheery.

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for your lovely message!

      I thought of vinyl wrapping Dolly, originally, but I just couldn’t justify the cost — it wouldn’t have been worth it for us. Painting the exterior has definitely given her a new lease of life — even if the finish isn’t particularly flawless! If we had a more expensive/more modern van, I might consider getting it professionally sprayed, but Dolly is also 1992 and it just wasn’t worth the outlay. The Tekaloid is a great and inexpensive option! :)

      Reply
    • Hiya, This is a fab post and extremely helpful so many thanks indeed for posting. Did you ever post about the vinyl decals as I seem to have missed it somewhere?

      Reply
      • Thanks Katie! No — I started writing it but — as ever — got distracted, so I have’t manage to finish/publish it. It’s in the wings, waiting for when I have a spare afternoon :)

        Reply
  3. I didn’t think it would be possible to makeover a dated caravan that would last as they are very plastic and shiny – eww! Your blog has definitely given me the confidence to update my caravan. I can’t wait to rid the browns and more brown! Any tips on the upholstery?

    Reply
    • Hi Kate, updating our first two vans was a necessity ;) Particularly Dolly 2 — she was GRIM when we first bought her home!! It didn’t occur to me not to decorate them :) I just treated them as I would any other room.

      I’ve never written about the upholstery — although I do have pictures of how I did it, so perhaps I should!! I’m no seamstress, that’s for sure, so it’s not a very good job!! But it’s worked for us for the last decade so I don’t think I’d pay a professional to do it. It was cheap and cheerful but — having just washed Dolly 2’s loose covers for the umpteenth time, it works :)

      Reply
      • I have found this post so helpful! There aren’t any comprehensive posts to even nearly match yours. I am going to paint our c’van this spring (it is currently silver and bubble gum pink). I would love to see your upholstery post. Thank you so much for sharing – am off to scroll through your other posts.

        Reply
  4. Hi Caro. Paints arrived for us to start on ‘jasmine’s’ makeover. But the 5 lt tubs seem pretty small for the task ahead. Got 2 (so 10lt) do u think that’s adequate for x2 coats or should I order more? She similar size to dolly 2. Thank you x

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah!

      I used just 1 x 1L tin of white Tekaloid and 2 x 1L tins of yellow — for Dolly 2. That was for 2 coats. The paint goes a long, long way! I think you’ll probably be able to do 3 coats with 10L and still have plenty left over for touch-ups! CX

      PS — did you receive my reply to your lovely FB message? I replied, but it’s not showing anywhere!! I wondered if you ever actually received it ?

      Reply
  5. This is such a fantastic diary! I have a board full of ideas for my upcoming purchase but the painting painting recommendation on its own is gold. Thanks! Such a lot of work, writing and pictures went into this. Very much appreciated.
    Happy Touring!
    Mandy

    Reply
  6. This is an extremely useful article. Just one question, do you need to do an undercoat first or is it sufficient to wash and lightly sand?

    Reply
  7. Hi, thank you for sharing your Dolly 1 & 2 news/make overs. I now have a 1994 Eldis on my drive waiting to be loved and have a make over, will definitely look at the paint you mentioned xx

    Reply
  8. Hi there, love this blog. I’m just about to start a reno-job on my 1997 ABI Dalesman. I was just wondering you painted the white part too and is that plausible? Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Candace — I did paint the white areas of the van; it mentions this in Point 8. It’s not necessary to do this, if you’re happy with the bodywork of your van, but it made such a difference when I did. It made the whole exterior much fresher. Hope this helps! :)

      Reply
  9. Hi there. Wonderful job. C oppo uld you tell me how you got the seals and other black bits to come up so great. Did you used black coach paint or some whitch craft! Thanks in advance

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin, I gave them a really REALLY good clean!!! Used Cif to get the lichen off!! And, I think, the combination of cleaning — and the fresh, new paintwork — just made them really pop! I didn’t use anything else, although I suppose you could use wheel-trim blacking, if yours didn’t come up so well?

      Reply
  10. Looks great and really smooth, love the yellow ? find your post re doing google research on painting my static mobile which is horrible brown stripes and thinking of painting it black cos very dated looking, but could you use if its that hammerite look and the thought if sanding 36ft x 12ft arrghhh….

    Reply
    • Hi Anne — yes! The Tekaloid works on a textured finish :) It won’t make the surface smooth — you’ll still still the texture underneath — but you can certainly change the colour!

      Reply
  11. I have just started renovating a 1980s Windrush caravan. Lots of work to do to get her ready for making pretty, but finding it a great way to keep sane through lockdown . Thank you for sharing your experience it’s both useful and inspiring. I shall definitely be looking in on your blog regularlh. :)

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle — thanks so much for your lovely message! Good luck with your caravan makeover — please let me know how you get on! I’d love to see the end result!

      Reply
  12. Hi did you purchase an awning? We have a 2 berth of this make and are unsure if which awnj g to buy due to the shape of the roof?

    Reply
    • Hi Una, Thanks for your message! We had an awning that came free with Dolly 1 but it broke at Glastonbury, the very first time we used it!! It collapsed under the weight of rain we had!!

      We’ve got an awning for Dolly 3 from Olpro.

      Their awnings are inflatable – fit any caravan – and come with a porch that be fitted or left off.

      Because they’re not fitted/ sized awnings like traditional awnings the roofline won’t bother them.

      Hope this helps :)

      Reply
  13. Hi there, love the blog! Just getting ready to paint my caravan and you’ve convinced me to use tekaloid!

    Want to do mine blue and yellow, struggling to find the right yellow, do you remember the code for dolly 2 yellow please?

    Reply
    • Hi Kate, Thanks for your lovely message! I had the Tekaloid mixed to match Pantone shades; for both Dolly 1 and Dolly 2. I can’t remember the Pantone number I used but if you look at British Standard 381 colours, you should find some similar shades on there. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Hi Caro,

        Great blog and really useful…..going through misery with mine at the minute. How much paint did you use on Dolly please?

        Will

        Reply
        • Oh bless you Will — I really know that feeling! There’s always a point when it feels like an insurmountable task! I need to look back over my receipts and see how much paint I ordered. I’ve a feeling it was two L of the coloured paint and one L white — for both Dolly 1 and Dolly 2. Need to check and add it to my post!

          Reply
  14. excellent post! Will be purchasing an old caravan to renovate soon, quick question what checks did you make from the previous owner, it seems pre 1992 caravans don’t have the CRis label and they seem to be sold without any paperwork etc? :) many thanks :)

    Reply
    • Hi Darren, all of the vans we’ve bought have been sold complete with paperwork, service receipts and — in some cases — manuals. I think I’d be wary if the seller couldn’t give any kind of relevant documentation, demonstrating their ownership of the van. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  15. I’ve just come across your blog while doing a late night search of how to paint my caravan!
    Just started the internal stripping of my early 80’s sprite musketeer and seeing how fantastic yours looks has given me the boost to keep going through the pain of damp wood and peeling paint on the outside!! Thanks for the really good explanation on how you prepped and painted :)

    Reply
    • Hi Erin, Thanks for your lovely message! oOh EXCITING! It will definitely feel like a daunting task to begin with — and there will DEFINITELY be a point when you’re mid-way through that you start to despair you’ll ever be finished! But keep powering through — it will all be worth it!! Please send me some pics when you’re done; I’d love to see :)

      Reply
  16. Hi. Your video is very helpful, thank you! We have been planning on painting our 23 foot beast for the last few years now and haven’t quite decided on the best option. Does the coach paint also work on the horrible plastic bits like the bumper and locker cover? This is what has been giving me the biggest headache really and that the van is so huge. Thanks in advance. Andy

    Reply
    • Hi Andy — YES! It DOES work on plastic!! I was really concerned that it would peel or not adhere properly, but it works a treat. You can see it on the pics of the front of the van. All of the grooved skirting is plastic!! It worked brilliantly.

      Reply
  17. I have a very old caravan, post war, apparently made of aluminium that was left over from making war time planes!! Anyway the paintwork was grim so it was decided to strip it completely down to the shiny metal. Looks more like an airstream but without the classic shape. It looked so nice we decided to leave it, but now several years later, I’m thinking of painting it. Do I need to prepare the surface first? Or how many coats of paint would you recommend?

    Reply
    • Hi Sharon — wow that sounds absolutely amazing! I think if that was mine, I’d leave the metal unpainted!! But, if you do paint it, I would definitely use an undercoat. I’d go with Tekaloid 819 Undercoat — since been renamed to Tractol 816. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  18. Hello, I’m a bit late to the party but found your advice really informative. We are going to repaint a static atlas florida 2001. The RAL 6021 looks a darker green on the sample tab but as you say our research points to tekaloid. And I don’t want to upgrade to a new caravan and a second mortgage!! As we are covering the current colour I like the idea of not having a primer although I’ve seen paint websites suggest I should. Love the tips on masking tape and foam rollers and not cutting in. Hopefully we won’t need to cut in with it being external walls. What is tekaloid like when you brush in the same direction but overlap? Keep up the advice.
    Andy

    Reply
    • Hi Andy, I have painted two — just about to paint the third van — with Tekaloid and never used primer :)

      I daresay, if the surface of the metal has been filled, or is in poor condition, it would be necessary. And, if it gives you peace of mind that you’ll have a longer lasting finish, it might be worth using primer underneath the coach enamel. But I never have.

      And re overlapping, if the paint underneath is dry, even if you paint in the same direction, I think you’ll still have a visible overlap. In order to not have any layers, you have to do it in one hit! And work quickly!! Good luck :)

      Reply
  19. My caravan has got scratches under the door (caused by a metal step!)

    What paint would you recommend for a touch up? Would this tekaloid work for this if I paint all of the end bottom part? Really stuck… Like a challenge just don’t want to mess it up ?

    Reply
  20. Hello. I Am hoping to paint a design on my good condition caravan. Don’t want the design to peel or crack…do I need to draw, rub down and then paint? Or can I buy vinyl, paint that and stick it on, so it can be removed if needed? Any ideas?

    Reply
    • As your van is in good condition, if it were mine, I’d be inclined to create the design, scan it and have it printed on clear vinyl. Thats just what I did with Dolly 1’s name decal :) It was too complicated a design to use a simple vinyl decal, so the company I used printed my design on to clear and they die-cut around the shape.

      Reply
  21. Hi,
    This has been really helpful, thanks, and your ‘vans look fantastic! I’d like to ask did you sand between coats? :)

    Reply
  22. Hello there,

    Nice job! Very inspiring:)

    What kind of volume of tekaloid paint did you get through?

    Also, do you have a supplier you would recommend?

    Many thanks,

    Dave

    Reply
  23. Hi, love your caravan. Just about to embark on my own renovation. Quick question….did you undercoat the exterior first? Also I didn’t realise you could paint to wood inside. Did you consider using vinyl? If so what swayed you towards paint? Just trying to decide. Thanks x

    Reply
    • Hi Claire, thanks so much! No – I haven’t undercoated any of the vans I’ve painted the exterior of. We painted Dolly 3 this year, and did it in exactly the same way as the others. Just gave the surface a really good clean, taped off with the automotive tape, then used rollers and brushes.

      And no – I didn’t even consider using vinyl on the interior wood! I would never use that at home, in the house. And I have treated the interior of our caravans in exactly the same way that I’d decorate at home. Hope this helps :)

      Reply

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The Listed Home featured publications
Skip to Instructions