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How To Paint Your Van Interior In 4 Easy Steps

When we first purchased our (new to us) 1980 Frontier Truck Camper, we were pretty happy with how it looked. Whilst it was rustic, we thought the dark wood held a little charm. A year down the track, we’ve realised just how dark 1980s wood panelling is. Even with bright sunshine and the curtains open, we really need to open the rear door to let as much light into the space as possible. With us both being remote workers, good light has been really important to us. And as we look forward to spring, we thought it would be the perfect time to repaint our camper interior. Here’s a little look at how that went for us!

Step 1: Choose a colour

The first step was choosing colours. We needed to keep our interior light but also wanted a pop of colour, something to offset the wooden accessories we planned on keeping. Eventually we went with Harbour Chill. 

The Process of Painting Our Van Interior

Since campers and van interiors are such small spaces, ventilation can be a little problematic when you’re doing prep work for the paint job. Before you start, open all the windows and doors to let the space air out, to give yourself lots of fresh air. 

Step 2: Prepare the van interior

The next step was to clean all the surfaces, we just used warm water, a sponge and a little dish soap. Once you’ve finished cleaning all the surfaces, use painter’s tape and drop cloths to cover areas you don’t want to get paint on. In this instance, we had synthetic countertops, linoleum flooring and other pieces of hardware. Whilst the taping process may seem like a lot of work, it can actually save you lots of time in the long run! The moment you drip or spill one drop of paint, you will be grateful you put the effort in. 

We also took the cabinets off the walls, to make the paint job as clean as possible, as well as the little hooks and other accessories in the wall.  Make sure you have a sharpie and painter’s tape handy to number the doors, drawers, and spaces from where they were removed; this will help the process of replacing everything much easier. I learned the hard way!

Once everything was clean, removed or covered, it was time for sanding. We sanded down any inconsistencies in the surfaces to make sure the wood panelling would become more adhesive. This included the cabinet doors we had removed (we sanded these inside to make the most of the extra space – but we did create a lot of dust!

Step 3: Start painting the interior

Next step: priming! We used a 4L of APCO Primer to get a good layer on all the surfaces we wanted to paint. Priming simply provides a neutral surface for your paint, so that your colour layer is applied evenly. Once everything had a good layer, we let it dry overnight before we began to add the colour. 

We chose Harbour Chill, a very subtle blue grey that gave a modern look to our camper. We decided to go with two coatings of paint to make sure it had lots of depth. It suited our wooden shelves and accessories perfectly, and really brought the whole space together. In all honesty, it felt like a totally new camper! It was refreshing, relaxing, and felt way less dingy. It also looks a little more professional in the background when we are on our zoom calls!

Step 4: Touch up and finish off the van Interior

Once we were happy with the final look (2 coats of paint worth), it’s time to let it dry – preferably overnight. Finally, once you’re sure your paint is good and dry, it’s time to remove all the painter’s tape and coverings! Because of the multiple layers of primer and paint, some of the tapes will be challenging to remove. It can be a little frustrating, but with time and patience, it will come off.

Once all the tape and coverings have been removed, give the fruits of your labour a good look over. Keep an eye out for any missed spots especially around the trim, switches or plugs. If you see some missed spots, use a smaller painting brush to touch them up. 

Now step back and admire your handiwork! Check out the photos of our finished piece below. 

We are so happy with how the camper has turned out. Gone are those 80s style dark wood panels, and here is the natural light! The space is so much more personal and welcoming, and I can take a great amount of pride in what I accomplished over just a couple of days.

Shop APCO’s paint collection here to get some inspiration for your next paint project!

From Inspiration Blog