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Q. Is it OK to paint acoustic foam?

By Hugh Robjohns

Can you tell me how I should go about painting my acoustic foam panels? They are currently white and rather ugly! Is there a particular type of paint — spray paint perhaps — or any other way to colour them that won't damage them or affect their acoustic properties?

SOS Forum Post

White acoustic foam tile.Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: Acoustic foams work because of their open cellular structure. If you paint over the surface of the foam you are very likely to clog up the pores and the effectiveness of the foam in absorbing high- and mid-frequencies will be greatly diminished. I do know people who have used thin emulsion paint with a degree of success, but I really wouldn't recommend it.

A much better option would be to cover the foam panels with some cloth — anything thin and acoustically transparent would be suitable. Build a simple four-sided wooden frame to surround the foam panels, with a hardboard back onto which the foam can be glued (perforated board can be used to some advantage). The depth of the frame should be slightly greater than that of the foam, and you can then stretch a coloured fabric of your choice over the frame and staple or pin it tight at the rear.

This construction will have negligible effect on the acoustic properties of the foam, will allow any colour scheme you like, and will look more professional to boot!

Published November 2004