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With a dark turquoise ceiling in Narnia, a sky blue ceiling in The Lodge and gold-glazed wall in Cair Paravel, I thought the standard white HVAC vents would look shockingly out of place.  After lots of research on the internet (some of which said you can paint HVAC vents with latex paint and some of which said you can’t), I decided to try.  Here’s what I did:
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(1)  I lined the vent covers with foil.  I used heavy-duty foil torn off just at the width of the vent covers.  I folded one end into a point and “ironed” it flat with my fingers.  Then, with the help of a tweezers, I fed the foil point in between the stationary slats on the front and the moveable slats inside the vent cover.  I slid them into the fully open position that I planned to use once they were installed.

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(2)  Once the foil was fed completely through the slats (note that this involved some delicate pushing and pulling through some tight spaces), I folded the excess foil around the back of the vent cover.

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(3)  This is what each vent cover looked like from the front.  I felt it would be too complicated to try to paint the inner slats, and this way the most obvious part would get painted.

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(4)  I lightly sanded the vent covers with 220-grit sandpaper to rough up the slick painted surface.

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(5)  I used a clean paint brush to gently sweep away any particles left from sanding.

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(6)  I chose Rustoleum Professional Primer because its sprayer works at any angle and because it specifies that it is for previously painted surfaces.  Some tutorials I read suggested “etching primer,” but when I bought it and read the instructions, it seemed to be exclusively for bare, unpainted metal.

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(7)  I laid each vent cover out flat and sprayed lightly, being sure to get at every angle of the slats.

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(8)  I took a piece of cardboard and poked all of the screws through it, leaving only the heads exposed.  Since they were all different, I labeled them to be sure I knew what color to paint them and so I could get them into their correct vent covers.  I primed the screws on the cardboard so that the threads would be kept clear of primer.

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(9)  Each vent cover got two coats of primer (like the one above) to be sure all the white paint was completely covered.

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(10)  I found the best method for painting on the latex paint was to use this 3/4″ artists brush which is fairly flexible.  Too stiff of a brush would leave definite brush marks in the paint.  First I painted the slats, and wherever paint went over onto the edges, I brushed it out in the direction I intended to paint the edge.  Once the slats were painted, I painted around the edges, not forgetting the tiny edge that would be noticeable once the vent cover was mounted.

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(11)  Each vent cover and screw got two coats of latex paint except the yellow one which got one coat of paint and two coats of golden glaze (not shown).

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(12)  Once the paint was fully dry, I sprayed each vent cover and all the screws with two coats of Crafts, Etc. “Triple Thick Clear Glaze” and let Ben install them.

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The vent covers look great mounted–mainly because they’re not noticeable!  It remains to be seen whether my technique will hold up to the passage of heated and cooled air, but since we have a heat pump, the air is never really that hot as it comes out of the vents so I’m hopeful!

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