1) Store Sales
Discount lamp shades, more often than not, will be very basic. This is especially true when shopping at a home improvement store such as Home Depot or Lowes. Lamp shades in solid colors of white and creme cost the least to make and will most likely be cheaper. Also, shades in tacky colors that nobody wants are often placed on sales to clear out old stock. Look for brightly colored stickers on the shades to find the best sales.
2) Garage Sales
Some of the best deals on lamp shades can be found at garage and estate sales. Many times people are looking to sell brand new shades that they never had a use for. Finding a shade for a few quarters is not unheard of. It is also possible to find beautiful used shades in excellent condition. If no shades are present at the sale, ask the owner if they have any inside their home. They may even be willing to remove a shade from one of their existing lamps if they anticipate buying a new shade in the near future.
Lighting stores will frequently have sales where they try to eliminate stagnant stock. It is not likely that they will advertise lamp shades, so it is best to call or visit the store to pick out the gems.
4) Making Your Own Shades
Both plain and patterned lamp shades can be decorated to create a practically new shade. You can glue trim to the bottom and top rim, add sparkles or new paint to the fabric surface, hang bead strings from the bottom and a whole lot more. A glue gun can help adhere all sorts of art supplies to your shade. Anyone with a paint brush and paints can draw beautiful flowers and floral designs onto the exterior of their shade. Those who are not exquisite artists can still have fun by using aerosol spray cans to coat the entire surface. Another option is to use adhesive paper to wrap around the shade (kits are available). Look to your local art supply store for materials, such as Joanne’s Fabrics or Hobby Lobby.
5) Inspecting for Damage
When looking for used cheap lamp shades, inspect the upper and lower rim for damage. These metal rims can become bent out of shape from an impact, distorting the shape of the shade. Lamp shades with tears in the fabric should be discarded. However, staining and scuffing to the exterior can be hidden using paints, paper and other materials. As long as the basic shape of the shade is intact, it has potential.