How to Paint a Pallet

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Pallets are generally scruffy pieces of wood put together for the purpose of carrying cargo, but not all pallets have to serve that function. If you have an artsy side, a pallet serves as a giant blank canvas to create interesting artwork. From big, bold patterns like the American flag to soft, serene landscapes, the unexpected use makes a dramatic statement for your home or yard.

Decorative pallet painted in an American flag pattern
(Matthew Ashman)
  • Tarp
  • Paint roller tray
  • 5 paint roller tray liners
  • 4 - 3-inch semi-smooth paint roller cover with 3/8-inch nap
  • 1 - 3-inch paint roller
  • 1 gallon exterior paint primer
  • Zip-close plastic bag (optional)
  • Painter's tape
  • 1 quart exterior red water-based paint
  • 1 quart exterior white water-based paint
  • 1 quart exterior blue water-based paint
  • 1 - 2-inch star stencil
  • 1 - size 8 acrylic round paint brush
  • Cloth

Note: Each pallet is different. The one used in this project is 32-by-39 inches.

Supplies needed
Matthew Ashman

Begin by laying the tarp down and placing the pallet on top. Be sure the side you want to paint is facing up. If you get a used pallet, make sure to clean off any grease or grime.

Tip: You can also lay down some plastic bags on top of the tarp if you want to keep the tarp clean.

Lay a tarp over your painting surface.
Matthew Ashman

Line the paint roller tray with a liner and pour some of the primer into it. Place one of the paint roller covers onto the paint roller and dip it into the primer. Apply the first coat of primer to the pallet using the roller brush. Once completely dried, apply a second coat to the pallet. Two coats is best because the first coat usually soaks into the wood. You need a second coat to have a good base.

Tip: Between coats, you can place the roller with the brush still on it into a zip-close plastic bag and seal it, which helps keep the roller from drying out too quickly.

Apply two coats of primer.
Matthew Ashman

Decide where you want the blue portion of the flag to go and whether you want to paint the flag in a vertical or horizontal format. Use painter's tape to section off the area that will be painted blue. Be sure the tape is pressed firmly onto the pallet; otherwise, the paint might bleed through a little bit.

Section off the blue area.
Matthew Ashman

Replace the liner in the roller tray and pour in some of the red paint. Replace the roller cover with a new one and start applying the red paint to the boards in an every-other-board pattern. If you wish to have a more rustic look, use just one coat of paint. If you would like a cleaner look, add a second coat of paint once the first coat is completely dry. Replace the tray liner and roller cover again and pour in some of the white paint. Apply one or two coats of white paint on the remainder of the boards not painted red. Do not paint in the area taped off for blue paint.

Apply red paint every other board.
Matthew Ashman

Once the red and white paint is completely dry, remove the painter's tape and reapply fresh tape to the edge that you just painted on the red and white side, boxing in the blue area.

Reapply painter's tape for a crisper edge.
Matthew Ashman

Replace the liner in the roller tray and pour in the blue paint. Replace the roller cover and apply the blue paint with one or two coats as described above. Once the paint is completely dry, remove the painter's tape.

Apply the blue paint in the taped off area.
Matthew Ashman

Replace the liner in the roller tray and pour some of the white paint into the tray. Place the star stencil where you want the first star to go within the blue area. Dip the acrylic paint brush into the white paint and paint an outline of the star. Carefully pick up the stencil and make sure to wipe it clean of any wet paint, so as to not accidentally get white paint where you don't want it. Fill in the star, taking care to stay within the outline. Continue to paint in as many stars as you would like in the blue area. You can space them as close or far apart as you like.

Stencil the stars onto the blue paint.
Matthew Ashman

Display the pallet in your yard or home. You could lean it against a tree, in a corner of the porch or patio, or even hang it on a wall in your home. It would also serve as festive decor for backyard barbecues and parties.

Display your artwork proudly.
Matthew Ashman
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