DIY: Plaid Painted Placemats

DIY: Plaid Painted Placemats

Checkered plaid has been having a major moment around these parts in the past few months. I’ve had checks on the brain since painting eight metres of fabric in a beautiful large-scale mint buffalo check for Hooper’s a-frame tent (post coming soon!) Plaid pairs so well with abstract patterns or modern accents and is delightful in bright, unexpected hues. It makes every thing fun!

For our Christmas Table I planned to incorporate yellow gingham at each place setting, but didn’t end up using the mats I painted. This was with regret, as the yellow checkered plaid packed a lot of punch for such a simple project, so what better way to kick off this series of step-by-step posts than with a guide to making your own plaid painted placemats for your table.

These placemats are a great project for a novice maker as they do not involve any tools, just the wooden mats, paint and sealer and a handful of items you may already own. You can even knock them out in an afternoon with the right series on Netflix to watch in the background.

What You Will Need

  • Wooden placemats. I purchased mine from Spotlight but these are also available at craft supplies stores or hardware stores such as Bunnings. You can also paint over an existing wooden or cork-backed placemat.
  • Acrylic paint. You will need two or three shades of the same colour plus white. For this project I used a light yellow and a dark yellow, and a white paint for both the undercoat and the white checks. I also used gold acrylic paint mixed with Gold Leaf Rub’n’Buff for the edge of each placemat.
  • Clear Lacquer. This will protect your paint job when the placemats are in use. Please note that it won’t make them food safe (this is the job of the plates that go on top!) Please also note that it may leave a brush texture on top of your paint job – so if you are nervous, test on a scrap piece first.
  • A small foam brush or paintbrush, ruler and pencil. It is personal preference whether you opt for a foam brush or bristle brush. I found the square foam brush to be a lot easier to wield when aiming for nice crisp edges. If you make the template mentioned in this tutorial, you will also need some scrap paper and scissors.
  • Optional – painter’s tape. If you don’t trust your hands to paint within the lines, you can use painter’s tape along each check’s edge. I did not do this, as I lack the patience required to work with any type of tape other than sticky tape (and sometimes, I lack the patience required for this too). I would suggest trying the tape method first on a practice placemat to make sure you don’t peel your paint off and subsequently throw the whole project in the bin.


It is very important to work out the scale of the checks that you desire before you begin. My finished placemats are 25cm in diameter, and I settled upon a square of 6cm x 6cm for each check. This allowed enough repetition for the pattern to make sense, and each check was still generous in size.

The first step is to paint your placemat with an undercoat. This will help you to achieve a bright painted top colour. To save costs, I used white acrylic paint for the top layer of painting and the undercoat, but you can also buy and use a proper primer. Let this dry thoroughly.

A photo of a hand painting a white paint on a round wooden shape.

Take your time to measure and mark your undercoated mat with guidelines. It is okay to have half or even a quarter of a check around the edges if that is how it works out for you. Place your first check measurement in the middle of the mat. Then, measure the next rows and columns of checks on each side of your centre block. Continue until you are at the edge of your mat. Ensure your lines are straight by measuring at several points across the mat, and double check your measurements if any of it looks “off”.

What made this process easier for me was making a template. I traced the circle of the mat onto a scrap piece of paper, folded this paper in half, marked where the centre was, and used it to draw my initial guide lines. This saved me time working out the centre point by measuring each mat’s radius/diameter.

Now it is time to start painting your checks. The basic formula of a checkered plaid is like the graphic below. Typically, checkered plaid will have three different shades of the same colour (a light, medium and dark), and white. Where the lines of light paint and medium paint cross is where the dark paint will occur. In this instance, I just used two shades of yellow – a light and a dark – as there was not going to be enough checks visible for the additional colour to be necessary. If it helps you, you can put a W for White, L for Light and D for Dark in each check before you begin painting to avoid getting confused.

Feel free to pin this for reference! Linking to my blog would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Continue to paint coats until you are happy with the colour. I painted several coats (5 in total) of each of the colours. This didn’t take quite as long as you’d think as it was warm and the paint dried quite quickly. I found the more layers of paint the better the colour strength, and I was looking for a very saturated yellow.

The last step is to seal your paint job with an all purpose sealer or a lacquer. As mentioned, this can leave a texture to your painted areas if you brush it on. I painted on the lacquer on three placemats and sprayed the rest with this sealer. Spray painting something isn’t always on the cards in a rental, especially if you don’t have a space to do it, so painting the lacquer is a good alternative, and there are water-based options to avoid nasty smells.

I made eight placemats in total however we usually have a 4-person table for non-Christmas dinners. I plan to keep four placemats and gift four to a friend – these are a fun idea for a housewarming gift too!

I hope you enjoyed this step by step guide to making your own plaid placemats – if you try this yourself I would love to hear how you go!

Source List

Please let me know if you are interested in the details of any of the items from this post, I would be happy to help you track them down! Some items may no longer be available for purchase, where possible I have linked a similar product.

DIY Project List from this Post

  • Wooden Placemats – tutorial above!
  • Lemon/Green Monogram Napkins – step by step guide coming soon.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. This is an amazing step-by-step Lyndsay! So helpful!!! All these tips I would never have thought of on my own but for hours and hours of trial and error. Thank you!!! And, the placemats look so cheerful and bold for the table. Love it!!! I was thinking – I have one of those Ballard trio tables – stand, round top, protective glass. If I could find a 24″ thin, piece of wood to put above the white linen tablecloth, paint it with pink checks, cover with the glass – would that work? I have to try this!!!

    1. Thank you so much my lovely friend! Yes that would definitely work (and would look SO GOOD in your home!) Could you take the measurements into a Home Depot and see if they could cut a round piece of thin ply or MDF for you? The pink check would look beautiful AND you could add some trim in the same colour along the bottom of the tablecloth, since you are so good at doing this now! The great thing about using a seperate piece of wood is that you could change it out for a different colour when ever you wanted. Actually, now that I think of it – why don’t you use a piece of heavy card stock instead? That way it wouldn’t add too much thickness to the top of your table?

  2. WOW, these placemats are stunning Lyndsay, they look so professional..actually better since they are each uniquely hand painted, the plaid is so classic yet fresh in this colour. Congrats on your new blog, loving it already, the photos are just beautiful!

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