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Custom Painted Stools . . . for cheap


Custom Painted Stools . . . for cheap!



I saw this stool online I liked. (Sort of.) It was cute. It cost $125. It wasn’t that cute. I don’t remember the site now– I didn’t buy it, but there are plenty on Ebay for you to get an idea.

I had this thought: I could do that myself. (Probably.)

I remembered there was an old stool stored in the garage. It was dusty, but, otherwise, in excellent shape. There was another one in our son’s room. Also, in good shape. Since he was in the Marines, he wouldn’t be needing it any time soon.

There are only a few steps to this in the short version. They are:

1. Find stool and clean it up: If dirty, wash and let dry, if painted, sand it & dust away loose particles, for new paint to adhere to surface. Or do it all, use your judgement and get it ready for painting.

2. Paint stool legs one color, seat another color–of your choice.

3. Spray with polyurethane, several light coats, letting dry in between each coat.

That’s all there is to it.

Now, I’m going to show you how to get something a bit fancier. You can go one of two routes. Paint your own design or decoupage one on to your stool. Or do a combination of both. Actually . . . that’s three routes.

It’s not that hard. But, if you think you can’t do this, I’ll give you a back up plan so your stool will look nice.

I went online and looked at dinner plate patterns. I wanted a Tuscan look, so I typed in Italian dinner plates, went to the ‘Images’ page. I looked through all of the plates that popped up until I found several I liked. Printed out four or five images, combined a few ideas, and drew out a pattern. 

For other patterns you might look at French dinner plates, Mexican or Japanese. . . choose your country or style.


stool patterns


The circles shapes on the right are just printed cut outs of the plate patterns I liked. The shapes on the left were inspired from these plates. Use tracing paper to copy a pattern or free hand it. Once you have patterns you like, you’ll be using the template you cut to repeat them. You don’t have to match whatever you’re copying. In fact, it’s better to change it around and create you own.

Both of my stools measured 12″ in diameter. I pulled some round salad and dessert plates and a couple of glasses and mugs out of the cabinets for my circles.

For paint, I went to Home Depot and looked at their reject paint cans. They have a shelf near the paint mixing counter of mistakes. Paints that weren’t what the customer wanted. I bought a gallon of semi-gloss acrylic paint in a dark slate gray for $4 and few quarts of nice colors that I’ll use for something in the future– I don’t know what right now, but the price was right– for $2 each. I, also, have a variety of oil and acrylic artist’s paint tubes in my workroom. I used acrylic because it drys faster and I can clean my brushes at my kitchen sink.

I painted the bottom of the seat and legs the slate gray. I painted the top of the seat a cream white (one of the $2 quarts was a Ralph Lauren cream).

Then, I started laying my different sized plates and mugs on the stools to get the concentric circles. I traced different parts of the patterns from the plates I liked on computer paper (I used printer paper because that’s what I had close by. You could use real tracing paper, if you wanted.)

Then, I just played around with the various patterns, kind of like a puzzle, until I had what I liked. 

This is sounding much harder than it is. Look at the patterns you liked and just eye-ball your stool as you place shapes.

But, to give you some exact measurements. The stools both measured 36″ in circumference, 12″ in diameter, and each of the scrolly patterns around the edge are about 5″ in length. The circle in the center 6″ because that was the size of my dessert plate I used.

I outlined each pattern around the stool with a pencil. (I tend to make a lot of mistakes and have to erase a good bit.) Then, it was just a matter of coloring in the lines with the paints. Start with the background colors, add secondary colors, and finish with the accent and outline colors. 

I did this in my dining room and let it dry for 24 hours. Then, I took it out to the front porch, turned it upside down on news paper and sprayed the legs and under the seat with polyurethane. Three light coats– letting each dry a good 30 minutes between.

Then, I flipped it right side up and repeated this on the top of the seat.

Ta-Da! Here’s what I ended up with:


green stool top



stool red


I painted both of these stools about three years ago. We keep the red one in the kitchen and green one by the sofa. The red one is sturdier and has been used as a step stool and still has no chips. The green one has a center spool that lets it raise and lower, so it’s a bit wobbly to use for climbing. My guy uses it for a TV tray with supper or to hold a drink. It’s in good shape, too. 

The price for both stools? Both cans of paint still look full and I already had the artist acrylics and brushes. I bought one can of polyurethane for $8. I have $10 in both stools.

Plus, the work. I spent a couple of days on each stool.

I told you I had you a back up plan. If you don’t think you can paint something you’ll like, then decoupage is the way to go. The possibilities are endless.

Get your stool and paint it the two base colors of your choice. I like dark legs, but you can paint whatever color suits your designs. Paint each leg and cross support different colors. Or leave them natural. Paint only the top. If you want the whole thing natural, I’ll tell you how to do that below.

I first decoupaged when I was a teenager. We painted these raw-wood purses, glued on paper pictures, outlined them with thin black lines, and sprayed them with polyurethane.

Do the same thing here. After the base paint color has dried, using ModPodge, which you can find at any craft store for about $10, glue your design to the seat of the stool.


You want your stool to be natural wood? Then, paint a layer of ModPodge directly onto to wooden seat top and let dry. You don’t have to paint the whole stool with it, only the top of the seat or any part you’re going to glue on your pictures.

For a design, look at wrapping paper, card stock, old sheet music, or kid’s picture books. The Graphics Fairy is a great online site with free images. Anything, like I said, the possibilities are endless. Pick out the parts you want to use and cut them out. Make neat, close-to-the-design-you-want cuts. For intricate designs, you may need an X-acto knife. What you end up with is what will become your design on your stool, so neatness counts. Copy and print my stools, if you like that design. 

Follow the directions on the ModPodge jar to glue your trimmed design onto the stool and let dry. If you want to give your design some depth, you can take a plain old fine point pen and outline each design in black. Or blue. Or not. If you’re uncertain, outline near something darker in your finished design and see what you think. If you don’t like it, it’s not so obvious. If you do like it, keep going. 

ModPodge says it’s a sealer as well as a glue. And it is, but I would still follow with the three coats of polyurethane for durability.

If you buy everything, you’ll have less than $60 in your project. If you scrounge around and find the stool, paints, and pictures in stuff you already have, you’ll have the price of the ModPodge and polyurethane . . . just under $20 per stool.

Click here: ModPodge  or on the picture to go directly to Amazon, if you’d like to purchase.

Below, a client who wanted a stool to match her dishes. That’s her salad plate propped on top.


Stool blue





Scrounging is always the cheaper way to go!



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