How To Paint a Plaid Pattern

Have you noticed the resurgence of plaid in home decor and fashion lately? It’s always been a favorite pattern of mine, and it works perfectly with the rustic theme we have going on at the cabin, so when I scored this cute dresser for $10 I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a plaid design without risking too much.

painting plaid furniture

I’m not going to sugar coat this. Plaid is not always an easy technique to execute. You need to map out your design with care and you need to give careful consideration to your color palette. Also, since you’re using typically 4 different colors, you will need to dedicate more time to preparation and drying time, not to mention the cleanup. If you’ve never tried painting a plaid pattern but would like to, I would recommend starting out on a small piece of furniture like I did, or even an accessory like a wooden tray. If you’re really ambitious, you can try one wall in a hopefully not too large room. It will be far less time-consuming and will still create an impact. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure I would ever do an entire room with walls of plaid. I think it would be too busy looking, unless the colors were very subtle.

Also, keep in mind it is easier to execute this pattern on walls or items that have no interruptions such as windows or doors for continuity. As you can see, I didn’t follow my own advice with this piece because I elected to do the drawers, but you can certainly just do the top of a piece of furniture and it will look great.

Here’s what the dresser looked like ‘before’. I had some serious doubts about doing anything to this dresser at all. It was actually quite nice as it was. Yes, there was some paint chipping but that actually added to the rustic look I was going for. I just really wanted to do something that would be bright and cheerful for a boy’s room and I was chompin’ at the bit to try my hand at executing a plaid design, and I’m glad I did. 


It’s funny, but back in the Spring I came across a cute dresser at a rummage sale that I wanted to purchase but I didn’t have the room in the car to take it. I went back the next day with an SUV and it was gone. Here’s a picture of it:


It was the perfect size for what I had in mind and I liked the detail on the side. Just a couple of months later my friend wanted to get rid of her dresser and I was delighted to see it was almost identical to the one I originally wanted. It even has the same details on the side. The only difference that I can tell is the top drawers have two knobs instead of one. What are the odds of that?! I guess it was meant to be.

If you’re going to tackle this design for a dresser, you will need the following:

  • Latex paint for base coat
  • Latex paints for stripes
  • Painter’s tape
  • Several paintbrushes in various sizes depending on size of stripes you’re planning
  • Colored pencils (to match paints)
  • Carpenter square
  • Graph paper

In addition to the above make sure you have small containers (I used plastic bowls) in case you want to mix colors, rags, gloves, q-tips and water nearby.


  • Paint piece in desired basecoat color
  • Measure the piece. On a piece of graph paper (DON’T SKIP THIS STEP), draw out the shape. Each square represents one inch. If you’re doing a wall, each square will represent a foot. My dresser is 39″ wide by 18″ deep.


  • Decide how wide you want your stripes to be and how many you want. It’s helpful to find a number that divides evenly into the measurements of your piece or wall. In this case, I wanted the stripes to be 3″ wide and to start around 4″ from the edges. So I basically subtracted the 4″ on each side from the overall measurement and worked with that number, which is 31″ (39″-8″=31″). Now that I had 31″ and I knew I wanted around 5 stripes that would be 3″ each (5″x3″=15″), I knew I needed to leave 4″ between the painted stripes.

The ‘x’ represents the areas NOT to be painted. Now go ahead and transfer these lines onto your piece using your carpenter’s square and the appropriate colored pencil, then tape.

working with graph paper

Make certain you place a small piece of tape on the stripes that are not to be painted. This is important because it can be confusing to look at and it would be all too easy to make a mistake.  You might notice only one side of the tape is flat down on the dresser. That’s because it’s the other side that will receive the paint. 

painting stripes

painting plaid patterns

Once you’ve gotten your base stripes down, the rest is relatively easy, but you still need to measure carefully. I only wanted two stripes going horizontally that were centered and slightly smaller than the first two on the top of the dresser, and one on each drawer in the front. In a traditional plaid, the stripes are the same width, but this is definitely a case where you can make up the rules as you go along.

plaid patterns on furniture

I picked up some simple knobs at Hobby Lobby. They were having a 50% off sale which was nice because these were normally $5 each. I debated between subtle knobs or something with a bit of punch, but they didn’t have the quantity I needed for the ones I liked that had colors, plus I think the dresser has enough going on without adding more to it with the knobs being busy.

I also glazed the sides with some light brown paint just to highlight the raised wood. This caused some more issues with the Frog Tape. It removed most of the paint on the sides which was super frustrating since I was down to the home stretch. I wish I knew why this happened. I was super careful removing it and it was only on for a few seconds. 

painting plaid patterns

Same spot, but Ralphie has entered the scene. I’ll be putting a small ottoman in this corner as soon as I can find one.

paint techniques

Love it!


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  1. Ur supastar talented. Love it. Great colors too! Congrats on the pick ups elsewhere. Fabulous my friend!

  2. Hi Doreen I loved your post so much I’ve featured it at our “Meet the Neighbors” linky party 3 Hope you’ll come back again this week great job on this dresser

  3. Thanks so much for sharing with us again because this is one of thee most unique pieces around!!

  4. Wow! you did an incredible job…the dresser looks amazing!!!

  5. I’m saving this fabulous post! What a great transformation and your instructions are wonderful! What a treasure you have now!

  6. Doreen, it’s beautiful!! I love checks and plaids and the red and creamy beige/yellow background is a perfect combination! It looks like it was meant for the space, with a great balance of proportion. How amazing that you recorded everything you did, shared it here, and even included such detail to make sure your readers don’t get confused. Okay, now all you need to do is hydrate that sultry and sassy voice, do a ‘take 2’ of the whole procedure and send it off to HGTV – I hear they’re looking for the next Martha!


    • Hummmmm….I never thought of that Poppy! But of course, when HGTV figures out my voice sounds more like Fran Drescher than Greta Garbo the gig will be up. I am, after all, a New Yawwwka! πŸ˜‰

  7. Doreen, it’s a beauty!! It looks perfect in that room, too. I love your color choices and your lines are so straight!!!! Job well done and great tutorial. So, plaid is back? I had no idea. Thanks for helping me keep up with the times :p

  8. You did such an amazing job. You were very patient and I love the colour you chose and how it turned out. I’m not so skilled, so I’ll stick to one colour for furniture, but I might try the technique on a tray as I love plaid.

  9. God Bless you Doreen, I would not have the patience for this technique. This is just gorgeous and I love the colors you chose. My friend is really into the plaid thing. She wants to do one of her rooms in the Ralph Lauren plaid look.


  10. That looks fabulous, Doreen! I’m going to include it in my DIY round-up this weekend! πŸ˜€

  11. Well, look at you! This turned out fabulous!!! Now, who’s the one getting crafty!! LOL!! Love it!!~~Ang

  12. Doreen, seriously, this looks so fabulous I can’t even tell you – LOVE, love love it!!!! I need to go back and carefully review your step-by-step (and thank you for that, by the way) and try to see if I can do this on something small first. You did an incredible job and it looks beyond great! Thanks for sharing – pinned and sharing! Have a day as fantastic as this project is – and that is a whole lot! :)

  13. I want it back!!! It looks great.

  14. It looks amazing! I’m plaid crazy right now and kept a lot of plaid out (like my pillows) for after Christmas decor. Enjoy your afternoon my friend! Stay warm!

  15. This is A-m-a-z-i-n-g. So inspirational too.

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  1. […] House Honeys has a great tutorial on how paint your furniture plaid! […]

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