How to Paint an American Flag

This post was originally published in 2019 and has been recently updated.

Several years ago, Neal and I finished constructing the closet on our dock. Neal and I purchased treated lumber at Home Depot to construct our dock closet. It is always challenging to calculate how much lumber you need for these types of projects. We were almost finished with the closet . . . but then we ran out of lumber. It was hot and we were waaaay too tired to go get more lumber. We live about 17 miles from Home Depot. But we got an idea! We used some leftover thin pieces of treated wood to make an American flag. This is an example of reframing a negative into a positive!

Years went by . . . until I FINALLY got around to painting the flag on the closet. Life happens!

First, I had to research the details of a flag. We see our beautiful American flag ALL the time, but this caused me to pause and reflect on its details. I found a great American flag picture and description on Wikipedia and I found American flag proportions at

Thanks to Neal, we had the right number of thin boards for the flag stripes! I used this picture as my model to be sure I painted the flag correctly. I also sketched it out and took some measurements to double-check myself along the way.

I used the following acrylic paint colors:

I started with red and quickly marked each red “stripe” with red paint to keep me on track. I also marked off the blue space for the stars. I used a paper plate, a foam brush, and an artist’s brush. I painted two coats for each red stripe (and then came back and painted a third coat because it was more transparent than the white and blue). I think this is because it is matte and the blue and white are gloss. Live and learn! Here it is at a distance. Now on to the white . . . And the white is finished.

And now on to blue . . . The blue is a little small as compared to the length of my flag, but remember that Neal is going to add a piece of trim when we make the door; this will cover the end of the flag and then the blue area will be more proportional. (I actually did an algebraic equation solving for X to determine how wild my blue section should be. So now we have a real-world example of using algebra.)

Here is what it looks like from a distance. I used a different paper plate for each color and a different foam and artist’s brush for each color. The foam brush helped me paint the rounded edge of each piece of wood. The artist’s brushes were perfect for small crevices. Now to make the template for the stars . . . I made one star and then copied and pasted it 49 times. After some trial and error, this size worked well. (The first time I made my template, I made the stars too big and too close together.)

Here is a screenshot of how I used the grid to correctly line up the stars. (I could not get all five rows in my screenshot.) Notice how I used the Cricut design canvas to layout my stars. Here is a closeup of a section so you can see how I lined them up to be symmetrical.

After I had all the stars lined up symmetrically, I then “attached” all the stars to become one unit and then adjusted the overall width and height of the star design to fit the space I needed. Below is the final dimensions. This was a little smaller than I had originally wanted because my height was 9.25 inches and I wanted the width to be 14.25 inches. However, the stars would not be symmetrical if I stretched it to 14+ inches. The good news is that Neal told me he is going to put up a piece of trim to by the closet door (still need to add a door) and this would visually shorten the length of the flag a few inches. Knowing this, I could make my star section smaller. YEA!

And here is a screenshot before I cut the template. First, I made a template from card stock to see if it was the right size. Then I made a template from vinyl.

In the picture below, the top template was my first attempt; the stars are too big and too close to each other. The bottom template is the one I used. Nothing like a little trial and error . . . all part of the process! Here is the template I used. I ran down to the dock to make sure it would fit correctly. It was a winner! I used Cricut transfer vinyl to make my stencil (see below). Here is where the magic happens! This is our loft that contains my desk and craft room. Here is Buddy (sleeping on the guest bed in my office) while I am cutting the stars! Buddy, you are an OUTSIDE cat! Here are my stars after I “weeded” it (removed the stars). I stuck the template to the wood and it did not stick well! I knew the stars would not line up with the wood pieces because there are 5 rows of stars and 7 strips of wood. So, I decided to cut the template in strips with an exacto knife while carefully avoiding each star, except for the stars in the center of the wood strips (in the gaps). Below, you can see where I cut the rows. I then tried to sort of wrap each row of the template around the wood strip. It did not stick very well. I tried mod podge as several have suggested. That helped on the top and bottom row, but not on the other rows. You can see how loose it is in the picture below. However, I went ahead and painted the stars. Here is a picture after I finished painting with the template still in place. I removed the templates and you can see in the picture below that several stars are messy. Below is a final picture after I tediously touched up every star with white and then blue (the best I could). I am not a professional artist only a “wannabe”. However, I can live with the result! A storm was brewing while I painted, so I had a nice breeze and some quiet time! Here is the final result. The cord in the picture is the pulley system for our paddleboard. I was too lazy to take it down for the picture. And one more picture from a distance! I put two coats of polyurethane to protect it from the weather. I used a clean cotton rag and rubbed it on, making sure to get in each crevice. I always wear rubber gloves so I don’t have to use paint thinner to clean my hands. Below are the final pictures (without the paddleboard cord obstructing the view)!

If this puts you in a patriotic mood, you might want to check out John Adams book and movie! Neal and I have watched the movie/series (7 episodes) two times (second time was after our trip to Boston last spring). We are thankful to be AMERICANS! We live in the greatest country in the world!

Our American Flag is a year-round display. However, click here if you want to see Suzanne’s 4th of July tablescape.

Click here if you want to see our blog post about dock construction. Click here to see our blog post about making our barn door for this closet.

Thanks for reading my blog post! Let us know what you think of our American Flag project by commenting below.

Author: Suzanne

Blogger and DIYer with my talented husband Neal. I share about our projects and life lessons following Christ.

10 thoughts on “How to Paint an American Flag”

  1. I have painted a flag on a pallet and it faded. I can’t remember what paint I used. I didn’t think of using poly to seal it. Good tip! I am going to find something more permanent to paint on.

  2. What a good idea! We don’t have a closet like this but I’m gonna find a place to paint a flag. Thank you for sharing especially on how you painted the stars.

  3. Well done! I like how you built the closet too. My wife subscribes to your blog. She shared it with me and I read it too. Good posts.

Comments are closed.