How to Paint an American Flag

painted American flag diy home improvement project

In this post, we share how to paint an American flag on our boat house storage closet.

Background

Several years ago, Neal and I finished constructing the closet on our dock and boat house. 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 way too tired to go get more lumber. We live about 17 miles from Home Depot.

Suddenly, inspiration struck! We decided to use some leftover thin pieces of treated wood to make an American flag as part of our storage closet. We reframed this negative into a positive!

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

Planning

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 USFlag.org.

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.

Painting

The following are the acrylic paint colors I used:

Red

Initially, I marked each red “stripe” with red paint to keep me on track. In addition, I marked off the blue space for the stars. Using 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!

White

Now on to the white . . . And the white is finished.

And now on to Blue . . . with a little math

The blue is a little small 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 did an algebraic equation solving for X to determine how wide my blue section should be. So now we have a real-world example of using algebra.

Technique Tips

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.

Making a Star Template

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.)

I designed the template on my Cricut. I used the grid to correctly line up the stars. 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. 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 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.

Making a Cardstock Template

First, I made a template from card stock to see if it was the right size. Then I made a template from vinyl. I used Cricut transfer vinyl to make my stencil (see below).

Using Template to Paint 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). Talk about trial and error!

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. That helped on the top and bottom rows, 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. I was determined to make this work!

Here is a picture after I finished painting with the template still in place.

I removed the templates several stars were messy.

Touching Up Stars

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… sorry!

Using a clean cotton rag, I put two coats of polyurethane to protect it from the weather — 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 is the final picture after we built and installed our barn door.

Click here to see our blog post about making our barn door for this closet.

constructed exterior barn door DIY home improvement project

For more patriotic inspiration, check out Suzanne’s 4th of July Tablescape.

Click here if you want to see our blog post about dock construction.

Don’t forget to Pin this for future reference.

pinterest pin how to paint an American flag

Thanks for reading my blog post! Let us know what you think about how to paint an American Flag project by commenting below.

10 Comments

  1. Kay on 10/06/2018 at 1:54 PM

    I am impressed you were able to touch up the stars freehanded. You will enjoy this!

  2. Gina on 10/06/2018 at 3:30 PM

    Job well done once again!!!

    • Suzanne on 10/06/2018 at 7:28 PM

      Thanks!

  3. Leatha on 10/06/2018 at 7:20 PM

    It looks awesome!

    • Suzanne on 10/06/2018 at 7:27 PM

      Thanks!

  4. Nancy B. on 10/07/2018 at 8:26 AM

    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.

  5. Sannygeway on 12/11/2018 at 2:30 PM

    Nice posts! 🙂
    ___
    Sanny

  6. Della on 05/17/2019 at 10:08 AM

    WONDERFUL post! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kathleen on 06/28/2019 at 9:04 AM

    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.

  8. joe on 06/28/2019 at 9:07 AM

    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.

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