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DIY painted tablecloth tutorial from Rachel

November 15, 2011

The second installment in Rachel‘s DIY Tutorials is her fun painted tablecloths. Such a simple, easy idea with such huge impact! Leave it to Rachel to come up with things like this.

Here she is:

We knew we were having plain white linens for the dining tables, but we were hoping to make the other tables (escort, bar, gift, water, dessert, DJ, photobooth, chips) a little more exciting, so that they would function both as tablecloths and as decoration.

(Rachel’s master plan.)

I was looking at that Martha Stewart wedding idea where they have the gold metallic circles on the wall, made out of stick on decals. And I started thinking that it would be fun to do something like that for tablecloths. We kicked around a lot of ideas. We thought about making paper confetti overlays (the test run of this was AWESOME, but time consuming and we weren’t sure how easy they would be to transport) or using decals and then I realized that buying tablecloths is just a smidge (we are talking cents) higher than renting them. Sometimes it’s even cheaper, if there’s a sale.

I promptly bought table drapes (from here, because I found an online discount code) for all our tables that weren’t guest seating and an armload of fabric paint. I also ordered a dozen napkins, so that I would have the same fabric available for testing. Highly recommend this.


Tablecloths in whatever length you need (we ordered from here) – $107 for 8 cloths in varying sizes
Blue painters tape – $5
Freezer paper (if you’re doing anything other than straight lines) – $3
Iron (if using freezer paper) – hopefully you have one already!
Fabric paint, in whatever colors you need (I use Jacquard Textile Colors) ~ $30
Paint brushes ~$6

1. Pre-wash and dry your tablecloths and test napkins, if using.

2. Test all your colors on the napkins, mixing custom colors as need be. Our coral was a mix of yellow, red and white and I mixed a big batch in a large jar.

3. Spread the tablecloth out on a covered surface (we used layers of newspaper). Really covered. The paint will seep through the fabric.

4. Tape off the areas you want to paint. We sketched out our design ideas ahead of time for all the striped tablecloths. I played the polka dot ones by ear. If you’re using freezer paper, you need to iron it into position (there are tons of tutorials for freezer paper stencils floating around – this one is nice and clear).

5. Paint! We only needed one coat.

6. Allow the tablecloths to set up for half an hour or so and then gently lift them off the covered table for a second and then put them back down in the same position. This seems silly, but if you let them dry completely without moving them a bit they’ll stick to the newspaper on the table.

7. Now allow them to dry fully (I’d give them an entire day, just to be safe) and then gently peel off the tape or freezer paper.

8. Toss them in the dryer on high for at least 20 minutes to heat set the paint. This could vary based on what fabric paint you use, which is why I recommend ordering napkins to use as your tests.


Keeping them from wrinkling is the tricky part, in my opinion. I ended up ironing all my tablecloths the morning of the wedding. Not so good. I would recommend delegating this task to someone with a good steamer, or shelling out for professional cleaning. A good cleaner will be able to hang the tablecloths in such a way that they won’t wrinkle.

Total costs

We spent about $150 on this project. To rent the tablecloths, it would have been $125, so in a practical sense, the additional cost of having custom tablecloths was $25 + several hours of our time.


And remember, if you LOVE Rachel’s table cloths, they are for sale in the Marketplace!

Process photos by Rachel.
Wedding photos by Fresh in Love Photography.