Stain-Over-Paint Table Top

Scarlett Butler
by Scarlett Butler
7 Materials
2 Days
I wanted to create a beautiful, woodsy, swirly table top to match a hanging quilt, and I wanted to try painting a picture using wood stain, but I ran into the following issues:

1. We were having inclement weather so I couldn’t work outside;
2. Wood stain fumes + spray paint fumes + indoors + asthma = no breathing;
3. Breathing is somewhat necessary for survival and do-it-yourself projects. :)

So, what to do??

I decided to do most of the work using good old acrylic craft paint which is indoor safe. Perhaps I could skip the stain entirely? We’ll see ....

Spray paint (with the help of our goats).
During the past 7 years, we have lived in 3 states and 2 countries (including 3 years overseas doing Christian missionary work). That meant a lot of moving trucks and storage units for our stuff. The glass top on this little patio set did not survive, but the metal frame and chair were still in good shape. A break in the rain (and a gas mask — haha) provided the opportunity to apply a coat or two of Rust-Oleum 2X white spray paint. This spruced up the set nicely.
Table top purchased from Amazon
Okay ... I splurged, but I have no regrets. :) Most of you would have been able to find a spool or some scrap wood to use for a table top, but, alas, I cheated and bought this 30” piece of sanded, unfinished pine wood from Amazon.
A blank slate
It arrived in beautiful condition. The perfect blank slate! :)
Using a picture as a color guide
I took a picture of the quilt I made (using pre-cut quilt squares from WalMart) and printed it out to help me design the table top and choose the colors.
Pencil sketch
Using an ordinary pencil, I tried to duplicate the flowers on the quilt, making them big and bold to balance the large surface area of the table top. I used a stencil for some small details.
Note that pencil sketches on wood are easily erased. This was helpful when trying to draw free hand. BTW ... egg cartons work great for mixing paint!

Using Apple Barrel acrylic paint — Melted Chocolate— I created a fume-free “stain” by significantly diluting the paint about 5:1 with water.
Here is the cool effect achieved with my “wash”. Note that the pencil marks are still visible to serve as a guide for painting.
Here I painted the design using acrylic craft paint in predominantly muted earth tones. I added splashes of red and green to match the quilt.
Okay, I caved .... I ended up using stain. :) The weather broke so I was able to take the project outside. I went over the entire table with one coat of Minwax Golden Oak stain. This was followed by two coats of Minwax polyurethane.
As you can see, the stain did not cover over the painted design. It simply added a transparent, antique finish, especially over the lighter colors. I loved it!!

I believe that this same effect could have been closely achieved using the acrylic paint “wash” illustrated above if you chose not to use stain.
It’s a little difficult to see because the sunshine is literally pouring into my sun room ...
... but the table top has repurposed my worn patio set and made a cute companion to my hanging quilt.

Key takeaways —

*You can stain wood using diluted acrylic paint

*You can stain directly over a painted design
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Frequently asked questions
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  3 questions
  • Diane Diane on May 03, 2018

    OMG, this table is gorgeous, and these are the perfect colors for the kitchen in the house we are fixing up! Can you tell me the specific color names, especially for the "red," green, and shades of taupe in the flowers? Thanks so much!

  • Barbara-Denison Joy Barbara-Denison Joy on May 03, 2018

    Wwhere did you use the rounds?

  • Alisa Thornton Flowers Alisa Thornton Flowers on Jun 19, 2018

    How did you keep the top on the table legs. I have one also had a glass top. Once I inherited it the glass didn’t last long. I want to do something like this but I can’t figure out how to keep it connected.

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3 of 70 comments
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on May 25, 2018

    THIS IS STUNNING! And could be done on any table needing a facelift. Just make the round and set it on a small table.

    I wish I were that talented a painter!!!!

  • Melody Willoughby Melody Willoughby on Jun 12, 2018

    WOW!!!!! That turned out gr8. Ur freehand looks amazing too. Wish I was that talented.....