Introduction: Hand Painted Table Runners

About: Geeky artist. MUST. MAKE. STUFF. More stuff at:

I had an idea to make very colorful, hand painted table runners for 12 large tables. I wanted each one to be unique and impress our guests. I found a way to make them fun, fast and inexpensive. And our guests loved them!

You can use my techniques to make yours in any sizes and colors you want. They are as easy or involved as you want to make them.

Step 1: Fabric

The most important part of this project is the fabric. After a lot of trial and error, I found one that I could cut easily and needed no binding on the edges. It is inexpensive and comes in shades of white and ivory. And looks great painted.

The photo above shows how the paint takes well to one side with minimal bleed-through on the other side.

Blackout Drapery Lining Fabric

Just google it or go to any fabric store. It runs about $2.50 - $5/yard.

To know how much you will need, you first need to decide if you want the runners to drape over the edges of your table(s). If you want draping, add 36" to your table for each runner. Decide how wide you want the runners (mine are 2.5'). Add up what you need for all your runners and head off to a (cheap) fabric store.

It's best to choose the fabric in person so you can grab a length and see how it drapes. The sales people in the store can also help you figure out how your runners can be cut, given the fabric's width, to help you save on yardage.

Step 2: The Rest of Your Supplies

acrylic craft paints (I used the cheap bottled acrylics in the photo)



news papers or drop cloths

acrylic medium (optional)

Step 3: Cut the Runners

Since you already have the measurements, this part is easy. Just try to set up your runners to make as few cuts as possible. I got fabric that was 5' wide, so I just needed to cut once down the length for 2.5' runners.

My runners were big, so I set my fabric on the floor to measure and cut.

I measured and then slid very sharp scissors along the length to make a smooth edge. Unless you are very far off, small imperfections or differences in sizes won't be noticeable.

Step 4: Set Up

I painted some runners indoors and some in the backyard. Outside, I laid the fabric right on the grass. (Though you should put down paper if you care about staining your work area.) Inside, I covered a large table with news paper. I still had to work in sections, though, because my runners were so long.

Choose Your Work Area


Great for more careful painting, borders & bad weather.


Perfect for splatter painting and tie dye effects. Easier to do larger or multiple pieces.

Once you've chosen your work space, lay down LOTS of newspaper or some nice, big drop cloths. Put your cut fabric on the work area. I set up 2 runners side-by-side at a time.

Step 5: Paint!

This should be fun!

I used one color for each runner, but you should feel free to use all the color you want. Just keep in mind that the wetter the fabric gets the more the colors will bleed together. They will keep mixing until the fabric is dry.


Paint freehand shapes. Make them large and random. Paint with the paint just watered (use plain water or matt acrylic medium) down enough that it goes on easily. Then dilute the color to about 50% and paint more shapes with that. Let some overlap.

When you like the painting, let it dry most of the way and decide if you want a border. For a border, paint the entire edge about 1" (2.5cm) all the way around. Use the full strength color.


Same as the geometric shapes, but make freehand swirling patterns instead of shapes. Add some dots if you want.

Tie Dye

Wet the whole fabric and paint splotches of full strength color randomly. Then add more water and crumple up the whole thing. Squeeze the fabric like you're wringing out wet clothes. Then open up and check it out. You can add more water and/or paint until you like the effect.

Splatter Painting

This is the messiest, but maybe the most fun. And it looks great!

Dilute your paint just enough so that when you get a good brush full it's nice and drippy. Then make sure your drips are falling on your runner. When the paint isn't dripping much anymore, shake the brush so more lands on your fabric. For the adventurous (preferably, who are working outside), flick your painty brush down at the surface (don't touch the brush to the fabric) and you'll get big splashy lines of paint. Dilute the paint more and continue. Keep splattering until you like the result.


Combine the techniques above and/or add elements like lines, stripes, graffiti, hand prints, stamp prints, etc.

Step 6: Finish

I washed my runners before using them. I tested one runner first and it went through the washer and dryer with just a tiny bit of fading. All of the runners were soft and wrinkle free out of the dryer. I rolled them up until it was time to set them out.

Now have a party! Add matching linens, flowers and favors.

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