Paint Swatch Art




Introduction: Paint Swatch Art

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Paint swatches can make beautiful art. Those tiny swatches in the paint section of your local hardware store come in a wide variety of hues, and there's endless colour combinations possible.

Making your own is super easy and you can personalize it to match your space however you want, I even included the template I used to make the square swatch spacing perfect. Download it below and try it out yourself.

Let's make some classy paint swatch art!

Step 1: Find Frame

I wanted a gilded frame for my paint chip art, so I shopped around at thrift stores and building reuse centres until I found something that would work.

I found a tacky moving picture, the kind found in bad restaurants which has a light and motor behind the picture that gives the illusion of water movement. I didn't care much for the picture, but the frame and glass were perfect.

Step 2: Disassemble and Clean Frame

This picture frame was in really bad shape, the corners were banged up and the internal components were caked with old grease from the waterfall motor and residue from whatever establishment it was in before it went to the thrift store.

The frame backing was held on with finishing nails which were pried loose, the glass had a decal of the waterfall scene that had to be removed, too. The glass had glue residue on one side, and what can only be described as the regret of 1000 bad restaurant meals on the front. I used heavy duty cleaner with bleach to clean both surfaces of the glass.

Step 3: Spray Frame

Since the frame was badly damaged I sprayed the entire frame with a gold 'hammered finish' spray.

The frame was cleaned with soapy water, then dried completely before applying any paint. After a few coats the finish looked great. I left the paint to dry overnight in the garage.

Step 4: Get Paint Chips

With the frame chosen I could focus on the art to put inside. I went to my local hardware store and browsed the paint section until I found the colour selection kiosk. Within reason, you're allowed to take as many samples as you like. Pretending I was painting a few really big rooms I stuffed my pockets with as many paint swatches as I could.

I loosely stuck with a few core colour choices, then branched out with a few complimenting hues.

Step 5: Cut Swatches

I used a paper cutter to cut my swatches to the right size. The paper cutter is a good choice as you can quickly get consistent cuts, and cut multiple swatches at once.

For my design I wanted 1.5" x 1.5" squares, each swatch was cut to the right size and neatly stacked in a group for placement.

Step 6: Organize

Before placing the cut swatches I organized the swatches and thought about how the colours might compliment each other.

Step 7: Arranging Swatches

To make arranging the cut swatches easier I made a template to place under my mounting sheet.

You can see in the picture that you can still make out the template outline underneath a white sheet of paper, using this idea I printed a few templates and taped them together until I had a template that covered my framed area.

You can use the template I made by downloading the PDF below.

Step 8: Start Arranging

I used a large white sheet of paper and cut it a little larger than my frame. I placed the template on the frame back, then wrapped the large piece of paper around the frame back, sandwiching the template between the frame back and the top sheet.

With the template pattern in place I could arrange the cut swatches in the colour pattern I wanted.

Step 9: Glue

When I was satisfied with the colour arrangement I glued each cut swatch down with a small dab of craft glue.

Step 10: Mat Board

The salvaged picture frame I used didn't come with a mat board, the interior framing that draws attention to the piece being framed. You could go out and buy a mat board to cut to size, but I asked nicely and got off-cuts for super cheap. The one shown here was $2.

It was slightly larger than my frame, so I cut it down to size with a sharp hobby knife and a straight edge.

Step 11: Glue Mat Board

After the mat board was cut to size, it was glued directly to the tiled swatch array.

Step 12: Spray Glue

I untaped the art from the frame back, removed the template printout, then reattached the swatch array with spray adhesive, permanently bonding it to the frame backing.

Step 13: Trim Edges

With the colour swatch array bonded to the frame backing, the paper around the edges were trimmed flush with the frame back.

Step 14: Install Into Frame

The glass was cleaned and the paint chip art can be installed. The artwork was secured in place with frame clips.

Picture hanging mounts were installed on the back of the frame, and hanging wire was added.

Step 15: Hang

All that's left is to hang your paint chip art and admire your hard work.

Have you made your own paint chip art? I want to see it!

Happy making :)

2 People Made This Project!


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Lady Judy
Lady Judy

6 years ago

I like your Paint Swatch Art :)

I also make the ever-popular personalized bookmarks with paint chips. I'm color-challenged, but I match peoples' intended bookmarks with their favorite colors or interests, write their name in calligraphy or type it with fancy fonts, then glue it very lightly with the name, etc. fitting inside the paint chip so that it has a colorful border. A sheet of them laminated at once lends longevity. A couple of those inside a carefully-chosen book or magazine makes a great gift at any cost!


Reply 7 years ago

Please could you share a photo of your bookmarks! Or maybe even post an Instructable? If you don't want to make it public you can email me at Thank-you!


Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

Hi candilee47! I am Outside all summer (traveling, not in my home state of Alaska) and I am seeing this post for the first time tonight; sorry it's taken this long. I will try and get some samples together soon. Your idea for an 'ible is a good one; thanks. This'll obviously be one of the easier ones!


8 years ago on Introduction

I was at Home Depot just last week staring at paint swatches and thinking, "There has to be a neat way to turn these into an art piece." Looks like I'm heading back to the paint aisle tonight :)


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Great! I'd love to see your creation when you're done

Eh Lie Us!
Eh Lie Us!

8 years ago on Introduction

the place where you scored the frame looks like Urban Ore in Berkeley. Many a cool find in there.

Fission Chips

These look perfect! Thanks for the great, detailed Instructable. I'm about to start making it, and nice photos!


8 years ago

That looks great!


8 years ago on Introduction

I would have used a paper punch to make it easier, but well done.

Oooo very pretty! I love that paint chips are finding more and better uses the more people play with them.