Try saying "patriotic paint chip place cards" five times fast. Whew, it might be a mouthful to say, but they're a snap to make. This project started...well, to be honest, just this I know we're hosting a small informal shindig tomorrow at our house to celebrate the 4th of July. My goal was simple -- add a special festive flair to the occasion in a quick and easy way. Yesterday I got to thinking about what craft project I could pull off quickly, inexpensively, and using supplies I already had on hand or could freely acquire.

I recently had an idea to use paint chips for various patriotic flair. Though I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to use them, when Alex made a trip to our local big box that will not be named (to protect the "innocent") just last night, I sent him with a seemingly simple task, "Bring back red, white, and blue paint chips...and lots of them."

Now let me give you a little insight on Alex's personality. He takes instructions well, but he's extremely literal. He's also very conflict avoidant, and he hates doing things that one may deem "inappropriate." My simple instructions put many of of Alex's personality traits at odds. To Alex, "boosting" copious amounts of paint chips from a hardware store for purposes other than using them to select paint colors for a room is, well, disingenuous. To me, it's a creative use of a freely available supply. So we'll go ahead and agree to disagree on this one.

Alex marched into the big box, picked up the supplies he needed, then walked over to the paint aisle and apparently began taking just about every suitable red, white, and blue paint chip they had to offer. As I said, Alex takes instructions well and literally. When I said "lots of them," the failure to stipulate an upper limit on said paint chip quantities produced some conflict within his brain. "Lots" somehow translated to "ALL" in his mind, and he did not want to disappoint. 

Feeling he was bending the unwritten paint chip etiquette laws of big box land a little too far, Alex opted to use the self checkout so his burden would not be put on display, however, this plan backfired. When he reached the end of the checkout process, he dropped the honking load of paint chip samples into the bag, which was quickly followed by "an unexpected item has been placed in the bagging area" announcement from the feminine robotic voice. 

Oh the horror! The paint chips had weighed too much, Alex had been outed as a thief of free things, and he was being openly chastised by the vindictive machine. Panicking, he removed the bag from the platform and placed it in the cart, but that only prompted the warning that "Items have been unexpectedly removed from the bagging area!" The jig was up! A cashier came over to assist the petty paint chip thief, punching in the employee code to allow him to proceed. As part of the process, the cashier glanced down in the bag, looked at the pilfered patriotic Pantones and pressed, "Lot of paint chips there...doing a lot of painting?"

According to Alex, the question had been posed not as an innocent inquiry, but rather an accusation. She apparently "knew" what he was up to. Under pressure, and feeling the guilt seeping into his gut, he came up with the first thing that popped into his mind. "Uhhhh, it's a big room, and we're doing a patriotic theme." That's it, that's all he could muster. He was on the verge of throwing the paint chips in the air to create a diversion and running out of the store. That's where his mind went. He came up with nothing about taping them together to get a better idea of the color, nothing about different areas of the room with different light, or any other reasonable explanation. The cashier, probably feeling sorry for Alex in all of his foolishness said, "Uh-huh...have a nice night, good luck with the color select..." and allowed him to be on his way, paint chips in hand.

Just look at the haul he brought back for me. There's over one full pound of paint chips there on our table, evidence of a crime not committed, no matter how much the culprit feels he was in the wrong. And I suppose I should be more specific in the future so he's not wiping out the store's paint chip inventory.

Knowing the ordeal my poor husband endured to bring these paint chips into my life, I had an extra incentive to put them to use in the best way possible. This morning, I had a bit of a light bulb moment, and I decided to make patriotic place cards for our guests. My hope is that they'll add a little special touch to tomorrow's table setting, and that they'll also make our guests feel right at home. As a secondary item, Alex can look down at the table, see his name, and be reminded of this horrible events he was put through, all in the name of cute table decor.


  • Paint chips in patriotic colors
  • Hot glue gun (or other paper friendly glue)
  • Scissors
  • White chalk pen (or similar white marker)

I got started by spreading out my hoard of paint chips, deciding on just the perfect shades of red, white, and blue to use for the project. 

After a few moments of consideration, I selected a multi shade chip of deep blues to use as my base. What drew me to this paint chip was the interest of more than one shade of blue, separated by the strong line of crisp white.

Knowing I wanted a "tented" style place card rather than flat, I folded the paint chip in half, and repeated the process seven more times (as we have eight people attending, ourselves included). This about when I became rather appreciative of Alex's excess in selecting paint chips. Had he not gone overboard, I don't think we would have had enough.

Next, I took a look at my red chips, knowing I needed to add that pop of crimson to round out the patriotic look. Not trusting my ability to freehand a decent looking star, I quickly printed out a few star clip art shapes in varying sizes that I found with a quick Google search.

I cut out the 1.5" star as it seemed to be the best scale for the place card, and carefully began tracing eight star shapes on the reverse side of the paint chip, followed by slowly cutting them out with a pair of sharp scissors. This step would probably be easier and more precise if you were to use an exacto knife, but the scissors worked well enough for my purposes.

My project was nearing completion, but after holding the star up to the tented place card, I felt they looked a bit too long, and the name of the paint color was a bit distracting. (Perhaps it was distracting because it was so aptly named "Teeny Bikini"?) Apparently I needed to also make sure Alex didn't select any paint chips with "distracting color names." This factor is also duly noted for next time.

It was an easy problem to address. After a quick adjustment, snipping off the left hand side of the paint chip, I was much happier with the size and look.

Using a dab of hot glue on the back of each star, I affixed them to the front left of the paint chips, in a slightly off kilter manner for a more casual look. This is a backyard barbecue after all! 

Using my chalk ink pen (the one I purchased to use on our chalkboard cabinet doors), I wrote each guest's name on the front, and they're ready to go.

In all, this project cost nothing, took about 45 minutes, possibly shaved a few days off of Alex's life, and only involved one scolding from a big box employee. If I had a star shaped punch on hand, like this one, it would have dramatically reduced the project time even further.

I'm really happy with how the place cards turned out, and hopefully our guests will appreciate them too. This adds to my history of using paint chips for things other than simply selecting paint colors (like these Valentine's Day Bookmarks), and I'm sure it's not the last time I'll do it. However, something tells me this may be the last time I'm able to convince Alex to pick up the chips for me.

Have you ever used paint chips for various crafts or other purposes? Are you drawn to their rainbow of colors the way I am, or do you not really give them a second thought when you walk by them in the hardware store?

Comments 10


Matthew Ronk
7/3/2013 at 12:15 PM
"When I said "lots of them," the failure to stipulate an upper limit on said paint chip quantities produced some conflict within his brain. "Lots" somehow translated to "ALL" in his mind, and he did not want to disappoint".
Matthew Ronk
7/3/2013 at 12:15 PM
I am laughing at this peice I copied here.
Old Town Home
7/3/2013 at 1:15 PM
I'm glad you had a laugh about it, Matthew Ronk. I think all husbands have been there at some point! :-)
7/3/2013 at 2:45 PM
The best part of this post is being able to picture Alex in panic mode at "big box store".
It doesn't happen often, but it's a sight to see! :-)
7/3/2013 at 4:25 PM
The place cards are darling! And my husband would have done the exact same thing. Except that he never uses the plastic bags, so he would have had to find another way to hide the stash.
Thanks, Lynnette! If only men carried purses. ;-)
Laura C
7/3/2013 at 7:06 PM
Hilarious. I sympathize with Alex - I would have been sweating bullets until "safely" out of the store.

Oh, and the place cards look great!
Ha, I know! I guess if he had taken a more reasonable amount, it wouldn't have been an issue. I'll definitely have to be more specific in the future. ;-)
7/4/2013 at 1:14 AM
Should I admit that I have made a couple of small photo-book/scrapbooks with paint chips? I found some that were 5x6, so I adhered a 4x6 photo on the "back' of the paint chip, along with a 1" strip of patterned paper to cover the rest. (Or strips at the top and bottom of the photo) I have a binding tool, so punched and bound the pages into little books. Fun and unique! :)
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