How to make a dropcloth rug | paint a rug tutorial

This dropcloth rug is a beautiful and simple Aztec wonder. It is created simply from a dropcloth and paint. It isn’t difficult at all. Time-consuming, yes. But, not difficult.

Create a dropcloth rug. Easy to follow tutorial to make this budget-friendly DIY.

β€œWe are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.” Find our full disclosure here.

make a dropcloth rug with paint. Full tutorial.

Paint a dropcloth and use hand made sponges (these are just sponges cut into geometric shapes) to create your own Aztec inspired design. This one is for my soon to be made-over Dining Room (to see the finished room go HERE).

Dropcloth Rug Supplies:

  • dropcloth (choose one with a plastic underside)
  • sponges (plain ol‘ kitchen sponges will do just fine)
  • paint (you won’t need a large amount. Try to have 3 different colors for the accent and 1 base color. I prefer THIS PAINTTHIS PAINT)
  • roller (if you choose to use one for the base coat)
  • paint brushes ( you can use the cheap sponge ones, if you like)
  • clear sealer (if desired)

Note: You do not need to use a specific kind of paint. Outdoor or porch paint will hold up the best but you can absolutely use interior paint. If the rug turns out amazing (which it will!) and you do not want it to EVER be ruined then think about spraying a clear coat on top of it. It will withstand traffic and washing so much better.

Instructions for dropcloth rug:

1. Iron the dropcloth as best you can.

Don’t worry too much, many of the wrinkles take care of themselves when you paint. Just get the worst offenders out, if possible. Most dropcloths come folded up in the package. Those folds need to be taken out as best you can.

2. Paint the base coat.

Use two good coats of base paint (the one pictured above uses orange) before you get started with your design. Don’t duplicate this color within your later design or your full design won’t show up. There is no need to let coats dry in between painting each one because you are just trying to get the drop cloth to soak up the color. It won’t seep underneath because of the plastic underside. But, be sure to let the two base coats dry after the 2 coats are applied and before you put in your design.

3. Cut your sponges.

To make a design like the one pictured, use multiple variations of triangles. And a small square. Use what will work for what you are trying to achieve.
With this type of design, it’s best to go with a basic, geometric shape. You will just build basic shape on top of basic shape on your rug. Keep it geometric and orderly. Or, perhaps you have a plan and are going to go crazy. Go for it.

4. Use a pencil and lightly draw guidelines.

Give yourself a basic idea of where to put the stamps. It doesn’t need to be detailed. Just an eyeball. It’s hard to “undo” paint. Being a bit prepared and planned will save you time in the long run!

5. Apply stamps.

Be sure to work bit by bit. If you’re trying not to mess up, do the pattern in order (section by section) rather than one color at a time. But, do what feels right to you. If you mess up, cover it back over with orange paint, let dry…try again.

6. Seal.

When you have your pattern and everything dries..seal with a clear sealer.
This is the part that allows you to use whatever paint you want or is on hand.

Be aware that this rug is more of a “floor cloth” in texture. How thick your base paint layer is will determine how stiff the rug is. A thicker base coat will make for a stiffer rug.  For many places in your home it is perfect. In your mud room you can just sweep this off and not have to pull out the vaccuum. You can make a beautiful “rug” for under your dining room table that can be handle food and use with ease. But, it doesn’t have the feel on your feet like a traditional rug would have.

dropcloth rug. Full tutorial.

make a rug with a dropcloth and paint. Full tutorial.

I grabbed my 4 favorite budget-friendly options for an Aztec-inspired rug that you DON’T have to DIY:


Other great project that you can do with dropcloths:




  1. Tara
    September 16, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    Would this work for an outdoor area rug? I have a screened in porch I would like to put a rug in. But can’t find the right size.

    • Nellie
      September 18, 2017 / 12:21 pm

      It would if it doesn’t get alot of rain on it and you use an outdoor paint. If it gets really wet out there I would be concerned about the water not drying out on the rug. Because you are using a dropcloth that is intended to keep paint or liquids from soaking through it could be difficult to dry off if it was more than your spray from rain. I hope that helps!

  2. Cass
    September 9, 2015 / 11:58 pm

    love this rug! Just finished mine! I was wondering if it is safe to machine wash? It got a little dirty while I was painting it.

    • Nellie
      September 10, 2015 / 8:45 am

      You know, I don’t think I would machine wash it. Maybe on hand wash? I would just give it a good wipe with a bit of soap and warm water in a corner to test (should hold up fine) and go that route. HOnestly, great question!! It is outdoor paint but sometimes that paint chips off and flakes when it gets wet and abused.

    • Nellie
      September 10, 2015 / 8:46 am

      P.S. I would love to see it!

  3. Kas
    April 22, 2015 / 10:37 am

    I first wanna say I LOVE IT! I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while now but don’t have the guts to do it :-P
    I know you said you didn’t seal it, but could you tell me what you would use to do so?

    • Nellie
      April 22, 2015 / 3:58 pm

      I would simply use a clear polyurethane. If it was a nice day, a clear spray sealer would be fast and easy!

  4. November 9, 2014 / 7:13 am

    This rug is amazing! I also really love that dark blue wall color in the photos. Do you happen to remember what color it is? :)

    • Nellie
      November 9, 2014 / 12:30 pm

      That is actually chalkboard paint (the regular black kind that comes from Menards). Isn’t it fantastic! We love it!

  5. lindsey
    November 5, 2014 / 9:47 am

    How is it with the chairs and table? I am thinking about making one for under my dining room table, but my husband is concerned that it will be a hassle with the chairs sliding on and off. Any thoughts?

    • Nellie
      November 5, 2014 / 10:07 am

      I don’t find it any different than traditional rugs. A bit smoother and thinner. But, not much different at all.

  6. Juliana
    September 15, 2014 / 9:29 am

    Hi! I love the rug! Congratulations! What type of paint did you use? I’m dying to give it a shot but I don’t want to mess up by choosing the wrong type of paint.

    • Nellie
      September 15, 2014 / 2:45 pm

      I used traditional latex paint. I think mine was Valspar. Another time I used outdoor paint and think it might be holding up better. But really, you can use traditional indoor paint just fine. Throw a coat of clear spray paint over the top of it for good measure, if you like. Good luck!! Be sure to send us a pic of the finished product so we can ooh and aaah!

  7. Jeanne
    June 4, 2014 / 11:40 am

    Gorgeous! It is similar in color and pattern to a wonderful old, tattered Oriental rug that belonged to my great grandmother! I am definitely going to give this a try for a bedroom I’m redoing! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Carla G
    June 3, 2014 / 4:00 pm

    It is gorgeous, Janel! Awesome work!

  9. Krystle
    March 25, 2014 / 2:35 pm

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future.
    All the best

  10. February 17, 2014 / 10:07 am

    What an awesome LOOK!!! You rocked this project for sure! Hugs…

  11. June
    February 4, 2014 / 12:08 pm

    What did you use so the rug doesn’t slide and move around?

    • February 4, 2014 / 12:55 pm

      I don’t have a problem with that. But, on other rugs that I have I run a bead of caulking on the underside. Works like a charm!

  12. Victoria Whitcher
    February 3, 2014 / 1:42 am

    What kind of paint and what kind of sealer did you use..

    • February 4, 2014 / 12:58 pm

      I used a latex paint from the oops section (nothing special) in flat and just a clear spraypaint as the sealer.

  13. Lisa Fisk
    January 22, 2014 / 10:43 am

    Love this, but I have questions. What type of paint? Latex? Gloss, flat, semi gloss? Interior or Exterior? What is spray sealer and where do you find it?

    • January 22, 2014 / 2:18 pm

      I used flat but I believe any would work. You can find spray sealer with spray paints at the store. You can also buy it in the can and use a brush, if you like. Not as easy, though :). Spray sealer can also just be clear paint, if that’s all you can find.

  14. January 8, 2014 / 10:38 pm

    This is very cool! I love using paint to spruce up just about anything. I do funky painted furniture but this post has me ready to work on a rug for my kitchen area! Great post and loved your design.

    • January 11, 2014 / 9:35 am

      Thank you!! Since this post I got my hands on another dropcloth and have a second rug. I love them!

  15. jezuri
    September 18, 2013 / 7:26 pm

    Omigosh Janel… this is absolutely amazing!! I want to try this. :)

  16. yael
    September 16, 2013 / 2:58 am

    I’m amazed!! I can’t find THAT looking good rug anywhere. I have one question though…is there other name for dropcloth? cause I can’t find any translation for this word and in order to buy it I need to know the word in Hebrew:) is it like painting-canvas? Thanks!

    • September 18, 2013 / 6:54 am

      hmmmm….that’s a good question. Not sure. It would be made to protect floors and furniture from paint. It would have plastic on one side and canvas on the other and is usually quite inexpensive.

  17. Michelle
    September 8, 2013 / 3:07 pm

    Wow, this is by far the best looking drop cloth rug I’ve seen!! I was wondering-does the texture of the cloth feel stiff since you painted/sealed the entire surface? I made one last year in chevron but I didn’t paint the entire surface or use sealer because I was worried it would feel too stiff under foot.

    And for the commenter above, this is a great way to cover up an existing rug that you no longer like or want to replace. That way you have a good solid no-slip base and you can easily change the way it looks by switching drop cloths!

    • September 10, 2013 / 7:35 pm

      It is a bit stiff. It isn’t something I would put where I want it soft under-foot. But, that said…I would totally make this again for my living room and bedrooms. It doesn’t feel much different then the rugs you buy.

  18. Amber
    September 4, 2013 / 5:46 pm

    I absolutely love this and want to try this, my only question is, wouldn’t this be slippery since its a drop cloth?

    • September 6, 2013 / 4:15 pm

      You know, it hasn’t been. It could be my floor, I suppose. But…a quick way to fix that is run a few rows of hot glue at the bottom. Or buy a no-slip rug thingie (real technical term!).

      • Amber
        September 8, 2013 / 12:23 am

        Oh my lanta, you are brilliant!!! Thank you for the great idea, I can’t wait to try this. I’ve been area rug shopping and they are all so expensive.

        • September 10, 2013 / 7:36 pm

          Aren’t they!! That’s why this was created. I hope you have success!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.