How to Paint a Union Jack Dresser Without Measuring a Thing

May 14, 2015
(Last Updated On: )

legos in my louis pink union jack dresserSeriously, it’s true I painted this entire Union Jack dresser without measuring a thing. If you are into painting furniture, walls or even large scale areas, save yourself hours and errors of trying to measure everything and use this awesome hack.  Seriously, every other post you will see on how to paint a Union Jack anything will have you bringing out rulers and protractors which is just silly, labor intensive and really not much fun at all. To illustrate this technique I’ll show you how it works with a pink, orange and white Union Jack dresser I painted for my daughter.

7 Easy Steps to Painting a Union Jack Dresser Without Measuring a Thing

Decorating a nursery is such a fun task for a mother to be! I painstakingly put together my perfect vision come to life for Summer’s nursery with this lovely dresser as the centerpiece.  Bright, bold and cheery little did I know that Summer’s personality would perfectly match this beautiful piece I made for her.  I even went so far as the sign the back with a special note from Mom in hopes that she never gets rid of it.  So, how did I make the dresser look so good all while painting 9 months pregnant.  Here’s my simple steps and quick trick.

Step 1: Identify What You Are Painting

union jack dresser before paint

For this project I used a $150 dresser from Craigslist. Actually I got the dresser and a matching twin bed for $150 and sold the twin bed frame for $50 effectively lowering the purchase price down to $100  It was lovely, and I almost chickened out on painting it but I am so glad I did.  I wouldn’t bother with anything new since it will most likely have particle board and the quality won’t compare to a vintage dresser.  Initially I was hoping to find a dresser with a slightly curved faced to match the curves a flag would have in the wind but I never ended up finding on.

Investment: $100

Step 2: Prep Area / Base-coat

union jack base coat

This is the really hard part.  The dresser needs to be sanded down ALL OVER in every crack and crevice and then repainted with the base coat.  The sanding is dusty and time consuming.  The painting is tricky to get even and best done with a sprayer.  Since I was pretty darn close to having a baby the idea of sanding and spray painting was a no-no.  So I turned to Craigslist and found a guy who did furniture refinishing. For $50 + the cost of paint I dropped the dresser off at his warehouse and then he dropped it back off at my house with a perfect coat of bright pink paint.  I’m not going to lie, when the dresser showed up hot pink I was seriously questioning what I had done to this beautiful piece.  But I had faith in the process and carried on.

Investment: $50 labor + $40 can of paint

Step 3: Project Your Image

union jack projector

Here’s the hack, the easiest way to paint the stripes on the dresser is by projecting the image onto the dresser and then taping it off.  I just took a projector from the office, hooked my laptop up to it and opened the picture of a union jack flag. BOOM, perfectly symmetrical, perfect stripe width, everything laid out exactly as I wanted before I even picked up a brush.  Even a little zooming in and out let me align it exactly how I wanted!

Investment: $0 if you can find someone to lend you a projector

Step 4: Tape off & Paint One Color

union jack first coat

I started with the orange and taped off just the outlines for the orange parts.  Using blue painters tape was the easiest way and then let me do a sloppier paint job that ran onto the tape. Once I started painting I turned the projector off but left it in perfect position.  The paint dried and I pulled up the tape, turned the projector on and spot checked then waited for it to totally dry.  Since I was uncomfortable I waited a day between coats and before moving on to the next color.

Investment: $30 can of paint

Step 5: Tape off and Paint Second Color

union jack second coat

Turn the projector back on and tape off around the perimeter for the last color (in my case white).  To do this I had to tape over everywhere I had just painted orange alone with the other outside edge for the white.  White is a stronger color so it also let me do a little touch up over the orange that might have bled into the wrong section.  I did a heavy two coats of white so that it really popped!

Investment: $30 can of paint

Step 6: Clear Coat

pink union jack dresser clear coat

Adding a clear coat to the dresser was the suggestion of the nice man who I paid to do the base coat.  Since we put a diaper changing pad onto and rightfully anticipated heavy wear to it, this helped protect my work and gave it a nice overall shine.  The cleat coat just needs to be sprayed evenly across the dresser and comes in spray cans from the hardware store.  This step was a big no no for me (again I was super pregnant) so I had the nice painter swing by the front porch on a Saturday while we were out at the polo fields and hit it up with 2 cans of clear coat in exchange for a $20 bill I left in the drawer.

Investment: $20 labor + $10 for two cans of clear coat

Step 7: New Hardware

pink painted union jack dresser

Switching out the hardware makes all the difference when updating furniture.  Rather than pick something out at the hardware store I really wanted pulls that matched the updated paint job and went to a cabinetry store and picked from their large in stock selection

Investment: $40 knobs and pulls

Final Cost

pink union jack dresser in nursery

The final cost on the dresser came out to around $320. If you want to try it yourself you can save quite a bit with more of your own labor but in my case I was very pleased to have my focus in the miniscule detail of those flag stripes rather than sanding and spray painting. Multiple times I have been offered much much more than the cost of my time and the investment into the dresser.  But this piece isn’t mine to sell, it is now Summers and hopefully something that she will cherish for years to come


Taking the risk to create a furniture piece that is unique to you is always worth the risk.  Good taste and hard work can go a very long way in creating a real focal piece.  Don’t be afraid to outsource the parts that are too time consuming or you don’t have the tools for.  Always be open to creating inventive ways to save your time and energy.  Whatever project you decide to take on, the satisfaction you will feel after completing it makes all your time and energy well worth it!

In Gratitude Legos in my Louis

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  • Reply stm September 1, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Ugggh. I’m torn. On the one hand that is a great paint job and looks super cool, but that dresser and that wood…you just don’t find that craftsmanship anywhere like that anymore. Look at how whomever made that matched the grain on the two drawers and the vertical grain on the top part. That was beautiful wood.

    • Reply Legos in my Louis September 1, 2015 at 11:35 am

      I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s very hard to find craftsmanship like this anymore at a reasonable price. I was so torn trying to decide if this piece was too nice to paint. I got the dresser for $150 on craigslist so the decision was easier than if it was a family heirloom.

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