I don’t usually fuss about mismatched serving ware, especially not when it’s free, but…
That ceramic pitcher that I scored off the “free” pile on the side of the road is sure sturdy and would be awesome for lemonade out on the deck, but WOW is it ugly.
That melamine platter that got re-gifted to me would be perfect for summer backyard parties… but it’s got a big picture of Santa Claus on it.
What can you do with serving ware that could go great together but doesn’t match and also super ugly?
Spray paint it!
And it doesn’t have to be fussy, either! I’ve got a go-to, super easy, super quick method to makeover serving ware. The results are fun but not fussy, and matching without being too mitchy-matchy.
The process does call for spray paint, which is difficult (but not impossible!) to find in eco-friendly varieties. However, you need so little of each color other than black that you can easily use the nearly-empty cast-offs from a friend’s recent project, or look for cans at your local ReStore.
Since spray paint is so versatile, you can also use this method with lots of different materials. Wood, plastic, ceramic, and metal all work great, and the finished results will make them match no matter their materials.
To make your own matching serving ware, you’ll need the following supplies:
- serving ware. Re-gifted, thrifted, and scavenged pieces all work for this project! Platters, pitchers and bowls are easy choices, but also consider making over the handles of serving utensils, the stems of wine glasses, or the bottom halves of plastic tumblers.
- spray paint. A little goes a long way with spray paint, so you won’t need anywhere near a full can for your serving ware. You’ll need enough black spray paint to cover each piece, and a small amount of a variety of colors for the stripes. Choose spray paint with primer for the easiest application.
- dish soap. Use a gel dish soap meant for washing dishes by hand, but the brand doesn’t matter. I’ve done equally well with both name-brand dish soap and Dollar Store dish soap.
- polyurethane sealant. You don’t want spray paint to chip off, especially not around food, so a good-quality polyurethane sealant is a necessity. Look for a water-based polyurethane manufactured for the materials you’re sealing.
- masking tape and paper (optional). You need these materials if there are parts of the serving ware that you’ll be taping off.
Step 1: Wash and Prep the Serving Ware
Wash each piece with dish soap and dry with a lint-free towel. Dust, grease, and even the build-up of fingerprints can cause improper adherence of the spray paint.
Tape off the parts of the serving ware that you don’t want paint and polyurethane on. For me, that meant the inside of the pitcher. I’d also tape off the insides of serving bowls, and the business ends of serving utensils, if I was painting them. I’m pretty chill about dry foods like chips or cookies or popcorn sitting on the polyurethane, but I’d be less comfortable with it coming into contact with liquids or people’s mouths.
Step 2: Spray Paint the Serving Ware
This is SUCH a fun step! It’s a great place for kids or teenagers to participate, especially if you’re making over these dishes for a child’s birthday party or an anticipated summer of a hundred teenagers crashing at your house and eating every Pizza Roll you buy.
Spray paint your serving pieces completely randomly, having as much fun as you possibly can. I even found a couple of cans of mostly-empty metallic spray paints hiding in my garage from no telling how long ago (I recently found a half-full can of paint in there that was literally from the 1980s, decades before I even bought this house… and I 100% used it to repaint some walls!), and I absolutely LOVE how they look on the finished products.
Pro tip: if you’ve got the option of metallic paint, go for it!
Be very generous with your paint’s drying/curing time, since you’ve probably put on a lot of overlapping layers.
Step 3: Drizzle on Dish Soap
Apply dish soap directly from its squeeze bottle to your serving piece. Use it to draw lines and squiggles and loops, or even to paint in shapes. Don’t try to make anything too precise, as the dish soap will spread a bit and the looseness of your drawing is part of the charm of this look. If you’re looking for something a little more systematic, though, parallel stripes do well, and perpendicular lines make interesting patterns without a lot of fuss.
Step 4: Spray Paint the Serving Piece Black
This step should follow immediately from the previous step. Paint the entire piece black, ideally aiming directly at the piece so you don’t blow the dish soap around. If parts of the piece need a second coat, also paint this coat on immediately.
Step 5: Rinse off the Dish Soap
As soon as you’ve spray painted your entire piece black, rinse it. I do this outside with the hose–just make sure you don’t have your nozzle set so high it blasts ALL the paint off!
As you rinse the dish soap off, you’ll see fun, random colors come out to play in the same random strips and swirls that you made when you applied the dish soap. This is my favorite moment!
Rinse your serving piece for a lot longer than you feel like doing, until the water runs completely clear and you’re absolutely positive there’s no more soap remaining. Rinse a little more after that, too–that dish soap is VERY clingy!
Again, give your serving ware an extremely generous amount of time to dry and cure.
Step 6. Seal with Polyurethane
Use your favorite brand of water-based polyurethane to seal the painted areas of your serving ware.
Your new matching serving ware should handle regular usage just fine. You do want to hand-wash it rather than tossing it into the dishwasher, but otherwise it’s perfectly able to stand up to all your casual get-togethers.
And when a kid smashes that lemonade pitcher or a teenager finds out that the s’mores platter cannot, in fact, function as a frisbee, your next set of matching serving ware is just one thrift store and a few layers of paint away!