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Make a Summer Picnic Crate

True fact: fancy picnic crates make picnic food taste better. They also prevent sunburn and make your hair shiny.

Okay, no. So picnic crates are just boxes, made of wood—no special powers involved.

But a fun crate might make a Fourth of July picnic more festive! Here are two ways you could decorate crates for summer picnicking.

I believe this is the first rule of crafting: There’s no such thing as perfect; all that matters is that you like what you made. Use these suggestions to inspire you to do what’ll make you happy.

If you like the idea of a picnic crate but have zero minutes for crafting, just pick up a crate at the craft store, stick a flag in with your food, and call it a day.

If you have five minutes, line the bottom of the crate with a red-white-and-blue tablecloth before packing your food. Good to go.

If you have a little more time on your hands and want to do a little DIY: I’ve got you covered.

First: Painted stripes

Painted Picnic Crate

Blue and white stripes give a plain crate a nautical feel that works for both the Fourth of July or any time.

You’ll need:

  • A crate
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Painter’s tape
  • A foam roller and/or paint brush


Paint the outside of the crate white using a foam roller.

When the white paint is dry, use painter’s tape to mark your stripes. I went for irregular blue stripes on the crate’s slats.

Paint the exposed areas, then peel the tape up while the paint is still damp.


You can always touch up your stripes when the paint dries, but don’t worry too much about imperfections here—they add character.

Second: An image transfer


Transferring a printed image onto wood lends a vintage look to a new crate. Here’s how to do it.

You’ll need:

  • A crate
  • An image, printed in reverse
  • Tape
  • CitraSolv (a citrus-based solvent)
  • A cotton ball or a bunched-up paper towel
  • A Popsicle stick or other flat-edged tool


Create an image to transfer onto your crate—it doesn’t have to be fancy. Mine is just clip art, surrounded by text.

Using graphic software, or even word processing software, flip your image so that it appears backwards, as in a mirror.

Print your reversed image, preferably with a laser printer. If that’s not an option, take your printout and make a photocopy. (The toner from a copy machine or laser printer will transfer better than an inkjet printout.)

Sand the chosen spot on your crate with fine-grit sandpaper. The smoother your surface, the more easily your image will transfer.

Tape the image in place, toner side directly on the wood.

Using a paper towel or cotton ball, dab CitraSolv all over the printer paper. Just a little should do it!


Rub over the paper with the flat edge of a Popsicle stick to help details transfer more thoroughly.


Peel off the tape and lift the paper carefully to avoid smudging.


Imperfection is part of the charm here — we’re going for a handmade, vintage-y look.

You can seal your crate with mod podge or wood sealant if you like.

Picnic crates, ready for celebrating!


Grab a couple of flags and tuck them in the corners for good measure.

Now we’re ready for the Fourth of July.


Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Ann

    Since having kids, and for a year or two before having kids, I became obsessed with picnics. I love this idea! And I like your suggestions based on the amount of time you have. You can certainly do more details as time goes on.

    Personally, I obsess with perfection to my detriment. I am not careful enough to justify this. I rarely measure and remeasure, yet I want it to be perfect. I’m not patient when I cut, yet I want a straight line. I’m trying to see the beauty in things that I make and aren’t perfect, but it’s hard, hard work. One way I let myself come to terms with what I’m making is to change my expectation from store quality to done. It works 95% of the time. (And, to be honest, when I start up a new craft, I start to notice the imperfections in the mass-produced stuff, so my quality is usually better anyway.)

    • Melissa

      Oh, Ann, I can so relate. And I think there is value in careful work, in learning a craft deeply and precisely; I’ve just had to admit to myself that I can’t do ALL things in that careful, practiced way. I can be passionate about a few things, and learn to do them as well as possible, and everything else I have to be content to enjoy at a more novice, get-it-done level.

      But I think there is joy to be found in imperfection, too. It just takes a little more effort to embrace it, sometimes. 🙂

  2. Christina

    Love the way the stripes give the basket a nice nautical theme. My kids are quite enthralled with stickers right now so I think we may do some decorating with those.

    • Melissa

      Stickers, so fun! Great idea.

      I love nautical –it’s classic and patriotic without being over-the-top. And stripes are easy to paint. So there’s that. 😉

  3. Jessica

    Oooh I like! I live in the British Isles so we don’t celebrate Fourth of July here, but the island I live on does celebrate Liberation Day every May 9th. It’s when we celebrate our freedom from the occupied forces at the end of WW2. We have the same red, white and blue colour theme thanks to the union jack so these picnic crates will work perfectly and until then they can double up as toy boxes in my nautical themed play area!

    • Melissa

      Nautical themed play area, be still my heart! 🙂

      I wanted to use my crates all year round, so I was aiming for red-white-and-blue but not TOO Fourth-of-July. I’m glad the ideas work for you!

    • Lector's Books

      I’m in the US, but I did a British themed nursery (spent several years there as a child, so I already had several touristy/UK child appropriate things.

      I love the idea of doing this and using it for a toy box in my baby’s room, the red, white, and blue would certainly fit in!

      • Melissa

        Ooh, yes! Crate-as-toybox would fit right in! I bet it’d make a cute bookshelf, too, turned on its side. So many possibilities… 🙂

        • Janie at Lector's Books

          Oh, that’s even better! You can never have too many bookshelves!! 🙂

  4. Jennifer Sikora

    That is super cute! I would love to make one of those for my family.

    • Melissa

      Thanks, Jennifer! I hope you do! 🙂

  5. Melissa @ LIM

    I love this idea. It would make a super cute hostess gift too!
    Just one question. Is the image printed on regular printer paper or something special? Looking forward to making one!

    Happy 4th!

    • Melissa

      Just plain old printer paper! Nothing special. 🙂

  6. Tanya

    What a cute crate!!! I want to make one so bad now. I love it!

    • Melissa

      So fun, Tanya! I hope it’s good inspiration for the weekend ahead. (Or any weekend, really…) 🙂

  7. Karen G

    I love the family crate. When I saw the first picture I thought that must have been done by a professional sign writer or something like that. I can’t believe it is so easy to do that from your own computer! Definitely giving that a try!

    • Melissa

      Isn’t that a cool technique? I love how it turned out. Now I want to make wood-print sorts of gifts for everyone I know! Maybe next Christmas… 😉

  8. Bekah @ A Moment with MOM

    This looks so fun!
    I love the step by step…I think I’m going to grab my hubby’s supplies and make this my weekend project!

    On behalf of-
    A Moment with MOM

    • Melissa

      I love weekend projects that can really be finished in a weekend! This one definitely can. Most of mine end up spilling over into the next week… but isn’t that what Mondays are for, really? 😉

  9. Ann

    I love this idea!

    • Melissa

      Yay! I hope it inspires you. 🙂

    • Melissa

      Thanks, Aimee!

  10. Pam@mommacan

    This is the cutest idea I have seen in a while. And the crates are heavy enough that they will not fall over in the car like many baskets tend to do.

    • Melissa

      Yes! Crates are great for bigger groups, too– we can fit everything we need without worrying about the bottom falling out of the basket from the weight of the food. 🙂

  11. Krissa

    Love it! It would make a great gift too…filled with some fun picnic items.

    • Melissa

      Ooh, Krissa, I love that idea! 🙂

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