Foam mats are hugely versatile but they are usually either bright primary colours or a plain black. Surprisingly foam mats can easily be painted with acrylic paints and customized to completely change a space.

I live in an apartment building in the city making our outdoor space limited. To satiate my desire to garden I have turned my deck into a small plant filled wonderland. The deck space needs to be functional as a place to sit and enjoy, and a place for the kids to play, while also hosting as many plants as it can. I have used a basic four pack of black foam mats out here since we moved in. They make it a little nicer to play on.

While working with my son to create our rainbow driftwood wind chime for the kids garden bed we inevitable got some paint on the mat. I didn’t clean it up in time assuming the foam wouldn’t hold the paint. To my surprise it stuck! I figured it would quickly be worn away by the dirt, water and tiny feet. However, after weeks, then months of play it hadn’t faded.

That’s when the idea struck, I could use basic acrylic paint to completely revamp the well worn mats adding some extra magic to our small outdoor space.

Supplies

  • Foam mats
  • paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • optional *fabric medium

I added in some acrylic fabric medium to help the paint maintain some extra flexibility. However this step is optional as I found the paint did fine without it. Make sure while you are painting to not let it get too thick, the thicker the paint the higher the chance of peeling.

How to paint a foam mat with acrylic paint

deck garden play mat surrounded by toys and plants
The beginning of our well used black foam mats.
  1. Wash and dry your mats. The cleaner the mat the more surface area is available for the paint to bind to.
  2. Choose which side of the mat to paint. These mats have a textured top side and a smooth underside, the smooth side is easier to paint, however the textured side helps with grip if it is used outside. I painted the textured side for this reason.
  3. If you are painting the whole mat paint the entire surface white and let it dry. If you are only painting parts of it skip this step.
  4. Paint your mats however you’d like! If you didn’t start with painting it white then you want to make sure the colours you are using have some white added in, or you may need to do several coats to make the colours bright.
  5. Let it dry and enjoy. Acrylic paints dry quickly but you might find the surface sticky for a while after. This will go away in a day or two.

Creating a simple design

Woman painting a foam mat with acrylic paints in the night
Me painting after midnight by the light of a head lamp.

To paint a foam mat I suggest keeping it simple. Although you certainly don’t have to.

I chose to paint a very simple design on our mats. Since this is outside and spends most of its time covered in dirt I thought the simpler the better. This doubles since I decided to paint the textured side. I wanted to create a sort of wandering garden pathway like the garden of my dreams. So, I painted stepping stones that got progressively smaller heading away from the doorway. I l later added a new terracotta pot where the pathway continues. Surrounding the pathway are simple flowers and greens. Each shape was painted with one colour then a lighter colour to highlight one side and a darker shade on the other for a little dimension.

Making a space magical

My intention in painting these mats was to add to the magic of our space, and it does just that. The colourful addition to the deck adds a bit of whimsy and makes it all come together a bit better.

This is such a simple project but the overall change it can make to any space is huge. Mudrooms, playrooms, kitchens, anywhere you can use these mats you can also use a painted version. You don’t have to have a ton of artistic skill paint a foam mat and make a big change. Even a simple pattern or a sponge painted texture would go a long way to improve your space.

Garden containers and foam mat painted with a garden pathway and flowers
Our garden path jumps off the mat and onto a pot for more fun.

The options are endless!

garden play mat painted with plants and rocks surrounded by toys and kids

Save for future project inspiration!

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