Kunynghame enjoys DIY projects, including painting, crafting, and refurbishing items.
What Is Cornhole?
Cornhole is a lawn game played with beanbags and wooden boards. The objective is to toss the bags into a hole on the boards; this yields 3 points. Getting the bag on the board is worth 1 point.
Painting and Personalizing Your Set
Put your creativity to good use and make your cornhole set pleasing to the eyes with a DIY paint job. As a bonus, painting your set also protects the wood. Follow the instructions below to get started.
Overview of the Steps
- Get ready to paint by applying wood putty and sanding.
- Apply primer.
- Lay out the design.
- Pick your paint.
- Paint your boards.
- Apply MinWax.
- Go play!
1. Get Ready to Paint
One of the most fulfilling parts of creating your own cornhole sets is the design. You've already put in a lot of time and work to make the set; now you want to make sure it looks great so you can show it off to your friends. Before you get ready to prime and paint it, you must do some prep work.
- Take some wood putty and fill in all the holes from the screws and nails and any other blemishes that might be in the surface. If you chose to use a really nice piece of hardwood plywood, you will hopefully have very few things to fill.
- After the putty dries, make sure you give a nice hand sanding to the entire surface so everything is smooth and flush.
- Take a lightly damp rag and wipe off the surfaces to get rid of any dust that might be remaining before you begin to use the primer.
2. Apply Primer
Since the boards are made out of plywood, we need to get a nice base for our paint. The first step in the process is put primer on everything. I used a Rustoleum primer that sticks to anything. This is important to give your paint a solid surface to stick to. This process should be a very quick part, since you don't have to worry about making it look perfect.
One warning is that primer is nearly impossible to get off of anything (including yourself). I used a super cheap sponge brush to apply the primer so I could just toss it in the trash afterwards. DO NOT use a quality brush, as it will be ruined once this process is finished. This part doesn't need to look great; just make sure all the wood is covered.
3. Lay Out the Design
The best part of the process is getting to design and paint your board however you want. There really are no limits. You can be as creative or simple as you want. Slight warning: More creative designs take more time and more patience, but are well worth it in the end. If you want straight, crisp lines on your boards, then painters tape is essential. I always use Frog Tape; I think it is by far the best painters tape around. You can measure out your designs, mark with a pencil, and lay your tape down.
I chose a variety of stripes on my boards, fairly simple. This process was a bit more time consuming simply because I chose to use 4 different colors. This means you have to apply multiple coats and continue letting them dry before you can move on to the next color. Also, more colors equals more money (cost). So consider that before you lay out your design. You shouldn't need more than a quart of any color of paint, so don't waste money buying paint by the gallon.
4. Pick Your Paint
There are a few key issues to address when beginning the painting process.
- Choosing the correct type of paint is very important. If you aren't familiar with paints, you will be completely lost when you walk into Home Depot, Lowe's, or some other paint store. There are a million types of paints, and often the associates aren't as knowledgeable as they should be in order to give appropriate advice.
- When you are choosing your paint, you want to choose an Exterior Semi-Gloss Enamel. I never get an oil-based paint because it's such a hassle to clean and ruins everything else it touches (hence why I hate primer). So save yourself a headache and get a water-based latex paint and life will go more smoothly.
- I chose a Behr Premium Plus paint and they can color it any way you want. It washes out of your brushes very easily and off of your hands, etc.
- Like I said earlier, there is no reason to get more than a quart of any color; a quart is more than enough to paint your boards with multiple coats.
5. Paint Your Boards
Continue to be patient as you paint. It's very important that you don't leave any drips or bubbles in your paint. For this reason, I always use a brush and never a roller. Make sure you put multiple coats of each paint; you want this to be a quality product. Let paint completely dry before you apply each additional coat.
6. Apply MinWax
Once you have everything painted the way you desire, there is one more critical step to go. To protect the paint and your cornhole set, you need to add a clear coat polycrylic. Essentially, you are waxing your board with a clear coat. This will protect everything you have just labored hours on, but it will also make your board shiny and slick.
The best product for this stage is made by MINWAX. It's water based Polycrylic protective finish. I'll warn you that it isn't too cheap, but don't skip out on this step. Once again, you won't need a lot of this, so a quart will be plenty.
When you apply this to the board, make sure your paint is extra dry before starting the process. Follow the directions on the can, but essentially, you apply it just like you would paint. If you are nervous, there are plenty of YouTube videos that can help show you how to apply the polycrylic.
- Apply nice, thick coats. The more coats the better. I always do a minimum of 5 coats, but usually like to apply 7-8 coats.
- Once again, it's very important to let it completely dry before each coating.
- Use a brush, not a roller.
7. Go Play!
Last but not least, after everything has had time to dry completely, it is time to take your beautiful creation outside and test it out.
Questions & Answers
Question: What is the difference between polycrylic and a water based polyurethane? And which would you recommend? I read that the water based polyurethane is supposed to be applied with multiple thin coats, but you mentioned thick coats of polycrylic. Thanks.
Answer: Polycrylic has very little smell and is much less toxic than polyurethane. That is one of the reasons I prefer it. Polyurethane also comes in oil base or water base options, while Polycrylic only comes as water base. Both Polycrylic and polyurethane will give you a good finished product. I believe Polycrylic is easier to work with, cleaner, and safer. It's a personal preference.
Question: Is the Minwax better in Satin or Matte finish?
Answer: I would strongly recommend you use the clear semi-gloss finish.
Question: Minwax Polycrylic says 'interior only', is it okay for outdoor play?
Answer: I would not leave the boards out in the weather though... The reason it is an indoor use only is that you want to avoid extreme temperatures as well as rain. Being a water-based product, extreme heat or extreme cold could damage the finish. Water could also damage it. I've left my boards outside many days and they are fine, but it would be wisest to bring them indoors (shed or garage) when not using them.
Question: I always seem to have trouble with painter's tape. I put it on fine, but am not sure when the best time to take it off is. Is it better to remove it right away while the paint is still wet (and redo the tape for multiple coats), or after the paint is dry?
Answer: You need to get a quality painter's tape. I would leave it on for all of the coats and remove it at the end.
If you tried to redo the tape each time, you would have a very difficult time perfectly matching the line.
So, buy a great tape, and just leave it on until the last coat.
Question: I used a spray primer and paint (all in one) and the boards are too slick. How can I slow them down?
Answer: In truth, actual corn hole boards are supposed to be quite slick to make it more difficult.
For those of us who aren't as skilled we don't want it as slick. I've never used a paint and primer in one for this. You'll need to see if there is a clear coat that is matte or semi gloss finish.
Or if the board is solid color, you could paint over it with a less glossy finished paint.
Lastly, you could scuff it up a little with sand paper, but I'm not sure how that would look depending on the design of the board.
Question: Can MinWax go over a vinyl sticker?
Answer: Absolutely. Make sure you do multiple costs.
Question: Can you spray the polycrylic onto cornhole boards?
Answer: Great question. I, personally, am not familiar with a spray on poly. Having said that, I imagine it would work just fine. The only thing that might happen, is that you might need to apply more coats because sprays usually go on much thinner than a brush application. Try it out and let me know how it goes!
Question: I'm planning on painting part of the board, but leaving the wood exposed on part, likely with some kind of wood stain to make the color darker. Do you have any advice/have you ever done this before? Should I stain only the part where the wood is going to be exposed? Or can I stain the whole thing and then paint over the stain?
Answer: Great question. That all depends on the amount of time/work you want to spend and the type of paint you end up using. If you stain the whole thing, you will save yourself a little time and headache, but then you will need a higher quality paint, which will need to have a primer that can go over the stain.
You will be able to achieve great results either way, but my preference would be to only stain the portions that will be showing as a stain in the finished product. This will allow the painted areas to saturate the wood and be guaranteed to have no issues with the stain down the road. Once again, you can honestly do it either way; you will just need to make sure your paint is the proper type to go over stain if you choose to go that route.
Question: After poly, can I put decals on or do I use poly over decal?
Answer: You want to put your poly on over the decals. This will smooth out any ridges or bumps and also help “glue” the decal down.
Question: When making cornhole boards, I don't sand after each application of poly, I use 0000 steel wool, to lightly go over the top. What is your opinion?
Answer: I've never tried that personally, but have heard good things... Let us know how it works out.
Question: Do I need to sand my boards if I decide to repaint them?
Answer: I would sand the boards before repainting if it were my own set of boards.
Having said that, there are definitely paints that can go over the top of the existing paint, and as long as you do multiple levels of clear coat on top, you likely will see no issues, as this will smooth/level out any bumps.
Question: When using multiple layers of polycyclic do I need to lightly sand after each coat?
Answer: I did not sand between costs. The only reason I would find that necessary is if for some reason the costs were not being applied evenly.
Question: Is spar urethane the same as poly, and can it be used to paint cornhole boards?
Answer: They are not the same, but Spar Urethane is a great option for a project like this. Spar Urethane will have a little more oil in the mix, which will actually make it more durable for harsh weather conditions. It's also slightly easier to apply.
The only downside (and I've never had this issue myself) is that some people have claimed it adds a slight tint to the color. So Polyurethane is crystal clear when applied, some people believe that Spar Urethane slightly added a hint of yellow/amber to their wood.
In summary, Spar Urethane will work extremely well for a project like this.
Question: I'm new to making boards and tried adding a final layer of wax for extra slickness, per a video I watched, but accidentally pulled up some polyurethane. I'm making these for my friend and don't want to let him down. Now I'm stuck and don't know what to do. Can I just use the same 320 or 220 grit paper and lightly sand down the wax and reapply a few more coats of the water-based polyurethane or is this going to complicate things more? What should I do at this point?
Answer: I'm not fully understanding. Once the boards are painted, the next step would be the Minwax, which is a polyacrylic finish. Please explain what process you used that involves polyurethane as well as wax. I want to make sure I give proper advice, but I'm not sure what layers are currently on there and in what order.
Question: Should I use a flat paint, then cover with semi gloss polycrylic? I am worried about adhesion, semi gloss paint covered by semi gloss polycrylic may flake. Your thoughts?
Answer: I, personally, used semi-gloss paint. My boards are almost 7 years old and I have not had to add any additional coats of poly and have had no issues with flaking or peeling. I believe if you use quality paint and poly, and multiple coats of the poly, you will not have issues.
Question: I painted my boards with a roller (1/4” nap), but they aren’t smooth. When I apply the poly, will it smooth out the boards?
Answer: Yes, the poly will definitely help smooth out the boards. A few things to consider though: 1) The more coats of poly you put on, the better job it will do at smoothing things out. 2) Make sure you use a brush or roller designed for a smoother finish. Different rollers generally apply the paint/poly differently.
But yes, overall, the poly will greatly help in smoothing out the boards. More coats are better!
Question: If I wanted to paint a "picture" on the board, but need different color paint, should I let each color dry first?
Answer: At this point, it would be no different than painting on a "canvas" of your choosing. The reason I let things dry was that the tape was being used on existing paint. If you are painting a picture, that would not be relevant to you. Paint your picture however you desire, then let it dry fully before moving on to the poly phase.
Question: I’m starting to design my DIY boards and was thinking of painting AND applying a custom decal. Can I apply the MINWAX coat at the end over the top of the painted design AND the decal?
Answer: Absolutely! This is an easy and simple way to put in very cool designs. Just remember, more coats is better and will give you a more even board and longer lasting results.
Question: I'm thinking about splatter painting my boards. Do you think the boards will turn out smooth after applying several coats of poly?
Answer: Yes, with enough coats of poly, any bumpy or rough surface will smooth out.
Question: What finish do you use for the polycrylic?
Answer: I used semi-gloss minwax.
Question: I bought already finished boards but want to change the color what do I need to do? Oh I have stencils to put my favorite team in the board can spray paint be used?
Answer: I would sand the board down first. Make sure no "finishes" are still on the surface. The quality primers available today will allow you to pretty much cover anything.
Absolutely use a stencil and spray paint. They will do just fine. That would be a cool way to get a logo or team emblem. I'd love to see the final product. Make sure you do lots of coats of poly after the paint.
Question: What kind of Minwax polycyclic do you recommend; semi-gloss, gloss, matte, or satin?
Answer: I used the clear gloss for this cornhole board project.
Shea on July 18, 2020:
What are the measurements for the different colors you did? I want to make one the same colors and stripes.
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on July 14, 2020:
Nikki, yes that would work. You would want to add some coats of poly after you put the decal on. Send me a picture when it's finished. I would love to see it. (though I'm a buckeye fan myself)
Nikki on July 14, 2020:
I have a question. I ordered Cornhole boards and was wanting a decal UK in the middle for the University of Kentucky. The person I ordered them from hand painted the UK on them and it doesn’t look the best. They didn’t apply any top coat yet so I was wondering if I ordered a UK decal if I could put it over top the pained UK??? Hope my question makes sense.
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on June 28, 2020:
Haven, fair question. Thickness is relative. Maybe a better word than thick coat would be that I applied it "generously." thin coats are great and possibly even better, but you would need more of them and it takes much longer. Don't pour the poly on, but a thick application will do fine. Our overall goal is to get a final poly coat that will protect our paint and boards. So whether that's 5 or 6 coats, or 8 to 10 coats. Just make sure you have a good protective barrier of poly over your paint. And definitely a minimum two hour dry time.
Haven Marsh on June 25, 2020:
The Minwax Polycrylic instructions on the can say to apply a thin coat and to wait at least 2 hours before reapplying. However, your instructions say to apply a thick coat. How long do you wait between reapplying?
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on May 28, 2020:
Ada, either paint will work just fine.
Ada on May 28, 2020:
Do you have to use exterior semi gloss paint or would interior work fine since we are using minwax at the end to water proof it?
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on April 05, 2020:
Haley, I would go with the semi-gloss. Professionals use high gloss, but this leads to a slicker board and more difficult to land the bags. I'm more for a casual game and people will have more fun if they are successful. Any of those finishes will be fine though.
Haley on April 05, 2020:
Which type of minx do you use? Clear gloss, clear semi-gloss, clear satin, or clear matte?
P.Mart on November 01, 2019:
I'm new to making boards, made 3 sets so far for family. Now doing a set for a friend who wanted a costume and real slick boards. I painted, applied Varathane Ultimate Polyurathane (water based) and because he likes super slick boards I watch a video of a man who applies a layer of car wax as a last step so I tried this but ran into a problem. As I was buffing I must have hit a small bubble or something and pulled up a 1" x 1/16" part of dried poly. Because I'm new at this i'm stuck and don't know what to do. I took some 320 grit paper and sanded hoping that this would remove the layer of wax but i'm not certain that it has. I'm thinking of re-applying a few more coats of poly now but i'm scared that if I didn't get all the wax I'm screwed. Does anyone know if i'm ok to apply those extra coats of poly even if I didn't get all the wax or do I need to do more? I'm totally lost but I don't want to let my friend down by screwing up the board he trusted and paid me to do. Please Help!!!
RTalloni on September 20, 2019:
Like this painted design for the game very much. Thanks for great tutorial.
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on September 20, 2019:
Suzie, absolutely. Just make sure to put a good number of layers of the minwax to cover/protect it afterwards.
Suzie Bischoff on September 20, 2019:
Can I use acrylic paint to paint my design
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on June 06, 2017:
Jarod, I have never used stains myself, but yes, they will work just fine. I have seen many projects that used plain wood, or stained wood; some projects have even had designs "etched" or burned into them. They look awesome. Just make sure that your final product has the many layers of minwax.
ronda on June 06, 2017:
Hi. We made bean boards, let paint dry and when I put the poly on, it seems like there are 'blemishes'. I did sand after the 4th coat but even after that and the application of the 5th coat, I still see raised areas/bubbles. Any thoughts? If I keep adding coats, do you think the raised areas will 'blend' in?
Jarod on July 12, 2016:
Can you use stain instead of paint on boards?
csgang on April 24, 2016:
I made one for my daughter and son in law. The scheme is Philidelphia Flyers. They love it.
Jacqui on July 29, 2014:
Hey, just wanted to be sure, did you paint the black first before putting the frog tape over and then paint the other stripes? How far did you paint black "underneath" the other paint?
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on July 16, 2014:
Andrea, I'm glad to hear it.
If you are brave, you should make your own bags, too. Takes some time and patience (for me anyway), but they are very high quality. Better than I've been able to purchase elsewhere.
Also, You should post a picture of your final product; I'd love to see it.
Andrea on July 16, 2014:
Thank you! Made my boards based on this post! Nice walk through!
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on July 16, 2014:
Gray - 5.25''
Black - 1''
White - 3.5''
Red - 4.5''
Andrea on July 16, 2014:
What are the measurements for your paint pattern?
Chris on May 19, 2014:
I bought the only birch plywood at my local hardware store and used two coats of KILZ 2 latex primer. At this point, I am pretty sure that the fault is with the veneer in the wood, but I should be able to tell for sure during the repair process tonight. Will post updates tomorrow..
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on May 19, 2014:
No, this is great information. I'm glad you are sharing it on here. Did you have a good layer of primer on the board before applying any paint? I am wondering if the fault lies in the wood itself rather than the process. I have only ever bought the top of the line wood for my sets (because I am a perfectionist), so is it possible that affected it?
I do think the process you described would be a wise way to fix the problem. You definitely want to eliminate that bubble and fix it permanently. Nothing would be more annoying than to have a small bubble for the next few years in your corn hole set!
Chris on May 19, 2014:
The paint dried in my garage and this weekend was in the 50's-60's so pretty ideal painting weather. This is only the second set that I have built and have not experienced bubbles before. Also, the bubble was not visible until after the paint was applied (I checked the board before purchasing because apparently this is not uncommon...). The bubble popping technique that I came across the most is to put some painter's tape over the bubble, slice into the bubble with the grain and use a knife or razor blade to apply a very small amount of wood glue under the plywood veneer. Then put some wax paper over top of the tape and add weight to the area while the glue dried. The initial layer of painter's tape is so that any glue seepage will go to the top of the tape as opposed to the area on your project. Once the glue is dried, proceed with finishing as normal. Does this approach sound reasonable? Not trying to hi jack your post, but just wanted to provide some more information in case other readers have a similar issue.
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on May 19, 2014:
I have never had an issue with bubbling before. Was the paint exposed to a lot of sun or heat before it dried?
I think you should pop the bubble; the multiple coats of gloss will definitely be enough to protect it and keep it down. Adding glue in there might make a noticeable bump (unless done very meticulously). Might be more hassle than necessary.
Chris on May 19, 2014:
I recently painted a set of cornhole boards for a friend. After the final coat had dried, I noticed a bubble (about the size of a quarter) has popped up. It feels like it is a bubble in the plywood veneer. I have looked elsewhere online and the suggestions that I have found seems to indicate that I need to slice the bubble with a razor and insert glue under the laminate layer. Do you know if this is a necessary step or if a few coats of high-gloss polycrylic will be sufficient to protect this place on the board?
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on April 08, 2014:
Anne, I'm sorry to hear that. I've never had this issue (and I use my boards outside more often than I would like to admit). Two things I would investigate: First, was the product new? I know the quality of pain and primers, etc can be compromised if they are older or have been in extreme hot or cold. Second, is the minwax an all purpose, general product? Sometimes there are specialty ones that might not do well in the elements. I would simply ask someone at Home Depot or Lowe's (wherever you shop) for a type that will be fine if it gets wet, hot, cold, etc.
Personally, I try not to leave my boards out in the rain and bad weather if possible. Let us know what you find out. Thanks.
Anne on July 21, 2013:
I put on the first coat and the boards looked fine, it said two hours for drying, did second coat, I left them outdoors and this morning it's all alligatored and RUINED, sanding lightly doesn't help, makes it smooth but you can still see the horrible marks...I have two colors, put on vinyl decals, lots of time and work and now they look horrible and I have no idea how to fix it
kunynghame (author) from San Antonio, TX on March 28, 2013:
Great question, Kelly. Thanks for stopping in. I personally would recommend the semi-gloss. It looks great, and is decently slick. The professional cornhole tournaments require gloss finish I believe. But I've found that the gloss finish is very difficult to keep the bags on the board because it is so slick. And since I play corn hole for fun rather than official competition. I like it to not be terribly difficult to land the bags on the board. So, in summary, either is fine. The higher the gloss, the slicker the board, which means the bean bags will slide off easier.
If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.
Kelly on March 28, 2013:
I went to get the Minwax and noticed that I could get gloss, semi-gloss, or satin finish. Which do you recommend?