How to Stain an Image onto a Pallet

I finally decided to do something with the huge double wide pallet that has been leaning against our house for about half a year now. There are so many different ideas of things to do with pallet wood. I really liked the idea of using the wood for wall art because it has tons of character. I have seen people paint and add stickers to create wall art. I decided to try something different and experiment with staining a image into the pallet. I am so happy this worked on the first try.

Stained an Image onto Pallet: Robot in the Rain

Materials needed:

  1. Pallet wood (or any wood)
  2. 2 solid wood pieces (I had a scrap piece of 1 by 2)
  3. Wood stain
  4. 1 ¼” screws
  5. Adhesive vinyl 
  6. Silhouette transfer paper 


  • Electric screw driver
  • Rag
  • Saw
  • Sander / sandpaper
  • Silhouette machine (or scissors if you cut your own template)
  • Measuring tape
  • Popsicle stick or other hard edge
  • Scissors
  • Pencil


The most time consuming part of this project was getting the wood off the pallet. Apparently we had one of the really well made pallets that are really hard to take apart. I was really determined to get this project done so I acquired the help of my husband. With a combination of a sledge hammer, crowbar, rubber mallet and pure strength we got four of the boards off the pallet.

After getting the boards off I sanded down the parts I was going to end up using. I didn’t heavily sand them, I just sanded them enough so that we wouldn’t get splinters.

I then lined them up and drew a line where I wanted them to be cut. We used a circular saw to cut them on this line. I then sanded the edge I had just cut.
Next I arranged the board in the layout I wanted them in. I used two one by twos and cut them down to a little under the length of the stacked boards. Using 1 ¼” screws I attached the pallet boards to the one by twos.

In the Silhouette Studio program I designed the image I wanted to be stained onto the pallet boards. Using a measuring tape I measured the surface of the pallet wood assembly and sized my images accordingly before printing them out.

I then peeled away the edges of the vinyl (the vinyl around the wanted image). Using scissors I cut the images apart and arranged them on the pallet wood assembly.

Next I used transfer paper and a Popsicle stick to stick the vinyl to the pallet wood. I made sure the stickers were on really well so the stain didn’t get under them.

Using a rag I wiped wood stain over the top of the stickers covering the whole surface. I made sure to use the smallest amount need to prevent stain from seeping under the stickers. Using the clean end of the rag I wiped any excess stain off.

I then peeled away the stickers to see the image that remained.

I love how it ended up turning out! The only two parts of the image that did not work out perfect is one of the robots ear (this sticker gave me problems when I was sticking them down) and the binary ones on the bottom (they were just too thin). I actually debated about stopping after putting down the stickers because I liked how the brown stickers looked on the wood. I am so glad I didn’t because I love the finished product even more.

I actually flew this out to San Francisco for a house warming gift for a friend. Now I really want to make another one for our house.

Thanks for reading

7 thoughts on “How to Stain an Image onto a Pallet

  1. curious about the transfer paper and vinyl. i would think the adhesive vinyl would just stick to the wood. what do i use the transfer paper for…? Thanks!

    • The vinyl does stick to the wood but comes up pretty easy when you go to pull it up. The transfer paper is use to transfer the vinyl over to the wood. I used transfer paper for everything but the gears. If you check out this video on youtube from another blogger you can see how to transfer vinyl with transfer paper.

      Let me know if you have anymore questions!

  2. ….very nice …i stumbled upon your page when researching “image staining” …im taking an old guitar and “making it mine” …wanted to leave it natural but stain images all over it …however i was going to cover it with painters tape and use an x acto knife to cut of the images …the wood is very soft …i was just worried about how thin i could go and bleeding under the tape edges ,do you think the painters tape’s adhesive is as good as the vinyl stuff you used? …oh, also …did you dilute the stain before applying?

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