Using Magnetic Paint To Make A New Home For Our 3D Wallflowers

I never pictured myself painting a wall in our house black, let alone doing it at 5am. But that’s what I found myself doing two weeks ago. Allow me to explain.

When our postcard wall moved into place last week, it meant our much loved wallflowers above the desk had to be relocated…

… well, some stayed in place when we decided we liked leaning a few on the shelves of our postcard wall– but the rest needed a new home.

Well, they didn’t go far. We decided to move them just one wall over to the small space under the office/guest room/playroom’s one and only big window.

Why? That’s probably best explained by answering the “how” first. Instead of relying on the special nails that came with our magnetic wallflower kit- which firmly affix the arrangement in one spot thanks to the magnet-backed flowers which stick to the magnetized nail heads- we decided to try something new: magnetic paint (note: some of the new wallflower kits snap instead of being magnetized). We thought magnetic paint would be just the thing for this project since we’d been dying to try it for years and were just waiting for the right project. We often wondered if the rumors were true- did it really work? We were about to find out.

See, by creating a large magnetic canvas we could design a spot where the wallflowers could be displayed, but instead of being limited to the fixed spots where we placed the magnetic pins in the wall, this time the wallflowers (along with any other magnets) could easily be moved around into an infinite number of fun formations, adding a nice element of “play” to our office/guest room/playroom- especially once Clara becomes mobile enough to move them around. And they’re definitely at a kid-friendly height!

Luckily the magnetic paint rumors were true. Well, mostly – it’s actually magnetic primer. We found this $21 quart of Rust-oleum Magnetic Latex Primer at Home Depot (next to things like chalkboard paint, dry erase paint, and glow-in-the-dark paint). Update: Here’s an affiliate link to it over on Amazon if you can’t find it in stores. 

Oh and before heading home we noticed the instructions actually suggested having it shaken by the store’s paint department to help keep the iron particles from settling on the bottom – so don’t forget to shake yours like crazy! The instructions also suggested two or three thin coats to achieve the best results as opposed to one or two thick and gloppy ones. Good to know.

Well… we did seven.

And we made sure they were all extremely thin so there wasn’t any bump or delineation where the magnetic paint started or ended. Maybe four extra applications were overkill, but we were determined to make this stuff work. Plus I realized only after coat number two or three that I was supposed to be vigorously stirring between each application. Oops. But since the coats dried really fast it only took me an evening, a morning, and one random 5am painting session to apply all seven (Clara had woken us up for a surprise feeding- she usually sleeps from around 10pm to 9am!- so I figured I’d be productive while Sherry sleepily nursed her). And ultimately… drumroll please… it worked. Woo hoo!

Well, it mostly worked. After each coat I tested variously sized wallflowers to see if they would stay up. The smallest sizes stuck almost immediately but despite my persistence I never could get the larger ones to stay in one spot (they’d just slide down the wall, hit the baseboard, and fall off). So we’d say that magnetic primer works, but not with anything terribly heavy. Now you know why some ended up on the postcard shelves. Oh well – happy accident.

But in the good news category, despite the fact that we had just painted a huge black spot on our wall – it barely took two coats to cover it up completely with the original wall color (Glidden’s Sand White). Phew. Heart attack averted. And it didn’t seem to lose any of the magnetic attraction when covered with other non-magnetic paint. It’s also 100% non-toxic and kid-safe when dry (obviously it’s not safe for a kid to drink it in liquid form). We did keep Clara out of the room with the windows open and a fan on for the full drying period (and about three days after that since we happened to be out of town for the weekend anyway) just to be safe.

Even though we couldn’t get all of the wallflowers to stick, we’re actually really happy with how it turned out. And we can’t wait to find some other fun magnets to put up there so Clara can play with them when she’s a bit older. Speaking of which – does anyone know where we could find an all-white set of those alphabet magnets? We googled around for a while with no luck- and we think they would be a fun and educational addition to the little slices of “playroom” that we’re trying to squeeze into this small space for our favorite little girl.

Has anyone else tried magnetic primer? Or any of those other wacky chalkboard/dry erase/glow-in-the-dark paints? We’d love to know what you guys thought about using those newfangled products. Did they work? Were they messy or hard to apply? Spill the beans.

Psst- Wanna follow the entire office/guest bedroom/playroom makeover? Click here for the intro post, here to read about the big sleeper sofa hunt, here for the DIY desk play-by-play, here for the homemade light fixture project, here for our hacked Ikea bookcase, here for the file storage we built, here for how we squeezed in some toy storage, here for how we picked out some DIY art that we could agree on, here for how we wrangled our wires, and here for the play-by-play of creating our postcard art wall.


  1. Sophie says

    You could make your own set! Just glue fabric over cardstock letters of your choice and attatch those really thin magnets onto the back (:

  2. Mandy says

    This is such as awesome idea! Really glad to know that you can cover it with paint to conceal the the black, I was a little worried when I saw the sloppiness of it and and knew it wasn’t like you guys to be that way, but now I understand. Great approach, I will have to recommend this to friends with little ones!

  3. says

    I painted an entire magnetic/chalkboard wall in our home office… it was messy, expensive, & not as smooth as I had expected… but we REALLY wanted the wall to hold notes and such… so, small, ultra-light magnets stay up on the wall… BUT they don’t hold ANYTHING! too bad…

    The chalkboard works great though, so it wasn’t a total loss!

  4. Sally says

    On a slightly different magnet note, I wanted to share what my sister did on her fridge. She found pictures of friends and family members and affixed them to the thin, adhesive sheets of magnet. (You can usually find it at Michaels.) It’s good to choose pics where people’s heads and faces are sufficiently large. Next she clips them out of the magnet material so only the head remains as a magnet. Occasionally she cuts out a body as well and people love to rearrange the people and put them on funny bodies, etc. It’s a really fun, easy project and when Clara gets a bit older I’m sure she’ll get excited pointing out pictures of Grandma and Grandma, Aunts and Uncles, etc.

    This might not be the look you’re going for in the office, but it might be perfect for the fridge. :)

  5. Heather says

    We used chalkboard paint in our playroom to make a chalkboard for our kiddos. We just framed out a square with painters tape and painted right over the existing color. I think it took 3-4 coats. After it was dry, we framed it out with some leftover white trim we had (window trim I think), and we had a fun and attractive chalkboard for the kids to play school with :)

  6. says

    The glow in the dark paint didn’t work for us, but we LOVE the chalkboard paint! Several years ago, I took a scratched old Winnie the Pooh table and painted it white and did chalkboard paint for the top. It was perfect – our daughter could sit and draw all over it.

    I’ve always thought this idea sounded like fun – a few years ago I heard that one of the BIG stars had a guest bathroom completely painted in chalkboard paint, and had containers of different colored chalk in there for guests to leave messages. Cool idea!

  7. Gina says

    Sounds like a great DIY….we had a alphabet set made of birch, I think. It was very lightweight so would stick no problem…you’d have to make sure the magnets on the back were very secure…the selfsticking is not sticking enough for me. Maybe the magnetic primer on the letters?? Craft stores have the letters made out of lightweight wood…you could paint them however you’d like the blog…you inspired me to make my first trip to Ikea in Woodbridge…I’m hooked

  8. Laurie says

    I have a magnetic wall with the same primer, and while normal magnets work, the rare earth ones will hold up heavy stuff.

  9. Michele says

  10. Snickrsnack Katie says

    Do the alphabet letters have to be all white? I know that is your favorite color, but babies and children are stimulated by bright colors. You could maybe go with one or two primary colors, with some white interspersed in… but all white seems boring for a baby.

    Just my assvice, though – definitely if you want all white, and have your heart set on it, by all means go for it! :-)

    I will do some internet searching. I am a crafting queen, too, and could come up with a way to DIY.

    • says

      Hey Snickersnack Katie,

      Thanks for the tip! We’ve actually thought about that but we plan to teach her colors in another way by bringing in flash cards and colorful childrens blocks. Stay tuned for those details sometime soon!


  11. Anna says

    Great job! You’re right–Clara will love having that little space for magnets and play items. We’re fans of magnetic paint as well. We inherited an indestructible and retro-cute wooden kitchen set from my father-in-law’s primary school, and before we repainted it, we used the magnetic paint on the fridge door. Our kids (including a Clara!) love to stick notes, pictures, magnetic letters, etc. on their fridge, just like a grown-up. (Well, except that we don’t have magnets on our stainless fridge anymore, but I digress.) She’ll be at that stage before you know it!

  12. Rachel says

    You can buy sheets of magnetic “paper”. (The size I use is equal to a business card, but I am sure you can buy it bigger, cut it down or whatever) There’s a piece of waxy paper that peels off revealing a sticky side. You could DIY basically anything with your mad photoshop skillz and stick it on. I use it all the time in my classroom, pics of the kids word sorts, etc. You’d be able to make bigger things she an peel off, but it wouldn’t be as 3-d as an alphabet set. Good luck!

  13. says

    I love the idea of chalkboard spray paint. My parents painted almost an entire wall with chalkboard paint in my brothers room. (painted to about six feet up with a ten foot ceiling and put trim around it. It was such a great thing when we were little and as the little sister I remember often asking to be allowed to draw on it.

    Recently I painted the glass on a cheap but pretty dollar store frame with black chalkboard paint. It’s awesome for write quotes and doing little drawings on for changeable artwork. The only thing that can get bothersome is the chalk dust using a chalkboard creates (I remember my brothers floor having a coating of chalk dust under the board).

  14. Christie DeSilva says

    We’ve had the same experience with magnetic paint. It works for very light materials, and that’s about it, even when it’s done very carefully. :( We also bought rustoleum. I wonder if there is a better product on the market? We actually painted a magnet board under chalkboard paint for our kids. It just didn’t work. :( Sadness. Live and learn, right?

  15. Barbara says

    I painted my kitchen door with magnetic paint and covered it with chalkboard paint. Same problem you had – small things stick, heavy, larger stuff…no.

    I’m thinking you’d probably have to paint on 10 or so coats for it to hold heavier stuff.

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