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Pan de Muertos Display Tray

Make this colorful tray to display offerings on Dia de los Muertos.

Pan de muertos tray

Project Overview

Skill Level


Estimated Time

1 weekend

Estimated Cost


Tools & Materials


  • Painter’s tape
  • Painting supplies
  • Artist’s brushes
  • Permanent markers (fine and medium)
  • 120-grit and 180-grit sandpaper
  • Transfer paper or carbon paper


  • 18-in pine round, #1016
  • Clear gloss spray finish
  • Valspar Signature satin, 8 ounces each:
  • Dark Kettle Black (#4011-2)
  • Rushing Stream (#5005-10B)
  • Berrylicious (#1005-1)
  • Yellow Chimes (#3011-1)
  • Orange Fruit (#2011-1)
  • Shallow Valley (#6011-9)
  • Flower Girl (#1005-1C)
  • Ultra White (#7006-24)

Items may be Special Order in some stores. Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market. Paint colors may vary slightly from those shown. Availability varies by market for lumber species and sizes.

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Project Resources


This tray is designed to hold a bowl or basket of pan de muerto, a sweet roll baked in celebration of Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. (Do not put food directly on the tray.) This pattern fits the flat face of an 18-inch-diameter pine round. If you want to decorate a larger or smaller tray, have a copy shop resize the individual pattern sheets before taping them together.

Step 1

Sand the faces and edges of the pine round with 120-grit and then 180-grit sandpaper. Wipe the surface and edges with a damp cloth and let dry. Then lightly sand any rough areas with 180-grit sandpaper -- just enough to remove the fuzz. Wipe the surface clean with a dry cloth.

Step 2

Print and assemble the pattern, then cut out the crescent shape of the pattern. Center the pattern on the pine round with transfer or carbon paper underneath and tape the pattern in place. With a red or blue ball-point pen, press hard enough to indent the wood slightly as you trace the outside shape of the pattern and the arc defining the area you’ll later paint black.

Good to Know

Take care to avoid damaging the pattern. You’ll need to remove and replace it in the same position several times to trace details onto painted surfaces.

Step 3

Brush on two coats of white paint (Ultra White shown) within the boundaries of the traced area. Note the unpainted area defining the mouth. Then paint the black band around the inside curve (Dark Kettle Black shown).

Step 4

After the last coat of paint dries, replace the pattern and transfer or carbon paper. Trace the designs on the white and black areas. (You don’t need to draw objects that won’t be outlined, such as the blossoms on the flowers and yellow dots.)

Step 5

Paint the roses on the black arc (Berrylicious shown); the marigold petals orange (Orange Fruit shown); the marigold centers yellow (Yellow Chimes shown); borders around the mouth, nose, and eye blue (Rushing Stream shown); centers of the eye and nose black. Painted areas should cover the tracing paper lines.

Good to Know

Where two colors touch, allow the final coat of one color to dry thoroughly before applying the adjoining color.

Step 6

After the medium-size color areas have dried, tape the stencil in place again and trace details, such as vines, leaves, and flower petals. Remove the stencil and paint details, such as the blossoms, leaves, and yellow dots within the blue areas.

Step 7

After all painted surfaces have dried, outline the designs with permanent markers of different widths. Details include around the teeth, eye, nose, mouth, marigolds, leaves, and the edges of the entire design.

Step 8

Check for tracing marks and erase or paint over them. After the paint and marker lines dry, spray two coats of gloss finish and let dry.