My baby sleeps in an IKEA crib, keeps his clothes in an IKEA dresser, and gets his diaper changed on an IKEA shelf. But little by little, the bedding, artwork, and other decorative items in his room are being lovingly handcrafted by his mama.
This giant canvas was a deeply-discounted impulse purchase at Michaels back in 2011. I had no idea what I would paint on it, but for twenty bucks, I couldn’t resist buying a blank 3-by-4-foot canvas. The man behind me in line was convinced I was a painter (who else would buy such a huge canvas?), and even though I denied it several times, he persisted and even asked if I do commissions. Ha! He must have thought I was being modest, but I was being honest. I don’t paint!
Fast forward two years, and this giant canvas now hangs on the wall of Ethan’s bedroom, adding a big, bold splash of color. I still would never call myself a painter, but I did successfully paint the alphabet onto a canvas.
Here’s how to make your own painted canvas alphabet art:
STEP 1: Design the artwork.
I created an image in Photoshop Elements, moving and resizing the letters until I was satisfied. I wanted ultra-bold letters, so I used a free font called Bemio. This is also when I decided which color to paint each of the letters and which ones should be on top when they overlap.
STEP 2: Convert your design into a traceable pattern.
I hate to say it, but this step was clunky. If you have access to a video projector, just project the image onto your canvas, trace the outlines of the letters with a pencil, and continue to step 3. If you don’t, you can do what I did.
I added black outlines to my letters in Photoshop, then hid the colorful letters. (If you don’t know how, try following this quick tutorial.) I then divided my large image into 28 smaller 8×10″ images by selecting/copying a portion of the original image and creating a new image from the selection (File > New from Clipboard). I printed out those 28 images onto 28 sheets of white 8.5×11″ paper and then taped them together to make one large image. It’s not difficult, it’s just repetitive and somewhat annoying.
If you prefer, you could also have a 36×48″ image printed as an engineering print at Staples, but that would have cost more than $7, and that seemed too expensive for an intermediary step in a project. However, your sanity may be worth it.
STEP 3: Trace your design onto the canvas.
Now that you have a large, unwieldy, taped-together paper with your pattern on it, lay it on top of your canvas, center it up properly, and tape it directly to the canvas in a few places. Slide a sheet of graphite transfer paper between the pattern and the canvas. Use some kind of stylus (or pencil) to trace the outline of each letter, pressing firmly as you go. Depending on the size of your transfer paper, you’ll need to move it at least a few times as you trace. Try hard not to shift the big paper pattern on top!
STEP 4: Paint!
Finally, the step you’ve been looking forward to the most! Paint the letters! I used a 1/2-inch wide flat brush and four different colors of acrylic paint. I saved a picture of the design on my phone so I could refer to it often while I painted the first coat. Not only did I need to see which colors to paint the letters, but I had to keep checking how the letters overlapped, since I had traced the complete outline for each letter. I ended up painting two coats of most colors and three coats of the navy blue.
The paint colors (and brands) I used are Laguna (Apple Barrel), Real Navy (Apple Barrel), Citrus Green (Folk Art), and Neutral Gray (Americana). The colors coordinate with Ethan’s quilt… which is currently a stack of triangles stitched together to make squares.
STEP 5: Outline your letters.
I wasn’t originally planning to do this, but the edges and corners of the letters weren’t always as crisp as I would have liked, and I thought the added definition would help. It was absolutely the right decision for my project. I used a 1/8-inch flat brush to outline the letters in black.
STEP 6: Seal your painting with ModPodge.
I accidentally bought glossy navy blue paint, which was very obviously different from the other paints, so I brushed a coat of ModPodge over the entire canvas to even things out. I’d recommend this even if all of your paints have the same finish — it gives the project a nice finished look.
The canvas has been hanging in Ethan’s room since Saturday, and I’m still afraid I’m going to look at it one day and realize that I missed a letter. I didn’t, did I?