How To: DIY Subway Art (withOUT an e-cutter!)

This subway art was born out of a need to fill space on a big wall. I haven’t shown you my Craft Room wall in a while (reveal coming next week!), but I moved some shelves around from when you last saw it; and as a result, had a large gaping hole that was crying out for something.anything. I really, really struggled with what to put here. I started down the path toward (another) gallery wall, but it just wasn’t doing it for me. As I was rummaging through my craft supply stash, I came across a large blank canvas I bought somewhere along the way and never used. I’ve literally been carrying this canvas from house to house and had yet to find a use for it.

When the canvas filled the wall perfectly, then came the conundrum of what to do with the canvas. I had seen this phrase on Pinterest and was planning on printing it out and framing it. It seemed like this canvas was perhaps a better spot for that same sentiment!

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Of all the phrases out there, why paint this one in huge letters for my wall?

When I read it months and months ago while surfing Pinterest for ideas, it struck me as very appropriate and applicable to where I’m at in life right now. Although my son is almost 3, I still feel like I am just getting the hang of being a stay-at-home Mom, and I still struggle with it every.single.day. Like many other Moms out there, I find myself wishing our current stage, whatever it might be (e.g., breast-feeding trouble, or not sleeping through the night, or stranger anxiety, or skipping naps, or tantrums, or…or…or…the list could go on forever!), would be over and we could move on to “better,” “easier,” or “happier” times. All too often, I find myself wishing my son was doing anything other than what he’s doing instead of embracing where he is at in life and appreciating the journey along the way. He’ll be grown before I know it…so it’s time to start “dancing” through those tough times.

In a similar way, I felt that this sign was perfect for above my craft station. Where we are currently stationed as a military family is not my favorite place we’ve lived; in fact, part of me is already counting down the days until we pack up and move away. I’m not going to go into a list of reasons why I don’t like where we live, but this sign reminds me every day that I can’t just hunker down, stick my head in the sand, and wait for the moving trucks to arrive again. I must make the most of living here because there are blessings and opportunities to experience. If my husband had a different job or we lived somewhere else in the country, I might not have the opportunity to stay home with my son AND craft until my heart’s content. Sewing, decorating and crafting have become how I “dance” through the storm of living where we live. And I am thankful for that.

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So, the quick and simple way to make this subway art would have been to use my Cricut, cut out the letters in vinyl and stick them on or make a stencil and paint the letters on. Here’s the thing: I don’t have a ton of font cartridges for my Cricut; and unlike other e-cutter machines, it doesn’t allow me to just design and cut in any font I want. Major bummer. So, my only choice moving forward was the old-fashioned method of image transfer and painting by hand! Eek!

I started by painting my canvas with some paint I had leftover from other projects.

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While that was drying, I worked on my design. The first thing I did was layout my text in the exact same dimensions as my canvas (below left). I could have taken the image to a copy center to print actual size, but I was too lazy and I was in a get-‘er-done mode. I segmented my super large image into 12 8.5×11 segments that I could then print “actual size” and “without borders” (below right).

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I then trimmed down my sheets of paper, matched up all the letters and edges, and taped all the papers together to create one large print of my text image (very similar to printing and assembling a paper sewing pattern!).

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Once my canvas was dry, I layered sheets of newspaper underneath my text template and taped everything down (with painter’s tape) to secure it all. I then used a pencil to trace ALL the text of my design (below left). When I removed all my papers, the ink from the newspaper transferred my design to my canvas (below right).

Note – Before you go un-taping and removing everything, double check to make sure ALL of your image transferred. Sometimes, newspaper has ink-free margins or lighter colored ads that don’t transfer as well. Slide some new newspaper under those sections and re-trace until all of your image is on your canvas.

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The last step is to go back and fill in all of your transferred letters with paint. I used a very fine paintbrush and acrylic paint. It took two coats of paint and a lot of patience, but I really like the “hand-drawn” effect.

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I’m not going to lie, this was a pretty long and tedious project from printing and cutting the template, tracing the entire image (sometimes twice!) and painting the entire thing by hand (twice!). But for anyone who is looking to do something similar but doesn’t have an e-cutter machine, there IS a way to do it 😉

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Even though I am just now showing this project to you, I completed it right after Thanksgiving. I talked (above) about why this phrase had meaning to me then. In light of recent events, this phrase continues to speak to me in yet another way.

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The “storm” of my Mom’s death will certainly never pass me; but I’m sure with time, it will weaken in strength and intensity. Both now and down the road, I must find ways to “dance” through the storm of emotions, whether it’s by remembering happy times or just reflecting on all the amazing things she was to me and those who loved her.

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Life is all about what we make of hard and trying experiences…”dancing” is a pretty good way to start. I’m glad I have a big ol’ reminder staring me in the face every day 😉

Megan

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7 Responses to How To: DIY Subway Art (withOUT an e-cutter!)

  1. I am new to your blog. Love it. So many marvelous ideas. Your writing style make me feel like we are sitting and visiting about the ideas you have. This quote became my favorite quote 2 yes ago during a very trying time in my life. It helps me to stay focused on the positive. Could you explain in more detail how you sized the quote and divided it on the printing paper.

  2. Hi Megan! I just found you after visiting Linda at Paper Boutique. I love love your art and this quote. it is totally appropriate for what I've been experiencing with my 24 year old daughter. I felt the way you outlined in your post when my daughter was 3 but I had no way of knowing it doesn't get easier it just gets different!!lol Crafting got me through tense times also. I've tried painting subway art freehand and it is NOT easy! You did a fantastic job. I never heard of using newspaper; I've used the trace the words on the back with graphite pencil before and that works well as a transfer method but I will keep the newspaper method in mind. I'm off to explore the rest of your blog. Happy crafting – jeannette

  3. Hi Megan! I just found you after visiting Linda at Paper Boutique. I love love your art and this quote. it is totally appropriate for what I've been experiencing with my 24 year old daughter. I felt the way you outlined in your post when my daughter was 3 but I had no way of knowing it doesn't get easier it just gets different!!lol Crafting got me through tense times also. I've tried painting subway art freehand and it is NOT easy! You did a fantastic job. I never heard of using newspaper; I've used the trace the words on the back with graphite pencil before and that works well as a transfer method but I will keep the newspaper method in mind. I'm off to explore the rest of your blog. Happy crafting – jeannette

  4. I am overwhelmed at your bravery, your dedication and your loyalty to both your husband and our country. God bless you and your family for your service and sacrifice, for without you, we would not enjoy the freedoms we enjoy and take so much for granted. I just love the wording of your sign. It shows just how dedicated you are, and as the wife of a soldier, you are just as deserving of a medal as is he.

    God bless you all and I will pray for your husband’s safe return,

    Therese

    • Hi Therese!

      Thank you so much for this kind, kind comment! Glad you enjoyed this post and this project! Just wanted to let you know my husband has indeed returned safely and we’ve been enjoying being together as a family for the last year or so!

      Thanks again, and have a great rest of the weekend!
      Megan

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