DIY | Painting an Ombre Deer Head

Last Friday, I shared with you all the latest update to our playroom: a double-sided cork and dry-erase board! Paired with our chalkboardkid-sized table, an Expedit toy shelf and some fun decorative accessories, this little playroom (which is actually part of our family room) has become quite the cheerful and functional spot to create and play!

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When I decided to hang the cork board on a chain, so that it would be relatively easy to flip, I knew I would need something to disguise the screws and excess chain at the top. After looking through my stash, I came across a few wooden 3D animal heads I had picked up back around the holidays. It seemed a little boring in its raw wood state, so I decided to give it a paint makeover. I am in love with how this project turned out, but it wasn’t as easy as I first expected it to be. So, today, I thought I’d share what I learned…should you want or need to paint a 3D wooden deer head yourself someday 😉

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During the Christmas shopping season, I came across these deer and moose heads at Marshalls for $9 each. Having no specific idea for them, I couldn’t help but snag them up (especially since I paid well over $30 for my cardboard version!). I knew someday I’d paint them or cover them in scrapbook paper or something! I gave Henry the option, and he picked the deer. I’m thankful, as it had a lot less pieces!

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I started by separating out all the pieces from the wooden sheets, which popped out surprisingly easy. I then used the directions to loosely put the head together. I didn’t cinch any pieces down because I wanted to be able to take it apart for painting.

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Early in this project, I latched on to the idea of painting the deer head in an ombre effect. I had a gut feeling that an ombre gradient with the 3D nature of the bust would look awesome. Instead of buying new paints, I simply made my own set of gradient colors by mixing up some acrylic paints I had on hand. I used Wedding Cake, Pool, and Sea…all by Martha Stewart. I mixed them together vigorously in little plastic cups in these combinations:

  • Darkest teal: Pool with a dab of Sea
  • Bright teal: Pool (plain and nautral!)
  • Light teal: Pool with some Wedding Cake
  • Very light teal: Wedding Cake with just a drop of Pool

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I then “analyzed” the deer head and split it into four logical sections. Working from back to front, each section would be a different (and progressively lighter) color; I dabbed on small dots of paint to each piece so I would know which color to paint which piece once it was disassembled. This is why I loosely assembled the head; it would have been too tricky to figure out which pieces lined up where if I was working with the flat pieces. With my color patterned determined, I disassembled the dear head.

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I then gave each piece 2-3 coats of paint in the correct color with a foam brush. I love working with acrylic paints because they dry so fast. I let the pieces sit overnight before flipping them and repeating on the other side.

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Okay – here is where my project almost went terribly wrong. With my pieces painted and dried, I went to reassemble the deer head. I knew the fit would be snug, since I just added a total of 6 coats of paint to each piece, but I thought with enough force, I’d be able to get everything back together.

Friends…I was so wrong. I could get the three vertical head pieces into the shield backing, but couldn’t get any other piece on. The pieces would go on ½ way and then would be stuck. Majorly stuck. No pushing, wiggling, re-directing, hammering, or husband’s strong hangs could get them to budge. And dummy me…instead of assuming all the pieces would get stuck, I just kept trying more pieces until I had four on, all half way and all stuck. At this point, the only option was to get the pieces back off and try a new approach. No kidding, it took my husband and I, using our full body weights, pulling against each other and it the darn pieces wouldn’t come apart. We’re lucky it didn’t snap. After a ton of pulling, we finally got the pieces to budge just enough that I could wiggle them off.

With the pieces disassembled, I was back to square one, but at least everything was in good shape. I suspected if I sanded everything down it would all slide together easier, so I sanded not only the fronts and backs of each piece, but I vigorously sanded down each and every notch with corse sand paper. Essentially, I made each of the notches just a bit bigger. So…if you choose to paint your pieces individually (which the directions said you could do before assembly, by the way!), I strongly recommend you NOT skip this step:

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Sand sand sand!!!

Wouldn’t you know it, after every notch was sanded down, each piece slid right on…no tugging, no hammering…no sweat dripping down my forehead. Praise the Lord – it was going to work. Seriously, this should not have been this hard!

Once the dear was (finally) assembled, I went back and touched up the areas of missed or chipped paint with a small paint brush. Pay no attention to the paperclip earring. The ear was slightly damaged during reassembly, but it was nothing some wood glue couldn’t fix!

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I used two long nails to hang the deer over the mounted chain and it worked perfectly!

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What I thought was going to be a relatively quick and simple project turned into unexpected drama and another almost-fail. I sure do love this little guy though, so I am glad I persevered and figured out a way to get him together!

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So yes…deer head can be painted…and can be painted before assembly…just sand, sand, sand those notches before you put it together!

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Hope your week is off to a great start! Be back Wednesday, friends!

Megan

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