DIY Alphabet Art for the Playroom
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Earlier this week, I introduced you to FontBundles, showed you how to install cool new fonts on your computer, and then use them in Cricut Design Space. Today I want to show you how I made some really cool alphabet art for our playroom using that exact technique and some of the fonts in the Design Font Box bundle. This project was a really fun one for me for a few reasons: I got to fill a big empty spot on the playroom wall, I got to play with some cool new fonts in a really fun way, I got something out of our garage(!!!), and the project turned out better than I expected. Talk about a win, win, win, win situation! Read on to see how easy it can be to create some oversized alphabet art using the Cricut Explore and an old canvas!
Admittedly, this project started as a desire to get this huge, oversized canvas out of our garage. I had pretty much fallen out of love with the artwork, so it has been sitting out in the garage to either be re-purposed or sold. When I had the idea to create an oversized-piece of typography art for the playroom, I realized the canvas was the perfect candidate for a transformation, and that’s all I needed to get this project going!
Masking projects (where you paint over an image and then peel it away to reveal what’s underneath) like this one always make me really nervous because there is no way to know if it will turn out right. Paint can seep where it’s not supposed to go, and the revealed images might not look quite as you imagined. It’s a big ol’ gamble so it’s important you use this technique on something you don’t love. Since this canvas was destined for a garage sale, I took the gamble…and boy did it pay off! I never could have anticipated how cool the color variations in all the letters would look!
I also didn’t anticipate how the casual Love Script font would play with the color variations in the canvas. The result is a super cool watercolor effect that looks hand-painted. The truth is I’m not nearly that gifted with a paint brush, and the effect was a very happy accident, indeed!
To create a similar project, here are the materials you’ll need:
- Canvas – You can pick up an inexpensive canvas at your local thrift store or discount home store (i.e., HomeGoods, TJMaxx, Marshalls) or create one yourself!
- Cricut Explore – This project doesn’t necessarily NEED a Cricut Explore; you can buy pre-cut sticker letters from a craft store or Etsy instead.
- Cricut Design Space – The online design software for the Cricut Explore allows you to create any design for your project.
- Cutting Mat – A 24″ mat is best if you’re making a large, over-sized canvas as shown.
- Vinyl – The color and quality of vinyl doesn’t really matter here as it will be painted over, peeled off and eventually thrown away. Use whatever color/sheen you have on hand or is cheapest!
- Transfer Tape – Clear transfer tape makes lining up your letters a breeze!
- Seam Ripper – I rely on my seam ripper, rather than any fancy tools, to peel away vinyl on my projects.
- Paint Brushes – Both a foam brush and good quality paint brush are helpful for this project.
- Paint – You can use any paint you like here. I used Behr Marquee in Marshmallow (Eggshell finish) for good quality coverage. Note: the color you pick will end up being the background color on your finished artwork.
The canvas you use will dictate the effect of your final letters so look for one with lots of variations and colors that will work in your home. Also, as I mentioned above, this project has the potential to go very, very wrong since you will be painting over the entire canvas with new paint. Therefor, I highly recommend you search thrift stores and yard sales (or in my case, my overstuffed garage!) for a good candidate canvas. Don’t spend too much, and don’t get too attached to a “final vision.” There’s no way to predict how this will turn out! Here is the 36″ square canvas I started with:
Desinging the Alphabet Art in Cricut Design Space
The first step is to create a letter display that suits your fancy. If you don’t have a Cricut machine or e-cutter, you can always use peel-and-stick letters from a craft store or Etsy and do the same technique I outline in this post. However, using the Cricut Explore and corresponding Design Space software allows you to really customize the look and size of each letter to your liking.
I started by installing all the cool fonts that came in the Design Font Box bundle from FontBundles (you can see how I did that here). You can use whatever fonts you like (Cricut fonts, system fonts, etc).
Start by adding a text box with the entire alphabet to a new canvas in Design Space (below, top) and then change the letters to whatever font(s) you want to play with (below, bottom).
If you want to work with one font, you can skip to the next section. If you want your artwork to contain multiple fonts, here is a great way to do it:
Continued adding more letter strings, changing the font of each one. I also recommend changing the color of each font so you can easily tell which letter is which font as you start playing with them in your artwork project.
So you can work with each individual letter (rather than the whole string of letters), select one set of letters and ungroup them (by right-clicking); repeat with the other lines of letters. Just a word of caution: If you add a lot of letters in lots of different fonts to your canvas, it can burden the Design Space platform. Just keep saving your work as you go, and refresh the canvas as needed.
With the letters un-grouped, you can start playing with different sized letters to get the look you want. To ensure your spacing translates correctly to your final project, I suggest adding a box to your Design Space canvas that represents your real life canvas (the white box in the photo below). I sized my white box to match my canvas (36″ square), then added in letters and spaced them all to fill the canvas. If using different fonts, the color-coding helps ensure you have an equal spread of letters represented.
Once you get a look you like, navigate to the “Sync” panel on the right-hand toolbox and make all the letters the same color. Not only does this give you an idea of what your final canvas might look like, but it will also help condense the cutting into as few mats as possible.
After spending (a lot of) time playing with all the various fonts and getting the spacing just right, I wanted to try using the same font but different sized letters. I used the Love Script font from the Design Font Box bundle, and it turned out like this:
You guys…I literally hemmed and hawed over these two designs for days!!! DAYS!!! I even put it to my friends on Instagram, because I honestly couldn’t decide which layout I liked better. Even though the vote on Instagram was clearly for the right-hand option, my gut kept pulling me back to the left-hand option. Both Greg and I liked the left better, and the “casualness” about it felt right for the playroom. My gut instinct turned out to be spot on…I’ll explain why in a bit!
Cutting the Vinyl Letters with the Cricut Explore
Again, it’s really important that you have the letters sized and laid out to fit your real life canvas; this will make creating the whole project SO much easier. Once your spacing is right, delete out your mock canvas (in my case, the white box), and then “Attach” letters into cuttable groups (see how and why to use “Attach” here). My cutting mat measures 12×24,” so I grouped letters to fit within those parameters:
Here are the 7 groups I ended up cutting. You can see the grouped letters shown as attached groups like so:
Here is how my cutting mats looked once they were sent to be cut:
Send the letters to the cutting machine and load vinyl onto your cutting mat. Be sure to set your machine to “Vinyl” and cut out all the letters. If you need help cutting vinyl, see my tips here.
Once the letters are cut, “weed” out all the excess vinyl to reveal your letters. See my tips on weeding here. With all the letters designed, cut, and weeded, you are ready to finally get to work on your canvas!
Laying Out the Letters on Your Canvas
With the letters all cut, you may think you are done working in Cricut Design Space; however, I found it SUPER helpful to refer to my original design as I was transferring the letters to the canvas. This time, I created a frame around my letters; the internal dimensions of the frame matched the size of my canvas (again, 36″). I then used the grid on the Design Space canvas to help me match the spacing to my real-life canvas. You can do the same by counting the boxes (each measuring 1″) in Design Space to identify the placement of your first letter…
…then use a ruler and clear transfer paper to transfer (the set of) letters onto your canvas. I found transferring the letter sets (as they were cut) much quicker and easier than transferring one letter a time. However, you can certainly do one letter at a time if that gives you more control over the spacing!
Continue referring to the Design Space screen as you go to ensure your placement and spacing keeps with the original design. Each canvas will be different, but I found the vinyl stuck to the canvas VERY tight, making them difficult to move/re-stick. Take your time to get the placement right the first time.
As with any masking project, ensure each letter is firmly stuck onto the canvas. Run your finger around all the sides of each letter to make sure there are no bubbles or loose edges.
If you end up with some pretty significant gaps (like my O and P below), try your best to peel up the letter and re-lay it smooth. If the vinyl pulls or stretches, cut a repeat letter and place it again.
Painting the Alphabet Canvas
The next step is the most nerve-wracking, but you just have to go for it. Using a foam brush, paint around all the edges with your background paint color, working AWAY from the vinyl edges. Try not to paint TOWARD the letters, as you increase the risk of paint seeping under the edges.
With all the edges “sealed” up, use a larger brush or mini roller and paint the ENTIRE canvas. It took 2-3 coats for me to get good coverage over the bright blue canvas.
After your final coat, and while the paint is STILL wet, carefully remove all the letters from the canvas. The letters will be covered in paint and can be really, really stuck onto the canvas, so work carefully. I found that my trusty seam ripper helped pull up the initial edge of the letter, allowing me to pull the entire thing off more easily.
Here is why I say I chose the right font for this project. Despite every effort to press down and seal the edges, I had some pretty good seepage under all the vinyl letters. Boo. I’m honestly not sure if it’s because of the very slight texture on the canvas or I just slathered the paint on too fast and heavy. At first I thought this project was a “fail” until I stepped back…
The Love Script font has a very casual, hand-written look to it, so the ragged edges don’t look bad at all. In fact, they somewhat enhance the overall effect. The ragged edges combined with the variation in colors really make the letters look hand-painted. When I showed the final canvas to Greg, he was honestly puzzled. He knew the canvas I started with but couldn’t figure out how I had painted the letters to look like the background. Ha!
I was also originally concerned about that lighter patch in the bottom right corner of the canvas; but when next to the white paint, the lighter canvas colors were vivid enough and adds to the overall color gradient of the entire piece. As I said…happy accidents all around!
It’s been a little while since I’ve taken on a good ol’ fashioned DIY project for our house; and I have to say, this one was so much fun. I never expected the letters to turn out looking SO cool, and the pop of color and whimsy to our playroom was very needed.
This corner sits right atop our stairs and right outside all of our bedrooms, so suffice to say I walk past it all day long. I smile every time because it’s such a great feeling when a DIY turns out so great. DIY fails are pretty frequent around here, so when one turns out so good…it makes me pretty giddy!
Designing the layout of the letters was really the most time intensive part of this whole project…and that’s just because I was trying to achieve that “intentionally casual” look while maintaining balance and good spacing. If you’re a little more willing to “wing it,” this project can come together in an hour or so (depending on the size of your canvas, obviously). You can use this same technique on any old/thrifted canvas you find (or even one you paint yourself!), and can be done with letters, phrases, or images! I only had to invest in a $4 pot of tester paint, so it was a really affordable way to create something awesome for our playroom!
I hope this project has inspired you to breath new life into something you already have and to take some risks in your DIYing…you never know how great something might turn out! And with that, I wish you a great weekend! I’ll see you back here next week with a thank-you card project I am LOVING!