Making Your Own Wall Art

When we first moved into our house, we had been living in a tiny apartment for years so we didn’t have many pictures or paintings for the walls. The new place definitely needed something though and so I began to look at art for the first time. Then I ran into a couple of problems: paintings/pictures of any decent size were expensive as hell and the stock stuff that was available through retail stores was… well, let’s just say not our style. (Ok, it was tacky. Like really really tacky.)

So I embarked on the adventure of creating my own pieces. I originally thought it would be way less than the store bought stock stuff. It ended up being marginally less (but still way less than custom pieces). But it had the added benefit of being personal and meaningful for us. These pieces truly “made our house a home” as cliche as that sounds.

First, I selected photographs that I had taken of places that were meaningful to us, or of scenes that always made me feel happy or calm. I then had Kinko’s print these out on engineering paper so they were the large size we needed (one of these is 3 by 3.5 ft and the other is 2 by 4 ft).

Next step was to hit up the hardware store for materials to complete the project. I bought some plywood (the SurePly extra thin one), chair railing (for the frames), stain, Easy Tac, spray on Shellac, wood glue, painters tape, and foam paint brushes. You will also need some (or a lot) of Mod Podge from the craft store to complete these.

I cut the plywood to the correct size for the picture and used the Easy Tac to glue the photo to the wood. We had a spatula on hand, and it was helpful in making sure the picture was pressed on without any bubbles.

Once the pictures were glued to the backing, the “hard” part is next: Mod Podging over the entire surface. If you read the instructions on a bottle of this stuff, it tells you to only use it on a small area at once (HA! WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT? I thought…) I went ahead and tried putting a thicker layer of the stuff over the entire paper at first. Much to my dismay, bubbles happened.

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I thought I had ruined all my work to this point (not to mention needing to pay for another print!) and went to bed that night pretty dejected. Luckily for me, once the stuff dried, the bubbles mostly went away. I was able to continue to apply THIN coats after this. For each picture, I applied about 6 coats. I used different textured sponges for different areas of the picture. This way, I was able to give the trees and bushes a rough texture and the water and sky smoother texture. It really made a difference in the total effect after several layers when the light reflects off the “art”

After all the Mod Podging was complete (and that took almost a week – not great for impatient me!) I sealed the entire thing with Shellac to add a nice glossy finish and to protect it.

The final step is to make the frame for the pictures. You can either spend a bijillion dollars buying a custom frame that is the right size, or you can build one out of chair railing for a few bucks. I’m totally a “build-it-for-a-fraction-of-the-cost” kind of girl. This was the easy part. Measure the total length you will need, choose a stain, and your off. I used a miter saw to cut each piece at a 45 degree angle to build a square edge. Then used wood glue to attach it to the backing. Since wood glue takes 24h to dry, I used painter’s tape (and in one spot, a clamp!) to hold everything in place.

When the frames were set, the finishing touch was to seal the back of the new “painting” and add the mounting hardware to it. To do this, I used plain brown paper, the wood glue, and basic picture hangars.

The finished product was well worth the effort. We get compliments all the time on our custom pieces and people always want to know where they can get their own. I also love that our space is filled with prints that have special meaning to us. All for a fraction of the cost of custom artwork. What do you think? Would you make something like these for your home?

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