Sep 20, 2010

Word art canvas/Subway art

I've heard it called a couple different things, for the vinyl crafter it's probably most commonly known as Subway art. I don't really care what it is called, I just knew I wanted to make my own. And so I did.

I know a lot of people have their own vinyl cutting machines, not me - bummer, right! So I had to do a few extra steps to make my canvas, here's what I did...

Canvas or piece of wood
Scissors/x-acto knife
Spray adhesive
Contact paper

Step 1:  Paint your canvas.  This color will end up being the color of the words so pick a color that will show well.  I just used an off white for mine.

Step 2:  Make a list of words.  I had my family help and we listed words that we felt best described us.  We have some pretty silly things on there, lots of inside jokes but honestly, it wouldn't be us without those.  After you have your list, open a document program on your computer.  I actually used an illustrator program and laid them out to scale.  Then I printed them onto just regular printer paper.

Step 3:  Once all your words are printed out, spray the back side of the paper with spray adhesive and attach it to the front side (shiny side  not sticky side) of the contact paper.  Then cut all your letters out.   

TIP:  Keep in mind the bigger your words are the easier it will be to cut out.  Duh! Right?  I know, but it needed to be said.  Mostly because I learned the hard way.  Bigger words will also help you in the painting stage too.

Step 4:  Once letters are all cut out, lay them out in the position that they will go on your canvas.  Don't stick them down yet though.  Make sure they are all laid out and that they are spaced right.  You won't be able to check the spacing until all of the words are out. Then, after everything is in it's place, carefully peel the backing off the contact paper and stick it down.

Step 5:  Start painting.  If you are using a canvas be careful as the paint can seep under the letters.  To avoid this issue, put your paint on top of the letter and spread it out onto the canvas.  This way the paint will not pool up at the edge of the letter.

Step 6:  Once you have it painted to your liking and the paint is dry, start removing you letters.  (In the photo some of the letters have been removed but the others haven't.  Notice how the contact paper creates a mask for the paint to show from underneath when the paper is removed.)

Step 7:  (optional)  Sand it down.  Because I used a canvas and it has a texture the words were not very crisp.  Because of this I chose to give the whole thing a distressed look and used a fine grit sand paper to remove some of the paint.  This distressed it all and made it look more complete and balanced.

Step 8:  Hang it up!

It's not a hard project but it is time consuming.  My canvas was very large but you could easily do this in less time on a smaller canvas.

Also, if you want great canvas prints but don't want to do all the steps mentioned above you could design your art work and then have it custom printed at


In the comments Shannon shared a great tip:  "To keep the paint from bleeding under the letters, after you stick all of them down, give the entire canvas one coat of the off-white color before painting the top color. That way, in case any paint does get underneath the letters, it will be the same color."  Thanks Shannon, I will most certainly do that on my next one!

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

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