October 22, 2011

DIY Subway Art Tutorial

Happy Weekend! I have a fun, inexpensive, and easy project for you: subway art!

There are many tutorials floating around the blogosphere. Some are are incredibly simple and some are incredibly time consuming, frustrating, and carpo-tunnel inducing. I actually tried BOTH ways, and can you figure out which one worked best? :)

Here's what you need to make a-la-easy subway art:
  •  Wood Board (Whatever size you want your sign to be. Mine was about 2' x 3')
  • Modge Podge
  • Paper print off of your sign (the same size as your board). I got mine printed at Office Max for a whopping $4.00.
I created my sign in Publisher. I first created a custom size document (2' x 3') the same size as my board so that all of the text would fit perfectly. I played around with fonts, sizes, and spacing to get the look I was going for. Then I filled in the background with black, and kept the words white.

I put my document on a flash drive, brought if over to Office Max, and had it printed out. Yes, they can print documents this size! And if you're using only black and white ink, it's super cheap.

I then covered my board with a thin coat of modge podge and laid the paper sign down on top of the wood. Be VERY careful- you only get one shot at this! I had Charlie help me lay out the paper and make sure everything was lined up.

Try to flatten out any bubbles or folds in the paper (this is inevitable- Charlie actually rolled the sign down with a rolling pin! It seemed to help). Some bumps and folds are okay, hardly show, and give the sign a "rustic" quality.

Add two more coats of Modge Podge over the sign to seal the paper. Wellah! You're done!

Charlie put some screws in the back and hung a wire between them for easy hanging. I'm lovin' it!

When I first ran across this way to make subway art, I turned up my nose at it and thought that a piece of paper modge podged to a board would look crappy. (Newsflash: it looks great!) I originally tired the "real" (ie:  time consuming, frustrating, and carpo-tunnel inducing) way to make my sign. At this point I need to put in a disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER: There is nothing wrong with going this route. It is the more common and "normal" way to make DIY art. Many fine bloggers have attempted this way with fabulous results, and they are my subway sign superheros.

Here's a wonderful tutorial if you want to go the ol' "paint and sticker letters" way.

Originally, I was in trouble before I started. I used a  laminate board and the paint had nothing to stick to. After 12-15 hours of cutting out minuscule letters, peeling off the sticker backing, pain-stakingly lining every single letter and word up on my board, and painting it all twice, I sat down with HUGE anticipation. This is how it came out looking:

And an up close shot:

Ah! Terrible!

I may or may not have sat dejectedly at the kitchen table with cramped hands and few frustrated tears rolling down my cheeks and spilling onto my sign. (How emo of me.) Such is the life of a DIYer. It can't all go your way.

So seriously folks, the paper modge podge sign is the way to go. And if you want to do it authentically, start with a board that will actually absorb paint!

PS. I'm linking this projects up with Home Stories A to Z's linky party. Check it out!


  1. it looks super cool, rebecca! and ben likes it, too. :)

  2. Thank you for this! I'm trying to put something together for my BF, and this is the way to go. The stickers and paint doesn't always come out perfect. I know from a similar experience!

  3. can you tell me what you asked for when you had them print it?

  4. Hi Crys! I just told them that I had an oversized (2' x 3') black and white document that I needed printed. I've heard them called "engineering prints" as well. Hope this helps!