Easiest. Wall Art. Ever! (A Tutorial.)

Easy and Fun Wall Art Duo

Wall Art In the Master Bath

Wall Art In the Master Bath

(Image 1)

I really, firmly believe that every home should have some ‘original’ artwork.  This can mean the framed scribbles of your cousin Suzie, or the expensive drippings of a Jackson Pollack.  However, most of us cannot afford the art of the expensive variety.  Great things can be had at antique shops and flea markets, student art sales and the like, but sometimes a match for a decor and our wallet is an elusive beast. My intention is to post one project similar to this one a month– be it this easy or quite advanced– and help give you options to the original art category.  My solution when I cannot find prints that I like for a room is to simply craft something myself.  Mixed in with a few pieces of ‘real’ art culled from art fairs and talented family members, I find that my work doesn’t look embarrassing or telling this way, it just highlights the originality of the whole space.

UPDATE–  as of March 1st, the pieces I made for this tutorial are hanging in my gorgeous master bathroom… over the potty!  Hey, if it works, it works!  (Another pic of them in their new space at the bottom of this post.)

***Note 1–  Let me start by saying that this is intended to be art, simplified.  It is for the person that wants something original for their wall but doesn’t really feel that they themselves are an artist….  A colorful little canvas to accent whatever you got goin’ on in your space.  If you can make a scrapbook page, you can do this.  If you can doodle, this is for you.  With these instructions, I am not meaning to ‘talk down’ to anyone, but I am assuming for this project that you are anywhere in skill level from very beginner upwards, and I don’t want to jump over critical info just because it seems obvious to us advanced crafters.  This project really is accessible to everyone and all talents.  So forgive me if I seem to oversimplify.  Also, please pipe up if I leave something out, I’ll try and fix it.  (My ‘webmaster’/husband says that you should be able to log in via facebook and comment easily on here.  I have yet to test this, I still have so much to get the hang of!)  Don’t forget that to see any of the thumbnails more closely, you can click on them for a larger image.***

***Note 2– This project is PERFECT for recycling other canvases that you feel were *less successful* for whatever reason…  I personally have been to several of those fun ‘wine and painting’ classes here in Knoxville, so I’m sure this is a ‘thing’ out there in the world, and my general observation is that a lot of those paintings are doomed to the the thrift shop.  If you have one of these paintings waiting in the yard sale pile, maybe try this method to ‘revive’ it and turn it into something you could proudly hang.  (If not, it can resume its position on the thrifty pile.)  I personally have been benefiting from these rejected paintings for a while now, and have been scooping up these cheap canvases at the thrift store.  The painting I execute here is built on this fifty-cent score you see above–  Image 1– originally priced at a buck but purchased on half-off day.  (If you look really hard, you can still see the price sticker.)   **To my dear follow Knoxvillian and original artist of this work–  I am sorry that I find your efforts to be undisplayable, I do not see this as a reflection of you, personally, or anything.  I am sure you are an awesome person.  If you gifted this to a dear friend, I also apologize that you had to find out it was no longer hanging in her bathroom via my blog.  I am sure she still loves you.***

(Image 2)


*prefab canvas– used or unused, any size appropriate for your wall (You may want to start small if you’ve never painted beyond elementary school.)

*surface protection for under the painting, a new flat trash bag from the box works great (I actually use a large canvas art board from the craft store and I use it over and over for all of my painting work, layering on layer after layer of paint.  Eventually this will become art of its own.  Its actually quite pretty right now, its the thing my brushes and scissors are on in images two and three.)

*paper plate or palette for holding and blending paint

*foamie brush for the paint basecoat

*3/4″ flatbrush (or something similar) for the decoupaging and detail painting


*jar filled with water that you don’t mind getting yucky forever (for quick cleaning your brushes)

*Mod Podge (I believe I used original formula)

*acrylic paints in several accent colors from your room–  I would do two similar tones for the background, I used a tangerine and a pumpkin, as well as a second and third completely different colors– like the sky blue and purple I chose.  Also, the paint I am using for the stencil work is a pearlescent acrylic paint in two similar purple shades .  (You can see I really like Delta Ceramcoat, I think it is an affordable product that comes in a wide range of colors, and covers well.  You could also use some leftover wall paint if you wanted.)

*several different scrapbook papers in colors and patterns complimentary to your room’s decor (Scrap papers work really well here, you don’t need a whole lot of paper to make an impact.  Also, using movie ticket stubs, kid’s book pages, vintage giftwrap, scrap wallpaper, etc. is encouraged for making more personalized artwork.  I intentionally left my papers at patterns with no distinct direction because I wanted to display these works either horizontally or vertically, I didn’t wanted to be limited by an ‘upright’ image.)

(Image 3)

*the items in Image 2 are all you technically NEED to create this painting, but Image 3 shows some additional ‘dazzlers’ that really up the complexity and creativity of your work.  They include–

*washi-style tape in complimentary colors and patterns (I purchased these two shown here at Target in the office supply department, I believe they are part of the up and up line.)

*Scribblers-style tee-shirt paint, this makes great dimensional effects (My choices are a minty turquoise and a lilac, both pearlescent)

*pouncing stencil brush and decorative cut scrapbook paper– this is what I will be using the two metallic purple paints for  (This is LI memories Lace Cardstock in “Perm Teal”)


(Image 4)


*Protect your work surface and your outfit, think about the overall look of the room where the painting will go, and gather all of your supplies accordingly.  You need a loose plan– background color, secondary and possible third color, papers that compliment your scheme (paper colors can echo the paint colors you’ve chosen, that’s fine).

*I start with globbing my main color straight onto the canvas and working it across with the foamie brush, working both horizontally and vertically to cover the *entire* canvas, including all of the edges, adding more paint if you run thin.  You will be using a second coat, and even then do not panic if you do not get a deep, solid base coat.  After that coat on this painting, I could see the lingering shadow of the bathing beauty, but the paper layer hides a multitude of sins.  (Including bathing in what appears to be boy shorts and a tube top?)  In applying the second coat of the solid color, you can blend in the occasional blob of the similar color right on the canvas, here I mixed a pumpkin-like orange with a more tangerine shade to create a mottled mixture of the two.  (You can see how this looked before I proceeded in Image 5.)

(Image 5)

*Now you need to pick a complimentary color, known loosely as the second color up to this point.  I am using sky, aqua, and teal tones, so the paintings will tie in with my headboard in the master bedroom.  I’m thinking it through, people!  So with the lids tightly closed on your paint bottles, you’ll give your bottles a good shake, and then flip the lid, turn the bottle upside down and let a few drops drip drip drip out onto a few places on your canvas.  Don’t squeeze!  Just let gravity do it.  The only tip I really want to make here is put them *somewhat* close to the edges of your canvas, so when you get your paper on you will still see a little of this second color.  I have just completed this step of dripping in Image 5.

(For the more advanced craftypants, you can add in another color here, like the metallic teal color next to the flat sky tone in my droplets.  Adding close colors like this add dimension, especially when you make one of them pearlescent or sparkly.  The sheen adds luxe-ness.  I don’t know if that’s a word, but it adds it.  As my little cousin says, “Sparkle is my favorite color!”)

(Image 6)

*Next you will want to take your flat brush, moisten it just a little, and sort of drag it from one edge to the other of the canvas, both directions, creatively smearing your second color into soft, brushy strokes.  You want it to look a little messy and abstract, and if you used two close colors, those shades should mix just a little teasingly.  You will note that you can STILL see the bathtub and legs akimbo in the middle of the canvas, but soon it will fade away….

*At this point you need to give this a half hour or so to really dry.  Acrylics dry very quickly, but you don’t want your Mod Podge mixing with your paint and obscuring your pretty paper.  Or maybe we do, that could be pretty.  I just think it’s easier to lay out they layering of your paper on a dry canvas.  So while my paints are drying, I clean my brushes, get my papers out, and start trimming pieces down into about the size and shape I’d like to work with.  You want to try and opt for about three papers on a smaller canvas, and maybe 5 or 7 on your very largest canvases.  I give these odd numbers because my Mother once told me as a girl that odd numbers are more visually appealing with flowers in flowerbeds, that the human eye tries to split or make symmetrical even-numbered items.  I have found, over and over, that the odd numbers are our friends visually.  So shoot for an odd number of papers that look complimentary together and your room.  This is where ‘thinking scrapbook’ can help you.  If you know you are making a duo of paintings for your 8 year-old daughter’s pink and green woodland-themed room, you can go to the craft store and buy a package of coordinating papers covered in evergreen trees and fawns already assembled for you.  No guesswork, matchy-matchy!  (And if those papers aren’t conveniently pink and green enough for you, then you choose paint colors in those ranges and end up with a completely custom look that still goes beautifully your kiddo’s room.)

(Image 7)

*It’s kind of hard to see in image 7, but part of my canvas along the edge was poking out a little, so I decided to wrap the edge with the purple scrapbook paper.  (To kind of tighten it down a little, if that makes sense.)  This is a little trickier when it comes to the glue stage, so I went ahead and planned out where it was going to go, and folded the paper around the dry canvas edge first.  I also laid out the approximate locations of the other two papers.  The use of the rectangle shapes seems simplistic at this stage, but it adds to the modern feeling overall when you’re done.  You can do freeform or oddball shapes, but be forewarned that it can get visually busy very quickly that way.  If you go with the more squared shapes, try and lay it out so your paper edges are parallel with the canvas edges.  It will look tidier than if you place them on an angle.  Are you seeing it coming together at this point?

*The Mod Podge step is a little messy, so make sure your hands are clean and that you have some time to work.  One tip I’ve used in the past for these thicker scrapbook papers is to moisten them first in a casserole dish shallowly filled with water, and transferring to a paper towel while you apply the MP to the canvas.  This does make your work time with the paper shorter, however, you can’t really lift it and reposition as well.  You will want to apply a really, thick, copious layer of Mod Podge to your painting, knowing that it will need to soak into the paper you are applying on top of it.  Place your paper–  being mindful if your patterns have an up and down, you’ll want them to all be aiming the correct direction–  and smooth as quickly as possible, trying to alleviate bubbles as you go.  Now coat the top of the paper, working the excess from the canvas onto the top, but adding more glue if you need to.  You can use the paintbrush here to smooth and move the paper, working air bubbles to the edge and then sealing them down.  I actually ended up with a big sort of ridge and a worn spot in the purply paper, but still, no stress, because the other treatments obscured them. (You can see it if you look really hard in photo 8.)  This is the kind of project where you let the little snafus dictate where you cover next, and in the end it should be lovely and complex.  Repeat with your following papers, doing your bottom level paper first and building upwards if they overlap.  When you have the paper layer how you like it, coat any of the painted canvas that remains uncoated after this process.  This will help give you a nice, consistent finish.  (You may or may not know that Mod Podge can look milky when applied, but when it dries it should be clear.)

(Image 8)

*Image 8 shows my decoupaged canvas.  I actually used four papers (I cheated), but I felt that once the orange paper went on it blended in so much with the background that it sort of disappears at a glance.  This was my reasoning.  I really DO believe in that odd-number business.

*This is another of those times when you want to allow for a big chunk of dry time, the Mod Podge really needs to get nice and dry, and with the paper it can take a bit of time.  This is a good time to walk away and go have lunch or whatever, and you can come back in a few hours.  Don’t forget to really clean the brush that you had Podged with, it can get really goopy and get ruined forever if it dries in there, you’ll want to use some soap and be sure to work it all out.

***Optional Steps***

*As I feel like my painting is still a little plain at this point, I would go with at least one of these three optional steps, and I certainly recommend all of them together if you can acquire (or already have) the supplies.

(Image 9)

*In order of easiest, the Washi tape step is by far the winner of that race.  Its so easy, in fact, that I’m skipping the image in the hopes of economizing a little.  You guys can figure it out, it’s tape!  You can use several different tapes if you are only doing this one of the optional steps, and really do some fun decorative stuff.  Stripes!  Plaids!  Be creative.

*The next in the levels of complication is the paint and stencil step.  It is really quite easy, but sort of messy and totally depends on if you can locate the required laser-cut scrapbook paper.  Most craft stores have at least a few of the ‘fancier’ papers mixed in with the more run-of-the-mill scrapbooking stuff, I’m pretty sure I bought this paper at Joann’s Etc.  Even if you couldn’t find something similar, you could maybe create something to use as a stencil with a few paper punches and some crazy-shaped shears.  For this project, I simply used my scissors to carefully cut out a corner of the paper and decided where to stencil it by placing it on the canvas until I like the way it looks where it is.

(Image 10)

*When I have chosen the ideal locale, I put a few drops of paint on a paper plate.  I am using two metallics in similar purples, one is more plum and the other more violet, but both are medium tones and slightly shimmery.  (I think these are by Folk Art, actually.)  Sort of ‘jumping’ or pouncing the brush between the two colors and mixing them slightly (see image 9), I load up that little round stencil brush.  This is sort of hard to explain, but you very gently dab the paint on the piece of scrapbook paper that you are holding in place.  You don’t really want to make a solid, one-tone coat, you want to instead sort of make a marbleized, shimmery, imprint on the surface….  I like to stop inside the lines on some areas (like the bottom of image 10), and then taper off , smuding and dry-brushing with the paint well off of the stencil (like the right side of image 10).  Just dab with that stencil brush, adding paint when you need to, until you get a pretty effect on a about a quarter of your overall painting.  I would really only do this in one area of the painting.  You can see how this looks after I was done with this step at the bottom of image 11.

(Image 11)

*The last of the optional steps involves a fairly easy-to-come-by supply, tee shirt paint.  Not the puffy stuff, I think the brand I used was called Scribbles.  Sort of pearlescent and dimensional.  The range of color here is not dreamy, but there are enough colors on the market to really find something you like for your project.  I chose a metallic aqua color.  This step is really quite easy, but I listed it as the hardest because it involves being free and just jumping in, which can be hard for some people.  I get that.  But let me just point out a little something to you that may help you relax and try this one– you can wipe it off if you don’t like it.  Have some paper towels handy, start small if you need to….  The good thing about having a canvas previously coated with Mod Podge is that it is now glossy as all get out, and that tee shirt paint wipes right off if you catch it quickly enough.  And you will, you’ll know immediately if you don’t like it.  Shake your bottles every so often and make sure you don’t have problems with bubbles, I think that can be a problem even for those of us with a steady hand.  It’s really quite easy, and freeing once you start.  On this one I did a sort of branch (the beginning seen in image 11) with leaves surrounding, and on others I’ve done free-form flowers, which is fun.  If that sounds too complicated for you, maybe think in terms of circles of different sizes (like bubbles) or even just making dots.  You can even practice off to the side with your paper plate a little bit before you begin.  This tee shirt paint layer should dry overnight before you try and handle or hang your painting.

(Image 12– Done!)

***Image 12 shows you my finished painting!  Pretty cool right?  None of the elements are particularly revolutionary, but all of the effects combined make for a pretty compelling contribution to a wall grouping, if I do say so myself.  All the colors, patterns, and sheens mixed make for a more complex canvas, and one I hope you’d be proud to hang on your wall.  In the end, my paintings look sort of modern and bohemian, which is fantastic for the modern exotic eclectic look I’m going for in my home.  The duo in the large photo at the very top of this page I did at the same time, knowing that I would need more than a single canvas for the master bedroom walls.  Because I have just painted the walls that glorious shade of “Crocus Petal Purple” I did not want to mar them by thumbtacking the two up to show you what they looked on the wall, so I propped them, hoping that would do for now.  Eventually when I get the whole arrangement hung where they will stay for a while, I hope to take a photo and update this post.  Let’s hope I remember!

The image below is a larger canvas that will eventually be hung in the hallway or guestroom.  (I’m still undecided.)  It is another gunked thrift store rescue, this one of a strange duck in a hat on a peach background.  Blech.  The end result of my revamp is REALLY busy, I decided to push the limits on what can be done with this process– but in the end, I think it still works.  And I’ve gotten some very nice feedback on it, which was unexpected.  So, be free, jump in, make some ART!  It really is fun….

The Collage Painting Formula, Taken To the Extreme

***If you use any of these steps to make artwork of your own, PLEASE show it to me!  You can email it to me or link it in the comments, and I will update the post to show off your work if you give me the permission to do so.  I think this method could yield a huge range of results, and I’d really like to see some paintings come together in hands other than mine.

Also, I’m interested in hearing if any of you readers would like to participate in an arty swap circle, maybe one involving a small canvas like this.  I think it would be fun to have a small group of swappers where each participant starts with a canvas of the same size and base coats it in a color, then mails it to the next person on their list.  The recipients do the next layer according to the steps, signs the back, and boxes it up and ships it to a third player, etc. until at the end the original basecoater receives their original canvas, totally completed.  Does this sound fun to anyone else?  I am always looking to get fun original art that noooobody else out there has!

The Painting On the Wall

The Painting On the Wall


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