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Creative Family Ideas in the Pacific Northwest

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DIY Happy Heart Wood Wall Art & Custom Stencils

I love personalizing my home with custom wall art. Crafty projects can be a great way to repurpose materials and create art that’s entirely unique! I made this “Have a Happy Heart” wall sign by upcycling an old cabinet door. With a coat of paint and custom lettering stencils, I created this cute wood wall art for our home in just a few hours! I’m excited to share how I made this sign, using supplies I already had at home.

I’ve considered buying a vinyl die-cut cutter several times, but I don’t make enough custom wall art to justify the investment. For this project, I set out to find a way to make lettering stencils without a fancy machine! I made these DIY lettering stencils for painted wood signs using printer paper, spray adhesive, and contact paper. Cutting out my lettering stencils turned out to be pretty easy, with a little attention to detail.

How to make custom lettering stencils for wood wall art

DIY Stick-On Letter Stencils

To make DIY lettering stencils, first choose your fonts. If you know how to use a design program such as Photoshop, it’s very easy to mock-up a design for your sign. However, you can also format the fonts in a text editor such as Microsoft Word. You will need to print off the words for your wall art design in the font and size of your choosing.

Arrange the fonts onto 8.5″ x 11″ size pages using a text editing program. If you mock-up your design, you can make sure the fonts and the layout fit together well. I chose the phrase “Have a Happy Heart” for my DIY wood sign. I combined this positive message with a whimsical color scheme.

How to make DIY lettering stencils for wood wall art

Once you’ve printed off the lettering for your wood wall art, it’s time to turn the words into DIY stencils! Cut the excess paper off each section of words and spray the back of each piece with a thin layer of spray adhesive. Attach each word to a piece of contact paper, sticky side out. Keep the contact paper backing in place for now. Use small scissors to cut out the lettering. This is the detailed part! The more carefully you cut out the stencils, the cleaner the lettering will look.

How to make adhesive DIY lettering stencils

Traced Letter Stencils

Another DIY stencil technique is making traced letter stencils. First, print off lettering backwards and trace around each letter with a pencil, leaving behind a generous amount of graphite. Flip the paper pencil-line down against the wood and rub the graphite off onto the wood. This technique will leave graphite letter outlines behind, which you can fill in with paint.

It’s important to print the words backwards to get the appropriate left-to-right word arrangement once flipped over. This alternate technique for plotting letters on a DIY wood sign sounds simple, but I haven’t tried it.

How to make custom word stencils for wall art

How to Apply DIY Stick-On Stencils

Once you’ve cut out your custom stick-on stencils, arrange the lettering on your sign. You can use a small ruler to make sure everything is straight and aligned. Peel off the contact paper backing. Smooth the lettering stencils into place. Apply pressure to make sure all the edges and corners are firmly attached to the wood.

How to make your own wall art with custom lettering stencils

How to Paint Custom Lettering

Now it’s time to paint! I filled in each letter with colored craft paint using my custom lettering stencils as an outline. I recommend brushing the paint on lightly over the letter edges and corners so excess paint doesn’t leak under the stencil and make the lettering look blemished.

For the word “happy” I used an orange and pink gradient technique. The cheerful colors makes this lettering the focal point of my homemade wood sign.

DIY custom lettering stencils for wood wall art easy technique

Let the paint fully dry overnight before carefully peeling off your homemade lettering stencils. If some of the letters aren’t perfect, you can touch them up using extra paint and a tiny paint brush. Finally, you can distress your wood sign by running a fine sanding block over the words and sign edges.

DIY wood wall art easy custom lettering stencil technique

DIY Distressed Happy Heart Wall Art

I used a sheet of sand paper and manually distressed the front of my sign. This allowed me to control how much to distress the paint. Sanding also removed any paint edges from my lettering and smoothed out the entire look of my homemade wood “Have a Happy Heart” sign.

Related Post: Forever & Always Painted Wall Art »

How to paint custom lettering on wood wall art

Finally, I decided to paint a heart around the letters. I could have done this before painting the letters but my heart border ended up being a last-minute embellishment. I just painted around the painted lettering using a watered-down light blue paint, allowing some of the wood distressing to show through.

Easy DIY tips for making custom wood wall art

Overall, I am very happy with my homemade wood wall art. I know I’ll enjoy using this wall art as part of our home decor for many years to come! I used dusty aqua paint, a classic color in my home decorating color pallet. The pink and orange painted letters really pop out and add a cheerful element to the encouraging reminder. Cultivating a happy heart is important for our whole family!

Easy DIY wood wall art with custom lettering stencils

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how to make custom lettering stencils for wood wall art


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6 years ago

I love making homemade wood signs for the holidays.

Emily A
Emily A
6 years ago

I love this… If only I could make it look this nice!