Three ways to DIY a lettered canvas

Walking around our house is sort of like flipping through a life-size book of quotes. In frames, on canvases, on chalkboards, there are hundreds of words and phrases — mostly inspiration ones, but a lot of funny ones, too.

On the wall in my home office: “Being an artist is like being yourself for a living.” On the wall in the kitchen: “Donut worry, be happy.” Even the powder room has several prints with phrases, like my favourite “We used to want it all. Now we just want to pee alone.”

Want to get a head start on handmade holiday gifts, or just give your favourite phrase a place of honour on the wall?

Here are three different ways (and different price-points) to put words on your wall — without needing a stencil, a paintbrush or a steady hand …

Paper letters ($) 

I picked up a clearance package of paper letters and numbers (Elmer’s BoardMate) that are designed for classroom bulletin boards and Grade 8 bristol board projects.

I liked the contrast of the black letters as I laid them out on the unpainted white canvas and brushed a layer of Mod Podge on top.

But as the clear top coat had dried, the paper letters wrinkled and bubbled. As Cher Horowitz would say, this attempt was “a full-on Monet” — OK from far away, but a big old mess up close.

Foam letters ($$)

For attempt No. 2, I headed straight to the scrapbooking notions aisle at the craft store and started examining the packages of foam letters to see which ones were the thickest.

The trick was to find a reasonably-priced package that contained all of the letters I needed. I found a nice set of 242 in a pretty font (“Rockabye” from American Crafts’ “Thickers” collection).

They had adhesive backs so they stuck easily to the canvas — which I’d painted with a coral ombre effect — and it ended up being a nice gift for my sister’s new apartment. 

Wooden letters ($$$)

This was the most expensive option, but easily the most professional finished product.

I bought 14 primed wooden letters at the craft store for about $2 each after confirming in the store that they’d fit nicely on the canvas I was buying. I hot-glued them to an unpainted canvas, and then coated the whole thing with two coats of chalk finish paint (“River Rock” in Martha Stewart’s Vintage Decor Paint line).

Once the second coat was dry, I gave it a distressed look by dragging sandpaper across the canvas and roughing up the edges of the letters to show off their original white finish. 


So whether you go with letters made from paper, foam or wood, this is an easy project that you can whip as a gift, holiday decor or just to remind yourself of a special sentiment. Any excuse to buy wooden letters is a good one, really. 

So what do you think?

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