Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How to make a giant piece of silhouette art

As I mentioned earlier this week, my mom's birthday was on Sunday. I thought about what I wanted to get my mom for her birthday for weeks. I could not decide. I was drawing a total blank. Chocolate? A gift card? Nothing seemed right. Then, Friday night (well, Saturday morning) at 3 AM it came to me. I found this Pottery Barn horse art years ago.

If you click through, you'll note that the date on that post is 2009. I showed her the picture back when it was in the new Pottery Barn catalog and she loved it. She has half a dozen horses and it's safe to say that they are the main decor inspiration in their house. I decided it was high time to get this show on the road. I thought there was no way I'd get it done in time, but I made it with three hours to spare. Of course, if you can start this project more than 24 hours before you need it to be finished, that would be a great idea.

To start out, I went to Home Depot and got some common 6' pine 1x6 boards (about $3 each). I had two at home, so I picked up six more. The space where this will hang is pretty large--it's a long blank wall with a vaulted ceiling. She has an antique church pew on that wall, and through stealthy means (I asked and wouldn't tell her why), I found out that the pew was eight feet long. The wall, however, is longer. I could have made the piece 3' x 5', but I decided to stick with 4' x 6'.

When I got home, B and I laid out the boards with the best/most interesting/not written on by the Home Depot employee side up. I beat them a bit with a hammer and he gave them a light sand. While I made the pasta salad, B stained the boards Minwax Classic Grey for me. I worried at first that they were a little too dark, but the next day they looked great. I wanted a rustic look, and that's what I got.

You should really stain the sides of your boards too, but I took pity on B and let him skip that part since I knew they wouldn't be visible. Flip the boards over to the raw side and center two 1x4 boards (or whatever you have around; that's how I decided on 1x4) perpendicular to the stained 1 x6s. Measure and cut them about 4" shorter than your piece's height.

I started out thinking I'd need to drill pilot holes, but everything involved was pine, so it wasn't necessary. I thought I'd need 1 1/4" screws since 1x boards are 3/4" thick, and times two is 1 1/2", but the 1 1/4" screws just barely poked through the front. So I switched to 1" screws. You can see here how I staggered them.

I went back and put another screw at the ends of the boards, to hold the end boards on better. Also, once I was done driving all the screws, I went back and tightened all the screws up.

I decided to go ahead and attach the hanging hardware now, before I flipped this behemoth back over. I bought strap ties (in the hardware aisle, not with the picture hanging stuff) and picture wire rated for 100 pounds.

I would have just bought the regular D-rings for hanging pictures, but they didn't have them in their own package and I didn't want to spend $10 on a special kit with a bunch of other pieces I didn't need. Plus, I figured that having three screws holding the rings on wouldn't hurt.

Next, I added the wire to the hangers. I looked at this for info on how to tie the knots here, and there are instructions on the back of the package. I ended up going more with the instructions on the back of the package.

Everything was going well up to this point, and I made the mistake of saying it out loud. And, of course, I hit a snag. I found a font that had a horse silhouette that I liked and downloaded it. I picked the one I liked best, the number 7, put that in a Word document at font size 400, chose a lighter gray text color, and printed it. Next, I traced it onto a clear sheet protector with a Sharpie.

I found this link a while ago and thought that the idea seemed too simple to be legit, but hey, they had a picture of it working right there! Well, I don't know what they did, but it did not work for me. B tried to help me by starting to build some sort of Rube Goldberg-esque projector, but he knocked one of the boards loose (this was before I had gone back and tightened the screws) and I kicked him out of the room. Then I went to my backup plan.

First, you need to make your image big. if you have a picture editing program like Gimp or Photoshop, you can resize your picture there and save your image as a PDF. Otherwise, just save your Word document as a PDF.

Now, open your PDF and click File>Print. It should look something like this.

Under "Page Sizing and Handling," click "Poster." It probably shows that your picture covers two pages now. To change that, adjust your tile scale. My piece was 4' x 6', which translates to roughly six sheets across and six sheets tall when the sheets are in landscape mode, and nine sheets across and four sheets tall when in portrait mode. The sheets on my preview stayed in portrait mode no matter which button I clicked. The preview will also show you the print size, but you can't manually edit that. I ended up needing to adjust my tile scale to 600%.

Now it may look like this is too big. 55" is more than 4'. But notice that on each side of the picture there's a row of blank sheets. When I eliminate that sheet, it will fit right in.

Print that out. This next part is going to sound like it will suck: tape your pages together and cut out your shape. I know, I know. But honestly, this part took me about half an hour. Don't worry about getting everything taped together along every square inch of paper. I just taped where I knew I would need to cut. You should cut with an Xacto knife (or scissors, if you're doing something simple), but I used a utility knife with a new blade because that's what I had on hand. Don't worry about being super precise, either. Just don't be really imprecise.

Lay your paper cutout on your board wherever you want it and trace around it. Just use a pencil or, if you're painting a dark color, use a Sharpie.

I really wish I had made this bigger, but I was worried about it being too big for the wall, so I wanted to leave the option to trim six inches off each side. Oh well.

Now, get to painting. I've seen this done using spraypaint (obviously you need to mask off what you don't want painted really well) and house paint, but I didn't want a solid white horse on a wood background. I wanted it to be white, but I wanted the paint to show the wood underneath, and I wanted the suggestion of movement. I tried to be aware of what part of the horse I was painting and place my brushstrokes accordingly. Then I took a little scrap of T-shirt, wrapped it around my finger, and blended the paint until I liked it.

And here it is hanging in my parents' kitchen.

My brother and dad hung it with two screws (I don't know what size, but you want it long enough to go through the drywall and into the stud) on two different studs. They found one stud, measured 16" over, and put in the other screw. They had a stud finder but it was being finicky, but it all worked out. My mom loves it. She said it's the best gift she's ever gotten.

1 comment:

  1. Such a great idea! And the horse is the cherry on top, I love horses!!