February 28, 2012

DIY Burlap Subway Art

After I posted my Burlap Banner Tutorial, I had some people ask to see the subway art on my mantle. When I took down our Christmas decorations, I knew the mantle needed something more. We moved into this house in September, and I never really did much with the mantle - just threw some random things I already had up there. I've been wanting to make some subway art for awhile, so decided the time was now. The problem is, I'm a horrible free-hand painter, and I wanted something that wasn't overly complicated to do. So after searching around the internet, I combined a few different techniques I saw to come up with this. These aren't the best pictures ever, but I was too lazy to break out the real camera. :)

Here is what you need:
--canvas or board (size of your choice - I used 22x28)
--burlap (amount varies depending on size of your piece - a yard should be more than enough)
--your subway art design (more on this below)
--paint & paintbrush, or paint pen (I used a paint pen)

1. To begin, decide what size of canvas or board you will use. I purchased my canvas at Michael's for half price. 
2. Design your subway art. I designed mine in Photoshop using the fonts Jellyka Delicious Cake, American Typewriter, and BlairMdITC TT. If you click on the names of those, it will take you to free downloads of those fonts, except for American Typewriter. That is a basic font that comes on Macs, but I don't believe it's available for a free download. There are lots of free typewriter fonts to choose from here though. If you don't have Photoshop, you could design it in Microsoft PowerPoint or Publisher. Or you could design it using an online site like Picnik - which is closing soon (so sad!!) - but I've heard there are some other good sites out there that would allow you to do the same thing. If you are using Photoshop, here is a tutorial that might be helpful.
3. Once you have your design completed, you can either print it off at home or have it printed as a poster somewhere, depending on what size of canvas you're using. Since my canvas was so large, I decided to just go ahead and spend $8 to have it printed as a poster at SAM'S Club. 
4. Tape your print to the back of the burlap. This is just to hold it in place while you're painting, so it doesn't have to be perfect.
5. Flip the burlap over, and place it on a solid surface so you can paint it. As you can see, the print shows through great, which makes it easy to trace everything.
6. Use a paintbrush or paint pen to trace the design. I used a paint pen for this, and it worked fine. It does take a little time, but it's very easy to do. I also like this technique because it doesn't have to be perfect.

7. When you're done tracing everything, allow the paint to dry on the burlap. When it dried, I just used a regular stapler to stretch the burlap around the canvas. I'm not good at stuff like this, so Patrick helped me staple it on. With someone helping, it's pretty fast and easy to do.

So that's it! I know this tutorial probably makes it sound complicated, but I will say that based on all of the tutorials I've read - making subway art isn't necessarily a fast and easy thing. I saw this technique on Jessica's blog - which is the same one I used on the burlap banner - and I really think it's a great option. Hopefully it's helpful to some of you too!

OH!! And for the crazies out there, our current address is not listed on here, sorry. I used a combination of memorable addresses for us, and mixed them up a little depending on how it laid out best. These are the addresses of 2 places we've lived, the place we got engaged, and the place we got married. In case you were wondering. :)

Happy Tuesday! :)


  1. I am in love with this! Can I add a design like to this my email that I've still not sent for Will's room? Ha! It would look so good in his nursery!

    What color paint pen did you use? It looks like a rust color!

  2. love this, great job
    I'll have to make one after we move.

  3. SO cute!! you are always so creative! I haven't had the guts to do the projects yet, but ones of these days I will! :)

  4. I'm loving this! I think I might add this to my list of projects after Jaxon is born!

  5. I love this!! Ok you can go ahead and get your own DIY show lol

  6. I love the idea of using old, memorable addresses! Too cute!

  7. thanks for the tutorial!! I love it!

  8. Hi, I saw this tutorial and loved it so I tried doing this myself and it did not turn out. My burlap was pretty "open" and didn't have a very tight weave, so it does not look good. Do you know if you can do this with another type of fabric that is a bit finer?

  9. Hi Nicole,
    I'm sorry to hear it didn't work well for you! I've only tried this with burlap so I'm not sure of another type of fabric that would work. Maybe you could ask at a fabric store, or google recommendations for traceable fabric? Sorry I'm not more help! Good luck. :)


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