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The Handwriting on the Wall: DIY Custom Wall Art

When my family moved into our new home a couple years ago, we were welcomed by a neighborhood of friendly faces but a lot of white, cold walls. In our previous home almost every room was a different, bold color. I loved my dramatic rooms, but I hated how it limited me when it came to décor and accessories. My game plan in the new house was to keep the wall colors pretty neutral (downstairs at least) and go crazy with colorful accessories. I started poking around my regular spots for some cool wall art and I found a lot of almost perfect pieces but nothing that I fell in love with. I’d rather have nothing to hang than a house full of things that are “meh”.


One night I was thinking about some of the things that I loved about the houses I grew up in, and specific things my mom had on our walls that are engrained in my memory. I remembered that she had a victorian style art print of two big sisters and a baby brother, symbolizing my little sister, my brother and I. I can remember feeling proud that my mom chose to decorate our house with things that reminded her of us. I also remembered a framed print of a poem from the Velveteen Rabbit next to the shower in our bathroom.


“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” By Margery Williams


To this day I can still quote it by memory from reading it so many times when I was a little girl in the bathtub. I started to realize that the things I would hang would take up even more precious real estate than my most seen walls. My kids will remember some of these things, so they better be worth remembering.


Besides the sentimentality of wanting personal pieces, I quickly realized that with the number of spaces I needed to fill, buying these special pieces was going to be expensive. There are some spots I knew I wanted to use as anchors for our home. When my family sees those spots, they know where they are. They know they’re home. There are other spaces I wanted to fill with personal things, but with the option to change them out if I get bored with looking at them (which tends to happen with me). Its easier to change something out if you know you didn’t spend 10 quadrillion dollars on it.


Blah, blah, blah. I know. So what did I do? Simple. I made it. Or at least personalized it in some cases. And you can too.


Our "guitar room"

Welcome to our guitar room. As you can see, there is a pretty big wall behind my piano. I got those brass candle holders off Craigslist for $30 for the bundle! I’m still not over that bargain. When I got them home, I loved the way they warmed the room but that wall still looked bare to me. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I guess now is as good a time as any to explain the amount of musical instruments in our house. My husband, Colt, is a professional musician. In our old home what should have been the formal family room acted as our “guitar room” with our piano and some of his guitars. In this house we wanted to keep with that theme, so we hung the guitars from a rough cut piece of cedar on the wall next to the piano. They filled that wall beautifully, but I just couldn’t get over the empty look of the piano wall. Michaels was having a 50% off sale on their larger frames, so I picked up two of those to take home and see if they’d work. Michaels has frame sales often so if you’re in the market, keep an eye on their website, and subscribe to get their emails. This is not sponsored, its just how I do it. 😊 Once I realized that the size of the frames were right, I still had to find something to put in them which can be equally, if not more expensive than the frame. I started thinking how personal the guitar room in our old house had been to us. It was the room that Colt sang the first song he ever wrote for me in. It was the room he had proposed to me in. It was the room that we stayed up late co-writing one of his albums in. Later, he sang our babies to sleep in that room. A light bulb went off in my head and I knew exactly what I wanted. I ran upstairs and opened up a big chest that I keep family mementos in. I have a whole section dedicated to things we kept from when we were dating and first married. Then I found it. On a folded piece of yellow legal pad paper was the first draft of the lyrics to the first song he ever wrote for me. There are scribbles for word changes, and notes to remember the chords . I love how messy it looks. I took the piece of paper downstairs and grabbed my camera. I took several shots from different angles, in different lighting, and in different locations. Flash, no flash, on the dining room table, on the kitchen counter, straight overhead, slightly offsides, etc. After I had covered all my bases, I uploaded them to my computer, reviewed the photos, determined what photos I thought looked best and deleted the extras. The next portion requires some kind of photo editing software, but fear not, it doesn’t have to be expensive! The first photo editing software I ever used was free. It’s a program called Photoscape which you can download for free. Google it! Again, not an advertisement and I really do like it for simpler photo editing jobs. I knew the yellow legal pad color wasn’t going to fit with the rest of the décor in the room, so I decided to mess with the colors. I made the photo black and white and then inverted the colors so that the ink appeared white and the paper, black. I also added a newsprint filter to give it a cool edge. Once I had the colors how I wanted them, I split the photo perfectly down the middle and cropped it into two separate photos. I saved one side as a 4x6 and then went back and saved the opposite side as a 4x6. When you’re editing, saving your photos as a 4x6 will give you the most versatility if you ever need to resize. My frames didn’t come with a mat, and having large mats cut can cost you! I took the white piece of paper that filled the frame with all the sizing information on it, and I flipped it over so I had a completely white background for my photos. My next conundrum was finding someplace I could get these babies blown up and printed at. There are websites out there that do it, but again, EXPENSIVE! We live near a college town and have a pretty inexpensive print shop nearby. I called and asked how much it would be to have the photos made into a poster. They were around $19 each. I went back to my frames and eyeballed to see how much of the white “faux mat” I wanted to have as a border for my poster. Once I decided on that, I measured to see how big my posters needed to be to fit inside that white faux mat border. After that I placed my order at the print shop, picked those babies up the next day, stuck them in the frames and the rest is history.


My favorite part of this photo is the rogue matchbox car under the piano bench.

So what’s the grand total? The 24x36 frames were originally around $50 with a 50% discount, so they came out to around $25 each. My faux mat was free. The custom posters were only $19 each. All told, this project cost $88 for two large, custom wall art pieces. I did some snooping on Etsy for comparison on custom wall art and in that size many of them were well over $100 plus shipping for ONE piece. I estimate that making two pieces myself saved me around $170.

The best thing about this project is, you can use anything you want as material for your art. In future posts I’ll be showing you some other things I’ve used as wall art including photographs I’ve taken, digital collages, my kids’ artwork, and even our first grocery list as a married couple. Yeah, I’ve saved a lot of weird things. It helps if you’re kind of a memory box hoarder. 😊

I hope you found this helpful! Feel free to share these ideas with a friend, and stay tuned for more DIY wall art and home decor posts!

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