Adding Words To A Painting For A Meaningful Message

Remember when I shared our possessed painting that jumped off the wall cheap painting that we got for $20 at a yard sale…

… and mentioned that we:

  • mostly liked the size of it and the chunky frame (which actually came with a little dent in it – a total sign that this guy was a trouble-maker)
  • weren’t in love with the art itself (it just felt sort of generic and hotel-ish in person)

Yes? Me too.

And then remember when a bunch of you (seriously, like at least a dozen of you guys) recommended that we do some sort of letter stenciling over it like this genius creation by Emily Von Henderson or this masterpiece by A Beautiful Mess (psst – you can check out other awesome painting-words-over-things art projects here, here, and here).

Yes? Me too.

Well… we were sold. And the deed is DONE! We debated just leaving the letters unpainted and covering the rest of the canvas with white paint, but actually liked the idea of white letters with the painting as the background, so here she blows:

It was actually really simple. Seriously, the hardest thing was deciding what we wanted our dining room wall to be saying to us every day. But we finally landed on an oldie but a goodie: All You Need Is Love. Ain’t that the truth? It somehow has:

  • an ode to one of my favorite bands (my dad and I know nearly every word to every album & even watch old Beatles movies together)
  • part of our blog name (same last name, haha)
  • a positive general message (it’s not a bad reminder for any of us)
  • a classic feeling that we hope is timeless (it shouldn’t feel “so last year” like Lady Gaga’s meat dress or The Bieb’s old haircut)

So for all of the above reasons, we went for it. The next step was faking this baby in photoshop first, just to help us picture it. Here’s a quick photoshop rendering that I threw together to see what we liked:

I definitely don’t think you need photoshop to visualize this though. We just had it on hand, but if you don’t I think a free program like gimp could work equally well just for laying type over a basic image and seeing what fries your bacon. Aaaand we’re back to meat.

Anyway, we realized that we wanted each letter to be about 5″ tall and the typeface we preferred was Optima Bold (with a point size of 507 which got it to be exactly 5″ tall). How did we know we needed the letters to be 5″ tall? I just noticed in the rendering above that the stripe of green in the middle of the painting was about the height of those letters on top of it. So I walked over to the painting, asked it not to jump off the wall on me, and very gingerly measured that green stripe. Five inches tall = the answer.

Then I printed each letter out in a very light grayscale ink (to save money/ink) on card stock (only one letter fit on each page, but I saved all my leftover cuttings for Clara-projects so it wasn’t too bad) and I was left with this:

After I cut them each out carefully with a scissors (and an x-acto knife when they had interior sections to cut like the O and the D), they looked like this:

Then I placed them all on my painting so I could figure out the spacing…

… and used a light pencil line traced around each one directly onto the painted canvas.

That way when I lifted them off it was literally just a good old fashioned game of fill-in-the-lines, which I did with white acrylic paint and a small craft brush.

It only took one coat, and that’s all she wrote.

The result = something that feels modern but still has those soft tones and texture behind it. It really is a fun way to update a piece that kinda feels hotel-ish and mass produced. All of a sudden it’s all yours (picking what it says, and even choosing things like the size, the color, and the typeface suddenly makes you feel like it’s sweet and personal).

Oh and I had originally planned to paint the frame white but the wood tones in the frame tie into the exact warm oak-y color of the buffet where the paint is chipping off, so there’s something kind of sweet about leaving him naked. And John was on the No-Paint Frame Train (choo choo) so he further convinced me to leave it be for now. I’m actually loving it as-is.

As for the cost, this update was free (since we just used what we had on hand like existing printer ink, white acrylic paint, and card stock from our stash) and the actual project total was $20 if you include the loot we doled out at that yard sale for the art itself. Not bad for a personalized painting that’s over three feet wide, right? Now let’s just hope this guy doesn’t dive off the wall again anytime soon. I like to think he did that out of boredom but now that he’s more entertained by his outfit it’ll be cool from now on.

This really was an easy, cheap, and satisfying project. So if you have an old canvas, print, photo, or poster that you’re feeling meh about (or you find something ok-but-not-amazing at a thrift store) a $2 tube of white acrylic paint, a small paint brush, and a printer might be all you need to fall in love with the guy. Oh yeah and a scissors. You need those too. And you need a sentence that you like enough to stare at for a while. But that’s the fun part!

What did you guys do this weekend? Is anyone else painting over art? Were you all out yard sale-ing? It rained for about 70% of our weekend, so I totally want a do-over. Who’s with me?


  1. says

    What a great idea for getting use out of a painting you don’t really like. Love stencilled letters. Am in the planning stage of doing some inside some wardrobe doors at the moment. Something to bring a smile every time you open the door.

  2. Amanda G says

    Um…well…what can I say…THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING EVER! It looks beautiful and just perfect for that location. A-MAZ-ING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. says

    All we did in our house this weekend was celebrate birthdays. Seriously — three birthdays three days in a row! So the weekend was full of wrapping paper, cupcakes, cards, banners, and so much happiness. :-)

  4. says

    Way, way, way better! Isn’t it amazing what a person can do with some garage sale art? I don’t think I will ever buy super expensive canvases at the craft store again. I recently made some huge ombre art for our basement out of a garage sale find. One super ugly painting sanded with the palm sander and then smooshed with paint = free art for our basement (bonus that it covers up the electrical box!).

  5. says

    Love this project and also love the whole immediate gratification of getting a whole project done in a short amount of time (I currently have mini projects living in various areas of my house).

    I also vote for a weekend do-over. I was supposed to go to a wine festival with a friend on a girls day with no babies and it totally got rained out. BOO!

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