Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DIY State Typography Art

With my new chest in the entryway, and my New Year's Resolution to finally get my house the way I want it one room at a time (that counts as self improvement, right?), I need some wall art.  And being the sentimental sap I tend to be, I wanted something personal.

I was quite in love with these fabulous city sign panels from Z Gallerie.  But I've never lived in either Seattle or New Orleans (sadly).  I thought, wouldn't it be cool if I could do one for my home state, Virginia, and my husband's home state, Alabama?  I formed a plan to feature names of places and things that were truly indicative of each state but also some of the sites and things that have meant the most to us.

Armed with two wooden plaques, the amazing CitraSolv, laser jet print outs of my designs (we'll get more in depth on that in a minute), gold paint and some Tim Holtz distressing stain, I made it happen.  Read on for the step-by-step and the "whoops, that wasn't supposed to happen" lessons.

In order to make your own, here's the formula I used for each of the lines.  If you notice, each line on the Virginia sign correlates to each line on the Alabama sign.  Plus, I wanted a good mix of places, things, and sayings.

     1.  Line from a state song.  We've all got them and I would LOVE to see one from Oklahoma say "The Wind Comes Sweeping"
     2.  A neighborhood in the capital city.  I didn't specifically want the name of the city...too easy!
     3.  A landmark/place that meant a lot to us as kids and makes us think of good times with our families.
     4.  An iconic or landmark building.  Something that's a "must tour" when you visit or have visitors.
     5.  An iconic structure that is not a building.  Think statue, bridge, monument, etc.
     6.  An iconic roadway.
     7.  A good weather travel destination.  I think because both states have access to the ocean, this was           easy.  Not every state has a beach, so think of some place you would want to visit when the weather is pretty.
     8.  A body of water.
     9.  FOOD!  This was my favorite, especially because it mixed up the endless listing of places.
     10.  State flower or bird.  In my case, I chose one of each.
     11.  A state saying or tourism slogan.  Think "Don't Mess", "Show Me", "Fahgettaboutit" (someone please do a "Fahgettaboutit" and send me a picture!)
     12.  The state.

Type it up all nice-like in a program of your choice.  I used pages on my mac, but you could use publisher on a PC.  Basically, I made a text box and used one font, all capitals.  The lines all had a different amount of letters, so I played with the size until it took up the whole text box.  Hence Dexter Ave. Baptist Church is tiny and The Fan is HUGE.

Mirror the lettering and print out on a laser jet printer.  An ink jet will not work with the CitraSolv method of image transfer.  If you haven't read that post or know about that method of image transfer, take a look at that post and get the general idea.  I'll go over it again below, but this tutorial has more in depth instructions.

Alright, time to prep your surface.  I picked Folk Art craft paint in antique gold.  I wanted it to have a little bit of a sheen, but not be overly metallic.  Paint your surfaces with a foam brush.

What I learned about the CitraSolv image transfer onto painted surfaces:  it doesn't work so great if you soak the paper and rub really hard.  This will be what you get:

Yeah, so I had to repaint that one and start over.  If this happens and you want to start over, stay calm.  Just really soak another cotton pad in CitraSolv quickly and wipe down the entire surface to take off the lettering.  It won't completely come clean, but it will make it a heck of a lot easier to paint over.

Here's what DID work.  I took some sandpaper to the painted plaque.  I roughed it up on the edges and in the center where the transfer was going to go.  That seemed to create a surface the ink could stick to a bit better.  Lay, ink side down, your paper and tape into place so it won't shift around and LIGHTLY soak a cotton pad in the CitraSolv.  Spread it over, patiently, the surface of your paper until all the words show through.  This make take two or three passes with the lightly soaked cotton pad...don't get impatient.  Do not push too hard or get it too wet....the ink will go everywhere like above.  Just do it lightly.  It should look like this:

Now, when you CitraSolv transfer onto fabric, you have to burnish the bejesus out of the wet paper with the back of a spoon to get the ink to transfer from the paper to your fabric.  On this, because a painted surface isn't as absorbent and forgiving as fabric, you need to go easy.  I actually ended up using my finger and just lightly rubbing each of the letters.  That kept the ink from bleeding everywhere and gave the finished product a nice, weathered look.  Before you go ripping off the paper, gently peak under one end to make sure you got all the letters.  If not, lay it back down and go over the missed spots again.

Not it's time for stain!  I used Tim Holtz Distressing Stain in Weathered Wood.  Working on a small section at a time and with a wet cotton pad on hand (wet with water), I spread a little of it on and then wiped it down.  The stain stuck to the edges and imperfections of the plaque nicely, while not messing with the lettering.  COOL!

I'm really pleased with the finished product.  My entryway is starting to come together!


  1. Meaghan, I very much like what you did and learned quite a bit from you including how to remove most of the lettering and be able to use the wood again and start over. However I am a bit confused by your staining instructions, you said "The stain stuck to the edges and imperfections of the plaque nicely, while not messing with the lettering". Does this mean you put the stain over the whole front, right over the lettering too?

    1. Thanks so much and I'm glad you found it helpful! I cannot tell you how nice it is to hear comments like that and I appreciate you reaching out to me as often, I know EXACTLY what I'm blogging about but those reading it could never decode in a million years.

      So let me try to be a bit more specific about the stain. That Tim Holtz stuff comes in a bottle a lot like an envelope wetter...you know, dab out the liquid where you need it.

      I did one small section at a time...maybe 1 inch squares. And yes, I rubbed the stain over the whole front of the piece, lettering and all. It was the last step of the process. I rubbed in on straight out of the bottle going in one direction and then followed up by wiping it off with a water soaked cotton pad. It didn't do anything to the lettering (no smearing), but I also didn't scrub real hard. Try it lightly.

      It was a bit frightening when I first did it because I thought I had REALLY stained my piece. But the wet cotton pad after lifted most of it away and left only the stain on the edges and where there were imperfections in the wood. I think it also tinted the paint slightly to give it a worn look.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions. I'd love to see what you come up with!

  2. Can you tell me what model your printer is please. Not all laserjets work as I have discovered! Thanks

    1. You're right...not all laser jet printers are created equal. I know that any printer that uses a HP 05a or an HP CE250a work. I would suggest going to office max/staples with a little bit of CitraSolv and have them print you out some test pages. When my friend got married and we used it for her invites, we had to do that and the copy shop worker got really into it like a science experiment.

      Hope that helps and thanks for reading

    2. Hi, I live in the Highlands of Scotland, UK and we don't have copy shops near me. What I need is a model number of a currently available printer, but thanks for the advice anyway. :-)

    3. HP Laserjet P2035. That is by far the best one I've tried. It's only B&W, but it's been great. Hope that helps!

  3. i really love this project. I'm from Texas now living in Seattle and I can think of many things to make my own version.

    My best friend of nearly 40 years grew up in Birmingham so I have spent many wonderful times in Alabama. The only thing I would have to change is the Roll Tide to War Eagle or she would never speak to me again. LOL

    1. Thanks Phyllis! I really loved making it and would LOVE even more to see your version! Texas would be really cool ("Don't Mess" "The Stars at Night",
      "Yellow Rose", etc). Awesome. Plus, these designs would look really cool on other things. CitraSolv works GREAT on fabric, so you could make pillows, tea towels, totes, etc. Could be an awesome gift for your Auburn lovin' friend. Alabama and football...it's a different world down there!