Thursday, March 19, 2009

DIY Hand-Painted Furniture

I painted this vintage metal stool a few years ago. I have always loved the French term, "Joie De Vivre" which means "Joy of Life" or "Joy of Living", and I thought this would be a fun reminder (and it looks so much more elegant in French!!) If you have a favorite word or expression that you would like to paint on a piece of furniture, here are the detailed DIY instructions:

  • Furniture to be painted
  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Carbon paper
  • Painter's tape or other removable tape
  • Dull pencil
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Tiny paintbrush
  • Water-based polyurethane (optional)


1. Type your word or phrase into your computer using a word processing program such as Microsoft Word.

2. Highlight your text and select a font that you like. For the stool above, I used a font called "French Script" (Oh how ironic! I promise, the name is just a coincidence!)

3. Change the font to your desired size. This may take some experimentation. If the drop down menu in your word processing program only lists font sizes up to 72, you can highlight your text, and then highlight the font numbers at the top of the drop down menu and manually type in a larger number (eg: 100) and the font size will change.

4. Print out your text. You don't need to use the best quality print setting, as long as the text is clearly legible.

5. Trim your text paper to a size that is manageable in relation to your piece of furniture (a smaller paper size will be easier to center on your furniture), then trim a piece of your carbon paper to the same size.

6. Layer your printed text and your carbon paper (with the carbon facing the furniture surface to be painted) and tape them both to the furniture where you would like to paint your words (you will have a "carbon sandwich" with the printed text and your furniture acting as the "bread").

7. Use your dull pencil to carefully trace just inside the edge of each of the letters. Depending on what you are painting, you may want to lay your furniture on its back so that you can trace more easily. Be sure to press hard.

8. Remove your text paper & the carbon paper.

9. Use your tiny paintbrush to paint inside the traced outlines of the letters. It's just like coloring in a coloring book--just start with the edges and then fill in the middle. If you make a mistake, you can either turn it into a fonty-looking flourish (see close up photo) or use a damp rag to erase it. (Note: my text appears to have a weird curve in the photo because my furniture surface was concave.)

10. Allow paint to dry. If your furniture will only get light use, you're finished (acrylics are water-based, but once they're dry, they're tough to evidenced by the many paint stains on my clothes). If you need your furniture to be washable (eg: a dining chair that might get spaghetti sauce splattered on it), you can paint a layer of a clear polyurethane over the text to seal it in. I like Polycrylic because it doesn't yellow the way an oil-based poly will.

Voila! Enjoy your new hand-painted piece!