Any holiday, special event or even birthdays yard art can be used for almost any occasion. I have been doing yard art for more than 20 years and if you take your time and complete the steps you can have the best DIY holiday yard art that all your neighbors can enjoy. while most of my yard art currently is for the biggest holiday of the year Christmas I have done many others that I'd like to share with you now.
I use 3/4 inch plywood. It really seems to hold up the extreme weather conditions that your yard art will endure.
I have been making and selling yard art for decades. It's second nature for me but if it is your first time do such a project I can tell you it's absolutely worth it in the end. You'll have a project that you can be proud of and you'll start to realize that you can do anything you put your time and effort into.
Holidays: Christmas Halloween Thanksgiving Mothers day Fathers Day Fourth of July Memorial Day Your only limited by your own imagination. The list of holidays and special events goes on and on. If you get stuck on a project you can always feel free to contact me with your questions and I will get back with you as soon as possible
Step 1: Choosing Plywood for Holiday Yard Art Decorations
When choosing a good style of wood to cut for Yard Decorations for Christmas or any other holiday, it is important to choose wood that isn't warped, that will stand up to the weather and get you the best results. Choosing wood that is easy to paint is also a consideration. For my wood yard art decorations I choose outdoor MDF plywood. You can buy these in a variety of sizes and can even have your local hardware store cut it for you in the length you need. I choose 3/4 inch plywood for my projects.
3/4" 4X8 pieces of plywood (how many characters you make and how big will determine how many you need)
Metal Poles and brackets to secure to the back of the characters for display
1-jigsaw with a scrolling blade
Acrylic outdoor paints
spray sealer clearcoat to protect against the weather
Artist Brushes for the Base and detail work
Step 2: Drawing the Character Onto Plywood
Once you have the plywood set up on a table big enough to work on, you can do what I do by drawing your characters free hand. Or if your not that artistic you can use a projector by standing the plywood up and projecting images onto the plywood and doing a basic outline for you to cut.
Don't worry about getting all the fine details of the character just make the basic shape so you can begin to cut. Once the cutting is done and the primer painted you can then add all the fine details to make your character complete
I do all my characters you see by freehand drawing.
My first yard decorations were done with limited resources and still exist today. My aunt proudly displays the ones I made for her over 20 years ago and they look just the same today as they did then.
You do have to take some steps to ensure that your yard decorations will last decades. But we will cover that later.
Once you have all the characters drawn out it is time to cut. Place your plywood in a secure location and get ready to cut them using a jigsaw with a scroll blade, or you can use a scroll saw so that you can do curves and fine lines. Whichever method you choose and I have done both will determine what other steps you must do.
When using a scroll saw you must drill a hole if you want to cut in the center or other part of the character. Simply use a drill with a drill bit make your hole and then insert the saw blade up through it and attach to the saw.
The next step details the cutting
Step 3: Cut Out Your Character With a Jigsaw
You need a jigsaw or scroll saw for this next step.
I use a jig saw and scrolling blade to make the cuts.
Follow the lines and cut out each character. It takes a while to get it just right so take your time don't get frustrated and take breaks in between. Go through the whole process and get all of your characters cut
The most important thing to remember is to take your time, go slow. Use a variable speed jigsaw to get the cuts right. Slow down around tight corners.
If you have a piece in the middle of the characters use a drill with drill bit to drill in the center of the piece that needs to be removed.
In the next step I will explain why sanding your pieces is essential for good paint adhesion.
Step 4: Sanding
OF ALL THE STEPS I OUTLINED ABOVE THIS WILL TAKE YOU THE LONGEST TO ACCOMPLISH
Sanding your pieces makes paint adhesion more permanent. You don't want to get a couple years of use out of the product only to come out the next year to get them and see that your paint is fading or peeling off.
I use at least three different kinds of sand paper. Very Course Sandpaper A Course Sandpaper A Fine Sandpaper
You may be saying to yourself why? First the surface you are going to be painting on needs to be roughed up a little bit and when you use a very course paper for the job it opens the pores in the wood, and the pieces of wood left over or sticking out from cutting removed.
I do both front and back of the piece. What this does is open the wood so the paint actually penetrates the wood evenly. Every small piece of your wood area needs to be sanded and sanded really food.
Do the cut side as well going all over the area. The second sand paper will make our surface smooth and remove any pieces of wood that you may have missed with the Very Course sandpaper. The fine sandpaper smooth's the wood out so when you handle the piece while painting it doesn't give you a sliver.
By doing all of the steps above for each character you create you are extending the life and use of your piece for decades. Remember I have pieces that are still in existence that I made when I was just ten years old. With a little care and preparation now you are ensuring to hand these pieces down from generation to generation even after your gone.
The next step is priming
Step 5: Priming
Using a good primer before you paint ensures you a smooth almost plastic finished product, Makes your product look more professional and will make your product last for years to come. There are two ways you can achieve a smooth surface. Using either requires three to four coats with each coat costing you about 20 cents
Way One: Use a good paint brush, going in an x motion cover the entire surface let dry and repeat the steps at least three times to get a surface that is smooth and debris free. flip the piece over and do the other side the same as the first. let dry and repeat. Make sure to get the sides of the cut piece as well. There should be no wood showing whatsoever.
Way Two: Use a Paint sprayer, do not dilute the primer for spraying purposes the thicker you can get it on the less work you have to do. Make sure no part of the wood is showing.
No part of the wood should be showing if it does water will penetrate the wood and your pieces will warp. You can not ignore this step it is imperative to make sure every piece is covered.
Step 6: Pencil in the Character
Using a pencil fill in your characters face, body parts etc. go lightly with the pencil and don't use a marker it's hard to cover with acrylic paint and it will bleed through the paint no matter how many coats of paint you put on. Believe me I know I have done that mistake when I first started to do yard art pieces
Make sure to get all the characteristics take your time, take breaks if you have to and come back don't rush it your almost ready to begin the fun part
Step 7: Painting Base Colors and Detailing
Each character you want to make has it's own colors you need to get from your local craft store.
Make sure whatever colors you need you make a list there is nothing more frustrating then getting home and starting to paint and realizing you forgot an important color. Make a point to get more paint than you may actually need it's always better to have more than not enough. Some paints will require more than two coats yellow seems to be the biggest culprit which takes almost five to get the desired color effect follow your lines making sure you cover the lines really well you don't want them bleeding through the paint when you put on a top coat. If you don't put enough paint on the pencil lines they will show through. It's a good idea to coat your base layer of paint multiple times to get it just right. Remember the more paint you have on your character or piece the longer and more durable it will be. You want these pieces to last you want these pieces to last a lifetime, not just one season.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the whole exercise is getting down to the nitty gritty of the fine points that will take your character to the next level, that part of the process that makes it come alive.
Now imagine that your are looking at your character from a distance. Can you make out all the details? Are your black lines thick enough that you can tell who the character is from the street?
You do not want overbearing lines, but you want them big enough you can tell what they are. Using a fine medium brush outline your character with black always start from the middle and go outwards, that way you won't accidently get wet paint on yourself. This will take a while, don't get frustrated.
It's very important here to take your time, take a lot of breaks in between and just really concentrate on the piece you are working on. after your finished with all the pieces in your collection let the paint cure for at least 24 hours if not longer.
NEXT STEP: CLEARCOAT
Step 8: Clearcoat
Once your characters are finished and they have come to life, it's time to protect them against the extreme weather conditions they will face.
I use a clear top coat spray sealer available at any hardware store. I have tried other kinds of various sealers but the spray type works the best.
Please note that if you live in a tropical location or a desert go sparingly on the sealer, cover just enough to coat but not overcoat the piece. What happens is when the sun beats down on paint it turns it a yellowish color. especially white. The best solution is to just use the sealer sparingly and after the holiday is over and your about to put them away for storage spray another sealer coat to protect them. This should also be done for any of your pieces after the holiday or event.
Simply spray another coat of sealer before you store them and they will last a lifetime. If you don't want to go through all the processes of making your own yard art you can hire me to do it right here. I'd be glad to make some yard art for you. Plus I have a guarantee I'm sure you'll like check out my website. For tips on how to stand them up in your yard and display correctly watch for my display tips on instructables.