Introduction: Artistic Art Boxes

Making an art box to hold your art supplies is an essential part of staying organized  and keeping your supplies in a clean working order.  Many of the shelf boxes run anywhere from a poorly assembled 10 dollars, all the way to the craftsman's delight at hundreds of dollars.  In this instructable, I will show you how to make a simple, elegant, and personalized piece of art that not only holds your supplies, but can advertise your talent, even before opening your sketch pad.

Not an artist but still needing to rangle those supplies?  Don't worry.  In this step-by-step guide I will show you a quick and easy way to get the wow factor (no raw talent required!).

Keep in mind, this technique can be used of a variety of projects, I created mine to fulfill a need, and you can too.

Step 1: Supplies

{Sorry About the Complete Lack of Pictures... Camera is non-functioning right now.  I will get them up as soon as I can!  Thanks for bareing with me.}

The supplies are simple and can be found at nearly any art store, walmart, target, or otherwise. The total cost of supplies should be around 20-25 dollars.  You will not use all of the supplies so feel free to make more of these, or use the remaining supplies for other projects.

You will need:

Permanent Marker Pens - the effect works much better then with regular permanent markers.  Limit yourself to dark colors.  Blacks, dark browns, and dark blue work best.... stay away from light colors or colors that match your stain as they will disappear.  I use only black.

Wood Stain - The color of stain is a matter of personal preference.  I used a cherrywood stain, but feel free to mix it up to match however you like.  Make sure you get a stain only, not a stain varnish(dont buy the gel stains).  Rubber gloves are reccomended.

Wooden Box - I get these from Joanne Fabrics because of price and general quality.  They are typically made from maple or a similar soft-ish wood.  Light colored boxes without a pattern (grain) will reveal the image much better. 

Sand Paper - You will need this to smooth out your wooden box.  They do not come pre-sanded.  A variety pack is best to work your way down to a very smooth texture that will give you the best finish.

Laquer or Varnish - This is your final coating.  Although either will work, I stick with laquer because it is self-leveling, less strict on application rules, and has a better sheen to me.  feel free to use either but please not my instructions are for laquer and the steps for varnish will be slightly different.  Spray cans are prefered.

Foam Brush - This is what we will used to apply the stain to the wooden box.  Get small ones so they will easily fit in the container of stain.

Paper Towels - Used to remove excess stain.  A dry soft rag will work but is more likely to leave particles behind if it is new.  You will go through quite a few paper towels if you are like me.

An Image to Replicate - If you have natural artistic talent, feel free to do this freehanded.  For those of us who don't, I will show you a simple way to get the image onto the box without any real fuss.

Standard Graphite Pencils - a 6B works best becuase it will be dark and transfer easily.  Its always a good idea to map out your image first before permanently drawing it (for beginners)  These are nessecary to follow the steps for transfering an image to the box.

Wooden Slats - These are used to make a seperate compartments.  You can attach these with woodglue or superglue.  This must be done AFTER you do all staining or you will get very weird effects.

Step 2: Preparing Your Workspace

A clean workspace is ideal.  You will be creating a lot of wood dust, dripping stain, and coating with spay-on laquer.  This is bound to make a mess if you dont set up ahead of time.  I reccomend laying down a small tarp or plastic.  Do your work outside (this has inharent risks as bugs seem to be attracted to wood stain) and you can avoid possible damage to your home or workspace.

Note: You must spray the laquer in a well ventilated area.  Improper use can cause serious health effects.

Step 3: Sand Your Box

Now that your workspace is clear of debris, lets create some!  You will want to sand your box until it has a very smooth finish.  Start with the sandpaper with the largest grit.  It will feel the roughest and get out a lot of the bigger bumps.  You can also use this if you would like to round off edges, or create sharper corners.  As you work your way down to the smallest grit, always check to see that it is smooth and uniform.  You dont want to do all the sanding in one area, or it will look patchy.  Also, be catious of sanding too fast as this can actually leave a sort of burn mark in the wood that will show through the stain. 

After you are finished, wipe your box clean with paper towels or a clean rag.  Get as much sanding dust off as possible.

Step 4: Transfering Your Image

Once you've prepared your wooden box, have your image printed out and ready to go.  Make sure it is the size and shape that you want, and fits nicely on your box.  Also note that when you transfer the image, it will be in reverse.  Check all text to make sure it is in the right direction after you transfer it.  (It will appear backwards when you look at the printed image)

Used your graphite pencil to fill in the lines of the image, follow all contours, and apply shading to all darker areas.  Press hard to make it easier to transfer the image.  You may need to resharpen your pencil if your lines get too wide.  Use whichever styles and techniques you want to use, and remember... this is your project. 

Once the image is "filled in" with graphite, then its time to transfer.  Place the image face down onto the surface of your box, and apply gentle rubbing pressure with a hard object.  (most drawing pencils do not have erasers attached so I use the opposite end to do this)  You need to press hard enough to transfer all of the graphite, but dont press too hard or you will damage the soft wood and leave marks that will be hard to see until you laquer it. (at this point its too late to do anything about it!) 

When the Entire area is fully applied, lift up your image and you will see the foundation of your picture.  Don't worry if it is not perfect.  The pencil will not show through the stain and you will still be covering it with ink.  Make sure all outlines are clearly visable though so you will have a foundation to work from.

NOTE: It is important that you get appropriate approval from the creator of the artwork you are copying.  Otherwise, you will violate copyright laws.  Open sorce photos available to use if you do not know any artists willing to let you copy their images.

Step 5: Inking Your Image

Here is where much of your creativity comes into play.  If you are a natural born artist, you may be able to start here and draw your inked image freehanded.  for the rest of us, we have just completed transfering our images over to the top of our box. 

Now use the permanent marker pens to follow the contours of your image.  Use your best artistic talent and remember one simple rule of art:  A mistake is only a mistake if you let it be a mistake.  If you mess up, try and encorprate into a new modified version of your image.  Only you know what the orginal was supposed to look like.  On that note, be careful not to set the pen down on the box as it may make undesired marks.

Step back and look at your work.... This is be a good indicator of what it will look like when it is finished.  If you followed the steps closely so far, you should have a clean clear image, with no wood debris, on a smooth surface and your project should turn out great!

Step 6: Bring on the Stain

This is one of the messiest and critical steps.  The stain will stain nearly everything it touches (including you) so be careful not to get it on anything.  This is where I reccomend using those rubber gloves we grabed before we started.  You want to use your appropriately sized foam brush for this.  Dip it in and soak up a decent amount of stain.  The brush will absorb quite a bit at first.  Now pass the brush back and forth in an even pattern being sure to apply an even coat.  The wood will absorb a lot so don't be shy about putting a lot on. (you will wipe the excess off in a few minutes)  Coat every nook and cranny of the box, inside and out. This will give the best appearance when complete. 

If you want to create sections, or slots in your box, you will need to stain all the wood you will be using.  You can do this before or after you cut to size.  Try and get as close to the same color/darkness as your box.

Let this sit for a few minutes.  The longer you leave it the more will be absorbed and the darker it will get.  Wipe down the whole box lightly with paper towels.  Make sure to remove all excess stain.  A good rub and it should be good.  Set your box aside for at least a few hours and grab some food and a drink. 

NOTE:  You can always add more stain on later if it gets to dark, but removing stain requires sanding, and will destroy your image. [unless you are going for a unique distressed look]

Step 7: Installing Your Seperators [optional]

If you chose to install your wooden seperators, you will do that after you have stained them. 
!Make sure they are dry first!

Check to make sure they are the right size and use an exacto knife, or other sharp cutting tool to cut them to size.  Once in place, hold them steady and appy your woodglue or super glue.  I prefer superglue as it does a good job bonding if you use a lot, and it appears clear, rather then yellow like most wood glues.

Fix the seperators on each end, and along the bottom.  Get both sides of the seperators really good for the best hold.  Wait a few minutes to make sure they are fully dry. (yet another advantage of super glue!)

Now you are ready to finish the outside!

Step 8: Laquer It Up

We're nearly there!  The final stage is to apply the coats of laquer to protect your box and give it that nice polished look.   The directions are clearly written on the label.

FOLLOW THOSE INSTRUCTIONS EXACTLY..... they vary a bit from company to company and can to can.  They all, ultimately, achieve the same goal though.

Do this in a well ventilated area, use a mask if you have one, and if you get lightheaded, nausous, etc.  remove yourself from the area, and get fresh air. 

With laquer, you will need to apply several thin coats.  It will dry faster in a warm environment, and you can apply each coat quicker.  Slowly build up layers.  Your first one might even look like you didnt put anything on.  The laquer too will soak into the pores of the wood to protect it.  For reference, I did about 7-8 coats before I got the look that I was going for.  If you spray it too thick, it will drip and pool in an unusual area and those are dificult to remove.

Let this sit and dry for at least 24 hours before handleing regularly.  (longer if it is cold) 

Step 9: Final Touches and Bragging Rights

If you surviveded the laquer inhalation, and the bordem of watching laquer dry, then you should be done.  First, take a step back and admire your handy work.  Then,  fill your box with whatever supplies you would like, and place it somewhere for all to see.  I also reccomend etcing, or writing a message, poem, phrase, proverb, etc. on the inside cover and/or bottom  and make sure you sign it too!

Now you have your very own, unique, art box.  With a cost that is a fraction of similar offerings from the art store.

Enjoy, and feel free to leave any comments below!

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