DIY Plywood Crafts Holiday Yard Art Decorations

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Introduction: DIY Plywood Crafts Holiday Yard Art Decorations

About: Hi there my name is Alan Hatch I am a DIYer, an artist and love making decorations for my yard for the holidays, My instructables site allows me to show you how to do it in the hopes that you will explore your…

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.


Materials List:

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

screws

Paint Primer

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.

Go slow.

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.

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Participated in the
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Plywood Contest

Participated in the
Plywood Contest

1 Person Made This Project!

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41 Comments

0
Jennzer
Jennzer

Question 5 months ago

I thought I did everything right but after a day of rain followed by a dip into freezing, this is the result. I used 1/2” plywood rated for ground contact, sanded thoroughly, primed with a Zinser Bullseye 1–2-3 (two coats on front and only one on back), painted with my Liquitex Basics Acrylic, and then sealed with two coats of Polycrylic. Now the sides only got one coat of polycrylic and not carefully. I didn’t seal the back yet at all because I was on a deadline and was going to do it after. Could that be the reason this happened? Is there anything else wrong with the materials I used? Thank you very much for the guidance!

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0
alexdguajardo71
alexdguajardo71

Question 6 months ago

Hi, the paint on my Santa sleigh is blistering (bubbling) I sanded the piece well, I applied about 4 coats of primer and about 4 coats of paint. I also sealed the piece with a clear coat spray sealant. I let it dry and put it in my front yard. It rained for 2 days all day after a week of finishing the piece and now it has bubbles all over the red paint. Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks for all the tips.

0
ALilLacey
ALilLacey

Answer 6 months ago

My guess would be a sealer issue. I only do 1 or 2 coats of primer and 2 or 3 layers of paint depending on the color with 2-3 coats of sealer with no issues. I've found the spray sealer to be ineffective for appropriate coverage against weather. It's too hard to tell what's coated well and it doesn't go on thick. Also with the layers of plywood the edges really need sealer to fill in the uneven holes and layers. I use a water based outdoor polyurethane sealer. A quart size goes a long way so it's cheaper than spray also. Make sure your paint is outdoor as well. I use outdoor craft acrylic paint, like the $1 bottles, with no issues. Really just make sure everything is for outdoor use and use a good outdoor water based sealer.

0
67bluegto
67bluegto

Question 7 months ago on Step 7

Where do I buy outdoor acrylic paint ? Also is it sold in larger quantities ?

0
ALilLacey
ALilLacey

Answer 6 months ago

I use the cheap $1 acrylic craft paint in the small bottles. A little goes a long ways. Some of the colors need multiple coats but it's still the best way I've found to do it. Make sure they say outdoor though. Folkart and Apple Barrel both have outdoor choices.

0
dlbu1954
dlbu1954

Question 8 months ago on Step 5

What sealer would you recomend.

0
ALilLacey
ALilLacey

Answer 6 months ago

I use a water based outdoor polyurethane. Home Depot carries Varathane brand that has been great. I find it to be cheaper than spray as a quart size covers a lot. I've had too many issues with spray sealer not covering well and it doesn't coat thick enough.

0
Jaburke126
Jaburke126

Question 1 year ago on Step 2

What kind of wood is best for outdoor? I recently used 3/4” plywood and already see warping.

0
ALilLacey
ALilLacey

Answer 6 months ago

Did you get it sealed well with a strong post? Also is it sanded plywood or corrugated? I had issues with corrugated. I use a polyurethane water based sealer, not spray. Then you know it's got a thick sealer layer that gets in the plywood layers and I use the wire fence u-posts for stakes as they're stronger. I did a 7 foot tall Polar Express train in 3/4" sanded plywood 3 years ago with no issues. Anything else I just use 1/2". Hopefully that helps. I realize this post is old but hopefully you're still doing it.

0
DeaneW2
DeaneW2

1 year ago

This is all new to me. I am Not artistic and can't draw a straight line without a ruler. Is there patterns you can use to make holiday yard decorations? Not project. I have no projector.

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ALilLacey
ALilLacey

Reply 6 months ago

Winfield has great patterns. It really is easiest just to project the image. You could always see if someone will let you borrow a projector or their are really cheap ones online that the picture quality doesn't really matter since you'll just be using it for images. In the long run projector would be cheaper than buying patterns for everything you need.

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meganrowland85
meganrowland85

11 months ago on Step 8

Great tips! I have been doing yard art for awhile but have skipped a lot of these steps! Thanks for the advice!

0
delicia.ambrosino.1

Hi. I just wanted to say thank you for the instructions. It all seems so easy when we want to do this and yet intimidating as well. Just the other day I got my jig saw. Now I need to get a scroll blade. I am a painter, carver, and sculpter so I've had some dealings with the art aspect. However, I have never used a jig saw in my life. Luckily, I know those who have so they can teach me the right way to use it. Like you do with your art I too have several steps to go through to achieve good looks and longevity. I call it layering. Each step is a layer to achieve a long lasting work of art. I often wondered how to make the yard art stand up and never thought of EMT conduit and small screws. I thought maybe the metal fencing posts, stakes attached to the bottom of the piece, or a lean to type of thing weighed down with sand bags {I know, shabby}. The conduit is a great idea. I will start out simple but end up doing what I want most ~ a sleigh, a Santa, and 8 reindeer and then a flying witch. Again, my thanks and appreciation for sharing your knowledge

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Suzyq5455
Suzyq5455

Question 2 years ago

I have some yard cut outs that I have had in storage for 2 years. They were painted white and they have turned very yellow I now believe after reading your page that I over sprayed them with the final spray. Should I sand these all the way back down and start over or is there some way to repaint them white and also how would I add glitter to those so they sparkle? I think Michaels has like a gallon of glitter paint if I use that is there some way to seal that also or do I just leave it like that? Thanks so much

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PattiChristmas
PattiChristmas

Question 2 years ago

I just followed all your steps and I am so pleased with the results. My question has to do with how best to stake the finished product.

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BelindaV10
BelindaV10

Question 2 years ago on Step 8

Is there a specific kind of paint that you would recommend if we want to use a spotlight on our manger scene in the yard for nighttime view?

0
suzanjm57
suzanjm57

Question 2 years ago on Step 3

What tool do you use to cut these yard art decorations.

0
Jennmcd86
Jennmcd86

Question 2 years ago on Step 7

What do you use to make your yard decor stand up? I have made a ton of things for my yard but I don’t know what to use to make it stand up. I use 1/4 in plywood for most of my stuff. Any suggestions?? Thanks

0
alanhatch
alanhatch

Answer 2 years ago

I use emt conduit

0
Melissats2
Melissats2

Question 2 years ago

Can you tell me what is the brand of primer & clearcoat you use. I made my own yard decoration 4 years ago & did everything wrong!! It didn’t even last through the first rainstorm. I want to try again but not sure of the products I need and where to find them. Thank you