DIY Plywood Crafts Holiday Yard Art Decorations

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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 yo...

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

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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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    29 Discussions

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    delicia.ambrosino.1

    3 months ago

    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

    Question 8 months 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

    Question 9 months 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

    Question 1 year 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?

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    suzanjm57

    Question 1 year ago on Step 3

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

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    Jennmcd86

    Question 1 year 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

    1 answer
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    Melissats2

    Question 1 year 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

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    alanhatchMelissats2

    Answer 1 year ago

    I use an outdoor primer as it is thicker than indoor paint primer, as far as a clearcoat I use a polycrylic

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    Paula g

    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    I have painted yard decorations that I need to repaint. I’m not artistic at all so I would like to keep the colors so,what visible so I have a pattern. Can you give me suggestions on preparing my decorations to repaint. I also wonder what is the best way to outline the characters .

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    alanhatchPaula g

    Answer 1 year ago

    unfortunately there is no easy answer for this one, if you have a heat gun you could try and remove the paint that way.

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    MattBrestle

    Question 1 year ago on Introduction

    You refer to your website, what is the address? Newbie here looking for as much info as I can get.
    thanks

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    alanhatchMattBrestle

    Answer 1 year ago

    My website is currently under maintenance, but it wont be up again till early next year sometime

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    LittleLady84

    Question 1 year ago on Step 1

    Can you tell me specifically what kind of metal poles and brackets you use for display? Pictures or links would be helpful. I recently finished some Christmas yard signs and want to put them out but I’m not sure what use to be sure they don’t fall over. Thanks!

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    alanhatchLittleLady84

    Answer 1 year ago

    I USE METAL EMT CONDUITT. ITS VERY STURDY AND HARD TO BREAK. AROUND THE BACK OF THE POLE FOR THE STRAPS I USE A FEW PIPING STRAPS WITH SMALL SCREWS

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    jeh7td

    1 year ago on Step 7

    Hi, I see you said in the article you use a spray on clear top coat sealer and then in one of your comments you said you use a brusable polycryli high gloss? Which do you use, spray or brush? And would matte work or do you think gloss finish is the best. Which brand do you use?

    I am very excited to make some Halloween decorations for this Fall!

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    Rpoh1911

    Question 1 year ago

    What brand is the best acrylic paint for yard art

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    Rpoh1911

    Question 1 year ago

    Can you buy sanded wood instead of doing yourself. Project for my in laws.

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    sjatzlau

    Question 1 year ago on Step 1

    I am completely new at this and know very little about...well, everything. Please excuse my ignorance. My question is about how to choose the right plywood. My first yard sign split apart the first time it rained. I was really sad because I was so proud of it. I'm making 23" stars of the Houston Astros logo. I went to the Home Depot website and searched for "outdoor mdf plywood" and found a few Medium Density Fiberboard listed, but the sheets were only 2'x4'. I'm afraid I might be looking at the wrong product. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated!

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    jadevaughn

    Question 1 year ago

    How do you attach the metal pole to the wood? Any pictures of that?