We love creating handmade gifts for people that are important in our lives. This year was a new one for us. Our son has been dating a girl for about 6 months and this was the first birthday of hers that we were able to give her a gift. She plays on our school’s volleyball team and really loves the sport. We thought it would be kind of cool to give her a big wood letter with a volleyball printed on it. We did just that using a technique of transferring and image to wood that we’ve used quite a bit in the past. She absolutely loved it, we loved making it and we hope you’ll enjoy seeing how we did it.
What you’ll need
- Wood – any kind of wood really, even MDF. It just needs to be big enough for the pattern you create.
- Mod Podge Super Thick Gloss
- Printed Pattern – don't worry, we’ll show you how to make one
- Paint Brush
- Squeegee or Scraper
- Scroll Saw
Make sure you watch the video. It shows a lot more of each step.
Step 1: Watch the Video
Here is the video that shows from beginning to end, how we made it. Details of each step continue in the following steps.
Step 2: Creating the Image - Inkscape
The image design starts in Inkscape, a free software that works great for this kind of stuff. This is probably the most exhaustive part of these instructions, so if you already know how to lay out images like the one we are using, move on to step 4.
Otherwise, the first thing that needed to be done was setting up the page so it would be inline with what we would print later. This can be done by clicking on File > Document Properties. Once the Document Properties window is open we set the size to 8.5 x 11 for a standard print size. Once selected you can just click the “x” to exit that window.
Now with the page set correctly, we add text, or in this case, just a single letter. This can be done by clicking the A in the left toolbar, clicking anywhere on the page and typing your desired letter or text. You can then adjust the font, size and whatever else in the toolbar at the top.
Next you will want to convert the text or letter into a path. To do this, click on Path in the top menu and click the first option which is Object to Path. It will automatically turn the text into a path.
To the right of the work area there is a menu titled Fill and Stroke. If the menu is not open you can open it from the view menu. In the Fill and Stroke menu you can adjust a lot of things. For this image we will just adjust the fill, which we set to “no Paint” or simply the “X” option. Next, we set the Stroke Paint to black. Lastly, we clicked on Stroke Style and increased the width to 20 px.
Once we were happy with the design we exported the image as a PNG.
This is done under File > Export PNG Image. A window will pop up with settings that you can adjust and other options as well as where to save it.
Step 3: Creating the Image - Paint.net
Now that the letter is made and is a transparent PNG file we can import it into Paint.net. Perhaps this next set of steps could be done in Inkscape, but we aren’t quite sure how. Again, before importing we set the print size for this image to 8.5 x 11 inches. This is done in Paint.net by clicking Image > Resize and then editing the Print Size at the bottom.
Now, you can either import your image to the file you are working on or open it as a new file and copy and paste it to a new layer. It is important that the letter or text is in a new transparent layer.
Next we imported another image. For our project it was a volleyball. It is probably best to open this as new instead of just importing it and instead then copy and paste it into a new layer. This image as with any we use that are not our own was downloaded from pixabay.com a great resource for free public domain images.
Now, the image that you would like inside of your letter or text needs to be in a layer beneath the actual letter. Then you use the Magic Wand tool in the tools menu to the left to select the inside portion of the letter. Then you click Edit > Invert Selection which will select everything outside of the letter, including any inner sections that are to be cut out.
After the selection has been inverted you will choose the layer of the image underneath the layer, while everything is still selected and simply hit the delete key on your keyboard. This will remove all of the underlying image that is not within the letter.
Now you can use the paint bucket tool and fill in whatever colors you like. We chose red and black for our school’s colors.
Finally, you can print.
Step 4: Applying the Image to Wood
This step is extremely easy and only requires a paint brush, Mod Podge and a squeegee or some kind of scraper. Oh, and of course the piece of wood. Since it is to be painted later on we just used a piece of pine.
You’ll start by brushing on a decent even layer of Mod Podge. Then you’ll place the printout onto the wood and use a squeegee or soft scraper to smooth out any air pockets under the paper. Take your time and make sure you get them all. It only needs to dry for about 30-45 minutes after this.
Step 5: Top Coat
After it has dried you’ll want to paint on one more coat of Mod Podge directly onto the front of the image. This will help a little bit once we cut it out. Let it dry for about an hour before cutting.
Step 6: Cutting the Letter
There are a few different ways that you could cut this out, but the best way is probably a scroll saw. The scroll saw will come in really handy when cutting out a letter that has internal negative space or tight corners. This is a pretty basic scroll cut, but just remember you’ll need to drill a hole in the empty space for inserting the scroll blade. Take your time and make the cuts crisp and pretty.
Step 7: Paint
The nice thing about making an image with a thick border is that you can paint the exposed edges to match. Since we chose a black border we used black paint to color all of the exposed wood. We’ve never tried this with another color, but black works great for this.
Step 8: Final Sealing
To finish the whole letter we added one more coat of Mod Podge to seal the edges where the paper meets the wood and it helps the paint match the overall sheen of the letter.
Step 9: All Done!
This process works really well for individual letters. We’ve never tried it with whole words, but I assume the process would yield a similar result. These letters are incredibly durable. We made three of them about two years ago for our kids for Christmas with the first letter of their names and an image of their favorite sports teams logos. The are still holding up great and the edges are still held tight to the wood.
We hope you enjoyed this DIY project and the video that goes along with it. If you have any questions or comments please let us know, we'd be more than happy to help you out. Thanks for checking out this Instructable.