Make Unique String Art!




I've always been fascinated by the cool 3-d looking shapes you can make by tying string to some nails in a board (I believe they approximate parabolas?)

I had some colorful string around, so I decided to make some string art - here's how I did it, and what you'll need to make something similar!

*String (you can get colorful 'crochet thread' for cheap at WalMart - that's what I used)
*Small nails/tacks (I used 3/4" brads)
*Small mirror (optional)

Step 1: Concieve of It!

I spent a good while considering different designs - there are some very cool geometric patterns you can make with this technique.  In the end, I decided that I wanted to make an animal of some sort.  A fish seemed like it might lend itself well to being rendered in string, so I did some concept art you can see below.  I decided to go for the more 3-d version at the top right.

You'll want to draw out your design at full size.  You can use a simple photo editor to do so, but I found it easier to do by hand at first.  Make sure to specify where each nail will go.

I used a circle of nails within which I could make lots of cool circular-star patterns for the eye, parabolas for the fins and tail, a grid that narrows towards the back for the scales, and then some basic line art for the rest of it.  Try to think of cool ways to incorporate the different designs the string can make.  I bet a dragon could come out awesome!

Since I did mine in pencil first, I decided to take a picture of it (shown below) and use mspaint to help me visualize what it would look like with all of the strings attached.  Once you're satisfied with your drawing, count up your dots or at least ensure that you've got enough nails.

Step 2: Prepare Your Backing

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this process, but it's really up to you how you treat the backing.  I used 1/4" plywood for mine.

Since I was doing a fish, I decided that I wanted a sort of splash behind it.  I drew a freehand splash pattern on the wood and cut it out with a jigsaw, then painted it using acrylics.  If you put on a thin layer of acrylic paint, the grain of the wood shows through a bit and gives pretty cool watery effects.  Whatever you do, be aware that you will be nailing dozens of tiny nails into it.

Step 3: Start Nailing!

Decide where you want your design to be, stick a print or copy of it on the board and start nailing.  The first few dozen nails I did by hand, and it took forever - even worse, they were uneven.  I then discovered that I could use a thick pair of pliers to hold each nail securely and vertically.  As a bonus, the width of the pliers can be your standard nail height - just stop hammering once you contact them!

Step 4: Rip Off the Paper!

This is the fun step - just rip up the paper you've nailed into!  Be careful not to pull out any of the nails.  You can yank out any stubborn bits with some tweezers, but the smaller ones won't be noticeable once you're done with the string part.

Step 5: String It Up!

This part was also really fun for me.  Much better than the nails.

It's kind of like a coloring book version of connect the dots, except you can do it over as many times as you want until you're happy!  Just pick the color you want, tie one end to a nail and start wrapping!  You can make loops around each nail if you want, but in most cases you can just bend around them and everything will stay in place quite well as long as you tie it off reasonably tightly.

I tried to take advantage of the small amount of depth provided by the nails and layer parts - the fin, for example, was done after and above the body scales.  I also did multiple layers of different patterns on the eye in an attempt to make it look rounder and more 3-dimensional.  The right eye was also done low to suggest that it was behind the fish.

As a random touch, I stuck a small mirror inside of the fish's eye.  It was a little square one I got in a packet at Walmart for cheap.  I actually cut out a circle of masking tape, stuck it to the mirror, and painted blue acrylic around it.  This resulted in a roughly circular patch of mirror whose edges blend in with the background.

Step 6: Mount It!

Once you're done, you can hang it on your wall with some basic picture hanging hardware.  I hope I've given you some inspiration and useful tips for this fun project.  I'd love to see if you make one yourself, post a picture here!



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    15 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is not only gorgeous, but it's very very creative. It's amazing how many different uses of medium can be used; I know I never would of thought of this in a billion years. Thanks for putting it up!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome! I could never replicate it, though -- I'm far too much of a rigid thinker to pull a design like this out of thin air. That fish is just fantastic!

    I forgot to ask, what did you use for the blue colour? It looks really pretty and fun.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I don't see why not! You could switch colors at the nails, or you could even tie different colors together for mid-string switchovers.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    my dad has a sail boat/ship made in this manner using what I presume is copper and chrome wire instead of string.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very Nice! My mother did art like this in the 70's She did an steam engine, a butterfly and a cat... Those are the ones I can remember. But if I remember correctly, she purchased kits at ... K-Mart or someplace like that...I have been going to do something like this for years, but when I have the time, I forget about it... and when I remember, I don't have the time :D Thanks for the great work!!!!

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    c'mon give ya a time to enjoy lil things, we only have this life and moment to do so ; )