Sunday, October 30, 2011

Subway Art How-To

Hey, Froggers. I've been so busy crafting I almost can't stand myself! Well, at least I think HubbyDoc can't stand me.
I've been doing subway art for about 6 months now, and I've come up with a few techniques that I think might just help all of you who have struggled with spacing, cursed at transfer tape, and just generally stayed away from it for fear that it just wouldn't look good.
Well, fear not. I believe I have some solutions.
Now, I do apologize if I'm stepping on anyone's foot by taking credit for these "techniques". I truly have never seen anything like this on any blogs, so if there is, please let me know.
First, you make your design on your design program (Sure Cuts a Lot, Make the Cut, or any other programs out there). Once you have oodged and finagled and scrunched everything into place on your virtual mat, group all of your images to make them one, and center your image on your virtual mat- both horizontally and vertically. This is extremely important.

If your design has many components, which is kinda what subway art is all about, to take the "negative pieces" (the pieces that are going to be thrown out), it's easier to compartmentalize them. This means, take an exacto knife and cut around the words or symbols in sections. That way, you don't have to pull the discarded piece off all at once, which is very hard to do.

Here's another pic with some of the negative vinyl already taken off. You can see the sections cut away. When you're using your exacto knife, be careful not to cut through the white backing.

After you've taken off all of your unusable vinyl and the innerds of the letters (like the inside of the A and E, etc.), you're ready to place your transfet tape on top. I usually measure mine out using the grids on the back. I try to make a piece the same size as the vinyl design so as not to waste anything (I'm terribly cheap frugal. I'm so cheap frugal, that I sometimes use clear contact paper instead of transfer paper. Today, I didn't have a piece of transfer paper big enough, so I used the contact paper. I'm finding that I actually like that better anyway.

Once I place the contact paper on top, I trim all of the edges. Then I burnish all of the design to encourage it to stick to the transfer paper once I lift the design off.

Now, here's where I forgot to take a picture. Ugh. Just use your imagination.
Pretend I've drawn a grid on the 12 inch mark and the 6 inch mark since I used a 12x24 inch mat (remember that everything is centered horizontally and vertically?). So, there's a crosshair mark on the transfer tape. This is done before I take the vinyl (still on its backing) with the transfer tape off of the mat. This is KEY, folks!

Now, make a grid on your board (or whatever you're putting your subway art onto), making vertical and horizontal lines to mark the exact center.

Now, to backtrack just a little, you will have already painted your board whatever color you want your letters or designs to be. I wanted mine to be red, so my board was already painted before I marked the center.

Now, you're going to remove your designs, with the transfer paper and vinyl backing, from your mat.

Here, you can see the exact center that I drew, using the lines on the mat before I took everything off. Now, cut your design in sections with scissors. Here's another tip- don't cut your sections in a straight line. Make the lines squiggly, with notches in them. You'll see later why it's helpful.
I cut mine in small enough sections that it's easy to peel off the transfer tape with letters. If you make your sections too big, it gets too unruly.
Here's another important tip. When you cut your sections, just make sure that one of the sections has the cross from the crosshairs. This way, you can line it up on your vertical line as well as your horizontal line.
Here are the sections. You can see that the only straight lines are the edges.

Once the sections are all cut, take the section with the center lines, and peel off the letters using the transfer tape. I often have to use a spatula to coax the letters off. This can be tedious, and I haven't found a better way, so if anyone knows of one, please LMK!!!

Line up your center piece on the center grids and burnish. I usually just use my fingers and go over the letters. If you put the center piece on first, everything else will line up perfectly.

Since you've made your edges uneven, it's now easy to line up the rest of your pieces. I often have to refer to my design on my computer, but that's my problem.

Here, I added the Christmas word, which was easy since I have the grid marks to line up. Finish placing all of your sections on the board, lining them up with the previous section.
Now, pull your transfer tape off. I like to make sure my letters are burnished a little more and then I pull off the tape at a hard angle. This keeps the letters from pulling up off of the board.

And here's the final design before the next coat of paint, which I'll show you the next time.

I hope this is useful, and as always, feel free to leave comments!
Fondly, Tami
I'm linking to the following:
Embellishing Life with Handmade Goodness
Sumo's Sweet Stuff
DIY Showoff  Parade
Fingerprints on the Fridge
Finding Faboulos for Less
The Shabby Nest
Sisters of the Wild West 
French Country Cottage 
The 36th Avenue 
My 1929  Charmer Blog
The Southern Institute 
The Trendy Treehouse 
I Heart Naptime
Beyond the Picket Fence
No Minimalist Here 
House of Hepworths 
Under the Table and Dreaming


  1. Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave in the Cutting category today [31 Oct 02:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

  2. This is great, thank you very much! Can I ask what Font you used for the Merry Christmas?

  3. Beautiful! Great inspiration, thanks!

  4. tip: i draw a rectangle around each word that will cut so that you can peel off the vinyl easily and transfer the piece as a whole. hope this helps someone.

  5. Do you use pencil to draw your cross lines on the board you are decorating? I'm just wondering how you get your lines off? Or do you use chalk or something that is easier to come off?

  6. The only pencil line that shows up once you are done painting (which will be in the next blog post) are the lines that actually run through the letters. I just use a clean, rectangular eraser (like the artists' ones) and it comes off. Of course, if you're using chalk paint (which I almost exclusively use), you're going to wax with either clear or a tinted wax, which really makes the pencil lines hard to see. Hope that helps.

  7. Such a great tutorial! I wish it was out there when I started making a few last week. Thanks so much!

  8. Thanks for the tips - I've never seen this particular method. Great tutorial too :)

  9. Thanks for sharing your tutorial with us. I've wanted to make subway art for a while, but always shy away from it. You tutorial has help to inspire me. Very nice. Thanks for sharing your creative inspiration at Sunday's Best party!

  10. Did I see somewhere in one of your posts that you had purchased a "commercial" font package? Can you tell me what it was and where you got it from? Thanks!

    1. Yes, Wendy. Here's the link.
      Fondly, Tami


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