Cubicle Wall Art – How to Print 8″ x 10″ Art Canvasses with a Printer!

You may remember the Inspire‘ themed office decor items I created for the Hometalk HQ DIY Challenge:

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I’m back with another project in the Inspire series, but this time it’s an idea for cubicle wall art. We spend 57% of our waking time at work, so why not surround ourselves with artwork  to make that time more enjoyable?

You can create your own one-of-a-kind creations yourself using a home printer and pre-made 8″ x 10″ canvasses. Below is some artwork I created  exclusively for Hometalk’s head quarter decor challenge, once again using the Hometalk logo.

I used Illustrator to design the graphic but if you’re not inclined to work with graphics programs, you can probably experiment and use the tutorial to print other wall art that you’d like to hang, such as a photograph (although I haven’t personally tried it myself).

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I purchased a 10-pack of Artists Loft Super Value Canvas from Michaels to bring my newest ‘Inspire’ creation to life.  Of course I ran out of printer ink by the time I was ready to print it so the canvas turn out less saturated than the cartoon prints that inspired this post (which you’ll see a sample of below).

The Original Project That Inspired This Post

Hubs and I don’t like to take ourselves too seriously (afterall, laughter is the best medicine!), so I was inspired to immortalize our day-to-day antics. A few years ago, I printed a series of cartoon canvasses using my own home computer and store-bought 8″ x 10″ canvasses back when Bitstrips was an app on Facebook.  Since then, I believe that Bitstrips has since been removed from Facebook, so you can’t replicate my cartoon idea.  However, you can still use this tutorial as inspiration to print your own art canvas, like I did for Hometalk’s HQ challenge. I’ve provided a step-by-step tutorial to show you how I did it!

Here’s a closeup of just one of the canvasses in my cartoon series. I added a ‘film-strip’ effect border around each of the cartoons to balance the white space around the artwork and to group them together more effectively.

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It’s fairly easy to transfer your ideas onto canvas using a home printer and artwork that has been sized to fit onto an 8″ x 10″ area. The canvasses were printed with the aid of some freezer paper to stiffen the canvas (see more about the printer below under footnote #2). Printing directly to canvas results in artwork that pops!

If you don’t have a suitable printer, you should be able to achieve a similar effect using T-shirt transfer paper. I haven’t used T-shirt transfer paper personally so you will have to experiment if that’s the method you use. One thing you will have to keep in mind if you have wording as part of your visual when using the T-shirt transfer method: you’ll need to mirror the image in a graphic program so that when you iron it onto the canvas, the printing is legible.

To start, I used Powerpoint to scale my images.

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To use the printer method that I used, you will need the following supply list:

  • 8” x 10” canvasses1
  • Reynolds Freezer Paper (generally found in the grocery store with tin foil and plastic wrap)
  • Upholstery staple puller
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Ziploc bag (to save the staples if you choose to reuse them)
  • Scissors
  • Inkjet printer 2
  • Ziploc bag (to hold the staples)

Footnotes:

Canvas. I recommend using a 50% off coupon from Michaels and buying the 10 piece Artists Loft Super Value Canvas Pack illustrated on the right. I’m not sure about the United States, but last time I checked they were selling for $16.99 in Canada (regular price).

Bulhead decor_037

The Printer: The printer I use is an Epson WF-3540. It has a rear feed slot that can accommodate heavy stock. Note that the printer slot MUST measure at least 9”wide in order to be able to print directly on canvas to accommodate the canvas once it’s opened up and refolded (as you’ll see later).

The Graphics Fairy also recommends Epson printers in her post on the best printers for crafting. The reason she likes Epson printers (other than the fact that she has affiliate links on her site), is because “because many of them (although not all) come with pigment inks, that are both waterproof and fade-proof, which makes it the perfect ink for crafting!  This means your ink won’t run or bleed, even when you apply something wet over top of it, like various types of glues,  Mod Podge, etc.” I don’t have any affiliations, however I do concur that Epson inks are great! If you are buying a printer for crafting, look for an Epson that uses Dura Brite Ultra Ink (my particular printer takes a 127 cartridge).

Instructions for Canvas Prep

  1. Cut a piece of Reynolds Freezer Paper to 9” x 11.5”. This size needs to be slightly bigger than a standard 8 1/2″ by 11″ piece of paper because of the canvas; a rear printer slot should be able to accommodate this custom size.Note that you won’t be able to get two full pieces out of the width of the freezer paper because of the size (9” x 11.5”). Don’t be tempted to skimp on the size of the freezer paper (even if it’s only 1/4”) — it needs to be cut to the exact size of the folded canvas (as you’ll see further ahead) to get the best result when printing.  To make up for that ‘waste’, you’ll find that the freezer paper is reusable, so don’t toss it out after only one use.
  1. Remove all the staples from the canvas using the upholstery staple puller shown below. Set the staples aside in a Ziploc bag if you wish to reuse them.
    Bulhead decor_007.jpg
  1. Set aside the frame.
    Note: once the canvas is printed, pair it back together again with the same frame if you’re going to reuse the staples so you can fit them back into their original holes).Bulhead decor_021.jpg
  1. Now that the canvas is free from the frame, there will be two sets of creases all the way around the sides. Put the iron onto medium heat and iron out the canvas on the wrong side (i.e. the side without gesso) until all the creases are slightly flattened. The goal isn’t to make the creases disappear completely—it’s just to open the piece out. Do this in a well ventilated area as the fumes can be quite smelly.Bulhead decor_017.jpg
  1. With the canvas flattened and still facing wrong side up, refold the outer crease all the way around and iron it flat, as shown below. If you’re using the value pak from Michael’s and the piece doesn’t measure 9” wide by 11.5” long, then you know you’ve folded it wrong. Don’t worry if the edges don’t lie perfectly flat—the freezer paper will hold it them place in the next step. Bulhead decor_026.jpg
  2. Take the piece of freezer paper you previously cut (shiny side down/paper side up) and place over the canvas (which is still facing wrong side up with the margins folded in). The freezer paper will be the exact same size as the canvas and will effectively sandwich in the folded sides. Iron the freezer paper onto the canvas until it is well attached; keep the iron moving to prevent burning. Make sure the corners are as flat as you can get them (this could be a place where the canvas catches and jams in the printer). Let it cool slightly before placing in the printer—but not so long that it starts to curl. If that happens, iron it flat again.

    Bulhead decor_044.jpg

    Freezer paper is ironed onto the canvas, sandwiching in the edges. Ensure it’s well adhered everywhere – especially at the corners

Printing your Images to Canvas

I’ve included instructions that explain how I printed from my own Epson printer, but you will need to experiment with your own printer if you have a different brand or model. If you’re not careful you can jam your printer and may not be able to clear it, so DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK! 

  1. Take the canvas that is now fused to the freezer paper to your printer and feed it into the rear slot. Be sure to read your own printer instructions to determine which side needs to face up (otherwise you’ll end up printing on the freezer paper instead of the canvas and will waste the ink!). Sometimes my printer ejected it and it took several tries until it automatically fed the canvas it into the slot. This part can be finicky and requires patience until it feeds properly.  If it doesn’t take after a few tries,  it could be a matter of taking it back to the iron again to make sure the corners are flattened as much as they can be.
  2. Now at the computer, go into Print / Properties. Select ‘Rear Paper Feed Slot’ as the paper source. Below that, click on borderless (I’m not sure if it makes any difference, but this is how I printed mine). I set the paper type to card stock (because the canvas and freezer paper are thick), quality on high and selected ‘color’ as shown below. Then click ‘ok’ and it will bring you back to the main print screen.Powerpoint 10_BOF.jpg
  1. All my cartoon artwork was set up in a powerpoint file so at the main print screen, I selected “current slide” as the print range to print only one canvas at a time. However, you can use whatever graphic software you have at-hand and are familiar with (I sometimes also use illustrator and save my file as a pdf, then print from that).Powerpoint 12_bof.jpg
  1. With all the settings complete, now you can print. I only had the canvas jam once while it was printing and I was able to clear it. The trick is to make sure that the edges are as flat as you can make them and the freezer paper well-adhered everywhere so nothing catches while in the printer.
  1. Marvel at the beauty of your first canvas! Let it dry for a few minutes, then carefully peel off the freezer paper while it’s still warm. You can reuse this freezer paper again for your next canvas: I was able to get about 6 – 7 uses out of each one before I had to cut another piece.
  1. Keep the frame together with the canvas it came from; this will make reattaching the canvas easier if you decide to reuse the staples you pulled out earlier. Ideally, if you have the space, spread the canvasses out on a flat surface to dry for a day before you reattach it to the frame. If you don’t have space, you can stack them on top of each other with a piece of waxed paper in between until you’re ready to finish them.
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Hot off the press… printer

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Peel back paper after print is dry and reattach to frame

Reattaching the Canvas to the Frame

I’m pretty fanatical when it comes to reducing waste, so I saved all the staples and reused them, putting each one back in by hand. If you don’t want to take the extra time to do that, you can use a staple gun to add new staples and reattach the canvas.

If you plan to reuse the old staples to reattach the canvas to the frame, you will need:

  • Small hammer (I used the side of a nail remover as a hammer)
  • Staples that were removed
  • Needle nosed pliers (in case you need to straighten out some of the staples)
  • Printed canvasses and frames

Instructions

  1. If any of the staples are bent, straighten them with the needle nose pliers.
  2. Line up the canvas so that the holes in the canvas match the holes in the frame. That way, you can reuse the same holes.
  3. Starting in the middle of one side, put a staple through the canvas, line it up with the holes in the frame then tap it into place.
  4. Put a staple in the middle of the three remaining sides, then fold in the corners and tap in a staple to each of the four corners. Add the remaining staples all around the frame until complete.Bulhead decor_049.jpg

Hanging your Artwork on the Wall of Your Cubicle

To hang your artwork on the wall of your cubicle you can glue half of a binder clip to the back of the canvas and attach it to your cubicle with a push pin, as I showed you in the first post I did for the Inspire series of office accessories:

Collage 4_Hometalk HQ Challenge

If you’re lucky enough not to work in a cubicle and have actual wall space, use a medium size 3M Command Strip. Since the canvas is light, you only need one for each canvas, centered onto the top of each frame. Follow the instructions that came with the package.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please pin and share on Facebook.

Now that you have the basics, I hope you have as much fun creating your canvasses as I did, however if you happen to jam your printer, don’t say I didn’t warn you:)

If that scared you off, I’ll have at least one more ‘inspired’ office decor item coming up that you won’t want to miss. Until then, check out a few of my other craft ideas:

Vinyl Record Art – Creating a VW Bug Key Holder

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Muskoka Chair Challenge at the Ontario Science Centre

SONY DSC

Paint Chip Portrait

Paint chip portrait_Birdz of a Feather

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Paint Chip Portrait

As a painter, my husband had amassed a huge collection of old paint chips and defunct paint decks. I also had a growing collection that I held onto from years of renovating and flipping houses. I was curious to see what one could do to recycle paint chips, so I did a Pinterest search and I came across a portrait of Marilyn Monroe done completely with paint chips. The light bulb went off: what better way to immortalize my husband, than with a paint chip portrait of himself!

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DISCLAIMER: as I already had scads of old paint chips, this entire project was an exercise in upcycling what I already had. I didn’t take paint chips from the paint store, so please don’t do that either 🙂

The blog associated with the Pinterest post didn’t really divulge much about how it was done so I had to make it up as I went along. With a few purchased items and a software program, such as photoshop, I knew I’d be able to figure out a method that worked! It was going to be a labour of love – extremely time consuming – but by breaking it down into smaller steps, this time-intensive project was going to be well worth it in the end.

Paint chip portrait_Birdz of a Feather

The first thing I did was to select my picture frame; it had to be large enough so that when I assembled the ‘pixelated’ portrait I’d be able to still see all the detail. I found a great frame at Ikea, sized 19 3/4″ x 27 1/2″.  As an added bonus, I was able to glue my paint chips directly to the hardboard backing, then reinsert it back into the frame to complete my project.

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I needed something to cut the hundreds of little pieces that make up the portrait; I found this portable plastic X-Acto paper cutter with a metal blade at the dollar store for only $3.  You can’t go wrong with a price like that; it was sharp and just the right size for storing after the project was completed. You’ll notice I made some modifications (more about that later).

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I also needed somewhere to corral all those hundreds of pieces of paint chips once they were all cut (over 800!). For that, I found this large medication organizer; the one pictured on the right is from Amazon.com, but I found mine at Walgreens when I was in the U.S.

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The last thing I needed was a glue stick. Once I gathered all my materials, I was ready to start.

Photoshop

Start with a close-up picture. For demonstration purposes, I’m going to use this picture of Lady Gaga at the 73rd Golden Globe awards that I found using a Google search:

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Using Photoshop I neutralized all the background:

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I selected any apparent black pixels that were still peeking through the strands of her hair and used the paint bucket to fill them with the same colour as the background (I wasn’t too picky about capturing the lighter shades of grey):

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Then I cropped the picture very close:

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Selecting Filter / Pixelate / Mosaic in Photoshop will bring up a slide adjuster you can use to adjust the size of the pixels. I played with this to get a good balance of not too many squares vs. not too much pixelation, keeping in mind the size of the frame and the need to still be able to make out the face when done! The litmus test is to look at the computer screen at a distance to see how well the squares blend.

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When I did the vertical portrait of hubs I ended up with 25 squares across the width and 33 squared in height.  By cutting each paint chip into 7/8″ squares, the final size ended up filling the dimensions of the Ikea Stromby Frame almost perfectly (I had to fill in a bit of the background colour along the right and left edges). The size of the paint chip will vary according to frame size and number of ‘pixels’ you end up with.

I numbered the bottom horizontal row and also the vertical row on the left of the portrait so I would be able to keep track of each square (I didn’t complete the numbers up the side on the example below, but you get the idea!).

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The portrait above doesn’t really look like it has much detail, but when you consider that it will be seen at a distance, all the pixels will blend and the face will be totally recognizable. I have reduced the exact same picture shown above to demonstrate this effect. As you can see, it will all come into focus; I love this picture of Lady Gaga!

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Now for the painstaking part. I took the eyedropper (circled below), clicked on the first square then opened up the colour picker to find out the RGB values.

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Open the colour picker in Photoshop to record the RGB values

Once I had the RGB values, I went to a website called EasyRGB. I entered the RGB values as shown below, selected a paint manufacturer, clicked the start button and it gave me the closest four colour matches to the RGB values I input.

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EasyRBG Website allows you to input an RGB value to find the closest paint match

Here are the four colours EasyRGB determined as the closest match to the values I input in the previous example:

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Closest colour matches to RGB

When you are colour matching, you need to keep in mind that everything is relative. You will never find a perfect match to the shade you’re trying to find.  However, once you assemble all your paint chips, you will get the necessary amount of contrast within what’s available in the particular line of paint you’ve chosen.  For example, the picture below shows a close-up of the paint chips I used to construct hub’s nose. You wouldn’t think such a wide range of contrasts would work when you’re trying to put together ‘flesh tones’, but when the portrait was complete (and mounted a good distance away from where it will be viewed) it just really worked. I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t sweat the small stuff; you’re not looking for perfection with your colour matching!

Nose Closup.jpg

Close up of assembled paint chips

Since EasyRGB didn’t have all the particular brands of paint I was looking for, I also did a search online for colour-matching apps that many of the paint manufacturers now have. Some are available at a modest fee, but most are free. I was able to literally open up my picture on my IPad, enlarge it and then tap each square to find my paint match.

Once I found a match, I needed somewhere to write it down and record it. I made myself an excel spreadsheet with numbered rows and columns to correspond to those I previously added onto the pixelated portrait. I sat at my desktop computer using the Ipad to colour-match, while using my computer to record the colour in Excel. Every time I colour matched a square, I would record it on the spread sheet.

When I was ready to cut the paint chips, I was able to sort the sheet  so that I would know how many pieces of the same colour I would need to complete the portrait. The spread sheet also acted as a road map (when unsorted) to place each chip in place for assembly purposes.

Cutting

Remember the $3 paper cutter? Here’s how I adapted it to cut my paint chips:

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View is from underside of paper cutter

I laid two strips of plywood onto the back (I had to shim it to keep it level); I literally just double face taped everything onto the cutter. Then I flipped it over and added a cross piece that was perpendicular and 7/8″ away from the cutting blade (also fastened with heavy duty double face tape).  The setup is similar to having  a fence extension on a mitre saw; the strip of plywood acted as a stop edge that kept all my paint chips consistently sized to 7/8″. Once each strip was cut, I turned it 90 degrees and then cut it again for a perfect square.

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Paint chip is lined up with plywood edge to keep size consistent

I cut as many pieces of one colour as I needed and then grouped them into stacked piles beside my work space (labeled with the colour number so I could refer back to my excel sheet).

Once all my pieces were cut, I ordered them – according to my excel sheet – into rows and placed them into the medicine organizer. I had more rows than space available in the organizer so I had to double up some of the sections (I put a divider between the stacks and wrote the row number on it so I could keep track).

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Assembling the Paint Chips onto the Backer Board

Once I had all my paint chips cut and organized, I did a dry run on top of the backer board (as shown above) to make sure it would all work out in the width and length. I did a final ‘squint check’ to see if I should replace any odd looking colour chips (better to do it before it’s all glued down!). I swapped out one or two of the chips out with better colours just by eyeballing it.

Now I was ready to glue. I carefully re-stacked the paint chips and placed them back into the organizer in the same order they were removed.

Starting at the lower left edge, I  applied glue stick onto the back of the first paint chip and place it firmly onto the board. I proceeded the same way with the remainder of the row making sure each chip was tightly butted up against the other.  I knew it would just snowball if I left any gaps, so I took my time.

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Gluing down the paint chips – in progress

Whenever I took a break or got bored, I just closed the lid of the medicine organizer (and put the cap on the glue stick!) until I was ready to start up again. I appreciated having a closed container to keep the dust off because I was at it for weeks on end!

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Paint chips stored in the medicine organizer

Once everything was glued down to the backer board I simply put it back into the Stromby frame I purchased and added wire onto the back to hang (per Ikea’s assembly instructions).

All that’s left to do is hang it and enjoy. If this project has inspired you, please pin and share on Facebook!

As you can see from the shot on the upper right shown above, it was hard to get a final picture of my husband’s portrait without window glare, but I love how it turned out! I plan to move it into my craft studio, once the basement is done.

Pictured below is how Lady Gaga’s portrait might turn out.

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For another wall decor idea, check out Expand Your Horizons: Propel Your Bulkhead into the Spotlight.

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Follow my blog here or on Bloglovin’ to see upcoming DIY projects – both in and around the home.

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