Can craft is high up there on my list of favourite upcycles! That’s because cans are free and there are so many creative uses. We’re not soda drinkers, so I enlist the help of my sisters to broaden the range of can colours beyond our Spirit Tree Cider and iced tea cans.
But cans aren’t the only thing we’re upcycling today. We have a very unusual substrate to display our artwork; it’s a computer screen! If you ‘can’ not wait for the reveal, watch this video to see how that looks:
International Bloggers Club (IBC)
It’s time for another IBC challenge. As you may have guessed, this month’s theme is I ‘Can’ Upcycle! You’ll find all our friends’ upcycle projects at the bottom of the post – and they are all incredible! So don’t forget to check them out before you go. And if you don’t have time to browse today, pop back in later in the week to pick up where you left off.
Materials for Can Craft
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- Aluminum cans – rinse them out first before using
- Utility Knife (I find this one actually works best)
- Microplane cut resistant glove
- Clear adhesive book cover vinyl / contact paper
- Rubber brayer/roller
- Double side tape (use one that leaves a thin adhesive, not the kind with mounting foam)
- Small self healing cutting mat (only needed if cutting straight edges
- Utility knife
Can Craft Template
When you’re making tin can mosaic art, you’ll need 3 templates. Two will be regular images and the third will be a mirror image (which you’ll use last).
Notice the extra thick black lines? That’s so the black background of the computer screen will show through and look like grout lines.
Measure the size of your computer screen so you know the finished dimensions of your artwork.
In an editing program, such as illustrator, start with a blank page that’s set to the dimensions of your computer screen. Then add the lines in the background to create the squares. Because I did this in illustrator, I was able to set a ruler grid to help with line placement. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but try to balance the spacing so it’s pleasing to the eye.
For personal use, grab a simple line drawing off the net. You can also look to stained glass patterns for inspiration. Or draw something, if you’re talented in that way, then go over it with a thick marker to thicken your lines and scan it into the computer. Place your chosen image on the page over the background, leaving enough space around it to still see the squares.
Number every single piece on your template. When you mirror image one of the three template, you may want to re-write the numbers as they’ll be backwards.
To get the template big enough to fit the screen, you will likely have to tile print your template and tape pieces together. It’s best to cut away the white margin on one of the pieces so you can match the seams up more precisely (I didn’t do this, but should have). You can also have it printed at a shop that can print large format sizes, like blueprints, if you’d like to keep the template all in one piece. Remember to print two regular template and one mirror imaged.
How to Cut the Cans
I like to start at one end and slice all the way around with a utility knife. Poke the knife in on a flat area (not where the can curves).
I borrowed the Microplane glove I’m wearing from the kitchen. It’s a cut resistant glove. In case the knife slips while I’m cutting, it’ll keep me safe! Speaking of safe, always work with sharp blades and change them as they become dull.
Then cut down the can where the bar code and nutritional info is located (this part is waste anyway)
I find it helpful to make a double cut down the centre so I can get my scissors in to make the last cut.
The edges may be a little rough so trim them so they’re relatively smooth.
However, in the case of the background tiles, I like to use a ruler and score a straight line instead of cutting the edges free form. That way, I can line up all my straight cuts along perfectly straight edges.
To flatten the can, I hold it at each end and run the piece along the edge of a table in the opposite direction of the curve. Now we’re ready to cut!
Cut the Cans into Pieces
Cut the template into pieces. I start with the background.
Use double face tape to stick the template to the cans and cut around each piece. Notice that I keep several pieces of the background attached for ease of cutting. When cutting out the can, be sure to remove all traces of the black lines (this is where the background will show through to look like grout).
I was running low on double face tape so you can also roll regular or painters tape back on itself and use that to stick the pieces down as shown below.
As your pieces are cut, put them onto the second copy of the template, leaving the paper on. That way, if the pieces get jumbled you still have all the numbers on each one and can quickly identify where it goes.
Adhere the Tin Can Craft
Now we’re temporarily adhering the tin pieces to clear adhesive vinyl contact paper. Whether it’s matte or shiny, doesn’t matter; It just needs to be see-through.
Cut the vinyl about 2″ bigger all around. Now take the mirror image template and turn it upside down onto the front of the vinyl. Tape it down around the edges.
Flip it over and peel off the backing, but save the backing for later. The sticky side is now facing up. Fold in the right and left edges and tape it down to the surface (I’m using the back of my cutting mat).
Now you can transfer the cut pieces of metal onto the sticky adhesive vinyl. First, remove the paper. Then each piece is laid onto the adhesive face side down. Be sure you can see black lines all around the piece before sticking down.
Once all the pieces are stuck down it will look like this.
Bring back the paper backing and place over the metal tiles. Use a rubber roller to carefully roll over the surface to ensure a good bond. I used the one we installed our luxury vinyl flooring with, but any brayer will work.
Transfer Tin Can Craft to Screen
When you flip over the vinyl, you’ll see your tin can craft mosaic come to life. But now it has to be transferred onto the final backing.
In order to prepare the piece for transfer onto the computer screen, tape the white vinyl adhesive backing shiny side down onto the back of the mosaic (this is so it won’t stick once the adhesive is on the metal). Then cut around three edges, leaving the bottom as shown.
Now flip it around again and fold back the white backing to expose the metal. At this point, I was going to glue the tiles but I couldn’t find a glue with a long open time that would stick to both metal and glass. So instead, I’m cutting pieces of double sided tape.
Once there’s double sided tape on all pieces of the metal, you can peel off the tape backing. After the adhesive is exposed you can cover it again with the white backing to protect it until it’s transferred.
To see how the mosaic can art is transferred, it’s best to watch the video to see the process in action. You’ll find the video at the start of this project helpful (you’ll also find more tips and tricks on the video):
Pre-crease the top of the white backing, folding it down the equivalent of the first row. Then open it back up. Position the mosaic onto the computer monitor, ensuring it’s centred. Add painters tape along the bottom to act as a hinge.
Bend the mosaic forward so you can re-fold the crease at the top exposing the adhesive.
Bring the mosaic back up to meet the monitor, sticking it along the top.
I start at the centre and move out to each side. Burnish it well.
Now that the first row is stuck down, remove the painters tape from the bottom. Lifting up from the bottom, reach underneath to peel away another row from the white backing from the top, sticking down as you peel. Burnish in a downward motion and out to the sides.
Continue in this manner until all the white backing is removed and the mosaic is on the computer monitor. Use a plastic scraper / squeegee to burnish everything down well.
Once satisfied everything is stuck, life a corner of the vinyl. Carefully peel it away at a 45 degree angle exposing the mosaic.
Can Craft Sustainably!
As you can see, our unique frame is perfect for displaying mosaic! When we found the monitor curbside, I had actually hoped it worked. But alas, it was meant to be upcycled into soda can art!
Isn’t is un-‘canny’ how well the monitor frames our can craft mosaic? The black screen does a great job masquerading as the car windows and mosaic ‘grout’.
Leave us a comment to let us know what you think! We’re all about sustainable crafting here at Birdz of a Feather, so hope you use this tutorial to inspire your own sustainable craft projects because good planets are hard to find!
Check out what else you can make with empty tin cans, like these tin can crafts! Spoiler alert – it’s just as unique as this mosaic project :).
Pin Can Craft Mosaic Art
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International Bloggers Club Projects
Don’t forget to visit these awesome ‘I Can Upcycle‘ projects from our creative friends below:
- Unique Creations by Anita
- A Crafty Mix
- What Meegan Makes
- Birdz of a Feather – that’s us!
- Interior Frugalista