I finally got around to making decoupaged letters for ER's room. I used papers by KI Memories that have traditional holiday colors with some pink to blend with her girly room. Sometimes I add additional embellishment to the letters, but decided to leave it alone this time so that the designs on the paper could be seen better. The shape of the letters decided the paper placement as I wanted ER to be able tell there are trees on one and so that the words on other papers can be easily read. They would look a whole lot cuter if I'd painted the shelves they sit on pink like I was supposed to last spring or summer...oh well, there's always next year!
To make your own choose light weight papers such as scrapbook paper in colors and patterns to coordinate with either a holiday and/or the room you want to display them. Purchase wooden letters to spell out your message. Mine are about six inches tall and I got them on sale at Joann's for about a dollar each, which is around fifty percent off, watch the ads as they go on sale fairly regularly. There are a few different types to choose from: unfinished wood, white painted wood - like mine, and ones that look like cardboard. They also come in a range of sizes. It doesn't matter what kind you get but make sure the letters are flat on the bottom so they'll stand up on their own. Some look like cursive and are better for attaching and hanging on the wall. I got the white ones because it saves me a step, I would have had to paint the sides and back otherwise. If you don't want white letters the unfinished ones give you the option of choosing a paint color that coordinates with your paper. Add time to give them a few coats and dry between.
Lay your letters down on top of the paper and move them around until you like the portion that will be viewable on the letters. I like to hold mine up in front of a bright lamp to help me with positioning. Lightly sketch around the letter on the backside of the paper, i.e. the side you don't want showing on the finished product. Trim the paper down around the letter but not too close, more like cutting a small rectangle around the letter.
I like to use a foam brush for the next step because Michael's run sales where you can buy several for very little. After a few uses the foam brush gets pretty yucky from the paste and then I don't feel bad when I toss it in the trash. Using the foam brush lightly coat the front of the letter with a liquid decoupage adhesive such as mod podge by Plaid, I use the one with a matte finish. You can find it with all the other glues at a craft store. The label is mostly yellow and it comes in a bottle with a screw top lid. Don't use too much, less is more. Too much and the paper won't lay flat against the letter. Lay the letter down on the backside of the paper using your pencil tracing as a guide. Don't press down too hard yet, use the lamp to check positioning. You only have a few seconds to make any adjustments and even if I don't get it exactly where I want it, I usually leave it alone rather than risk ruining my letter.
Press the paper down onto the letter smoothing out any wrinkles or creases and to make sure you've got the paper firmly attached to the letter. Let them dry, I like to wait at least an hour. That may be longer than necessary, but I am often doing this project in between things like loads of laundry, preparing lunch, and diapering so sometimes it's a lot longer than a hour before I get back to them. I like to lay them paper side down with a book on top to help with adhesion.
When everything is dry, you can check by lifting the paper gently. The paper should not lift from the edges of the letter or do so only a very little bit. Lay letter down on a self healing cutting mat and use cutting blade like an x-acto knife to cut around the letter. I like to hold the letter on top, place the blade against the side of the letter, and then use the side to guide my blade using a few cuts as possible. This takes some practice. I used to use scissors with a fine tip but found that using the cutting blade I could get smoother cuts and get closer to the letter.
Once your letter is cut out, use a small piece of sandpaper to smooth away any over hanging paper from the edges. When using the white painted letters do this very carefully or you'll rub off some of the paint finish. You may want to intentionally do this to get a distressed or aged look. You can also add ink to the edges to give it more definition. If I decide to ink, I use a cosmetic sponge and a Q-tip to help me get into the nooks and crannies of the letter.
Repeat for all the letters.When you are done put another thin coat of decoupage adhesive on top of the letter and paper, going a bit down on the sides to help all the edges get glued down. Let dry. Check for dryness by barely touching the side, touching the top can result in a fingerprint being made in the finish. When dry embellish with ribbon, buttons, 3-D stickers, a tiny wooden clothes pin to attach a picture or quote with, or whatever you can think of.
Another technique is to trace the letter onto the backside of the paper, cut out, and decoupage that onto the letter. I haven't had as much luck with this. It's hard to get the true shape of the letter traced and I don't like for there to be too much of the front of the letter showing on the sides underneath the paper in the finished product. To me this looks like a mistake and it bothers me so much I end up redoing the letter. I also had a hard placing the cut out letter shape on top of the wooden letter correctly without having to peel up the paper and try to move part of it around.
Below is another version of decoupaged letters I made for Independence Day with extra embellishments added. The flower I die-cut out of felt, there is a button in the center, hot glue was used to attach. I used foam letters from American Crafts to spell out 4th, the dark blue star on the Y is a button attached with a glue dot over a star in the paper's pattern, and I used plain old Scotch tape to attach the paper flag to the back of the Y. A set of personalized words would make a nice gift made with papers that match your receipent's decor. Spelling out BABY for a shower gift is also a nice present for a mother-to-be.