Inside: Make DIY furniture decals to make custom typography art, DIY word art or even subway art! This tutorial explains how to use stickers to transform a wooden table.
Typography is a trend that isn’t going anywhere. You could say words are life 🙂 Here’s the thing – I’m not someone who ascribes to the Live. Laugh. Love. club – if I need a sign in my home telling me to do those things, then I have a problem. But I am on board for a super cool subway art inspired typography project.
Today’s tutorial is going to show you how to get a custom look on an old piece of furniture for next to nothing that is on trend, personalized and pretty awesome. We are going to use a combination of DIY mixed chalky-paint, DIY furniture decals and some creative positioning of word art and graphics to achieve the final look!
What is Subway Art?
Subway art is also called typography or word art and it’s essentially when you arrange words in an aesthetically pleasing way. Typically all the words relate – either family names, dates or in this case places.
They can all live on a straight line or they can be a bit angled to make more of a word cloud. In this case, we are taking a traditional subway style art approach and will keep things straight.
Supplies to make your own Subway or Typography Art
We are going to put our decals or stickers onto a piece of furniture, but this same exact approach would apply if you were going to put them onto a large wooden canvas for some wall art or even directly onto a wall for literal wall art.
There is another way to create typography that is easier than this and it requires no fancy cutting machine. You can see how I used a pencil and printer paper to make this custom typography word art with a nod to Star Trek.
In this case you will need:
- Silhouette Cameo (I just got the Starter Bundle as it’s much more economical)
- Black vinyl or vinyl in the colour of your choice
- Transfer Paper OR Glad Press’n’ Seal
- Spray Paint
- Furniture Wax
Prepping your table for furniture decals
This is how my table started. It cost me $3 at a yard sale!
But it was in ROUGH shape. The top was all mottled and gouged and there was even a giant piece missing from the edge on one side. But it was only $3 and I KNEW I had everything on hand to turn it into a one-of-a-kind piece.
First things first, it got a good sand with our palm sander to take off the finish and remove some of the scratches. I was going for the overall distressed look, so I wasn’t overly concerned with the finish.
Then I gave it a once over with some homemade chalky paint made from leftover latex paint I had lying around. See that full tutorial here. If you don’t want to do that, store-bought paint or stain is just fine. Just don’t paint or stain the area where you want to put the decals. Otherwise, if you do, you should let it cure and dry for at least two weeks before applying them to the surface.
How to make the furniture decals
Then to my Silhouette to create my typography 🙂 My table top measured about 18″ by 44″. If you use a Silhouette Cameo, you’ll know that anything you cut needs to have at least one dimension that’s 13″ or less. So, my work around? I designed my typography width-wise into four separate files measuring 18″x 11″ – and I cut my vinyl into four strips measuring 18″x12″ just so I had some leeway.
I typed out my words in my Silhouette software. I used the same Arial font but stretched it, modified it, and bolded it differently for each location name. Basically just trial and error until I knew I had something I sort of liked. I stayed away from anything with a serif, though, because I wanted my typography to look like subway art – which is traditionally sans serif.
I’m not going to pretend to be a Silhouette expert, but basically I initiated the cut files and weeded out my vinyl pieces to leave my lettering behind. (Speaking of Silhouette experts, my pal Erica over at Dwell Beautiful is a bona fide Silhouette expert. You should see all the magic she creates!)
How to transfer the typography onto the table (or canvas)
Then I used Glad Press and Seal as transfer paper because I actually didn’t have enough of the Silhouette transfer paper.
All you do is stick the sticky side of the Press and Seal onto the weeded vinyl and use the little spatula to really smoosh it down. Then, flip it over, pull the back off your contact paper and the letters will be stuck (in reverse) on your Press and Seal.
Then flip the Press and Seal onto your table (or art or whatever) and use the spatula again to stick the letters to your medium. Then peel up your Press and Seal and your letters will be stuck down in the right order.
What if you don’t have a cutting machine?
If you don’t have a Silhouette, you can do the same thing by printing block letters onto sticker paper and then cutting them out carefully with an exacto knife. It’s time consuming, but should achieve similar results.
Then I sealed it all with a few coats of clear wax. That piece of hardware got a couple of light coats of paint using Krylon spray paint in basic black.
I think I might be in love with this table now. It looks great as a coffee table and will work perfectly as a window seat in our living room.
Speaking of coffee table – that’s a stack of some of my newly acquired design books. I feel like the combination of all of these titles embodies my style entirely. Funny how that happens 🙂
So what do you think? Silhouette Cameo yay? I think so. Though, my next project will probably something a little less complex – maybe some art for the kitchen.
Have you ever created typography or subway artwork before? What about using vinyl on furniture? Or what about mixing your own plaster paint?
Here are some other posts you might like!
This post may contain affiliate links. See our full privacy and disclosure policy here.