March 14, 2012

DIY Cardboard Letters [Paper Mache Tutorial]

So this is like a Pinterest challenge, times 2! I have been in love with this whole pic for the longest time. Not just for the ombre dresser, but also the giant B- this blog ain't called from Gardners 2 Bergers for nothin' yo!
Then I saw this pin about making your own cardboard letters with cereal boxes and paper mache! Say what!!  The "B" I was envisioning was bigger than a cereal box- I stuck the idea in my brain for later and that was that. Until, dun, dun, dun (that's supposed to be climatic music) I was in the gift wrapping isle and saw the answer- 24 inch gift boxes! Word! 
Now, here's how I made my own paper mache letter.
You can use any sturdy cardboard to make the letter. I think a thin cardboard would work better, like a quality gift box or a cereal box. I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing that a regular cardboard box wouldn't work that well. It seems more porous and I think the coats or wet paper (paper mache) would warp it- but if you try it and let me know what happens!
I drew my letters using a tupperware lid and ruler as a guide. 
Then I cut it out with an Exacto Knife. 
Using the cut out letter as a stencil I traced it on the bottom half of the box and then cut that baby out.
For the sides of the B I used the sides of the original box. I used scotch tape to attach the sides to the bottom. Then created the insides of the B the same way. Next you was to add the top of your letter and tape it on the same way. I probably used a whole roll of tape to make this secure. I wasn't sure how well it should be adhered and figured, better safe than sorry.

Next step- paper mache! I used this step by step for the paper mache. Here's what I did.

flour, water, paper (preferably newspaper), and your letter

You want to make the paper mache paste- it's equal part flour and water. I used about 1c flour and 1c water to paper mache the entire letter one time. {Are you thinking to yourself now that maybe I did it more than once? Yup- 3 times!}
Whisk the mixture until the lumps are gone. You have the consistency of pancake batter, it's OK to add a little flour or water, which ever you need, to get the right consistency. The paste will still work even if it's a little thick or thin- if it's a little thin it may saturate the cardboard too much, if it's a little thick it may take longer to dry. See the thick/thinness in this BH&G pancake batter pic? That's about how my paste looked.

I used our old phone book for the paper {recycling?} That's the type of paper that works best. You want the paper in strips from 1-2 inches. Don't cut them, instead tear them to the right size- torn edges adhere best. 
Really liked the mixture of sizes for different parts of the B. Curved portions did best with thinner strips where the flat surfaces would go faster with larger ones.

Wet the strips in the mixture, remove the excess then apply to your form. Make sure your apply the strips in a criss-crossed manner. There was no way I could apply the paper mache and take pics- and since I do all my crafty stuff at like midnight or later no one was around to play photographer!

After the whole box is covered you're done for the day- or the night like in my case. You should wait 24 hours in between paper mache coats. If you add additional layers when the bottom isn't dry then you can get mold. Eek!

So, I did 3 coats of paper mache, over the course of 3 days. It's pretty much hard as a rock at this point. If you had an easier letter, like I or J, then I'm pretty sure 2 layers would've worked fine.
I painted it with some 59 cent spray paint- it's the same stuff I used on my Z Gallerie lamp copy and the mantel clock makeover. That can has gone the distance- seriously!
I used some gray and some brown glaze- the faux glazing stuff you tint yourself {Behr Premuim Plus Faux Glaze, from Lowe's}- and kept layering until it looked like something I found instead of something I made the other day!
You can see from the side shot that the B is really sturdy and is probably 4 inches thick. I initially imagined it on the wall- but it can pretty much go anywhere since it's so thick. So now I have a 2 foot tall- giant- B!

I found these awesome book ends thrifting- they're bronze and amazing and I painted the lampshade myself awhile back. 
Have you paper mached lately? I have another project planned for paper mache clay-I can't wait to start, it'll be A-May-Zing!! Thanks for reading!