Wooden you like to learn something new? In this week’s How-Tuesday post, Australian designer Beci Orpin shares a tutorial from her bright colorful new book, Find & Keep: 26 Projects to Spark the Imagination. Read on for her creative tips on making painted wooden blocks full of personality to use as toys, small works of art, or desktop decor.
Although most of my work is two-dimensional, I love to work in 3D. I often create little wooden objects using paint, and they’re such an easy, cute project. It’s easy to create something similar using regular wooden blocks.
They can be recycled or offcut pieces (try your local hardware store) or you could buy a set of children’s wooden blocks (preferably natural wood, not painted). For the wood varnish, I use a water-based polyurethane varnish in a satin finish, available from craft stores. Playing around with the design gives each block a different personality, and makes the interactions between them lots of fun.
1. Smooth off the blocks using sandpaper (if necessary). You can also use sandpaper to remove varnish. The blocks I used had varnish on them, but as they were quite old I was able to paint over it. I liked their worn look and didn’t want to lose this.
2. Pencil out your ideas. Draw the rough shapes on your blocks and play with different patterns and faces within the shapes. Think about colours and experiment with the paints you have chosen.
3. In pencil, lightly draw your designs on the blocks. Don’t press heavily, as you may leave a permanent impression on the wood.
4. Start painting. It can take a few tries to get used to painting the wood, so I usually keep a practice block to test colours and different paintbrushes on. This makes starting the final pieces less intimidating!
5. When you have finished painting, set the blocks aside to dry, then erase any visible pencil lines. Pencil can show through some light-coloured paints, but I like this — it adds to the hand-painted effect. You can cover it up with extra coats of paint, if you prefer.
6. If your blocks are going to be used by children, give them a few coats of varnish. This will also give your pieces a polished appearance. Once finished, go forth and build your wooden block empire!