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How to make your own large letters - Paper Mache
Posted by Kate, Hall Occasions on July 19, 2017
I'm a craft nut.
I adore getting swept away with ideas so grandiose that I'm scoffed at.
I love the challenge of a new project,
I love the creativity involved and what it sparks in my brain,
and I freaking LOVED the process of making these fabulous letters for a recent national sports presentation.
It's messy, and takes some time for coats to dry, but the overall cost is low, and the impact is HIGH!
To save the questions later ( in case you think I can't spell)
These large paper mache letters were created for JAFO, the Junior Australian Floorball Open for 2017, hosted on the beautiful central coast of Australia by the Peninsula Floorball Club.
The presentation evening was hosted by Club Umina.
Floorball is a fast paced sport, a type of indoor hockey with five players and a goalkeeper in each team, keep an eye out for it at future Olympic games!
Now for the tutorial, if you have any questions at all, please shoot them through, and I'll be more than happy to help :)
Choose your size and boxes
The overall letter size I went with was 800mm high x 500mm in width for each letter.
This was taken from the top point of each letter, and the widest point.
As I wanted large letters, I went with hot water boxes.
You need 2 copies of each letter ( a front and a back) so be sure to have enough cardboard on hand
My husband is a plumber ( which is handy) , however if you put a call in to your local plumbing supply store, they may be able to assist you.
For smaller letters, you won't need such a strong box
It's easiest to not have joins or creases throughout your letters, so choosing the right sized boxes is helpful.
If you have to have creases (where the box folds) throughout, just be sure to place an additional support behind it in the later steps where we do this.
Draw your letters (or numbers) on your box
Remember you'll want similar sizes for each letter if you're doing more than one, so remember to do each shape all the one size and measure as you go
For freestanding letters, remember to create a flat base shape or they'll fall over when completed
Cut out your shape and repeat the process to make 2 exact copies of each shape
Use a box cutter (Stanley knife) to cut around your design.
Use that design as a template and trace around it to create a second shape.
This second shape will create the back of your 3D letter, and should be in the same direction as the 1st
( no need to mirror it)
Don't stress if it's not 100% perfectly matched, you can fix small inaccuracies during the paper process
Brutus the bulldog thought the whole process was a little long for him.
Now you're going to turn your 2 pieces into a 3d shape
Cut some lengths of cardboard the same width apart, based on how wide you'd like your letters to be.
For this project, I decided all my letters would be 8cm in width
Once you have your pieces, use a glue gun to affix them to one letter, and then align the second letter on top, gluing as you go
At this point- check that it's still self standing ( if needed) and adjust if necessary
You should now have what's beginning to look like a 3d shape
Using pliable cardboard ( cereal boxes are great), begin to create the edges of your shape
I found it easiest to cut strips to the correct width ( in my case 8cm) before beginning, and then attaching with a tape gun
I used a butt load of tape, purely for my own peace of mind that it wouldn't fall apart from the inside once I'd completed the design
Add your paper and glue mix
It's finally time to start the paper part of this amazing paper mache!
I popped some screws in the roof and hung each design from fishing line so I was able to do underneath each letter at the same time.
If you're not able to do this, that's fine! Just do what you can, let dry, then turn over to do your base.
There are several "recipes" for paper mache.
I was concerned about mould, so decided to use a pva glue mix, which is simply PVA glue ( I used around 3 litres for this project) watered down slightly to a thinner consistency.
Take strips of newspaper, dip it in your glue mix, and then smooth the paper onto your cardboard cutouts.
Once you have your design completely covered, allow this 1st coat to dry completely (for around 24-48 hours) , then add a 2nd ( and if needed) 3rd coat.
Try not to leave any air bubbles in this step, as it can turn into cracking later
If I had my time again, I would finish off with a white paper layer, simply to reduce the amount of coats of white paint needed to cover the design, ( If you're doing a light colour paint, I would recommend this)
Remember- Paper mache at it's core is not a 100% smooth finish, there will generally always be a spot here or there that has some lumps and bumps.
Paint your design with spray paint
Hang (or if you haven't used the fishing line technique, paint in sections) your shapes in a safe space, aware of over spray. I hung ours from the clothesline on sunny days ( with zero to low wind gusts) to paint.
We LOVE the Rustoleum brand, as it doesn't require a primer, however the cheaper $3 cans of paint are fine too, just go with whatever works for you.
Undercoats or primers are great for coverage.
It will take a few coats, so don't be too heavy handed with your spray paint , or it will run.
and that's it!
If your designs are nice and even on the base, they should stand up all by themselves!
*Whilst ours were self standing,as it was for a teenage event with 300 guests, we decided to err on the side of caution and add small planks of wood to the base for added stability.
*As the letter F and number 7 are not well balanced, we also joined these with the letter/number next to it using a glue gun to keep them upright.
The number 7 was affixed to the 1 using a clear ruler
I'd love to see your designs! Pop them in the comments section below!
Hall Occasions is one the central coast of NSW Australia. We specialise in personalised gift and wedding tags, place cards, personalised stickers and wooden laser cut items. For more on our range, feel free to have a peek at our store, or send us an email!