DIY Maker Car Stencils

How to make a decorative car stencil.

As fabulous as the rainbow-painted VW beetle project was, we decided painting an entire vehicle was a little excessive, even for us. Plus I was pretty confident that painting a car with regular acrylic paint was a recipe for disaster, so I decided keeping to a small disaster was the way to go.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

And look, not a disaster at all! And this even though I followed the original, uncorrected instructions, which included no preparation of the surface and called for just any old acrylic paint. (There is a later corrected printing which provides more detail on the paint and surface preparation, but I didn’t have it when I completed the project.) Yes, the paint has developed kind of a weird crackly texture, but it’s stayed on for several months now and doesn’t look half-bad.

Car Stencils, based on The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylics, The Beetle Project

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Of course, it doesn’t exactly look professional, so I wouldn’t try this on decent-looking vehicle. (Fortunately, I had access to a beat-up pickup truck—thanks, Leigh!) I also would highly recommend using an indoor/outdoor spray acrylic enamel instead of the random acrylics we used.

Materials

How to make a decorative car stencil.

The good thing about doing a half-assed painting job is that the only tricky part of this project is getting the stencil cut. I cut mine out of vinyl on my Silhouette, but you could use pre-cut vinyl stencils or even hand cut the vinyl with an X-Acto. See the materials list above to download my templates (for personal use only, please).

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Next step is to clean and dry the surface. I just used some 409 cleaner and a lot of paper towels. When the paper towels stopped coming away black, I figured that was clean. Then press the vinyl onto the surface, making sure to smooth out any bubbles.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

If you were doing a spray paint, you’d also want to tape off around the stencil. Since I was using plain old acrylics, I just used foam spouncers to dab the paint on. This helps prevent paint from leaking underneath the stencil. My five-year-old helped me out with the first coat, then I dabbed on another layer to get even coverage.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Then just carefully peel the stencil pack and reveal the nice, clean, lovely edges.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Then let dry, and that’s it! (The revised instructions suggest applying a clear acrylic sealer, which is a good idea that I definitely did not do.)

How to make a decorative car stencil.

For my maker stencils, I did a “make” logo, the hammer and wrench, and a drill icon. I actually like that the slightly rough finish goes with the maker theme.

How to make a decorative car stencil.

Painting is intense work!

How to make a decorative car stencil.

And our crafty pickup truck looks awesome!

How to make painted truck stencils.

Check out the vintage inspiration for this project here: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylics, The Beetle Project (1974)

Rainbow-Painted VW Beetle

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

This is a hand-painted rainbow Volkswagen beetle. Why? Well, I’ll let the project author answer that question.

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

You will meet a lot of nice people, culled from the extensive grouping of those who stop to talk with someone driving a Volkswagen painted red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Those who aren’t already color-blind are sure to experience gentle wonder and bemusement. Short of a lasso, this is the best way to rope in a whole new set of friends.

Actually the entire intro is definitely worth a read—click to embiggen!

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

So obviously with that entirely charming intro, added to the fact that the author is also the editor of The Family Creative Workshop, plus the fact that he seems to have borrowed my father’s beard, I could not love this guy more.

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

So you can imagine my shock when I compared my edition of the book with my friend’s edition, and discovered that this entire project had been re-edited, and my buddy Allen Bragdon lost his designer credit!

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

All of the loopiness was excised from the intro and the bios, and I am absolutely dying to know what kind of editorial discussion lead to this decision. Did they feel that the seriousness of the rainbow beetle project was undercut by the silly philosophizing? Or did they (correctly) decide that there was almost no actual instruction in that project and they needed to make room to supply some more details on what kind of paint to use?

I hope it’s the second more than the first, since the Allen Bragdon version of the project really is seriously lacking in instructional value. For example, he gives no info on how to prepare the car for painting, nor does he suggest using any particular kind of acrylic paint. Perhaps this lead to people just slapping plain old craft acrylics onto their cars, which lead to them writing in to complain how the paint was peeling and bubbling, which presumably lead to the edit to clarify that you really should be using exterior acrylic enamels.

However, I suspect that being self-serious and pedantic is a necessary character trait to produce a comprehensive craft encyclopedia. As a self-serious pedant, I can relate. But we can take a moment to let Allen Bragdon have the last word on his motivations.

But seriously, why would anyone want to paint a Volkswagen red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet? Seriously, there is no good reason—but, for the peripheral reasons noted above, it can be lots of fun. If you happen to be a parent with an old car and are searching for a project that you and your teen-ager can work on together, this is a good one. You may find new rapport and new closeness via a VW painted red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

For our version of this project, we decided to keep the maker spirit alive but go slightly smaller scale. Check out our DIY maker car stencils here.

How to paint a rainbow VW bug, 70s style.

source: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Poured Acrylics (1974)

Moderately Competent Resin Casting Party

How to make poured resin decorations

In dividing up the projects for this site, we made it a rule that the person least expert in any craft got dibs on trying it out. Not only is this true to the spirit of learning new skills we declared in our manifesto, it also increases the chances of really entertaining craft fails. Since all of us except Leigh had never tried resin casting before, we decided that this was the perfect opportunity for a craft party!

How to make poured resin decorations

Resin Casting, based on The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Poured Acrylics

Since the failure case for messing up the resin mixture is pretty bad, we decided in this case it was better to take inspiration from the Workshop instructions and just follow the directions on the plastic resin we actually used. We’re lucky to live near Tap Plastics in Mountain View, which is one of those rare stores where the employees actually know things, and are happy to help you! This is how we learned that this process is no longer called “poured acrylics”, and that what we were actually looking for was “poured resin” or “resin casting”. Here’s the set-up they recommended for us.

How to make poured resin decorations

For the plastic

Yes, it’s really called Stoner Rocket Release. No, we’re not too old to make inappropriate jokes about that. The Clear-Lite is the plastic, and there are a couple of types available but they said this one was good to start with. The dyes aren’t needed if you’re making a clear piece, but why wouldn’t you want to add some color? There are both transparent and opaque dyes available, so just make sure you’re getting the kind you want. And for mixing, the cups need to be plastic—coated paper cups will react with the resin.

How to make poured resin decorations

Plus this awesome stuff

  • Glitter
  • Small toys and embellishments, and anything else fun you want to trap in plastic
  • Metal, wood, plastic, or silicone molds (that you don’t plan to eat out of later)

And then there’s the fun stuff! Everything is better with glitter, of course, although we did learn that very fine glitter is a better choice here. The larger glass glitter looks amazing, but the flakes are so heavy they tend to sink to the bottom of the layer. (If you do have giant glitter you’re excited about using, I think it would work ok if you pour a base layer without glitter, then pour a layer on top with the glitter.)

Our favorite molds were some old tin baking cups and cute silicone molds. We found ours at Daiso. We also had some hard plastic jewelry molds to make pendant and earring shapes.

How to make poured resin decorations

The best advice I can give on getting the mixture right is to follow the instructions on the brand of resin you’re using, and be prepared to mess up a few times. The easiest place to start is a single layer of resin with nothing embedded in it. The basic steps are:

  1. Coat the mold well with Rocket Release.
  2. Pour the resin into a cup.
  3. Add the drops of catalyst needed for size of the piece and mix.
  4. Add the color and/or glitter and mix.
  5. Pour the resin mixture into the mold.
  6. If needed, poke any air bubbles with a toothpick.
  7. When completely set, then pop out of the mold.

How to make poured resin decorations

Of course, this is easier said than done. We did a LOT of pieces, and I’d say around 80% were successful. There were a couple of cases where we clearly didn’t add enough catalyst because the piece just never set completely. The more common failure, however, was the release. We obviously didn’t spray nearly enough release on the jewelry molds in particular, because some of those pieces are now permanently stuck to the mold. Doing this again, I’d be a lot more careful making sure the release got into every little corner of the mold.

How to make poured resin decorations

The process for embedding a decoration in the plastic is to pour a base layer and let that partially set. Then you place the decoration and pour another layer on top of it. Again, make sure to read the instructions on your resin—ours recommended a different amount of catalyst for embedding. You can use a toothpick to pop any air bubbles and to reposition the embedded decoration.

We found that the decorations made of metal or plastic worked better than the wood pieces. This gear is a wooden scrapbook embellishment, and it’s so light it kept floating out of position.

How to make poured resin decorations

In placing your decorations, keep in mind that you’re pouring the piece upside down. For this cute little Halloween scene, the layers are:

  1. Amber resin
  2. Devil and cat, face down
  3. Amber resin to cover the figures
  4. Sprinkle of glitter onto the resin (while still wet)

Putting the glitter behind the figures ensures that you can see the figures clearly. The same effect could have been achieved by doing a third layer of resin with glitter mixed in.

How to make poured resin decorations

Here’s what happens if you try to embed a figure in resin with too much glitter. This one is particularly bad since the glitter pieces are so big, but we had similar problems even with fine glitter when we added too much. So the lesson for mixing glitter with figures is either be very sparing with the glitter, or make sure the glitter is behind the figure.

How to make poured resin decorations

Or you could just make the entire piece about the glitter! These happy little glitter ghosts were made in silicone bento molds. The silicone is lovely to work with, since it’s really easy to pop the pieces out.

How to make poured resin decorations

My favorite pieces were these lovely glittery flowers. These were created in old tin baking molds we picked up at a thrift sale (similar to these). Of course I haven’t used them for anything yet, but I feel they’re crying out to be turned into ridiculous statement necklaces or hairclips.

How to make poured resin decorations

The only problem with learning this craft is that now I have an excuse to collect every goofy little figurine or embellishment I encounter!

Check out the vintage inspiration for this project here: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Poured Acrylics (1974)

Pop-Art Poured Resin Hand

The second craft in the collection is poured acrylics, taking us straight into the intimidating world of resin casting. The first thing we had to learn is that at some point between 1974 and now the process described stopped being called “poured acrylics,” and is now called poured resin or polyester resin casting. The first color photo in this section is this enormous ocean-themed resin coffee table. There’s nothing provided for scale, but judging by the depth of the embellishments, this thing must be at least 6 inches thick.

Poured acrylic coffee table from The Family Creative Workshop, 1974

I’m picturing this piece in a Miami condo. I’m also imagining what happens when a guest knocks over a glass of red wine all over it, or sets down a mug of hot tea without a coaster. It can’t be the most practical surface for a table. (That said, if I came across this thing at an estate sale, I would be reeeealy tempted to buy it.)

Anyway, this starts us out with a bang since poured acrylics is one of the more terrifying crafts in the 24 volumes collection. At least with obscure needlework techniques there’s no danger of inhaling toxic fumes. Our guide for this adventure is Gary Zeller, one of the few crafters in The Family Creative Workshop who has selected a smiling headshot. He looks so cheerful and easy-going, I feel that we’re in good hands here. (Click for readable bio – he’s a connoisseur of ice cream!)

Instructions on poured acrylics from The Family Creative Workshop, 1974

Gary is a good instructor and wrote several pages of instructions, most of which we ignored since we figured it was better to follow the directions that came with our resin rather than instructions written for who-know-what kind of plastic. However, he does present this delightful “pop-art” project.

To make the eerie hand shown here, suspend a rubber glove by the cuff, and fill with layers of plastic and marbles. Such oddball projects make their own rules, and you have to play them by ear.

Poured acrylics glove art piece from The Family Creative Workshop, 1974

For impact, it’s hard to beat the shock value of this pop-art project. Simple to make, the unusual item would be a find gift for a member of the teen-age set.

I have to wonder which teenager he gave this piece to, and what the reaction was.

For our version of this craft, we decided to avoid creepy see-through plastic hands, stick with goofy plastic toys and game pieces, and host a Resin Casting Party!

source: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Poured Acrylics (1974)

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary

So, my vision for this project was kind of a Martha Stewart, super-clean modern take on a porch luminary. It would have clean lines and would be reminiscent of mod 60s style, and everyone would ask me what etsy store I bought it from.

It, um, didn’t exactly work out that way.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary, based on The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylic Room Divider

It doesn’t entirely qualify as a Craft Fail, I suppose, but it’s definitely not a success.

This is perhaps an predictable and even an overall positive outcome for our very first project—that we might stumble out of the gate, but then with greater experience develop the skills and wisdom to avoid crafting pitfalls. However, I’d be more convinced that this is the first step on a journey of crafting enlightenment if my missteps hadn’t been quite so dumb and easily avoidable. Perhaps it’s time for me to come to grips with the fact that no matter how many years I spend crafting, a stupid mistake is always an option.

First, I don’t know why I used regular acrylic paint instead of spray paint. Huge mistake, because it’s impossible not to have it end up all streaky. I think I just really liked the colors of the metallic and glitter paint, but I definitely should have tried to find something similar in a spray paint.

Second, I originally had this idea that the twinkle lights were going to poke out through the holes in the acrylic, so the acrylic tree would have real lights hanging on it. I still think this is a good idea, but once I started drilling the holes, I discovered that it was basically impossible (at least with my drill) to make the holes big enough for the lights to fit through without the acrylic cracking. This was the point at which a smarter person would have just given up on the holes entirely. Instead, I decided to keep the holes and just make them smaller, I think on the theory that they would still look like kind of like twinkle lights. Spoiler: they did not.

That said, the acrylic wasn’t nearly as difficult to deal with as I’d imagined—so I’d love to try it again with more a more competent design at some point. Onward to the instructions!

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Materials

  • 3 acrylic sheets
  • Acrylic paint and paintbrush (or spray paint)
  • Clear plastic tape – I used Scotch Colored Plastic Tape in Clear, 3/4 inch width
  • X-Acto knife
  • Ruler
  • Sharpie

I picked up the acrylic for $1 per sheet—they’re the leftover bits from other cuts, and a great way to get acrylic on the cheap. As previously mentioned, the paintbrushes and paint were a big mistake. If you’re attempting an acrylic project, definitely go with spray paint.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

I picked 3 sheets the same size for a triangular luminary. The acrylic comes covered with a plastic coating to protect it from scratches. This is also the perfect surface to sketch out whatever design you want. I traced a simple tree shape onto each of the sheets.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Next up, drilling the holes, which I would definitely skip if I did this project again. However, I was pretty pleased to learn the hole-drilling technique. Just place the acrylic onto a sheet of plywood and run the drill very slowly.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

After all the holes were drilled, I used an X-Acto to trim away the coating around the Christmas tree. Hold onto the plastic pieces you remove—they’ll be used as a tree stencil later.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Then paint the background color onto each sheet. I was really unhappy with the texture of my paint, but the edge looked great! So I think this technique of using the plastic coating as a stencil would really work great with spray paint.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

I painted the tree interior by hand, which is the point at which I realized this was going to looks awful but it was too late to fix it. To do this with spray paint, I would use the peeled-off bits of the plastic coating as a stencil and spray the inside of the tree.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

After all the fails with the painting, the tape hinges worked great. Just line up the sheet so that the tape is the point that folds together, and very carefully lay down a strip of tape along the entire seam. Press to remove any bubbles.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

I taped up two sides and left the third open so the lantern could store flat.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

To set it up, just fold the panels to make a triangle and drop in some lights.

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

It’s not the worst Christmas decoration, right? Right?

Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary | 24 Volumes

Ah well, at least there was eggnog involved. Merry Christmas!

Check out the vintage inspiration for this project here: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylic Room Divider (1974)

Totally 70s Acrylic Room Divider

Volume 1: Acrylics: Room Divider

For our very first project, we have this totally swingin’ acrylic room divider. The utter absurdity of this thing can’t be overstated. What we have here is a set of four 7-foot-tall acrylic panels, attached to nothing, ready to fall over in a good breeze and crack your minimalist Scandinavian furniture.

Volume 1: Acrylics: Room Divider

The instructions for the acrylic room divider are authored by Eddie Grinsberg, a professional architect who was no doubt very annoying at parties.

Volume 1: Acrylics: Room Divider

And I cannot possibly improve on the Family Creative Workshop introduction to this material, so I’ll just quote it here:

Acrylics certainly fit the now generation. Hard as rock music, brilliant as a poster, and with no ties to the past, this laboratory miracle really does its own thing. Chemically speaking, acrylic materials are a sort of one-man band – they show up in so many forms. Spawned in the chemical lab, acrylic is a mixture of a liquid monomer with a powdered polymer. When these are combined into a loose muck, or slurry, and subjected to heat, one final result can be hard, flat, crystal-clear sheets like the ones used for the room divider project shown here.

Volume 1: Acrylics - Room Divider

The instructions for the project also start out with an admonition to “handle acrylic plastic like the art object it is”, and a claim that the acrylic room divider becomes a “sculptural form” when closed.

But sadly, I am not an artist who plays jazz piano and lives in an airy NYC loft worthy of a giant spray-painted acrylic box. So how to translate this acrylic craftsmanship into something relevant and desirable?

When we started this site, we decided that while we had to complete every skill presented in The Family Creative Workshop, it was both impractical and no fun to replicate every project exactly. We’d put our own spin on each project, so we’d still learn the technique, but end up with something desirable… if all goes well.

In this case, a room divider that would immediately fall on or be knocked over by my kids was right out. So I decided to create a small-scale Christmas decoration instead, keeping the acrylic panels but adding Christmas lights to create a lantern for my porch.

The result… the Acrylic Christmas Tree Luminary!

source: The Family Creative Workshop, Volume 1: Acrylic Room Divider (1974)