March 3, 2012

Herringbone Painting

I decided that I would do a tutorial for the painting that I blogged about here because I finally remembered to take step-by-step photos - something I have forgotten to do for at least 12 other projects. If you are wondering what kind of lens I used for these photos, it's called iPhone 4G. *wink*

Now, without further adieu, my maiden tutorial voyage:

We've been living in our house now for about 1 1/2 years, and the wall behind our dining table has been stark naked since the day we moved in. I'm not the kind of person that can go out and fill my house with generic decor items just to call it complete. It takes me a looooong time to find something that I love. So long, in fact, that I usually end up making whatever it is myself. Because once I get an idea of something I would like in my head, inevitably it does not exist in any store imaginable. This is probably a good thing because it forces me to think outside the box and come up with creative ways to make things my own without breaking the bank.

So anyway, I came across this print on Pinterest and I was sold.

Found at
But after looking at the price tag, $328.00 was not going to make the cut. It seemed simple enough to make, so I decided to give it a try. Here are the materials that you'll need.

- Canvas
I bought a 30" x 40" Gallery Wrapped canvas at Michael's. My biggest piece of advice when shopping at Michael's: don't be an idiot! Do not even think about paying full price for anything there. They have 40% and 50% coupons available all the time. I just Googled a coupon while I was standing in line at the check out and they gave me credit for showing them the image on my smart phone. My canvas was originally $60 and I paid $30. Woot!

- Paint
I'm a cheapskate, so I bought two small bottles of acrylic paint, and used whatever else I already had at home. Including latex paint leftover from painting the wood trim in my house, which I'm not even sure is allowed. But it's art, so I figured there aren't really rules, right?

- Paint brushes
I used a total of 6 brushes for this project: a few artist brushes in various sizes, and 3 larger paint brushes (1 1/2", 2", and 2 1/2") that I typically use to paint walls and furniture. Just make sure that if you use latex paint, clean your brushes really well immediately after you use them! Acrylic should rinse out easily.

- Painter's tape
The width of the tape will determine the look of the painting. I used 1" tape, but any size would work.

- Scissors
- Drop cloth
- Patience

Hokay, first cover your work space with a drop cloth. Duh.
Second, paint whatever crazy design you want until there is no more white showing on your canvas. Or leave white showing, it's up to you. No rules, remember? This part was a little nerve-racking for me because I had no idea what I was doing. I started out with a crazy starburst/tie dye theme, but ended up with this simple vertical pattern of brush strokes.

The great thing about paint is that you can always paint over something you don't like! I really did not like the starburst thing I had going originally, and after making all of the changes for the above picture, I woke up the next morning and felt like it was now too neon and bold. I ended up muting a lot of the bright greens/yellows with softer blues and neutral tans, and ended up with this slightly varied version of the above photo.

Don't be afraid to manipulate it several times until you end up with something you really love.

Next, after allowing the painting to dry FULLY, I started playing around with the pattern I wanted to create over the top of the painting. I really liked the herringbone design in the photo from Pinterest, so I went with that. I cut several lengths of tape and laid them out on my dining table in various arrangements. I ended up with this combination of strips:

Not really sure how that fork got in there...

I liked having the tiny space between each strip, but you can close the gap if you prefer. The biggest thing to remember is that for your first canvas-wide herringbone stripe, make sure that you measure your strips of tape. The longest section of tape that creates the "forward slash" should be the same length as the shorter "back slash" strip + the width of your tape + the width of your tape. For instance, because my tape was 1" wide, my long strips were cut to 5" because my shorter strips were 3". (3" + 1" + 1" = 5") It's going to vary slightly because of the gaps in between strips, but as long as the first stripe you put on the canvas is fairly straight and consistent, the rest of the stripes should follow suit. 

Now that you have the pattern down, start taping! I suggest placing your first stripe across the middle of the canvas. This will ensure that your pattern remains consistent above and below the most focal portion of the canvas. Here we are with three stripes down:

Yes, that is my dog's paw. She sat under the table the entire time.

After laying your first stripe of pre-measured tape, measuring will no longer be necessary if you follow along with the original layout of the tape. By placing the edge of the tape in the right starting location, you can unroll the tape and cut it at the necessary length like this:

Repeat the "forward slash" and back slash" pattern until you make it across the canvas. Then keep taping...

And taping...

This whole process took close to three hours. If that seems like too much time, keep in mind that my canvas was giant and it would take considerably less time for a smaller canvas. 

Once everything is all taped up, it's time to paint again! Make sure that all of your tape is stuck down and no corners are curling. The tape doesn't adhere super well to canvas, so you'll have to be gentle with the next step: painting the outline for the herringbone pattern. Keep in mind that anything not covered in tape will be covered with a solid color. The photo from Pinterest showed some larger gaps, as if parts of the herringbone were "missing." You could easily achieve this look by removing a few strips of tape in various locations. I decided to forgo this step. I also wanted more of my painting to show behind the herringbone stripes, so that is why I kept my strips of tape really close together. If you like a bolder pattern, then you might want to make more space between your strips.

For this step I used a can of paint that the previous owners of our home left in the basement. It's probably at least 10 years old, and I had no idea there was a brand called "Easy Living" but it was free! So I used it. I wanted a white pattern, but any color would work.

Using my largest paint brush, I started painting over my entire canvas. It was easiest for me to imitate the pattern of the tape with my brush strokes, making me less-likely to peel up an edge of the tape with my brush. Once your canvas looks like a hot mess, you're done! Don't worry if there is still tape showing through. The most important part is good coverage between the tape.

I let the white paint dry for several hours before I pulled the tape off, but that's probably not necessary. I thought the lines were pretty crisp, all things considered. You can also see that I didn't stress about getting all of my strips of tape exactly the same distance away from each other. I liked having a little bit of variance and a subtle "messy" look.

Thankfully it didn't take forever to remove the tape because I had several awesome girls from youth group sit and help me peel those suckers off. And the final result: love it!

I ended up spending a total of $41 on this project. A savings of $287 if you factor in the cost of the original inspiration print. Not too shabby!

 And as if this post isn't long enough, some more useless details!

Favorite art-inducing jam: Islands by The xx
Favorite creativity tool: paint
Favorite post-art snack: apples and peanut butter
Favorite place to paint: in whatever room is closest to the music

Now it's your turn! Give art a try!


  1. great lens selection, captured it all beautifully! :)

  2. I love this!!!! I'm actually gonna create the same effect on a cork board to hang in my kitchen with mint green and silver paint. Thanks for creating such a great tutorial!!! :)

  3. Thanks Kelsey! I would love to know how yours turned out!