White Letters on White Canvas – D.I.Y. Artwork Tutorial

Floating around on Pinterest are some pretty cool canvases with white wood lettering by the U.K. design team Gorgeous Graffiti. The only hitch is that they’re selling for $300 – $500.  Egads!  Right?

Actually, the same effect can be achieved quite inexpensively as some other bloggers verified like this one and this one, so that gave me the courage to create my own with the title phrase from one of my favorite hymns, “It is Well with My Soul.”  I also added my own twist on the project and incorporated an image on my canvas.  The result?

White words on white canvas - finished product.  Inexpensive DIY artwork.


And all for only $25.  Seems more reasonable, doesn’t it?  Now, onto the tutorial, so you can make your own.


  • Canvas: size 14″ x 18″ sells for $8.99 at Hobby Lobby
  • Chipboard letters: one set of letters A-Z sell for $2.99 at Hobby Lobby – – my project required three sets
  • Sheet of white foam: size 12″ x 18″ x 2 mm. sells for $.89 at Hobby Lobby
  • White acrylic paint: already had a small bottle – – can pick up for a few bones at any craft supply store
  • White spray paint: Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Semi-Gloss White Spray Paint sells for $5.99 at Hobby Lobby
  • X-acto knife: already had; they run about $3 – $7 at any craft supply store
  • Adhesive: spray-adhesive, craft glue, or super-glue – – already had
  • Other tools: yardstick, scissors, tape, pencil, foam brush, small bristle brush

1.  Lay out your letters and (optional) image on your canvas for sizing and spacing.  I just did a google image search for “bird on branch silhouette” and found a plethora of options from which to choose.  I enlarged the image in Microsoft Word before printing.

Layout of chipboard letters and bird printout.

2.  Cut out your image to create a stencil.

3.  Trace the shape of your image onto your sheet of white foam using a pencil.  I recommend securing the printout to the white foam on one tiny spot (i.e. on the bird legs), so your image doesn’t wander too far while you’re tracing.

Preparing to trace bird on branch from cutout stencil onto foam

4.  Remove your stencil, place your white foam on an old magazine, and use an x-acto knife to cut out your image.  Make sure your blade is sharp; it should cut through the foam with ease.  Try to keep as fluid a motion as possible to avoid snags and rough edges.

Using an x-acto knife to cut out bird on branch image on foam

Measuring out lines for text using a yardstick

5.  Prepare your canvas for the letters.  This step is the most meticulous of the entire project, but if you’re not picky about straight lines or your design doesn’t include them, but all means, skip it.  However, if your goal is for straight-as-an-arrow text, dust off that yardstick, grab a pencil, and set up shop in a brightly lit area.  Here was my approach.  Looking at my layout, I figured out a standard distance between the bottom of the letters on one line to the next.  It turned out to be about 2.25 “.  Then, I figured out how much space I wanted to leave on the bottom margin and decided on 3/4”.  I drew very faint lines with my pencil where the bottom of my letters should hit, so the first line was 3/4″ up from the bottom, and then after that, I spaced out my lines 2.25″ apart.  I only drew lines on the right-hand side where the letters would be at an approximate length to fit the words.  In terms of how far to go on the right-hand margin, 1″ seemed right, so I left my yardstick on the right-margin of the canvas as a guide.  Phew.  That was wordy.  If you’re still trackin’ with me, congrats!

Used super-glue to adhere the words to the canvas6.  Glue your letters to the canvas.  I used super-glue to adhere my text to the canvas, which gave me just enough time to get each letter in place and press it down before the glue dried.  Rather than glue top to bottom like a normal person would, I jumped around, which enabled me to lay a glass bowl on the top line of text (to provide a little pressure in the drying process) while working on the third line, and so on.  Also, because I decided to orient my text “right-justified,” I glued the text down last letter first.  So, for the word, “soul,” I first glued the letter, “l,” orienting the right-side of it on the yardstick that lay on my canvas.  Then, I moved on to “u,” “o,” and “s.”  (You have no idea how many times I went over the spelling in my head to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake!)  In terms of my letter spacing, I threw caution to the wind and just eyed that part, aiming for consistency.

7.  Glue your image to the canvas.  I traced little lines on the left side of the canvas where the branch should lie, then I super-glued the foam to the canvas in sections.  First, I did the main branch – – held it down until it dried.  Then, the tiny off-shoot, followed by the bird.  This enabled me to secure a strong bond between the foam and the canvas, and since the foam is bendable, it’s very easy to glue in parts.  Something seemed missing with all of that blank space on the left-side of the canvas, so I decided to cut out some foam falling leaves.  I felt it really completed the picture and brought even more depth to the piece as a whole.  Through all seasons of life, I can say, “It is well with my soul.”

In process - image and text glued onto canvas, pre-paint

However, I did start to wonder if my falling leaves look like bird droppings….  Oh well!  No turning back now.

8. Apply a base coat of white acrylic paint to your letters and image.  I learned the hard way that no matter how many coats of white spray paint you apply, you won’t fully be able to cover the pencil marks or get a bright white on the letters without a thick base coat.  I used a foam brush and tiny bristle brush to get into the nooks and crannies of each letter and had it dry overnight.

White acrylic paint base coat on canvas

9.  Apply several coats of white spray paint to the entire canvas.  In a well-ventilated area (i.e. the great outdoors), give the canvas several sprays.  Let it dry 24 hours…or as long as you can wait.

Spray painted canvas.  Dry time.

10.  Display and enjoy your inexpensive and beautiful D.I.Y. artwork.  Our guest bathroom has a mint, white, and blue color scheme going on, and there was a blank spot on the wall where our new piece of art has found a happy home.

White Words on White Canvas - Inexpensive DIY Artwork

Ain’t she purdy?

There’s something calming to me about the white on white on white.  Mark pointed out, “There’s not a lot of color clamoring for attention.”

To close, it only seems fitting to include the inspiration behind my piece, the hymn itself.  Feast your ears on “It is Well with My Soul,” as performed by the talented Chris Rice.  Then, make a break for Hobby Lobby to start gathering your supplies….

I linked up at: Sew Many Ways, Home Stories A 2 Z, Tip Junkie’s Tip Me Tuesday, Adventures of a DIY Mom, Not Just a Housewife, Sugar Bee Crafts, Uncommon Designs Online, My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia, Sew Much Ado, Ginger Snap Crafts, Creations by Kara, Milk & Cuddles, Pincushion Creations, White Lights on Wednesdays, Home Decor & Organizing Link Party, Create with Joy, Crystal & Co, House of Hepworths, The Shabby Cottage, Somewhat SimpleShabby Nest, Simple Humble Home, Joyful Stamper, Twigg Studios, Ninth Street Notions.

Lovely comments so far...

  1. says

    Wow, that looks so classic and elegant. I actually thought it was embossed at first! I can’t wait to try this out, and I’m so glad I found you on Ginger Snap Crafts. Have a great week!

    • says

      I appreciate the kind words, Debbie! This was sort of my first big “link up” project…glad to join the party and encounter so many great bloggers like yourself. I read your post on finding time to read through audio books. I used to have a half hour commute to school and would use that time to soak up books as well as podcasts. And my new nook enticed me to take more time to read this summer (i.e. “The Hunger Games”). Hope you have a great week, as well!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Isn’t it the best? I did the same tonight! Must have clicked repeat on that song 7 times. #itiswellwithoursouls

  2. says

    I love this idea! Canvas art is something I have gotten into recently. I am definitely going to have to try this!
    Thanks for sharing 😀

    • thethinkingcloset says

      It’s addicting, isn’t it? I just keep “acquiring” canvases because I figure I’ll find a way to use them all eventually. Glad you enjoyed the tutorial! Have a great weekend, Keia.

  3. says

    Hi! Love your blog, and love this project! Also one of my favorite hymns, and I’m humming it now at my desk at work! :)

    PS. I’m from florida too! I always love seeing bloggers that are from my home state!

    • thethinkingcloset says

      Jamie, thanks for the all the love! Yes, that hymn is so hum-able…and such a good reminder whenever I go into that bathroom! And I’m delighted to connect with another Floridian. After a year here, Florida is starting to feel more and more like home. Great to “meet” you!


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