Monday, March 3, 2014

DIY Picture Puzzle

Several weeks ago, one of my friends from Centrikid that lives forever away in North Carolina sent me a package in the mail. It was a few silly little items that most people wouldn't mean much. But they completely made my day because of the thought she put into the package, which was to remind me of all the fun times we had a camp. Water balloons, flarp, and a rainbow colored bandana, along with a wonderfully encouraging card.

I had been wanting to send some people from camp some letters anyway, so this was perfect motivation for me to finally get around to it. I knew if anyone loves getting things in the mail even half as much as I do, then hopefully they would appreciate some snail mail.

I needed something new, exciting, unusual, and fun! So this is what I came up with. A picture of me and my friend in the form of a puzzle, and I made it all on my own! Keep reading for instructions.

Step 1: Go to the dollar store and pick out a 24 piece puzzle. You could get a 32 or more piece, but it's easiest to work with bigger pieces. I used this cute little Precious Moments Puzzle. (WARNING: The cuter the puzzle, the harder it is to cover it up in step 2!)

Step 2: Paint the puzzle white! What I did was put the puzzle together and then I tried to paint over it like it was a canvas with white acrylic paint. Let me tell you why this is not a good idea.

  1. Once acrylic paint starts to dry, it dries like a solid sheet, which means all your pieces stick together and if you try to pull them apart, it's very easy to peel the paint off one or both pieces. If you've ever gotten acrylic paint on your hands and peeled it off, you know what I'm talking about when I say it dried as one big layer.
  2. It takes a lot of paint because it's basically guaranteed you'll have to give it a second coat, which I went back and did on each individual piece rather than do the whole thing again. (I was catching on :))
  3. Because of steps 1 and 2, this takes a lot of time. Paint one coat, let it dry. Pull your pieces apart. Paint each individual piece with a 2nd coat. Let it dry. Possible have to touch a few pieces with a 3rd coat. Let it dry.
So what do I suggest? Spray paint. White spray paint. It will get a good, even, thick covering, and will dry relatively fast. And even if you do have to add a second coat, all it takes is a minute to do. I would lay all my pieces out on newspaper, NOT CONNECTED, -but make sure they are oriented correctly so you know what piece goes where, other wise you're trying to work a solid white puzzle before you can move on!!! - and spray paint them.

Once the puzzle pieces are dry, put it together.

Step 3: Find the picture you want to use. This is the one I used.

Then use a photo editing program, I used Picasa, to get a pencil sketch and crop it down. Make sure it has plenty of lines for detail.

Step 4: Print out your sketch picture in the correct size for your puzzle. Obtain some graphite/carbon transfer paper. Place the transfer paper under your picture, be sure the waxy side is face down on your puzzle, and trace all the important lines, which is anything defining in the face, hair, and clothing, and all the outline lines, of course. I'm sure you can tell that I ignored the background, I only traced the 2 people.

Step 5: Once your people are traced onto to the puzzle, it's time to color it. I used a makeup wedge sponge and some stamping ink. I chose the sponge and ink technique (hey, that rhymed :) ) because I wanted the look of the softer edges. And because I knew the ink would still allow my carbon transfer lines to show through, especially in the lighter colors, a little less so in the darker colors.
However, if the ink did look a little too think over the carbon lines, it fixed very easily with a black colored pencil.

One thing I did not like about using the stamping ink was that it took forever to dry because the acrylic paint is not porous like paper, and so it couldn't soak it up. In fact, there were a few places there I had too much ink that it never dried. I fixed this problem in step 6, but if you are unable to do step 6, I suggest finding a different medium to color with, maybe paint or even markers. Not sure how markers work on spray paint though, never tried it.

Step 6: This step is not 100% necessary, unless your ink isn't drying. But even if your ink is drying, this step is a good finishing step to make your puzzle look better and last longer. And that would be, coat it with Clear Acrylic Sealer, (if your ink is not dry, only use the spray can kind or obviously your ink will smear.)

When I sprayed my pieces, I had taken them apart because I wasn't sure if the sealer would act the same as the acrylic paint when it dried, making them stick together. So just as a precaution, I suggest taking apart your puzzle before spraying it.
Be sure to follow the instructions on the can, and make sure you do this step out side.

When you're done and the pieces are dry, you'll have a nice, smooth, glossy coated puzzle. Another plus is that this weighs less than 13 ounces, which means you can mail it straight from your mail box. I just put all the pieces in a ziplock baggie, put it in a padded mailing envelope, used Paypal to pay for postage and print out a label, and it was good to go. It only cost me $1.92 to mail it. So add 1 dollar for the puzzle, and I already had everything else, and this was a $3 project. :)

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