Paint with Fonts for a Change of Pace

I have this obsession with little stools. I can’t resist buying them. Fortunately, I get them at garage sales, flea markets or thrift stores and I only have to pay a dollar or two for most of them, maybe $5 for one with a hinged storage compartment, like this one I updated last year.

A few months ago I acquired a very small oval-shaped wood stool with a neat little ruffled upholstered cushion on the top. The fabric was dark green with horses on it. Good quality, but dated and not my style. The wood had never been painted so I tore off the fabric to paint it before I recovered it with something more appropriate to this century.

I gave it a base coat of white, because it was handy, and then it just sat there. I had no inspiration complete the job. In all the piles and shelves and boxes of fabric I have in my house I couldn’t find a single small swatch that needed to be on the top. The fabric voices—which are always jabbering in my head—were silent.

One night while I was sleeping, the inspiration from this French Postcard Table, by Red Hen Home, and this bead board sign on Elizabeth & Co came together to create another voice. And that voice was painted embellishment!

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by JanMadeIt

As in type embellishments. As in a fleur-de-lis.

While I can free hand some patterns, like this zebra print student chair, I knew I couldn’t free hand a specific symbol like a fleur-de-lis. But I knew where I could find one. So I went to the font file on my computer. I love fonts, and have a couple hundred at my fingertips, even one named appropriately Fleur de Lis. It’s a small selection, with a dozen or less different versions, but I picked a simple design for this first project.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

I started by enlarging the symbol to fill the page. I reduced the side margins to 1/2″ to get all of this 600 point symbol on the page. When I printed, to save toner, I printed it at low resolution, but after I printed it I realize I could have changed the font style to outline which would have saved even more toner.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

I measured the stool both directions to find the approximate center and tore off the excess so I could tape the design in position. Actually I started tearing, and then realized I might rip my pattern so I found the paper scissors to trim it. I had a heavy marking art pencil, a stylus, and a small (not sharp) pocket knife I would use to trace the edges of the design.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It
I started by outlining it with the heavy pencil to get the feel of the design, then traced it with the stylus which put a little groove in the wood. Note that if you want to transfer a busier pattern or a lot of text the technique shown on the bead board sign might work better for some projects.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

Then I filled in the groove with a light pencil line.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

And I decided to burn the edges of the design into the wood with this wood burning pen I got from a flea market. It worked great, but I found the perfect place to hold it, that white ceramic section, is very hot and the original cork insulator is missing. It was a little harder to handle further up the barrel but I made it work.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

Next I filled it in with paint. A friend passed along the leftovers of a sample size of Olympia’s Wet Concrete and that’s what I used for this project.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

If you’re not familiar with this kind of painting, you probably wouldn’t pick a straight edge brush for this project, but I’m here to tell you it’s the one to use. When you’re filling in and making a straight edge it’s much easier to control and you can keep a straight line straighter than you can with more flexible bristles.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

Then because the edges weren’t sharp enough to leave alone, I filled in the crease made by the wood pen with a fine line of gold paint. There were some goofs, but I kept going knowing it could paint it over and start at the beginning if I really messed it up. But before I gave I up, I sanded away at the mistakes.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by Jan Made It

I added the bottom of the design to the legs of the stool, mostly to get more practice, and then I added a little free hand doo dad to the edge of the stool. That didn’t turn out so well, so it got sanded a lot. I also added a little gold line to the top edge.

Fleur de Lis Painted Stool by JanMadeIt

Because I used gold trim on the design, and the base wood is light, I finished it all off with a neutral glaze and a little dab of raw umber craft paint.

I used the same technique, without the wood burning, on this little footstool.

Heart Footstool by Jan Made It Before

I painted and stenciled this to go in the nursery when my son was born. I propped my feet on it when I rocked him in the bentwood rocker.

Heart Footstool by Jan Made It Before

Here is how it looks now.

I covered the red with a couple of layers of pink and used this lily-looking ornament. It came from the Bodoni Ornament font file. The center section looked like a pulled tooth with a very long root when it was enlarged to 500 points, so I covered it up with a sprig of leaves. I used a darker shade of green along the edge of the leaves, and I used the light pink of the flower to add a border around the groove at the edge.

You could use this same technique with any letter or symbol you can find on the computer. You could add a little flourish in the middle of a drawer, on a drawer pull, on a bench or anything else that needs a little something extra.

If you’re just using the fonts that came with your computer and have no idea what I’m talking about, there are several websites that offer free fonts, and they’re very easy to download and use. Search for “Free Fonts” and you’ll get a bunch of them to check out. When you get to a font website look for dingbats, ornaments or embellishments and see what you like. I’ve used Fontspace, and 1001 Free Fonts. Most of the fonts are free for personal use, but if you’re going to use a font with a licensed character on an item you plan to sell, it’s probably not OK.

I just saw a really cute font called Mario and Luigi. Personal use would be to put it on your kids chest or headboard, or use it as a pattern for a their birthday cake. But if you’re going to paint a bedroom set to sell, or you’re selling decorated cakes and you use it, that’s a violation of copyright unless you buy the font and pay for commercial use of it.

What do you think? Any particular design, or use of this technique you can’t wait to try? Or is there an easier way to transfer the design to your project? I’d love to see some of the things you’ve worked on.

Jan

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dj
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 20:15:55

    Super!!! Your description on how you did it was very good and easy to follow. DJ

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    • Jan
      Sep 28, 2012 @ 22:01:33

      I’m glad you could follow it. I’ve had a few people pin it! So exciting!
      I need to do more tutorials like this.
      Jan

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  2. Korrie@RedHenHome
    Sep 29, 2012 @ 08:48:10

    I love how you used the wood-burning tool to highlight your designs–it just gives them extra depth. Thanks so much for linking back to me!

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    • Jan
      Sep 29, 2012 @ 09:17:32

      Thanks Korrie! As soon as I get that ceramic heating unit insulated it will be easier to control and I’ll use it again.
      Jan

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  3. Amy Marshall
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 23:01:27

    Hi Jan,

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Home Sweet Thrifty Home, the other day. I’m so glad you liked the red dresser turner media stand…it was my first big project. By the way, I love this fleur de lis pattern! I’m a sucker for anything fleur de lis since living in Louisiana for 4 years. My son still lives there and goes to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana…so anything that reminds me of our time in the south and my boy (almost 20…ughh…where did the time go?) is close to my heart. 🙂 Have a great week!

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    • Jan
      Oct 01, 2012 @ 10:32:45

      Amy ~ I know… my son just turned 23 and I have no idea how that happened! I just recently became fascinated with the fleur de lis, and I’m seeing all sorts of places I could put one. Thanks for checking me out!
      Jan

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  4. craftingbydominique
    Oct 30, 2012 @ 15:43:42

    The stools are to die for… and the nursery ones have some much of positive vibe in them :).. And the burnishing tool… I need one, too! 🙂 Great job and great tutorial.

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    • Jan
      Oct 31, 2012 @ 11:18:20

      Dominique, thanks so much for taking a look. I have another one I need to share. Small stools are so easy to experiment with, it’s not a lot of trouble to repaint and start over if it doesn’t work out. I’m glad this technique worked out!
      Jan

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  5. craftingbydominique
    Oct 31, 2012 @ 11:27:24

    And they are useful especially when you’ve got a 17 mths old on your hand… why on earth my little one does not have his own stool yet???!! 🙂 You inspired me to get one and decorate it with… animals..? bugs? hm…

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  6. Jan
    Oct 31, 2012 @ 11:51:15

    Yes! He needs a stool! If you were close by, I’d give you one of mine to rework. You could cut out letters and put his name on it… ABCs, numbers, … all sorts of stuff. There are fonts that are animals, bugs, butterflies, fantasy characters, airplanes, cars, trucks, space ships, PacMan, Mario, Pokemon… whatever he’s into.
    And if it’s actually “his” stool, he’ll carry it around so he can use it around the house. It’s so cute when they bring it to the kitchen to “help” with stuff. Be sure to get one with the base wide enough so it’s not “tippy” when he steps on it. Most of the ones I’ve come across are homemade.
    I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
    Jan

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  7. craftingbydominique
    Oct 31, 2012 @ 18:06:38

    Exactly! We need letters and numbers, and animals… now I need to start hunting for a second hand one and with a wide base. Will def. post when it’s done.

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