DIY Custom Buttons with Mod Podge
You got de' power to make y'all own BUTTOONS!
This is a guide to pin-back button-making for all you button enthusiasts who haven't invested in a button press yet...and for those of us who never will. Mwah hah.
So, that being said, these buttons will be imperfect, each will have its own personality and texture, and the process takes time and patience. But the end products are rudimentarily beautiful; and you may find yourself surprised at how much pride and love you feel for your little button babies.
I thoroughly enjoy this way of making buttons, also, because you can reuse buttons that have sat in drawers, forgotten for too long. You can make an adventure of it, journeying to antique and thrift stores to find the stashes of old campaign buttons or wedding favor buttons or prom buttons that you can breathe vitality into again. Believe me, it's exciting to find these buttons, because they're often hidden away in obscure parts of the store.
These buttons will be more unique than anything you could produce from homogenous brand new materials. Each one will have different coloration, shape, they will pin differently. You will begin to understand and appreciate what buttons from different historical eras look like, what they feel like when you turn them over in your hands.
You will become a button aficionado.
Now. Let's begin.
1) Gather Materials
What you'll need
- Mod Podge
- blank paper
- pen and pencil, other such drawing instruments
- paintbrush & water glass to keep it in
- an idea!
2) Trace Your Button Shapes
Trace the perimeter of the button(s) with your pencil. You will draw your design within these boundaries, and eventually cut it out along these lines. Pencil is best, so you can erase the lines later. Obviously.
3) Begin To Draw
What designs will you choose?
Be imaginative as you begin to design your buttons. I chose instructional shadow puppet designs for mine: interactive, whimsical, nostalgic. All the best things in a button.
When designing, think about what sort of image will compliment the size and shape of your button. If it's round, maybe you're thinking about what round everyday objects would be clever when pinned upon your lapel. In round compositions in the past, I have made clock buttons, camera lens cap buttons, fancy picture frame buttons, stop sign buttons. How can you best utilize the space?
Also think about what sort of message you're trying to convey. Is it a political statement? Some part of your identity your proud of, like being a highly-educated elitist vegan or a dog-lover? Or will it be off-beat and hilarious? Disgusting?
Once you've answered these preliminary questions and completed the strategic planning/design phase of button-making (a very serious phase), draw it in pencil, tweak, perfect, and finalize it. Then go over it in pen.
Well, I use pen. If you prefer color, you can use paint or colored pencil or collage or whatever. Whatever you want. It really doesn't matter. It's gonna get covered in mod podge anyway.
4) Cut Out Drawings
Cut it out!
Hey, I said stop it!
No, but seriously, cut out your shapes.
5) Mod Podge Button's Surface
Use your paintbrush to spread a layer of mod podge onto the surface of the button. You don't need to use a ton, just a thin layer to get the paper to stick.
6) Stick On Drawing and Mod Podge Again
Now, put your paper design on the sticky mod podgey surface of your button. Use your finger to smooth out the paper till it's snug to the button. Get rid of any bubbles and wrinkles, because this stuff dries fast.
You may find that the edges of your paper do not stay stuck to the curved edge of the button's plastic. This has been the most frustrating part for me, and I have come up with two solutions: 1) trim the paper so it doesn't have to curve around the edge, meaning the original color of the button will be showing around the perimeter; 2) be persistent. Mold the paper around the curve, and keep applying mod podge till it sticks.
I use both methods, depending on what aesthetic I'm going for. If the button's original color is bold or distracting, I take that extra time to cover it.
When the paper with your design has been stuck on, cover that with a layer of mod podge.
7) Smooth Surface, Wait To Dry, and Mod Podge Again
This top layer of mod podge will make the now-wet paper want to wrinkle up, so keep smoothing it. When the smoothness is satisfactory, set it to dry. If you don't mind the extra texture wrinkles bring, don't worry about all this smoothing. I find that wrinkles can be a cool effect on the right button, especially if you're going for some sort of vintage look.
It should take no more than five minutes for the mod podge to dry completely, and it will probably take even less than that. Add another layer of mod podge for a solid finish, making sure that you are covering the edges of the paper so they can't accidentally get peeled up.
Set to dry again. If you want, apply more layers of mod podge. I do from three to five, usually. More than that, and the button gets too heavy.
I hope your buttons have turned out well by this time. I've found that people really enjoy getting personalized buttons as gifts, because they're thoughtful and easy to find a place for. They're also great to just make for yourself to wear around town. One day, maybe you'll have a closet full of buttons, like me.
Workin' my way up to a full-body button suit, and don't you forget it!