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A Vintage Look for Paper Mache Letters

Updated on April 16, 2013

Vintage Style out of Paper Mache Letters

I love crafting and, often times, my crafting seems to collide with my other passion -- designing buffet and dessert tables.

I was searching (in vain) for the letters "USA" in a vintage style to use as decor on a dessert table. All I could find were very expensive or not the right color or made to hang. I needed free standing letters.

So, as I often do, I said to myself, "I'll make my own". And I did.

I decided to fall back on the paper mache letters I have used before. They come in a craft brown color and are easy to paint. I ordered my letters and gave them the vintage look I wanted using some paint. This article will walk you through this very simple and quick process including photos.

Image: DecoratingforEvents - Mandee

I have a buffet I am putting together and needed some Patriotic decor.

I couldn't find what I wanted in stores or online without having to spend a bundle, so I made it.

(Really cheaply too!)

crafting supplies for paper mache letters
crafting supplies for paper mache letters

Supplies you will Need for this Tutorial

about vintage style letters

The first thing you need to do is gather your supplies. You will need:

  • Base Color Acrylic Craft Paint
  • Top Coat Acrylic Craft Paint
  • Foam Brush for painting
  • Natural bristle paint brushes -- usually 1" and 1½" work best
  • Paper plate or something else you use to squeeze out paint and dab
  • Paper Mache Letters you want to use (I used the 8" tall x 1" thick letters)

Natural Bristle Chip Paint Brush - Very Important for a Vintage Look

EZ Paintr 50009  Bristle Chip Brush
EZ Paintr 50009 Bristle Chip Brush

This is the same brush I used on my paper mache letters. It is very important that you not use an angle or fine tipped paint brush. You want an irregular finish so you need irregular bristles!

 

Quick and Easy 5 Step Tutorial - Vintage Looking Letters

  1. Paint your base coat on all the letters using the foam brush. It doesn't have to be perfect but it should be completely covered. It may take 2 coats since the paper mache will soak it in. Let them dry completely.
  2. Pour your colored paint -- quarter or half dollar sized circle -- onto your paper plate. Dip just the tip of the brush into the paint, no more than a quarter inch. Dab most of the paint back off onto your paper plate.
  3. Starting at the top of a letter, make a full stroke down to the bottom of the letter. You want the brush marks to show. That's what gives it a wood grain effect. Working from the top to the bottom, paint the entire letter -- front, back, top, and both sides. You don't need to paint the bottom unless it shows when standing.

    The paint will come off the brush very unevenly. This is what you want. Let the base coat show through. The paint will be heavier in some areas and lighter in others. This is perfect!

  4. Paint all of your letters using this above technique and allow to dry. It won't take long because you are not using much paint. Go back and paint them again where you think they need more coverage, still using the top to bottom stroke technique.
  5. Allow to dry completely. You're finished! Congratulations!

Decorate with Letters

Suggestions for using letters:

* your monogram

* "Eat"

* first or last name initial

* "USA"

* "Family"

* "Love"

* "Peace"

* "Faith"

* "Joy"

* College Initials - "LSU"

* High School Initials - "PHS"

Follow Along in Pictures - It's So Easy!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
You need your choice of letters and paint colors. I am using ivory white, spice red & navy blue.You also need a base color. I wanted the letters to look like old wood, so I used nutmeg brown.Pour a cookie sized amount of paint onto your paper plate or whatever you are using.I use a foam brush for this portion of the craft so that I get pretty good coverage. The paper will soak up the paint too, so you may need more than one coat.I am going to "dry brush" the letters. For this I want cheap, uneven bristles on my paint brush. This was a set of three in different sizes and called "Chip Paint Brushes".Dab the very end of the brush into the paint. Then work a lot of it off onto the plate. You don't want too much paint. It's easier to put more on than to take too much off.I drag my brush from top to bottom, long strokes. I want the "grain" effect so they will look like old, vintage wood. Her is the "U" with 2 coats.I used ivory on the "S" and let a lot of the nutmeg show through. Again, long strokes, top to bottom.The "A" was done in navy blue. Here are all three with their first coat. It dries really fast since you aren't using much paint. I re-coated the "U" right after I finished the 1st coat on the "A".Here they are! 2 coats each. Don't they look great?
You need your choice of letters and paint colors. I am using ivory white, spice red & navy blue.
You need your choice of letters and paint colors. I am using ivory white, spice red & navy blue.
You also need a base color. I wanted the letters to look like old wood, so I used nutmeg brown.
You also need a base color. I wanted the letters to look like old wood, so I used nutmeg brown.
Pour a cookie sized amount of paint onto your paper plate or whatever you are using.
Pour a cookie sized amount of paint onto your paper plate or whatever you are using.
I use a foam brush for this portion of the craft so that I get pretty good coverage. The paper will soak up the paint too, so you may need more than one coat.
I use a foam brush for this portion of the craft so that I get pretty good coverage. The paper will soak up the paint too, so you may need more than one coat.
I am going to "dry brush" the letters. For this I want cheap, uneven bristles on my paint brush. This was a set of three in different sizes and called "Chip Paint Brushes".
I am going to "dry brush" the letters. For this I want cheap, uneven bristles on my paint brush. This was a set of three in different sizes and called "Chip Paint Brushes".
Dab the very end of the brush into the paint. Then work a lot of it off onto the plate. You don't want too much paint. It's easier to put more on than to take too much off.
Dab the very end of the brush into the paint. Then work a lot of it off onto the plate. You don't want too much paint. It's easier to put more on than to take too much off.
I drag my brush from top to bottom, long strokes. I want the "grain" effect so they will look like old, vintage wood. Her is the "U" with 2 coats.
I drag my brush from top to bottom, long strokes. I want the "grain" effect so they will look like old, vintage wood. Her is the "U" with 2 coats.
I used ivory on the "S" and let a lot of the nutmeg show through. Again, long strokes, top to bottom.
I used ivory on the "S" and let a lot of the nutmeg show through. Again, long strokes, top to bottom.
The "A" was done in navy blue. Here are all three with their first coat. It dries really fast since you aren't using much paint. I re-coated the "U" right after I finished the 1st coat on the "A".
The "A" was done in navy blue. Here are all three with their first coat. It dries really fast since you aren't using much paint. I re-coated the "U" right after I finished the 1st coat on the "A".
Here they are! 2 coats each. Don't they look great?
Here they are! 2 coats each. Don't they look great?

All above Images belong to me: DecoratingforEvents - Mandee

Finding Paper Mache Letters - for this Craft Project

I ordered mine from an online auction. They weigh next to nothing so the shipping was affordable. Check with the seller, there's a good chance he/she has all the letters you want so you can get them from the same person.

What's Your Opinion about Vintage Style Decor?

Do you like the vintage style of decor?

You Can Seal Them Too

You can seal the paint on the paper mache letters using matte modge podge or an acrylic matte sealer. Just remember, they won't look vintage if they have a gloss or shiny finish.

Clear Coat Sealing is a Good Idea - when using Acrylic Paints

Plaid:Delta 7040-2 Ceramcoat Protect Exterior/Interior Varnish, 2-Ounce, Matte
Plaid:Delta 7040-2 Ceramcoat Protect Exterior/Interior Varnish, 2-Ounce, Matte

This is the clear coat I use when I want to seal my paint. It's indoor or outdoor and helps minimize damage from the sun, wind and rain.

However, I wouldn't recommend these letters outdoors as they are paper and will fall apart outdoors.

 

On a Bookcase or Shelf

On a Bookcase or Shelf
On a Bookcase or Shelf

The vintage look can be applied to crafts, furniture, linens, decor and more!

Paper Mache Letters Vintage Look
Paper Mache Letters Vintage Look

My Favorite Thing about this Craft

is it your's too?

The great thing about this craft is that you can use letters and words to decorate all over your house.

* Place them on the molding over a door or window

* on a bookcase shelf in the living room or den

* on a counter top in the kitchen or craft room

* stand them on a wall shelf in any room of the house

* stand them on a dresser or dressing table in a bedroom

* on a desk in the office or bedroom

* on a baker's rack in the kitchen

* sideboard in the dining room...

The possibilities are endless!

I am actually going to give my USA letters to my parents' to go along with their very patriotic home decor as soon as I finish the dessert table design. I just love finding multiple uses for my crafts.

Do you have a special occasion coming up? A birthday, anniversary or holiday? Make some vintage paper mache letters that will go along with your party theme and then give them as a gift to the VIP of the day.

For instance, do you have a girl turning sweet sixteen soon? What colors and type of decor does she use in her room?

Maybe you could paint letters to spell out her first name, "Peace", her initials or "Love". Use them on her gift, cake or food table as decor and then let her take them home for use in her room after the party.

This makes the gift do double duty. Who doesn't love that?

Image: DecoratingforEvents - Mandee

As a Centerpiece for a Dining, Coffee or Sofa Table...

As a Centerpiece for a Dining, Coffee or Sofa Table...
As a Centerpiece for a Dining, Coffee or Sofa Table...

Find Your Favorite Colors of Acrylic Craft Paints - So Many Colors are Available

Letters of Paper painted in vintage look
Letters of Paper painted in vintage look

Hope You Enjoyed This Little Craft Project

and can use it

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this craft project and will find someplace and/or occasion you can use it. It's so simple and can be completed, start to finish, in a couple of hours (since the paint dries fast).

Remember, any letters/words you want can be used in any paint color scheme you choose. This one needed to be patriotic for me but it is just a guideline. Use your own favorite colors and themes. You will have a blast!

Image: DecoratingforEvents - Mandee

Thank you for stopping by!

Do Come Back and See Me Again!

~ DecoratingforEvents ~



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Will you try this Paper Mache Letter Project? - What letters will you use?

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    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 4 years ago from United States

      This is really fabulous! A very easy craft and a beautiful decoration! I loved all of your suggestions for decorating with paper mache letters too. It seems so obvious to use them for college initials, so why didn't I think of that?!!! Most Excellent step by step instructions for painting paper mache letters.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 4 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      You have such clever 'craft' ideas, Mandee. Wonderful tutorial.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 4 years ago

      I haven't done any paper mache lately. I used to do it a lot.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 4 years ago

      Well, you make painting paper mache letters so easy! Maybe I could even do this and not let the cat leave excess fur all over it!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image
      Author

      DecoratingEvents 4 years ago

      @GoodGirlSEO: I could use an "M" too, now that you mentioned it! LOL

    • GoodGirlSEO profile image

      GoodGirlSEO 4 years ago

      I might try to make one using M! :)