ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Making art and maps out of old license plates.

Updated on February 18, 2011

Making art and maps out of old license plates.

As a boy, I loved license plates. Six-hundred-mile trips were enlivened by keeping a list of the many diverse plates I saw on the road along the way. Family road trips to New Mexico, South Dakota, Florida, New Brunswick and many other destinations exposed me to the wealth of color, style and personality of each state's tag. A separate but genuine love for maps, geography and crafting grew to inspire the art you are viewing right now.

Design Turnpike began as a simple quest to recreate for myself a fascinating piece I saw at Greenfield Village, a map of the United States made entirely from expired license plates. It was during that learning process that a whim turned into a hobby and creative outlet. Along the way I realized I had my own wealth of original ideas for taking discarded license plates and immortalizing them in ways that could bring people years of enjoyment. In fact, a blue Michigan plate that adorned my first vehicle for 8 years lives on in one of the pieces in my personal collection.

Working from Dearborn, Michigan, the birthplace of the modern automobile, I continue to brainstorm and produce various new designs along with some of the classic license plate maps shown my website.

Here's a glimpse into my process, some tips, photos and a walk-through of a sample project. Hope you enjoy this lenses... it's my first!

Up Close: The United States License Plate of the Fifty States - This one remains my favorite.

Acquiring, planning, cutting, assembling and finishing a license plate map project can be tiring and exhilarating. Plus, it can give you some major hand calluses!

Trust me: If you have a full-time job, purchasing a map is a good idea, even though they can be pricey! Having created over 100 license plate pieces of all sizes and shapes, I have honed my process. However, if you DO plan on embarking on your own license plate project, here's what you will need for sure:

- Heavy duty tin snips

- Saw

- Measuring tape

- Computer software to create layout

- Printer

- Heavy duty tape to use for stencils

- Wood (pine works well)

- Stain and paint (water-based)

Oh yes, and:

- Tons of old, well-worn License plates!

View my website (link at bottom of the page) to see more of this signature piece.

Michigan License Plate Flag Fun - One of my favorite recent projects.

Michigan license plates from the past 70 years combine to form a huge image of our nation's flag. This piece measures about 12' x 6'!

Sample Project: Birds and Flowers - Old license plates transform into an art piece for a niece's nursery!

Thought I'd reveal what it takes to create a custom piece!

1) Reference Art. In this case my client (also known as my sister!) wanted something made out of license plates that both tied in to her nursery bedding, and paid homage to three states near and dear to her heart: Alabama, Michigan and Virginia.

2) Making the Plan. I sketched out some ideas and then drew them in an illustration program to scale.

3) Compiling the Plates. Through various sources (online, personal collection, friends) I got a hold of the plates to be used. I wanted bold, simple plates that fit in with the color palette of the nursery.

4) Cutting the pieces. Like usual, with some time, patience and dexterity, the individual pieces for this project began to emerge.

5) Assemble and Enjoy. The finished piece was a lovely addition to my client's décor. She loved it! These plates will live on for who knows how long now instead of joining countless others in the trash heap.

Hope you liked seeing the timeline of this fun project! IMPORTANT: View photos of this sample project here:

Current Project: Michigan Counties License Plate Map

Here is a photo of a recent project. Also, I slipped in one of me at work on an Alabama map as an inset!

Please Tell Me Your Feedback!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • LikinTrikin LM profile image

      LikinTrikin LM 

      8 years ago

      What a beautiful lens and you have an awesome talent

    • designturnpike profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @Oliversbabycarecouk: Thanks for the comment, Olivers! Let me know if you ever want a piece in the background of YOUR home! :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i have only ever seen this in the background of someones house/apartment in a film. You have some great ideas. Thanks


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)