Creating DIY Family Portrait Art in Four Simple Steps

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It can be really fun to get crafty with kiddos, but do you ever get the itch to channel your inner artistic genius make a piece of art yourself? Or perhaps you’re looking for something creative to do with all those family photos dominating your smart phone storage space? If so, you’re not alone. Keep reading. I’m a working artist and mom in Eastern Colorado and I recently got the opportunity to work with an amazing product called Unicorn Spit (yes, you read that right!) to create some simple, abstract DIY portrait art of my littles. 

While I may technically be a professional, let me assure you right now—you can DEFINITELY do this project too. I’m breaking down exactly what you’ll need along with four simple steps to making your own DIY wall portraits below. Come on, let’s get creative mamas!

DIY portrait art final product
The final product: DIY portrait art of my two littles hanging up on the wall in our living room!

To begin, you will just need a couple of supplies:

  • 10×10 wood surface 
  • Unicorn Spit in desired colors
  • Graphite pencil
  • Painter’s tape
  • Small paint brushes
  • Cup of water
  • Paper plate
  • Photoshop
  • Print of your child’s face

DIY portrait art supplies

Note: for this project, I chose to use Photoshop to create simple solid colors so there would be no shading involved. Did you hear that? No artistic skill required! This is DIY at its finest.

With that in mind, here are the steps:

1. Prepare and print images: Upload the print of your child’s face into Photoshop and size it to 10×10. Under the filter gallery, choose “cutout”. You can choose as many or as few “levels” as you want. If you pick more levels it will look more realistic but you will need more colors to complete your piece. Once you’re satisfied with your selections, print the image. I chose to print the pictures in black and white cropping out the sides (see below). 

Photoshop set-up
Setting the levels in Photoshop

2. Create an outline of your child’s face on the wood surface: On the back of your print out, cover the page in graphite using the side of your pencil (see first photo below). Once the back is covered, flip the image over and tape it to your wood surface face-up (see second photo bel0w). Using a hard pencil, trace over the outlines of your child’s face, including any place where there is a change in shade. Bear down hard and peek at your wood surface from time-to-time to make sure the trace lines are transferring onto the board underneath. Essentially, you are creating an outline to paint within (see step 4). Once you have all of the lines traced, remove the printout and if they are too light on your board, trace over the lines again. 

DIY portrait art tracing example
Graphite shading on the back so that the traced lines will transfer to your wood surface.
Tape the print face-up on the wood so it will stay still while you trace!

3. Assign Unicorn Spit colors to each Photoshop level based on tone: I chose four Photoshop levels in the print out of my daughter (see first photo below), so I selected white as my lightest tone, pink for my second, purple for my third and black for my darkest. You can choose whatever color scheme you want. Just try and stay true to the level of darkness your colors will create. 

Unicorn Spit for DIY portrait art
Four colors of Unicorn Spit for my daughter.
Unicorn Spit for DIY portrait art
Five colors of Unicorn Spit for my son.

4. Paint the wood surface: Pour out a small amount of each color of Unicorn Spit onto your plate, no more than a quarter size. Using a small paint brush, fill the sections on your wood surface with the corresponding colors. One of my favorite things about Unicorn Spit is that it dries quickly on the wood but not on your plate. Clean your brush well in your cup of water before using a different color. Continue until all of your portrait is covered. Don’t forget to fill in the background, too! Once it dries completely, you have a beautiful, finished DIY product to adorn your walls. Ta-da!

Start by filling in the lighter shades.
Progressively fill in the darker shades.
DIY portrait art final product
The final product—don’t forget to fill in the background!

Now, for those of you overachievers who want to take your DIY art to the next level, you can create a stunning finish by using Glaze Coat (which is actually made by the same company that makes Unicorn Spit.) Note that this portion of the process is more involved, so there’s no shame in leaving your product as-is without the glaze. It will be beautiful either way!

If you choose to create a glaze finish, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Glaze coat (1 quart)
  • 3 or more unwaxed paper or plastic cups/buckets with clearly marked measurements and clean, smooth walls and bottoms
  • Straight edge sticks or paint paddles
  • Plastic spreader, squeegee or notched trowel
  • Disposable foam or paintbrush if you want to coat the edges
  • Flat clan dust cover
  • Waxed paper, newspaper or plastic drop cloth
  • Latex, vinyl or chemical-resistant neoprene gloves
  • Masking tape
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Eye protection
  • Heat gun or torch
  • Protective clothing (optional)

To do this portion of the project, you will want to follow the directions that come with the Glaze Coat EXACTLY.  I also recommend doing this in a place with very good ventilation but not a place that will have dust blowing around. Keep in mind if your DIY portrait art is a gift, you will want to let it cure for 72 hours before wrapping it up. 

Do you ever do DIY art projects at home? Inspire us with your favorite tips, tricks and ideas below! 

We are so thankful to our friends at Eclectic Products for introducing us to Unicorn Spit and sponsoring this post so that we can inspire Denver area mamas to tap in to their creative side!
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Brianna Hill Kastner resides on the high plains of Colorado in Stratton with her husband and two kids under three. They returned last year after living three years abroad in Shanghai. When she isn’t having power struggles with her two-year-old or nursing her baby, she is working on being a creative mom. She is crossing her fingers for casting to begin for Real Housewives of Eastern Colorado. From time to time she can post blog entries at https://venturehereandthere.wordpress.com/ Give her life's greatest affirmation by liking her on Facebook. Her work has been featured on Listen to Your Mother, Boulder, Pregnant Chicken, International Teacher’s Magazine, The Mighty and Scary Mommy.

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