Make Some Cool Modern Art on the Cheap
Create completely customizable artwork with plexiglass and colors you can coordinate to your interior design.
Distressed by the high cost of contemporary art, with even emerging artists commanding 5-figures these days for their work? Well if your budget can't make some original art happen quite yet, we have a clever DIY solution.
- plexiglass, cut to (1) 21"x36" and (2) 12"x24"
- yardstick and ruler
- scoring tool
- drill and 1/4" drill bit
- fine grit sandpaper
- painters’ tape
- flat latex paint in your choice of three colors
- foam brushes
- wall anchors, as necessary
- 4 decorative screws, 1-1/4 inch long
- (4) 1/4" spacers
- 8 decorative screws, 2 inches long
- (8) 1" spacers
Take control of your decor with this simple art project. Choose colors that match or complement your space to achieve the look you want. With the help of spacers, the shapes float over each other, adding depth and dimension. Your friends will never know you didn't source this at a cool contemporary art gallery.
To start, decide on the layout of shapes. Use the images below as a guide or create your own layout. There are three things to keep in mind when deciding; even distribution of color, pushing some of the shapes to the outer edges to define the perimeter, and overlapping shapes to create depth.
To test your layout in advance, create the shapes with thin tape on the plexiglass and lay them over each other to determine if the shapes will overlap as desired. The first image shows the pieces together. The second image shows how the pieces look individually. It is important to note that any mistakes can be fixed. It is easy to remove the latex paint after it is dried by scraping gently with a razor blade, so no worries, mistakes can be corrected.
Lay the plexiglass on a flat surface. Use a yardstick and scoring tool to score the plexiglass where it will be cut. For best results secure the yardstick and plexiglass in place with clamps. Make several passes with the scoring tool until you have scored through about half of the thickness of the plexiglass. This is the most effective method for plexiglass that is 1/4" thick or less. For plexiglass thicker than 1/4" use a saw fitted with a plexiglass blade.
*Editor's note: if measuring and cutting plexi are not your thing, some home stores will cut it for you. Call ahead and confirm your local big box will cut plexiglass.
Move the scored mark to the edge of a work surface with plexiglass on one side of the score mark hanging off of the work surface. Secure the plexiglass on the other side of the score mark to the work surface with a board and clamps. Apply light, even pressure downward on the plexiglass that is hanging off of the work surface until it snaps. Remove the extra piece of plexiglass but keep as much of the protective film intact as possible until you are ready to tape and paint.
At each corner, measure in 3/4 inch from both outside edges. Make a mark with a marker in each corner. Use a drill with a 1/4" drill bit to drill holes at each of the marks. Drill very slowly and just until the hole is made.
Use fine grit sandpaper to sand any rough or sharp edges on the plexiglass. Be careful to only sand the edges. Sanding the front or back will leave scratch marks that cannot be repaired. Also, do not sand the holes. They will be covered by the screws and spacers.
Use a ruler to mask the areas to be painted. Estimate the spacing based on the layout you have chosen. For best results, use a clear craft and sewing ruler. This will allow you to keep the lines parallel to the outside edges by matching the ruler flush to the outside edges of the plexiglass. Use high-quality masking tape to prevent any bleeding of the paint.
Use a foam brush to fill the masked areas with paint. Apply the paint liberally and allow it to dry. Hold the plexiglass up to the light and check the front side to see if light passes through the color block. If it does, apply a second coat before proceeding.
When the paint is completely dry, carefully pull back the painters’ tape to reveal the shapes.
Where shapes overlap on a single sheet of plexiglass it is important to note which shape will appear in front when the project is done. Based on your layout, whichever shape will be in front must be painted first. To paint the overlapping shapes, tape the shape around the shape which has already been painted. However, just place the tape to the edges of the existing shape and a little beyond. Use your fingernail to seal the tape next to the existing shape. The tape which lays on the surface of the existing shape paint should be applied very lightly so it does not pull any paint away when you remove it. Fill the new shape with paint and cover just beyond the edge of the existing shape.
Use a level to mark a line on the wall where you want the top of the artwork to go. Make another level line 1-1/2 inches below that. Determine the center of the lower line. Hold the large piece of painted plexiglass against the wall with the top of the plexiglass flush with the lower line and the center of the plexiglass lined up with the center mark. Mark the holes on the wall with a pencil. Make a mark at the outside edges of the plexiglass on both ends. Remove the plexiglass and make a mark 4 inches in from each of the marks made at the outside edges. Hold the smaller pieces of plexiglass against the wall with the tops flush with the top lines and the outside edges flush with the lines made 4 inches in from the outside of the large piece of plexiglass. Hold the small pieces in place and mark their holes on the wall with a pencil. Remove the plexiglass and erase all lines except for the hole marks. Use an awl to make starter holes or push all the way through drywall to install anchors if necessary.
Cover the heads of your screws in the same paint as the wall color by dipping them in paint or using a small paint brush to coat them. Allow them to dry completely before proceeding.
Carefully clean the big piece of painted plexiglass on both sides to remove any smudges and fingerprints. Install the piece on the wall with a decorative screw through the front and a 1/4" spacer over the screw in the back. Screw the screws just tightly enough to secure. Add the second layers of plexiglass with a 2" decorative screw through the front and a 1-inch spacer over the screw in the back. Tighten just enough to secure. Over-tightening could crack the plexiglass.
Wipe away any fingerprints that occurred during installation.