DIY Subway Art How-To
19 June 2012
Author: Catherine Matthews-Scanlon
Subway Art How-To: Follow this Subway Art Tutorial to make DIY Subway Art using Microsoft Word, Photoshop Elements or Wordle and customize it with your own papers, punches and embellishments.
The popularity of subway art is on the rise – I see it on interior design blogs, in catalogs that come in the mail – and I’ve even seen the real deal at a flea market I went to recently. The vintage panels that are salvaged or copied from big city subways and bus stations tend to be on the expensive side – not to mention the cities probably mean nothing to you.
Traditional subway art has a definite urban look to it – solid black with white text – and rusty or grungy for that vintage appeal. The text is traditionally sans serif (meaning a basic block text) and the words are different sizes. Depending on the name of the city or stop, the size of the letters for each word was reduced or enlarged so the word could fit on one line; each line had only one stop printed on it. The signs were traditionally tall and narrow in size (28” x 60” or so) with large white text that was easy to read from a distance.
Using both digital and traditional methods, you can easily make your own subway art to save money and have a smaller sign with words that have meaning to you.
If you choose the digital route, use programs like:
- Microsoft Office Word or any word processing program
- Photoshop or Photoshop Elements
If you choose to create your subway art the traditional way use supplies like:
- Chipboard letters
- Paper Punches
- Your electronic cutting machine
If you want to go the digital route and are in a rush – Wordle (www.wordle.net) is definitely the way to go. All you need to do is select the “CREATE Tab” at the top of the screen, enter your text and choose the “Go Button” at the bottom of the page.
If you want to customize the design without changing the words, try a few of these options:
- To create a word that is larger than the others, type the same word multiple times and the output will have one word larger than the others
- Choose the Randomize Button at the bottom of the screen and the applet will automatically create a new word “cloud” with different colors, text and format each time you randomize
- The Font Tab lets you choose the font you like from a list of 30 different fonts
- Choose the Layout Tab to make the cloud more Vertical, Horizontal or any which way
- Choose the Color Tab to choose from pre-selected palettes – or create your own by choosing the custom palette
For this super simple layout I entered the words "faith, faith, faith, hope, hope, love, love, love, love, love" and randomized, then changed the layout a few times until I liked how it looked.
When your art is exactly as you want, print and frame or customize further.
You can also use Microsoft Word or any word processing software to create similar pieces of art.
Subway Art Tutorial for Microsoft Word:
- Open a new Document
- From the Insert Tab insert a Rectangle (on a mac, select Shape... and then choose a rectangle).
- Drag the rectangle to the size you want and edit the properties (shape styles) of the rectangle to fill it with black (or the background color of your choice)
- Add text in the color of your choice. Change the font, letter size and line spacing so the letters fill the entire space.
- Print and frame or customize as you want.
To create your DIY Subway Art in Photoshop Elements follow these simple steps:
- Choose File > New: enter name, size and Resolution of your art (for a crisp print, we suggest a larger dpi such as 300).
- Choose the Paint Bucket tool to fill the background color with your choice of color.
- Choose the Font Tool to enter the text.
- Edit font, color and line spacing until the art looks like you want
- Print and frame, or customize with patterned paper, stamps or embellishments.
DIY Subway Art using Traditional Methods:
If you like to get your fingers messy or have the time to wait for paint to dry; definitely use traditional paper, paint and stickers to make customized Subway Art.
Gather these supplies – or use what you have on hand – and start creating!
- solid cardstock or painted canvas
- alphabet stickers
- white paint or color of your choice
Traditional Subway Art How-To:
1. Trim cardstock to size. (You can also create your art on a solid painted canvas.)
2. Cut alphabet stickers from the sticker sheet, leaving them on the protective backing
3. Arrange the stickers to create words on cardstock and take a quick photo so you remember where you put the words
4. Use a pencil and ruler to make light guidelines where the words will be placed
5. Paint letters with paint so they are all the same color – or leave them random mixed colors and patterns for a trendy look. Let dry completely
6. Apply stickers to the cardstock, carefully lining them up on the guidelines. Erase the guide lines.
7. Add any additional embellishments to the cardstock and your Subway Art is ready to hang!
With a little or a lot of time you can create a piece of art that has places you’ve traveled to, resolutions you’ve made, goals you’ve achieved, names of the people and pets in your family or just your favorite things. The possibilities are limitless – so why spend a ton of money on an old sign when you can make a new one that means something to you?
As an added bonus, I made a fun piece of Subway Art with one of my favorite quotes in Photoshop. Visit the related project instructions here to print the JPEG file and get started embellishing it to make your own piece of DIY Subway Art today! Use your favorite tips from this Subway Art How-To and create a one-of-a-kind piece for your home today!