how to create personalized subway art

When I decided to create the personalized subway art that I showed you in this post, the first thing I had to decide is what I was going to create it on.  Originally, I thought that I would use wood, but while I was at JoAnn’s one day I lucked onto a sale on painter’s canvases.

I chose one that is 15″ x 30″.  They had a larger one, but I knew that I was going to use my Silhouette Digital Cutter to create the words, and I wanted to stick with the existing size templates I had (which only go up to 12″), so I thought that the 15″ width would be perfect  – allowing me 1 1/2″ margins on both sides.

To create Subway Art the way I did, you will need:

  • Pre-stretched Painter’s Canvas (available at most craft stores) or Wood cut to size
  • Black Paint
  • Fine-grit Sand Paper
  • Adhesive Vinyl
  • A Craft Cutting Machine (Silhouette or Cricut, etc.) – Or there are many vinyl shops out there that can cut custom words for you
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

Here’s what I did:

1. I made a list of a bunch of places that have personal significance to us as a family.

2. I typed each place into my Silhouette software using the Arial Narrow font in Bold.  Then I resized each word so that they were all 12″ long.  NOTE: by making the words all 12″ long, some will be larger than others.  This is normal and actually helps your sign look more authentic.  ANOTHER NOTE: Because you can’t be sure exactly how tall the words will end up being once they are all the same length, it is wise to cut out more places than you think you will need…I learned this the hard way.

3. Here I taped the words to the canvas (still wrapped in plastic) so that I could get a rough idea of the order I wanted them in.  This is where I figured out that I needed more places…so I ended up cutting out 3 more.


4. Then I painted the canvas black and gave it a light sanding to give it a little character.

5. After I decided what order I wanted the places to go, I started by measuring down from the top of the canvas approximately 2 1/2″, and in from the sides 1 1/2″ and put light guide marks with my pencil.  Then I adhered the vinyl lettering the way I normally do.

6. For the next place name, I measured down from the bottom of the previous name 1/2″ and in from the sides 1 1/2″ just as I did for the first and put guide marks.  Then I adhered the vinyl lettering.

7. I followed this same procedure 12 more times until I had all the places adhered to the canvas.  I found that the vinyl stuck very well to the painted canvas – I had been a little worried about that initially, but I was pleasantly surprised.  (Because someone is bound to notice, if you look at the photo above where I had taped the words to get an idea of placement, you’ll see that I misspelled Niagara…oops!  Didn’t even notice until I had put it on the canvas.  But you’ll be happy to know, that it only took a bit of elbow grease  – and by that I mean fingernails – to pull the incorrect version off and replace it with the right one.)

8. Then I hung the canvas on the wall and admired it…just like I do everyday now when I come into my dining room!!

subway art and mini buffet_2

The whole process was actually quite easy…just a bit time consuming.  But I love the result, and I’d do it again…in fact, maybe I will!


WendyWendy is the author of the popular decorator’s blog, The Shabby Nest. Decorating is her passion, and her family is her inspiration. Her goal is to create a warm, welcoming environment without breaking the bank. And she loves to share her ideas with you.

3 Responses to “how to create personalized subway art”

  1. คีย์การ์ด January 21, 2014 at 6:55 am #

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back later.
    Many thanks

  2. Wishin May 30, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    I really wanted to read your how-to.. but I find the comments scrolling along the right side incredibly distracting to the point of being annoying. Farewell!

  3. Kristi @ Creative Kristi May 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    Wendy! I love it! I also love some of the places you put on it because I am from Maine (born, raised & current) and know just where they are.
    Do you visit here often?
    Great job and thanks for the tutorial!

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