Pinterest Challenge: You Are My Sunshine

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  March 14, 2012 — 26 Comments

It’s that time again. Super-bloggers Sherry and Katie have rallied the masses to, as they put it, stop pinning and start doing. The whole idea is to take some of that inspiration you’ve been gathering for months and actually do something with it. I’ve been blowing up my baby fever pinboard with all kinds of nursery inspiration for months, but haven’t done a dang thing about it. One of the big things I’ve been inspired by is all of the “You Are My Sunshine” signs and prints on Etsy. I love the happy message for a nursery, plus my mom used to sing us a very similar song growing up so it smacks of sweet sentiment in my heart. Prices on Etsy ranged from under $20 to more than $100, but I knew that what I really wanted was to create something myself. It was a total bonus that I managed to spend a total of zero dollars by using supplies I already had on hand. Below are all the Etsy pieces that inspired me, with a link to the Etsy shop and to the pin on Pinterest under each.

Side note: If you like one of the inspiration pieces below and want to pin it, please be sure to either repin it from my pinboard or pin it directly from the Etsy shop. If you pin it from here it will link back to my blog and that’s not really fair to the person on Etsy who originally created it. Even though I’m shamelessly copying I want to give credit where credit is due!

Little Pergola | Pinterest

Epiphany’s Corner | Pinterest

In Mind 4 U | Pinterest

ColorBee | Pinterest

Little Wex | Pinterest

Go Jump in the Lake | Pinterest

Aren’t they all so lovely? I decided I liked the ones that had the words all aligned to one side the best. And since I want this to hang over the crib eventually I figured a landscape orientation would be most appropriate. I wanted to put my own spin on it, though. The whole ombre trend has really been inspiring me lately and I wanted to try it out, so I decided to do a yellow ombre background with white letters. Here’s the mockup I made in Publisher to get an idea of how to lay it out (I made the letters black so they’d be easier to see on screen).

I got the font for free at I’m always really overwhelmed by the number of free fonts available whenever I want one for a project. I guess I am just not detail- or design-oriented enough to be able to easily pick out which one will work best. And to be honest, this one probably won out thanks primarily to its name: Louisiannne. How could I pass up on a font named for the state I hail from? Also, it was in the “retro” category which is where I was hunting. You can download it for free here.

I had this canvas left over from my old office. Back before I had a blog I got this huge blank canvas on sale at Hobby Lobby and spent an evening in front of the TV doing my best to DIY some abstract art. It hung above the desk until I moved the office into the front room to make way for the future nursery. I placed my phone next to it in this picture to give you an idea of just how big this thing is–a generous two feet tall and three feet wide.

I gave it two coats of white wall paint, creating a blank slate for my genius.

I thought I had some yellow acrylic paint on hand but apparently I used it all up on some other project. I kind of panicked, since it was Sunday and Hobby Lobby was closed and I really didn’t want to go anywhere or spend any money anyway. I scoured my paint stash for colors I could maybe mix together to create the perfect shade, but no dice. I did, however, find some yellow Rit dye. I think I’d picked it up for some other project I never got around to tackling and it had been sitting in a drawer for months. Well, this was that forgotten bottle of dye’s lucky day because I decided that mixed together with some plain white paint it would create exactly the shade of yellow I was looking for. I had this matte white paint already lying around from when I found it on clearance at Lowe’s. You can never have too much spare paint on hand, I always say.

I used a spoon to scoop some white paint into a bowl. Nick got really nervous when he saw I was getting paint all over our dinnerware, but I assured him it would wash right off.

The dye comes out of the bottle looking really concentrated, so I only added a tiny bit.

But when I mixed it together (with a paintbrush so I could use the spoon to get more white paint if I needed to), it was pretty clear that a little was not going to go nearly as far as I’d thought.

I just kept adding more and more little by little until I had a nice sunshiney shade. It was pretty watery thanks to all the dye, but I figured that would just make blending easier. You know, like watercolors.

I took a deep breath and painted a wide swath across the bottom third of my canvas (including the edges).

Happy with the look, I used my spoon to add a little more white paint to the mix, squeezed my foam brush out into a paper towel to get the darker yellow out, and painted a band of the lighter shade across the middle third (again being sure to get the edges as well).

Then came the part that made me really nervous: blending. I squeezed out my brush again and used the dry brush to blur the line between the two shades.

Next I added a little more white paint to my bowl, squeezed my brush out again, and painted the third and final shade across the top. Then I went back with a dry brush and did some serious blending over the whole thing. I used a combination of a circular motion and sweeping horizontal strokes and just kind of went with the flow. I’m really happy with the result. It took forever to dry, though. Probably because the most saturated shade was so liquidy. I eventually got tired of waiting and used a blow dryer to speed up the process.

Meanwhile, I printed out the words for my sign in a HUGE font–375 pt, to be exact. I printed it on the ink saving mode, hence the weird appearance to the letters. I trimmed each page and taped them together, being careful to keep the letters straight and evenly spaced.

Then I laid them out on my sign. I had Nick help me with the math of figuring out how far apart to space each word. He’s better at stuff like that than I am and I think it helps him feel included.

Here’s where the magic happens, people. I totally could have written a post about just this part titled, How to Transfer Letters or Shapes to Any Surface and you all would have been amazed. I know I was totally blown away the first time I learned this technique (probably on a blog somewhere although I can’t remember which one). Before laying out my words on the canvas I flipped each one over and shaded over the outline of each letter in pencil.

Then, when I had my letters in place on the canvas, I simply traced the outline of each letter. You can use a pencil, pen, stylus, whatever. Anything to just apply pressure where you want your image to transfer.

And when you lift the page, ta-da! All that carbon you laid down on the back of the page with your shading was transferred to the new surface by the pressure you applied. It’s a good idea to carefully lift your paper to check how things are going periodically. See how the top right of my S was looking a little sketchy?

I just laid the paper back down and traced that part again. All fixed.

In no time I had the whole shebang transferred to my canvas.

This is when I started doubting myself, though. I didn’t like how the smaller font of Are and My looked, plus it looked like the first half of Sunshine was a little crooked. I walked away for a little while and came back and still hated it, so I tried to carefully erase it. You can see how well that went.

Once the eraser made such a mess of things I pretty much had no choice but to paint over the problem areas. I was feeling pretty confident in my blending abilities by this point, though, so it wasn’t too bad. Good thing I’d saved the leftover paint from earlier in the project. I just added more yellow or white as needed to match the particular shade needed for each area.

Then I printed out the words Are and My in the same big font as the rest of the sign and traced them, along with the first half of Sunshine, onto the canvas using the same technique as before. This time I used a level to keep everything straight.

Using a cheapo artist’s brush and the same white paint as I’d mixed with the yellow, I carefully painted over each letter three times for crisp, clean white.

Ta-da! It’s even hanging on the part of wall I painted with the sample pot of Classic Gray, so this is exactly how it will look in the finished nursery.

And here’s a wider shot to give you an idea of how the room will eventually come together. I just used the old nails left from when this same canvas hung above the desk, so of course it’s subject to move up or down or left or right as needed to look nice hanging over the crib once we get it. And obviously there’s still a lot to be done in this room, not the least of which is painting the rest of the walls. But once we knock that out, bring in furniture (including some sweet secondhand rehabs), and add a smattering of fun and colorful decor, I think it will be a perfectly charming place for a baby to live.

I’m really happy with the sign. It came out exactly like I’d imagined and is full of sweet sentiment–You Are My Sunshine is Louisiana’s state song and it also reminds me of a similar song my mom sang to my sister and me when we were little. And how meaningful is it that I spent several hours working away at this first ever project for my sweet little-boy-to-be? You couldn’t pay me to paint a straight line on a wall but I went over every one of those letters three times, channeling all the neatness I could muster into my not-so-steady-hand. My heart will be broken the day he decides he’s too old for such “baby” decor–or when I decide I’m so over ombré, whichever comes first. I think I’ll be able to get a solid couple of years out of it, though. Plus it could easily be repurposed in a girl’s nursery or even elsewhere in the house. I know I wouldn’t mind seeing such a sweet and happy message in my bedroom every morning.

So there you have it. The first ever project I tackled for the nursery. I couldn’t be prouder. Now let’s just hope it doesn’t get destroyed in a few months by bodily functions gone awry. Should I consider protecting it with some sort of wipeable clear coat? I keep hearing horror stories about baby boys shooting pee all over the room and I doubt the watercolor-ish paint mixture would stand up well to scrubbing.

PS Be sure to check out the projects of the lovely ladies who sponsored this round of the Pinterest Challenge. Here’s Katie’s, Sherry’s, Cassie’s, and Erin’s.

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


26 responses to Pinterest Challenge: You Are My Sunshine

  1. i love the way this turned out! it looks great.

    i’ve had the same problem with people pinning things on my blog, that i’ve pinned from elsewhere. i’m not really sure what to do? i always embed the pin (which gives the source) but people don’t click over and *then* pin.

    • Charlotte | livingwellonthecheap March 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

      Thanks, Erin! The Pinterest thing is tricky. I always feel guilty when I see something pinned from my blog that I didn’t create myself.

  2. LOVE it!! The blending of the yellows is great!

  3. I have been trying to find a print that says you are my sunshine…this is perfect for our playroom!!

  4. Charlotte!!! I love it!! I’m totally taking this for Stephen’s room.

  5. Love it! The colors and the letter go so well, especially where you put it.

    Thanks for the letter transfer advice. I’ve wanted to do wall art forever now and don’t have a vinyl cutter so I thought I couldn’t.

    • Charlotte | livingwellonthecheap March 14, 2012 at 11:09 am

      Thanks! The letter transfer thing was a big Ah-Ha moment for me when I first discovered it. I’ve used it to paint silhouettes, too.

  6. Love this! I especially love how well the ombre came out. I’ve used that stencil technique before, and it’s genius. You are brave – and genius – to use the dye with the paint to get the colors you wanted. Great job.

  7. Visiting over from YHL…Love the canvas! It turned out beautifully and I might even copy it (or a personalized version of it) for my daughter’s nursery. ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is one of my mom’s favorite songs, so it would be so special to hang!

    Pinned your tutorial (using one of your original photos, of course!)

  8. I love this. What a lot of work you put into it!!! The shading and the lettering turned out just right. I did not know that You Are My Sunshine was Louisiana’s state song. I used to sing the same song to my kids. Maybe it was a common thing from our generation.

    • Charlotte | livingwellonthecheap March 15, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Yup, it’s part of Louisiana’s history of colorful leaders. One of the more popular recordings was done by Jimmie Davis a few years before he was elected governor in the 1940′s. Here’s another bit of sentimental connection I didn’t make before–the state mansion that Gov. Davis lived in is now a venue for weddings and events and it’s where Nick and I got married. =)

  9. I love the ombre background you did. The whole thing turned out beautifully :)

  10. I love this!!! I do think you should clearcoat it though….
    then make a 2nd one for me!!! ;)
    I sing that song to Eli almost everyday =)
    Can’t wait to meet your lil fella! <3

  11. Thanks for posting this! I’m curious….I’m trying to make a similar sign with a Corrie Ten Boom quote, but my background color is dark brown….do you think the charcoal will show up or should I use chalk?

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap July 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Hi MJ! How cool! I think chalk would definitely be a wiser choice. The pencil may be too dark.

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