License Plate Art

I am a sucker for fun, quick and easy projects. Why? I love results. I love a finished product and I LOVE nothing more than completing one of my projects and telling my husband I told you so (he is definitely one of my biggest fans, but also critics when he is not sure what in the world I am talking about making at the onset of my projects…and hey, I really can’t blame him)!

Aside from how quick and easy any license plate project is, I absolutely love how versatile a license plate inspired canvas is too. The wood you’re going to (eventually) nail your license plate letters to can be any shape, size or color.  The only limit on the size of your ‘canvas’ is what you’re using it for and where you’re putting it. Other than the limits of your space for this bad boy, you can make it completely custom to fit ‘the spot,’ with little, if any, additional effort. The versatility of the license plate world is AMAZING!

Step 1 – if you find the license plates, the saying will come

So let’s get started! This project is generally inspired by a name or a cool saying you want to display. It’s that easy. Figure out the saying and procure the old license plates. From where you ask? Anywhere. Use your old license plates, ask your friends for theirs, scout ’em out on eBay, or antique shops. They’re more prevalent than you may think. I kept my eyes peeled for these for a couple of months and all of the sudden I had a box of old license plates ready for my demolition. So! Now that you have your license plates, make sure you have this list of tools to prep for what is next to come:

What tools do I need?

  1. A pair of $10 metal shears (see photo)
  2. Box of 1 inch roofing nails (they have a cool rustic look)
  3. Electric drill (with pre-drill and phillips drill bits)
  4. Hammer

Step 2 – cut up those license plates

Okay so now you have your license plates, (carefully) snip them up, just like you’re using a pair of scissors. Be careful, they’re a lot more powerful than scissors.

Step 3 – create your canvas (calling all scrap wood) 

Assemble your wood to your liking. You can use any kind of wood – old / new / pine / walnut / pallet, the list goes on. It is all about the look and your own preferences here! Cut, sand and distress your wood then attach it together with some old trim pieces on the back. Use your drill and wood screws to piece your wood together. The size and shape are up to you. This is where the art (and the fun) comes in! You can make the edges uniform, staggered and even distress the wood. Once you have put together your canvas, sand it, stain it and poly protect it if you like (don’t forget to follow my wood prep instructions for the best results) let it dry and impatiently wait…

Step 4 – line up those letters!

So you’re canvas is complete and your stain is dry! This is when it all comes together. Lay out your letters on your wood to your hearts desire. Mark (lightly) with a wood pencil, some spacing indicators. I like to attach the first, middle and last letters first to keep my spacing on point. Not required, but do what you need to do to make sure you don’t cram the letters together, or space them out too far. You see, the license plates will lay a little bit different once you nail them to the wood so you have to be forgiving with the spacing, but still be careful. Remember, this is DIY art and the inconsistencies deliver that rustic charm I know you’re looking for!

Step 5 – pre-drill, nail, repeat

Okay. So you have laid out your letters and your spacing. Now time to commit!! It is this simple, pre-drill into the wood, line up the letter and roofing nail, bam, repeat! Hammer that license plate into the wood. BE CAREFUL that you get that nail into your pre-drill hole and MAKE SURE your pre-drill hole is large enough (but not too large) for your roofing nails. Do you want your wood to split? I didn’t think so. So take the time to pre-drill a hole for every single nail. This relatively tedious step is critical in taking your finished project from okay to phenomenal.

Insider Tip? Once you nail down those letters (one at a time) consider using a hammer and (somewhat) gently pounding down the edges of each letter to smooth out the surface of the license plates to your liking.

Depending on whether or not this is going to plop this on a shelf, or hang it up, consider purchasing a picture hanging kit from Home Depot should you need it.

Step 6 – revel in the beauty

Once your project is done, congratulate yourself!  Take a picture! Tweet it, Instagram it, show me! I want to see it and give you a virtual high five. Enjoy each step, don’t be a critic and be proud of what you have created. I can’t wait to see it!!

Do you have any other tips & tricks to share with the world on a license plate project you may have already created? Do you have any questions on my step-by-step tutorial? I want to hear it. Leave me a comment, find me on Instagram, or shoot me an email at Happy DIY-ing!

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