How to Make Your Own String Art

making string art

Oh, Pinterest. Why do you insist on filling my head with beautiful DIY projects that kick off countless ideas I feel a compulsive need to try? I’ve gotten a bit more selective about how much time I spend on Pinterest because I find my own creativity can get a little stymied in the face of such an onslaught of creative brilliance, but I just can’t give it up. It’s just too good. One project I’ve seen in many iterations that always catches my eye is string art. I’m a word nerd AND a font snob, so DIY art projects that use words and typeface are kind of my jam.

I recently created a trade show display for Mr. Fox Composting and when I was almost done, I decided it needed an extra finishing touch. I’d made a custom hand-painted backdrop, as well as a bunch of accessories for their table, but it needed one more hip and rustic touch. Mr. Fox Composting is doing VERY COOL THINGS, so I loved working with them and the fact that they gave me full creative freedom was the cherry on the top. Lickity split, I saw my opportunity to bust out some string art and jumped on it. I had some plywood waiting in the wings, so I cut it down to size, sanded the rough edges, stained it a dark walnut, and then gave it a couple thin coats of poly to make it weatherproof. And then … my week-long marathon of tiny nails and banged up fingers began.

Yes, it was VERY time consuming. Yes, I learned just how unskilled I am with a hammer. And yes, it was totally worth it.


Step 1

 Open GalleryRight off the bat, I have to admit that I got so giddy about getting elbow deep in nails and hammering, I totally forgot to take pictures of how I cut, sanded, stained and poly’d the plywood. Buuuuuut then again, it’s you guys. You know what you’re doing. So, we’ll all laugh at what a goober I am and you’ll forgive me for jumping in mid-project. Right? GREAT. In order to trace my copy onto the plywood and pencil in the placement of the nails, I first covered the front face of my plywood with kraft paper. And then I dragged my old yoga mat out of the basement to give myself a buffer in case any nails came through the back of my plywood, and to reduce skid and vibration.

Step 2

 Open GalleryNext up, I tapped into my inner AV wizard. Just kidding. The fastest way I could think of to get the lettering I wanted onto the plywood was to project it on the board and then trace the lettering with pencil onto the kraft paper. So I bumbled my way through setting up a borrowed projector, which was another lesson in “Skills I Don’t Possess.” Once I finally pulled up my file and got it centered and correctly sized, all I had to do was trace the outline of each letter.

Step 3

 Open GalleryI decided to space my nails every half inch and marked a dot all the way around each letter.

Step 4

 Open GalleryOnce I had all of my letters marked out for nail placement, it was time to get started hammering. I’m not going to lie — this part was WAY more time consuming than I’d anticipated. Possibly because I’m apparently TERRIBLE at hammering small nails consistently.

Step 5

 Open GalleryA whole bunch of banged up fingers later, I was finished hammering in the nails around the copy.

Step 6

 Open GalleryThen it was time for the ever-so-gratifying paper peeling reveal.

Step 7

 Open GalleryThis is where I had my clapping-with-glee moment. Alone in our living room, thankfully. I was SO glad that my bruised fingers weren’t all for naught, that the white nails were the way to go, and that everything looked level and even.

Step 8

 Open GalleryI had to play around a bit to find a good way to attach the string to the first nail of each letter, how to string the letters, and how to tie off the string at the end of each letter. My system was to tie off the first nail, string every third nail or so, work my way back around a few times to catch all the gaps and give it a slightly erratic look, and then add a tiny dab of hot glue where I tied off the string on the last nail of each letter.

Step 9

 Open GalleryVoila! DIY string art for Mr. Fox Composting. Even though it was a tad laborious, I already have another DIY string art project in mind, this time for our own house. With that much effort (and pain) put in, I want to be able to at least appreciate the project on a daily basis. What do you think? Would you risk sore thumbs and a bunch of free time for DIY string art?


  • Half inch plywood
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane
  • One inch nails
  • String
  • Kraft or butcher paper


  • Hammer
  • Glue gun
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Projector
About Ellen Foord 


A tight budget has never stopped Ellen Foord from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every day as one of life's smaller celebrations. A freelance writer and ...

More About Ellen Foord

14 Responses

  1. new year says:

    wonderfull website thanks for writing that nice content actualy you put here a lot of the work thanks. new year 2016 happy new year 2016 yt^!n

  2. Rebecca says:

    What type of string did you use. I just completed a string art piece but used embroidery floss which was a total pain.

  3. Lanka says:

    Thanks for the step-by-step process – also for the tid-bits of humor. Starting this project tonight and wanted to know what people used the glue for.

  4. jazz says:

    I wish I was that good at string art

    grate job !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. jasmie says:

    grate job that is so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! cool

  6. Budvg says:

    When using small nails in a small place, get a small needle nose pliers and save your fingers! It is more accurate and way time saving to hold it in the metal tip of a pliers.

  7. Dionne says:

    My father used to do this sort of art totally free hand and off the top of his head back in the 1950's. Nice to see it has made a come back.

  8. Janenne says:

    So cool…. I even like just the nails! Great job!!

  9. Jeanie says:

    Where can we see the completed trade show display?

  10. TT Divine says:

    I love this project and yours is spectacular (and wow do I ever admire the work you put in for your client!) I'm planning to try to adapt a version of it for my daughter and I to complete together. Instead of projecting the letters, I'm just going to try huge fonts in Word (120 pts or so) and see if I can get a similar result.

  11. @HB_Belle says:

    I love this project, Ellen! Also, anyone that admits to also being a word nerd and a font snob is a gal after my own heart ;)

  12. Virginia says:

    Cool project!

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