I made a fingerprint tree for my brother’s wedding – and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was! I tried a new craft supply and absolutely fell in love with it: Sharpie paint markers. They just might be my new best friend.
To make a fingerprint tree, you will need:
- A 16×20 canvas (About $8 for a pack of 2 at Hobby Lobby)
- A tree image (I used a stock photo from istockphoto.com – about $3)
- A pencil
- A Sharpie paint marker (around $4)
- Ink pads (make sure you get archival quality ones)
First, find a tree image that you’d like to use, or sketch out your own. I purchased this image for $3. Istockphoto recently updated their purchasing options so that you no longer have to buy a large amount of credits, you can purchase just one image at a time, which is nice for people who don’t use it a lot. You save a little money per image if you purchase credits in bulk, but this is a nice image and $3 is inexpensive. This particular image is actually a vector illustration, but it comes with a high resolution .jpeg image as well.
Use Photoshop or Word or whatever program you have to lay out your design. Mine looked like this.
I used The King & Queen font (free from dafont.com) for the names and the wedding date.
You will have to print off different sections of it onto multiple sheets of paper, then trim down the edges and tape them together so that you have a complete pattern. There are several different ways to do this. Many printers come with settings to tile the image onto multiple pages. I saved my file as a PDF then used the print settings in Acrobat, like this:
You should choose “Tile large pages” under “Page scaling” and you will see a preview of how your image will be divided up. It takes 4 letter sized sheets to print the 16×20 image. After printing, simply trim the white margins from the edges and tape your sheets together to make a pattern.
I have never transferred a pattern onto a canvas before, so I was a little unsure of the best method. Perhaps graphite paper would work? I have never used it, and I didn’t have any on hand, so I used the pencil method. Basically, you color over the back of your design with a pencil, then trace over the front, so that a little of your pencil lead transfers the pattern onto the surface underneath.
Here’s what the back of the pattern looked like after rubbing over it with a pencil.
Center your pattern onto your canvas – make sure you measure the distance from both sides of the tree and from the top and bottom to make sure it’s lined up correctly. You don’t want an off-center tree!
Use masking tape to hold the edges of the paper onto the canvas, and place a book or something up underneath the canvas while you trace, so that you’re not stretching the canvas down as you bear down with the pencil. You have to press pretty hard to get the pencil to transfer, so you may want to lift your pattern and check after tracing a bit to see if it’s transferring well.
As you can see from the images of my finished tree, I didn’t follow the stock image of the tree exactly. I wanted a heart on my tree, so I slightly modified the middle limbs to create a heart shape. I took some liberty with the smaller branches as well. I was mainly concerned about getting the shape of the tree right, so I made sure I had dots at the end of several of the branches on the pattern that transferred to the canvas so I would know where to end my branches.
My canvas looked like this after tracing and improvising the heart in the middle.
After you have your pattern traced, use a Sharpie paint marker to trace over your pattern and paint the design onto the canvas. I did not trace every little branch onto the canvas, and I would recommend that you don’t either – give yourself room for a little improvisation when you get going with the paint marker.
Use your pattern as a guide while you’re painting, but allow yourself freedom to fill in some of the smaller branches as you go. Take a step back every once in a while to see if you need more branches anywhere, and add them as needed.
I was really impressed at how well this paint marker worked. It has a fine point that works well for details, and it had good coverage. I picked mine up at Michael’s for $3.99.
Once I had the pattern transferred and started working with the paint marker, this only took about 30 minutes!
Here’s what it looked like after painting and before the fingerprints were added by wedding guests.
I made a little sign to frame and display on the table next to the canvas – and I created a free PDF printable for you here. If you want to add the bride and groom’s names at the bottom, the font used is Alex Brush – it’s available for free download from fontspace.
The bride picked up some stamp pads in varying colors, and fine point Sharpie markers so guests could sign their names next to their stamped fingerprint “leaf.”
It’s a good idea to place something firm underneath your canvas for support at the event so that the canvas isn’t stretched too much while guests are pressing their thumbs onto it. I used a couple of larger sized books that fit well under the canvas.
The total cost for this project came in around $15.
This is how it looked after the guests put the fingerprints on the tree.
What a great alternative to a guest book.
I’d love to see a photo of your fingerprint tree!
*UPDATE: 9/16/13 – Since writing this post, I have tried the graphite paper idea that I mentioned but hadn’t tried at the time and I have to say, it is a wonderful tool that will make the step of transferring the image to the canvas SO MUCH EASIER. It’s also called “transfer paper” and you can purchase it in the painting section of your local craft store or at an art supply store.
Here’s an example of some that’s available on Amazon.com. I personally like this brand for tracing onto light surfaces and this brand for tracing onto dark surfaces. Both of these are products Made in USA – so they get bonus points with me!
I use this type of transfer paper for all my sign painting projects now – and it is a big help and time saver!