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How to Make Decorative Push Pin or Thumbtack Art

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I’m always looking for easy and inexpensive ways to add art to my walls, and because I tend to be a bit fickle, I’m drawn to projects that I can complete multiple times with different motifs. After seeing some cool-looking push pin art projects on Etsy that cost between $20 and $30 to buy, I decided I’d try my hand at making a few of my own for a fraction of the cost.

Luckily, the skill level is minimal – you just have to be willing to try – and the time commitment is small. It took me about 45 minutes to complete each of my projects.

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While push pins are the cornerstone of pushpin art pieces, it’s possible to make almost identical projects with paper fasteners instead. The steps are very similar, with just a few small tweaks. Try either version by following the steps below.

Quick & Easy Push Pin Art Project

I actually wasn’t able to find any flat-head thumbtacks or push pins at Walmart, so I decided to go ahead and use two-prong paper fasteners instead. At less than $2 per box, it was a great deal, but it did make the project a little more difficult to complete. I’d suggest picking up basic thumbtacks from Staples for about $3 for a box of 200 – that’s more than enough to complete a single, 8-by-10-inch canvas.

Rather than buy an actual canvas, I bought a three-pack of small white foam board pieces (8-by-10-inch) to stick the fasteners into. This would work just as well with actual thumbtacks. The three-pack cost just $5, or less than $2 per board. In total, each individual art project ended up costing less than $4 to make.

If you’d like to use real canvas as your backing, be sure to pick up one with canvas stretched over an open frame, rather than over a solid board. The solid board would be too difficult to push the pins or fasteners through – you really do need a pliable material to make it work. Walmart offers a number of blank canvases for less than $10.

1. Sketch Your Design

Using a pencil, sketch out the design you want to create onto your foam board. I’d seen an anchor online that I liked, so I used the image as a guide and free-handed my own anchor design. Simple silhouettes of things such as wine glasses, Christmas trees, stars, and punctuation marks are easiest to recreate with push pins. After making my anchor, I also made a simple striped design and one of a wine glass.

If you don’t feel comfortable free-handing your sketch, use a Google image search to find an image you like, print it, and cut it out to use as a stencil. You can then lay your stencil on your canvas and trace the edges to sketch your design.

2. Place Your Push Pins or Paper Fasteners

Starting around the edges of your sketch, push your pins into the foam board or canvas (being careful not to prick your fingers on the back side), gradually filling in the space as you go. For a seamless look, try layering the edges of the pins slightly to cut down on white space between pins.

If you’re using paper fasteners, this will be slightly more difficult. Because the prongs at the back of the fasteners are wider than the pins on a tack (and because they’re designed to fold), it’s not as easy to push them through the foam board or canvas. I actually ended up using a steak knife to create tiny slices in the top of the foam board so I could more easily push each fastener through.

It’s important to note that whether you’re using push pins or fasteners, you may find that the backing (the pin or the foldable brad) ends up protruding out of the back of your canvas or foam board. Obviously, you don’t want anything to remain sticking out at the end of your project, but don’t jump the gun by folding them down as you go. If you fold them back, it could make it more difficult to stick additional pins or fasteners through your canvas, as the folded backing could block the way. Instead, finish filling in your sketch with the fasteners or pins, and wait to fold back the backs until you’re happy with your design.

3. Fold Back the Pins or Fasteners

Once your design is complete, flip your canvas or foam board and begin folding back each of the protruding brads or pins. This is easy to do if you’re using fasteners (and probably safer if you’re completing the project with kids), as you can simply press the fasteners down with your fingers. I started at an outer edge and worked my way around, pressing the back of the fasteners out and away from the interior of my design so that I would still have room to push back the brads when I reached the interior fasteners.

If you’re using thumbtacks, trying to press back the pins with your fingers could prove to be painful. Consider using needle nose pliers to grasp the base of the protruding pins before folding it back. Or, as an alternative, spray the back of your canvas or foam board with a spray adhesive, then place another piece of foam board over the protruding pins, pressing down firmly to cover the pins and adhere the foam board to the back of the canvas.

4. Frame & Display Your Board

Once your project is complete, simply find a frame to place it in and put your art on display. Depending on the thickness of the foam board or the canvas, you may have to pick up a specialty frame from a craft store. But really, there’s no reason you have to frame these at all. If you make a series of images, like a Christmas tree, a star, and a candy cane, you could simply attach them to the wall with two-sided tape or wall putty to create a pretty collage.

I actually used tiny nails to hang my pieces in a row. You could even just place one or two on a shelf so they lean against the wall. For instance, in the kitchen you could display an apple, banana, or pepper next to your fruit bowl.

More Thumbtack or Fastener Art Ideas

The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating and switching out this type of thumbtack or paper fastener art. Because the projects are so inexpensive and quick to complete, you can get creative and switch out new pieces of art for each season or holiday. For example, you could simply make a series of Christmas or Halloween images and display them on your mantle.

If you work in an office, it could be fun to make an @, &, or # symbol, and place it in a frame on your desk. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of the process, I plan to order black pushpins and create a series of fitness-inspired images I can put on the wall of my home gym – silhouettes of active people, dumbbells, kettlebells, and bicycles.

To really spice up your project, there’s no reason you have to stick with basic white canvas and gold or silver pins. Think outside the box and paint your canvas bright colors – red and green for Christmas, orange and black for Halloween, pink and yellow for Easter – or order push pins in different shapes, sizes, and colors to give your art dimension and interest.

Final Word

Because this project involves working with sharp objects, it’s probably not the best idea to introduce it to young children. It’s more appropriate for teens and adults, or preteens when monitored by adults. Also, I’d highly suggest working at a table in a well-lit area. You’re less likely to drop pins on the ground, and if you do drop a pin, you’re more likely to find it easily. The last thing  you want to do is find a pushpin with the bottom of your foot.

Have you made an art project out of thumbtacks or push pins? How did it turn out?

Laura Williams
Laura Williams holds a master's degree in exercise and sport science and enjoys breaking up her day by running her dogs, hitting the gym, and watching TV. Having been in charge of her own finances since the early age of 12, she knows how to save and when to spend, and she loves sharing these tips with others. Laura ditched her career as a fitness center manager for the relative freedom of home-based writing and editing work. She stays busy by working on her own website, GirlsGoneSporty, a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life.

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