Designer Block Puzzle

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This article was written by Martice Smith II

Remember those little A-B-C blocks you may have played with as a child? This tutorial is a spin on that very concept, although, this one is the “grown-up” version! (Well, if you have a baby Einstein on your hands, that’s a different story…) Each side of the wooden block will have a different design. I will demonstrate how to use various techniques from stamping, cut-outs, stenciling and masking to create a beautiful designer block puzzle. Let’s get started!

Create a Designer Block Puzzle

Need to add a bit of visual interest in a corner of your living room, craft space or maybe even a coffee table, this designer block puzzle packs some major punch of creativity! It may look challenging- given that there are 10,077,696 different combinations – but don’t let it fool you. This puzzle is very easy to create yourself.

Gather supplies

Gather supplies; wooden blocks

Any size blocks will work. For this tutorial, I used nine 7.5 inch wooden blocks.

Gather supplies; stencils and stamps

Stencils, stamps

Spray paints (various colors) and a face mask

Masking tape

Prepare the wooden blocks

I love the natural look and feel of the wood, so I let them remain that way.

(Other options to consider: use a clear gesso or wood stain on all six sides of the wooden blocks. This will need to be done in stages to ensure that each side is dry before doing the next side.)

Set up the blocks

Set up the blocks and mask off sides

Working on an even surface, set up the blocks three wide by three long.

Use low-tack masking tape around the sides to secure them together, leaving six surfaces facing up together to make a 7.5 inch diameter square surface. (The tape prevents any over-spray from the spray paint.)

Use a stamp to design SIDE 1 

Use a stamp to design SIDE 1

SIDE 1 is designed with my popular chevron stamp (tutorial on how to make your own)

* Let dry and turn each wooden cube to a random side, so that there are 6 blank surfaces on top again. (I will call this step: “Reset the blocks“)

* Re-tape the sides to prevent any over-spray.

Let dry and turn each wooden block to a random side. (Reset the blocks)

Spray paint the cardboard cut-outs and stencils for the remaining sides

Spray paint the cardboard cut-outs and stencils for the remaining sides

Wearing a face mask and working in a well-ventilated area, spray the first color of spray paint over the cut-outs using a steady, consistent motion.

Design SIDE 2 with lightweight cardboard

Here’s how cardboard stencils and masks can be used as well. I’ve used circular, hand-cut shapes as masks and my custom made ampersand cardboard as a stencil. (Side note: The ampersand is on SIDE 6).

SIDE 2 shows how I arranged my circular, hand-cut shapes in an interesting pattern. Kind of looks like bokeh from photographs!

Design SIDE 2 with lightweight cardboard using circular, hand-cut shapes

* Apply spray paint. (Note: Spray paint can remain tacky for up to 30 minutes depending on the humidity.)

* Remove the shapes.

* Once the spray paint is completely dry, reset the blocks

Design SIDES 3 and 4 with commercial stencils

A couple of my favorite commercial stencils from StencilGirl!

SIDE 3 is designed with Square Dance.

Design SIDE 3 with commercial stencil; Square Dancing by StencilGirl

* Spray the stencil; let dry

* Reset the blocks 

For SIDE 4, I used the Art Nouveau stencil.

Design SIDE 4 with commercial stencil; Art Nouveau by StencilGirl

Design SIDE 5 and 6 with handmade stencils

Add more of your own flair to this project! Here are two handmade stencils that I cut out by hand. This one has a tribal and primitive feel, displaying the triangle and rectangular patterns.

Design SIDE 5 with handmade stencil for personalized touch.

Reset the blocks

Finally, for SIDE 6, I took a more bold and graphic approach by using the “and” symbol (technically called, the ampersand. Look how much style this has!)

Design SIDE 6 with lightweight cardboard using the "and" symbol.

Now that all sides have been designed, you can create different looks for your visual pleasure! This will keep your imagination fresh and give you a good challenge to recreate your own, unique combinations.

I will use my designer block puzzle as props and a cool backdrop for my product photo shoots!

01Aug_MFS_DesignerBlockPuzzle-Pic12

Try utilizing this puzzle in unexpected ways. Add visual interest in a corner of your living room, craft space or maybe even place them on a coffee table. It’s your choice!

How will you use your Designer Block Puzzle?

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Author bio:

Mixed-media illustrator and designer Martice Smith II

Martice Smith II is creative director of Martice Smith II – Illustration & Design Studio, based in Kansas City, Missouri and owner of Uneek Art Boutique. She established herself as a freelance Illustrator and graphic designer after receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree. Her stunning illustrations reveals her love for fashion, typography and wildlife- using a combination of analog and digital techniques.

Martice also contributes as an article writer for the Creating Mixed Media Art website.

You can see more of her work via her Facebook page or her blog. She invites you to join her monthly newsletter, Uneek Art Letter, for art biz tips, advice and free digital goodies!

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Packing Tape Postcard

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This article was written by Martice Smith II

Create an image transfer from packing tape to design a custom postcard

Learn a quick and simple way to create image transfers made from packing tape. Layer bold graphics and found imagery, combined with stylized handwriting, to create a dynamic piece of correspondence. In the end, you’ll have a stunning postcard- worthy of being framed!

Gather supplies of your choice

Gather supplies of your choice.

You’ll also need:

  • a bowl of water
  • bone folder
  • scissors
  • magazine pages and paper ephemera (Grab up some of your favorite, textured papers, too!)
  • 4×6 inch cardstock paper (elements will be layered onto this)

How to Make a Packing Tape Postcard

Prepare the image transfer

Cut strips of packing tape, slightly larger than the size of your image.

1. Cut strips of packing tape to the size of your image.

Carefully, lay the tape across the magazine image, starting at one end and slowly working your way across. Use manageable strips of tape for this step.

TIP: Images (photos or text) with white or light-colored backgrounds will show up transparent in the final tape transfer. This is a great way to add interesting dimension by layering multiple graphics, text, or paper.

Burnish with a bone folder.

2. Burnish with a bone folder.

From the center out, use the bone folder to remove any bubbles or creases. You do not need to apply heavy pressure when burnishing. Simply rub the tool across one way and repeat going another direction.

TIP: Lay the tape down on a clean plastic, wooden, or any non-porous surface to prevent tape from picking up fibers and dust particles.

(If there are bubbles left unburnished, they will appear as a clear spot on the image.) You may or may not want this effect- sometimes it can leave an interesting, distressed effect to your transfer. You might like it after all!

Trim around your image and place into bowl of water.

3. Trim around your image and place into bowl of water.

4. Rub away the paper backing with your thumbs.

The paper will start to roll up. This indicates that you can start rubbing the paper off.

TIP: For a clean, crisp image, make sure you do not scratch the surface of the tape while rubbing off the paper. If you want an old, worn-out look, gently scratch the tape’s surface with your fingernail. If you want wrinkles, take the entire piece and ball it up, in your hand; unfold and smooth out.

If you’re heavy-handed like me, you will appreciate this technique because this it allows you to rub quite vigorously without tearing the tape.

Remove the paper and let dry

5. Remove the paper and let dry on non-porous surface. 

As the tape dries, it will become sticky again. After the tape dries, paper fibers may reappear. If so, re-moisten the paper and gently, rub them off.

These pictures show how a tape transfer looks when held near a window. Take a close look at the expressive textures! Next, I show how the transfer looks when placed on top of a white background. (Did you notice how some details from the magazine image reappears when placed on a white background?)

6. Discard paper fibers from bowl.

Flush paper pulp down the toilet- not the sink!

Of course, you can also save this paper pulp to create your own handmade paper.

Now we are ready to create our Package Tape Postcard!

Create a Package Tape Postcard

Here is the approach I took to create this postcard:

This postcard looks elegant and modern but with a slight, urban twist. I gathered some of my paper scraps from previous projects to combine with my image transfer.

To reinforce the look of the ‘handmade’, I decided to tear the paper with my hands. This creates the deckled edges.

Pushing this idea forward, I also decided to add a twist by incorporating my stylized handwriting. (I simply used the end of a paintbrush to scratch into wet, acrylic paint, on paper that had a layer of paint already on it.) Look closely to see the subtle shift in colors!

Continue adding collage elements but keep in mind that ‘less is more’. You don’t want to create an overwhelming design on your postcard. Layering is key; build up layers to add drama.

TIP: If your packing tape isn’t sticking, use a glue stick, decoupage medium, or add more tape on top to keep it in place.

Think about overall composition. My focal image is the bouquet of flowers. Everything else was secondary, or in other words, complementary to that image.

The image transfer (of the flowers) was placed on top of the stylized, handwriting layer. For exciting pops of color, I used fluorescent orange paint!

Next, a small piece of diamond patterned washi tape was added.

Finally, gold leaf was painted on to create a more elegant look.

For the reverse side, I cut out and glued some scrapbook papers onto the brown kraft paper, leaving a 1/4 inch border on all sides.

As you can see, I repeated the diagonal lines from the front side to create a divider for the text and address areas.

Create a Package Tape Postcard; variation

Here’s another postcard I created with this same image transfer technique.

I chose to go with a bold and, somewhat, abstract look. I found a beautiful image of decorative chinaware in a home decor magazine. The geometric patterns combined with organic shapes are interesting and has great sense of energy.

Create a Package Tape Postcard

This packing tape postcard features:

  • my hand-carved, chevron stamp
  • Modeling paste
  • “Grace” stencil from Artistcellar’s new Pocket Stencils, “Mini Virtues” set

Spray or brush on a varnish to seal and protect the surface. Write your message on the back, apply a postage stamp and pop it in the mail!

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Mixed-media illustrator and designer Martice Smith II

Martice Smith II is creative director of Martice Smith II – Illustration & Design Studio, based in Kansas City, Missouri and owner of Uneek Art Boutique. She established herself as a freelance Illustrator and graphic designer after receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree. Her stunning illustrations reveals her love for fashion, typography and wildlife- using a combination of analog and digital techniques.

Martice also contributes as an article writer for the Creating Mixed Media Art website.

You can see more of her work via her Facebook page or her blog. She invites you to join her monthly newsletter, Uneek Art Letter, for art biz tips, advice and free digital goodies!

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