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!


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?


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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