Create Art by Upcycling Bed Slats

Our neighbors were on a mission recently to track down some material to make planter boxes. On one garbage night, we happened across a discarded pile of pine boards, most recently used as bed slats. We scooped them up, thinking they would be ideal building material for planter boxes, only to discover our neighbors had already acquired some dresser drawers which they intended to upcycle into planter boxes. So we found ourselves with a twin-sized bed worth of wooden slats.

What to Do With Our Find

After letting the wood sit in our spare room for a month or so, I decided that I wanted to paint on it. It didn’t take long for me to figure out what I wanted to paint: one of my favorite photos of the hubs and me. But I knew that I wanted it to be a monochromatic, high-contrast image on a vibrant surface.


How to Create the Design

So I took the photo and cranked up the contrast, eliminated mid-tones and yanked the exposure and highlights up until I had a strong black and white image. I printed that image as an enlargement and, using a carpenter’s pencil, outlined the major components of the image.


NB: Had I been thinking, I would have printed the mirror image of the picture as the next step will transfer a mirror image of the photo onto my work surface, creating a not-quite-perfect recreation of the original.

I flipped the printed image over onto my wood slats—lined up to create a 20×22” work surface—and taped it down to inhibit unwanted movement. Then I took a spoon (or anything with a hard, smooth edge) and rubbed the graphite lines I had just drawn onto the printed image against the wood, leaving a faint outline of the photo.

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Another option would be to use carbon paper or other transfer method to outline the image. If you don’t have those on hand, though, try the pencil rubbing method above to achieve similar results.

I removed the printed image and outlined the photo onto the wood with the carpenter’s pencil, darkening the edges.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t just draw the image onto the wood, rather than transfer a copy of the image, the answer is twofold: One—I prefer perfection above all and will opt for the perfectionist’s method always and Two—it is extraordinarily difficult to draw to-scale on wooden slats.

Painting the Image

I chose a turquoise blue acrylic paint for the background color and painted the boards, all but covering up the lines I had just drawn.

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In retrospect, I would recommend painting the wood, and then transferring the image onto the painted surface.

I drew the outline of the photo with a black pen so that it was clearly marked for the next step.

The fun part: I painted in all the black and watched the piece really come together.

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Assembling the Pieces and final touches

Before going any further, I decided it was time to connect the slats. We still had the nylon strips that originally held the boards together, so we used those to staple three support strips along the backs.

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Next I moved onto the white highlights. I sketched a white curlicue design along the side of the image and a quick text above the subject. Then I painted them with white acrylic paint and…

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Ta-da!! It’s done! Overall, the cost was almost nothing. We screwed a couple anchors into the top, added some cotton twine and hung it on our brick wall behind the couch where it looks lovely!


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