I’ve always been into arts and crafts, even as a kid. If I opened up a present and saw the yellow and green “Crayola” across the top, I was one happy camper! Now that I’m a mom, I hope to pass my love of creating along to my son….he got my eyes and fair skin, so why not my artistic streak as well?
Since he just turned one, I thought it would be the perfect time for him to do his first art project, which also doubles as nursery decor AND will (hopefully) help him learn his numbers!
Here I’ll show you how we created Rowan’s first birthday art canvas so you can try it out with your little one!
First Birthday Art Canvas: The Start of a Fun Tradition!
Deciding on a Project
I spent some time thinking about what I wanted Rowan’s first art project to be. I considered doing something with hand/footprints, but we made some ornaments and Christmas gifts last year that featured his cute little tootsies, so that idea was out.
Then I thought about just doing a finger painting project on some construction paper, but I really wanted to display this piece somewhere in the house. This then lead my brain to thinking about some finger painting on canvas, and how it would be neat to have “ONE” written across it as well. That way it would be a little more interesting than JUST a bunch of finger scribbles. It would also be obvious which age he created it at, and will hopefully be a little aide when he starts to learn his numbers as well. Double points!
- 12″ x 12″ canvas
- White acrylic craft paint
- Finger paints
- Vinyl (or stickers)
- Silhouette Cameo
- Transfer paper
- Scraper tool or credit card
- Foam brush
- Razor blade
Steps to Create a First Birthday Art Canvas
- Design and cut (or purchase) a vinyl “ONE” decal (if you don’t have vinyl, you could use stickers).
- Prep canvas by applying a light coat of craft paint.
- Apply vinyl.
- Apply another light coat of craft paint to seal the edges of the vinyl.
- Get your little one’s finger painting on!
- Remove vinyl.
- Hang and relish in your little one’s masterpiece. :)
Getting the Supplies
I grabbed a double-pack of 12″ x 12″ canvases that had an off-white canvas and a brown one. I also picked up a bottle of white acrylic craft paint that was under a dollar, so this little project didn’t cost much at all….I just love it when that happens.
Making the Vinyl “ONE”
Since I had my canvas, it was time to create the “ONE” saying that would go across the painting. My plan was to cut out the letters in vinyl with my Silhouette Cameo, adhere them to the canvas, let Rowan go crazy with his finger painting, then peel off the vinyl to reveal the white underneath.
To do this, I opened up Silhouette Studio and went with my go-to font, Adam Gorry Lights. I really like this font….I guess it’s the dots in the middle, and it worked great for my paint chip Father’s Day banner as well.
I eye-balled the size then cut it out of some scrap orange vinyl that I had.
Prepping the Canvas
Now that my vinyl was cut, it was time to prep the canvas. I needed to make sure that the vinyl would stick well enough to the canvas to hold up to little man’s frantic little fingers, but not so well that I wouldn’t be able to peel it off afterwards. I also wanted the canvas to be a true white as opposed to the off-white shade that it came sold as.
So, I grabbed my supplies and got my paint on! I used some basic satin white acrylic craft paint and applied it to the canvas with a foam brush.
I wasn’t looking for a perfect coating here, I just needed enough paint to cover the surface and make it look more of a true white. I mean it was about to have a one-year-old go crazy with some colored paint all over it, so I wasn’t after perfection.
I applied one light coat along the surface (including the canvas’ edges) and then let it dry for about an hour or so.
Applying the Vinyl
After the canvas was dry, it was time to apply the vinyl. I didn’t want the word to be directly in the center (that’s a little boring, isn’t it?), so I eye-balled it to be a little favored toward the bottom right quadrant. I then used a ruler to just make sure the word was level and straight with the edge.
To apply the vinyl, I used some painter’s tape to hold the piece in position. Then I pulled up a letter with the transfer paper, cut away the backing, slowly laid the vinyl back down directly onto the canvas, then smoothed it out with my scraper to prevent any air bubbles from forming and to get it adhered nicely to the canvas.
I followed these steps for all three letters, working from the outside ones first then finishing with the inner “N”. Once all three letters were applied, I removed the transfer paper from each.
Success! I just love it when a transfer works perfectly like this. And it doesn’t look too shabby as is, huh? This definitely could be left like this and it would still be some cute decor, but it’s not very personal. It needed Rowan’s touch for sure.
A Little More Canvas Prep
Now that the vinyl was applied, I needed to do one more light coat of the white craft paint. This was just to seal the edges of the letters so if any paint did happen to bleed underneath, it would be the white paint and not the colored finger paint that was coming. I was going for crisp, clean lines here, so this little extra step was no big deal.
Finger Painting Fun!
Once I applied the second light coat of white paint over the entire canvas and vinyl, I let it dry for another hour or so. Then it was time for some finger painting fun!
After first debating whether or not I should use some all-natural finger paints, or even make my own thanks to some Pinterest ideas, I ultimately decided to go with my old standby and bought an eight-pack of Crayola finger paints. A lot of the reviews I read about these “safer” paints said that they were not very good quality (i.e. the colors were very faint or started chipping when dry).
Since I wanted this project to be a keepsake and last for years, I went with the Crayolas. Their paints are non-toxic, and plus I was going to be there right next to Rowan the whole time, so it wasn’t like he was going to be at an all-you-can-eat buffet with the paints.
To avoid this painting turning into a big, muddy brown mess, I only used blue, yellow, and green. If I would have squirted some of every color on the canvas, it would not have been a very pleasant final color (Thank you Mr. Johnson and art class!).
The Hubs and I prepared for this project by stripping Rowan down to his diaper and also cutting up a couple garbage bags and laying them in our backyard….I would have been fine skipping the garbage bags, but The Hubs was all “The grass! What about the grass?!” So a garbage bag blanket it was. We then plopped little man down in the center….and he was ready for some painting fun!
Starting with the blue paint, I squirted little blobs around the canvas. Rowan immediately went after one with his fingers….what a good boy!
Then I hit the canvas with some green blobs…..
…..and then some yellow ones.
Rowan was content with just using a finger or two and gently moving the paint around (he’s so polite), so I had to encourage him a bit to get in there and really make his masterpiece.
I found that he really started to get into it if I lifted the canvas off the ground and held it in front of him a bit. Then it was like a lightbulb went off in his little head and he was all “Oh, THIS is what you want me to do!”
I had to add more blobs of paint throughout the process since I wanted the whole surface to be colored. Rowan was more than happy to demolish every blob and leave his streaks of victory behind…..he loves making a good mess, and this was one time that I was happy about that.
The artist is nearly complete with his masterpiece!
Removing the Vinyl
Once Rowan was finished with his creation, The Hubs and I scrubbed him down with some paper towels, then baby wipes, then a good ol’ bubble bath. He didn’t get as dirty as I thought he would, so it actually wasn’t too bad….I thought for sure we’d have to spray him down with the garden hose (just kidding)!
This allowed time for the canvas to dry for about an hour. Once the paint was mostly all dry except for the thicker blobs that remained, I used a razor blade to gently peel up the edge of the vinyl letters until I was able to grab hold with my fingers. Then I simply (and carefully) peeled off each letter. I was a little concerned at first that the vinyl wouldn’t want to release, but it actually peeled away quite nicely with just a little elbow grease.
The Finished First Birthday Art Canvas!
And just look at those nice, crisp and clean edges on the letters! All that was left was for it dry completely, then it would be time for hanging.
Now I know it’s no Picasso, but this mom here thinks it’s a masterpiece. :) And it makes quite a nice addition to Rowan’s nursery, don’t you think? It fits with the color scheme, and I don’t think it screams “Look at me! I’m a painting made by a one-year-old’s fingers!” It’s a little incognito finger painting, which is why I’m glad I chose to include the word on it.
So this first birthday art project with Rowan was a huge success. I’m so glad he enjoyed his painting escapade (or seemed to at least…horray for no fussing or tantrums!). I plan on continuing this tradition every year on his birthday (at least until he’s ten so we have a nice 1-10 set of canvases). We’ll of course graduate from finger paints up to more “classic” styles, and I’m excited to see how his artwork progresses. It’s already better than his daddy’s artistic ability. :)
Year Two Update!
I can’t believe it but it’s already been a year since we did this first birthday art canvas, and we’ve made another one for Rowan’s second birthday!
More Projects in Rowan’s Room!
I also did another art project that is now hanging in Rowan’s nursery: his newborn stats canvas!
And some faux wood string art with his name:
And I’ve since added a bright and bold accent wall too!:
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thursday 28th of July 2016
Great idea! I absolutely love it. I'm not skilled enough to use a silhouette cameo. Do you know of anywhere that I can buy stickers to do this project? Im going to host a party for my baby group and I want to provide the supplies to do this for 8 babies.
Thursday 28th of July 2016
Hi Kelly! I used vinyl and it stuck really well and provided nice crisp lines. You can get a variety of stickers from any craft stores, but I'm honestly not too sure how well they will hold up to tiny fingers frantically painting away. You can find sellers on Etsy who offer vinyl cuts/decals in anything you need, so that might be an option. Good luck and have fun! :)
Thursday 15th of October 2015
Such a wonderful idea! I copied it (even copied your fantastic font suggestion) and did it with my toddler- she absolutely loves doing it and calls it her "masterpiece"! I posted a picture of her finished project as well as a link to your page on the silhouette cameo project inspiration Facebook group.
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