How To Create Personalized Subway Art~

1:48 AM
When I decided to create the personalized subway art that I showed  you in this post, the first thing I had to decide is what I was going to create it on.  Originally, I thought that I would use wood, but while I was at JoAnn's one day I lucked onto a sale on painter's canvases. 

I chose one that is 15" x 30".  They had a larger one, but I knew that I was going to use my Silhouette Digital Cutter to create the words, and I wanted to stick with the existing size templates I had (which only go up to 12") so I thought that the 15" width would be perfect  - allowing me 1 1/2" margins on both sides.

To create Subway Art the way I did, you will need:

  • Pre-stretched Painter's Canvas (available at most craft stores) or Wood cut to size
  • Black Paint
  • Fine-grit Sand Paper
  • Adhesive Vinyl
  • A Craft Cutting Machine (Silhouette or Cricut etc.) - Or there are many vinyl shops out there that can cut custom words for you
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
Here's what I did:

1. I made a list of a bunch of places that have personal significance to us as a family.

2. I typed each place into my  Silhouette software using the Arial Narrow font in Bold.  Then I resized each word so that they were all 12" long.  NOTE:  by making the words all 12" long, some will be larger than others.  This is normal and actually helps your sign look more authentic.  ANOTHER NOTE: Because you can't be sure exactly how tall the words will end up being once they are all the same length, it is wise to cut out more places than you think you will need...I learned this the hard way.

3. Here I taped the words to the canvas (still wrapped in plastic) so that I could get a rough idea of the order I wanted them in.  This is where I figured out that I needed more I ended up cutting out 3 more.

4. Then I painted the canvas black and gave it a light sanding to give it a little character.

5. After I decided what order I wanted the places to go, I started by measuring down from the top of the canvas approximately 2 1/2", and in from the sides 1 1/2" and put light guide marks with my pencil.  Then I adhered the vinyl lettering the way I normally do.

6. For the next place name, I measured down from the bottom of the previous name 1/2" and in from the sides 1 1/2" just as I did for the first and put guide marks.  Then I adhered the vinyl lettering.

7. I followed this same procedure 12 more times until I had all the places adhered to the canvas.  I found that the vinyl stuck very well to the painted canvas - I had been a little worried about that initially, but I was pleasantly surprised.  (Because someone is bound to notice, if you look at the photo above where I had taped the words to get an idea of placement, you'll see that I misspelled Niagara...oops!  Didn't even notice until I had put it on the canvas.  But you'll be happy to know, that it only took a bit of elbow grease  - and by that I mean fingernails - to pull the incorrect version off and replace it with the right one.)

8. Then I hung the canvas on the wall and admired it...just like I do everyday when I come into my dining room!!

The whole process was actually quite easy...just a bit time consuming.  But I love the result, and I'd do it fact, maybe I will!


Linking to:
The Lettered Cottage


Janet said...


I did one similar, but yours looks SO cool! Here's mine-

Mel said...

A great tutorial. I often wondered how to get the text to fit, now I know.

paige said...

this is great!!!!
i want to make one someday!

Cheryl said...

I love it!! great idea to use a canvas. :)

One Cheap B*tch said...

That does it. I just have to get a Silhouette machine!


Lindsay said...

I LOVE it Wendy! So much fun!

Gypsy Heart said...

I love it! Thanks so much for all the info...I would not have had any idea where to begin.


dottimae said...

Thanks for much for sharing, I love the look of subway art. Great stuff!!

The mum of all trades said...

so pretty, but I love it even more because it can be personalised to your own family and the places that are important, it makes it that bit more special

Vanessa said...

Thanks for posting this tutorial! I have a piece of subway art with some of the streets our family has lived on that I made. I drew on the letters with transfer paper and painted them in and it just turned out all wonky and crooked. It's not horribly noticeable, but I notice it everytime I see it. It has been on my list of things to redo, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I have a silhouette, so thanks for the tips! Hopefully I can mark that off my list soon!

Mel said...

I did it! Thanks again for the instructions.

Jeanne said...

LOVE! LOVE! Right up my alley!!

xo Jeanne.

The Freckled Optimist said...

I love the idea of using places that are special to you. That is too neat! I also love to see Kennebunkport since I am from Maine originally :-) Thanks for sharing!

Katelyn said...

Subway art is my new love and this one is very cute! I also LOVE the idea of creating one filled with "places" that are important to you. I recently had my first attempt at creating subway art and also used canvas...though I did not think that the vinyl stuck to mine very well. I think, though, that it was the type of paint I used. So my question is - What type of paint did you use?
Also, if you would like, please check out my blog. Here is a link to my Subway art:

58 Cherries said...

Wow, that's so cute!! I love subway sign art, too - I bought a French one at TJ Maxx a few months ago and it is hanging in my living room over the fireplace so I can stare at it dreamily and imagine I could hop onto the Metro and go anywhere on the sign. LOL (a pic of my sign:

I love that you made one personalized with all the places important to you - great idea! I'm right there with you and the always redecorating the house. Drives my family a bit crazy, but it is TOO much fun not to do! Lucky for them I'm distracted with gardening right now. Need to fix up my backyard a bit. Which might call for some new patio furniture, etc. Another excuse to decorate! :)


Gems said...

Lovely idea and very personal. Will have to try it when I get time....well, I might have to MAKE time. :)

Gems X

Ann said...

Your word art and how-to are incredible. I used your post as an example in a blogpost I published at Thanks for sharing your gorgeous work.

Amy said...

Love this! I just got my Cameo so I'm new to all this...I ordered a canvas your size and will paint it black. I did a test run on cutting black vinyl, but my problem was taking each letter off individually and placing them on my wall. When I do this on canvas, is there a way to peel off the vinyl and have the whole printed word in one piece to then adhere to the canvas? If I have to go letter by letter I worry that it will be so crooked! Thank you. Please do more tutorials...I loved how specific you are!! Can't wait to make mine, and I appreciate your help when you find time to reply!!

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