November 22, 2017

DIY String Art


Turns out something does not need to be complicated to yield fantastic results. Don’t tell my mother I said that, she will wonder what happened to her daughter.

I love crafting, drawing, and cooking and I have an uncanny ability to overcomplicate all of those things. The first time I did an oil painting I painted a portrait of my sister and her husband. Talk about ambition, and going a little crazy as a result of it. Thankfully it turned out pretty well.

I probably do not need to tell you, but that painting happened BEFORE I had three young kids. Now ambition usually is getting dressed before 10 am. I miss drawing and painting as I do not do it much any more. Simple crafting is far more up my ally for this season of my life.

String art might look complicated, but it is fairly easy. You can just print out the pattern you are using, and nail it straight to the wood then you just need to wrap string around the nails. That is what I am talking about. I have not done a piece in a while, but last summer I did three. They were an absolute blast.

I hope you get out your hammer, nails, and strings and craft with me.


The Background

You will need a wooden background. It can be solid or made from panels. Solid is a little easier as you do not have to worry about nailing into the cracks of your artwork, but panels have a bit more character.

I used crate lids that my husband got at work. Yeah for recycling. Yeah for free.

To prepare your background you can paint, paint and distress, or antique your wood. I chose to antique using this tutorial.

The Pattern


The easiest way to get a nice pattern is by doing it on the computer, then printing it out. Above I show the pattern for the USA string art. It looks hand drawn, but I actually traced it. I simply wrote out Beautiful in a font I liked and printed out an outline of the united states. All I had to do at that point was tape it to the wood.

For the couple string art I made a silhouette from a photo (instructions here) then printed it out, and then drew it, and the letters with pencil.

You can also do a chalk transfer (instructions here) then trace the chalk outline with a pencil and wash away the chalk.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for your design:

  • Make sure that anything bigger then a few inches will have nails in the center for wrapping convenience (i.e. USA one with the heart in the center).
  • Make sure you print it to size!
  • You can do lines and letters that are only single nail wide, I will show how I wrap those below. I find these easiest to just write out by hand.

Nailing the Pattern

The type of nails you choose will have a huge impact on the final look of the piece. If you want a more clean modern look go for just some basic silver nails. For a more rustic look I use carpeting tacks.

Because of how close the nails had to be for some of the details, I used pliers to hold the nails when needed.

Nail the nails in at an even height– high enough for you to wrap string around, but fully secure in the wood (the wrapping will pull on it slightly).


Note: If nailing through a piece of a paper on a pallet be very mindful of the cracks between the pieces of wood. I found it easiest to not nail close to the cracks, then to finish the design with the paper removed.

If you are nailing through paper, rip it off at this point. Use tweezers and/or pliers to remove stubborn pieces of paper.

Wrapping the Pattern


You can use embroidery or crocheting thread. I have used both. The thickness of your thread will really effect the final look. I went with a thicker thread for all of my pieces, but for a more “cobwebby” look go with a thinner thread.

Wrapping the pattern is perhaps the most complicated part, it took a couple times for me to get the hang of it. You can either go crazy with the wrapping (great for bubble lettering such as “beautiful” on the USA string art), or keep it fairly neat (USA) or you can try and go neat, fail and then go crazy (i.e. the couple). I will show how to one nail width lines below.


To start tie the string around one nail. Begin wrapping from that nail.


If you are doing a design that has a inner and outer part, you will be doing rays from a center nail to several nails on the outside. With the USA I was unable to reach all of the outer edge from the heart, and had to wrap the far top and bottom of the east cost separately.

To finish off each string tie it around the nail again. I will explain below how to finish off all the tails.


If you want a nice neat outline to your design after you wrap the body of your shape, you will need to do an edging wrap. Simply wrap all the way around a nail, then around the next making a line on the outer edge. I do my best to illustrate that below. The red is the string and the dots are the nails. The first illustration is showing how to wrap it, and the second what it will actually look like with the string pulled tight.


Note: If you need to stop before finishing the piece wrap the string around a nail several times, later unravel it and go from there.

Letters and Lines

For lines and letters that are only one nail thick I wrap it so there is a edging line around the top, bottom, and also an X between them. I do my best to explain how to do that below.


1. Wrap all the way around one nail, then the next so that there is a line at the top.


2. Next wrap around the first of the two nail in a figure eight, coming back to the second nail. There will be an X between the nails.


3. Wrap all the way around the first nail so that there is a line at the bottom, then double up the top line, and begin again with the next nails.


Repeat with the next set of nails.

Finishing Up

The last thing you will need to do is secure the ends. I simply did this by dipping them in glue, and wrapping them tightly around the last nail several times. Hold the string taught for a minute or two so that the glue begins to dry. Snip of any remaining tail.


Admire your work.


  1. Beautiful!! I’m not positive I can do this, but I’d love to give it a try!

  2. Hello! I was just wondering what type of wood you find easiest to use? I don’t want to spend so much time trying to hammer in one nail. Do you have any suggestions?

  3. Terri Kunza says:

    How heavy do you put the string on? I’m working on my first project.

    • I am not sure I understand. Do you mean how heavy of a string do I use? If so, it is personal preference. 3-4 strands of embroidery floss is what I used for the america, a thicker crochet thread is what I used for the couple one. Hope that helps!

  4. Do you use a hot glue gun? and does the glue show once dry? My project has alot of string around the nails, and am afraid sooner or later the string could pop off the nail (simply by handling it too much), so once done with the project, would it be a good idea to just go around and glue the string thats already on the nail throughout before I call it quits?

    • I am so sorry I didn’t respond to this!

      If you were worried about that you could do a tiny dollop of glue under the nails. I feel hot glue would be too noticeable, but a bit of glue all (perhaps applied with a Que-tip or tiny brush) would work well.

  5. what else can you use for string if you don’t have any?

  6. What kind of nails do you use?

  7. Love it! Can you tell me what size carpet tracks you use? I’m not sure, having never done this, how much of the tack needs to be buried in the woods and how much needs to stick up above the surface. Thanks!

    • They were about 1″ long. Maybe a bit longer. I put them not quite halfway in. Since it’s not structural far enough it to not easily fall out is good enough. Longer nails are fine for thicker wood, and if you wanted the art to be further out from the wood.

    • They were about 1″ long. I put them not quite halfway in. Since it’s not structural far enough it to not easily fall out is good enough. Longer nails are fine for thicker wood, and if you wanted the art to be further out from the wood.

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