Smiling and Spooky DIY Skull String Art

There are two types of people in this world: Those who like skull décor, and those who don’t. But even if you don’t generally love skulls in your Halloween décor, perhaps this DIY skull string art will be an exception.

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I, personally, love the almost cheerful smile of this skull and the perfect black backdrop to white string. In any case, this tutorial will show you how to create your very own skull string art for this Halloween’s decorating.

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Materials Needed:

  • 1/2″ plywood, cut to the size of your choice
  • Black matte/flat spray paint
  • 1” black panel nails & hammer
  • White cotton string
  • Parchment paper + pencil

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Begin by sanding the edges and surface of your plywood.

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Wipe away any resulting sawdust, and place your plywood on an elevated board on top of a drop cloth.

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Prepare (shake) your can of matte/flat black spray paint.

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Start with lightly spraying all four sides of your plywood. Remember, a light hand for spray paint is always better than a heavy, drippy one.

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Use light, sweeping strokes to paint the front side of your plywood.

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Allow the paint to dry thoroughly. The grain might appear glossy while the paint is wet, but it’ll even out as the matte paint dries.

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Meanwhile, while the paint is drying, you can use your time well by sketching out your skull. Feel free to use any skull silhouette you like; googling something like “skull clip art” or “skull silhouette” might prove useful.

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On a piece of oven parchment paper, use a pencil to sketch the outline of your skull.

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If you want the skull’s outer shape (or the whole thing, for that matter) to be symmetrical, draw one side to your liking, then fold the parchment paper in half and trace that line on the other side.

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Don’t try to erase on your parchment paper; instead, just draw multiple lines as needed until you get one that you like, then X out the ones you don’t want to follow later on.

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It’s a bit messy looking, but it will be easy to follow when it comes time to install your nails for the string art.

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When your plywood board is completely dry and your skull silhouette is to your satisfaction, lightly use painters’ tape to attach the parchment to your board. Be sure it is centered, left to right and top to bottom.

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Pull out your black 1” panel nails and hammer.

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If you’re right-handed, you might find it easiest to work right to left in your nail installation. Pound them in so they go almost all the way through the plywood, but not quite.

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Always for string art, your goal is to install the nails straight up and down. Don’t let them lean right to left or top to bottom or vice versa of either of those directions. You want them truly parallel to each other and perpendicular to your board surface.

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Space the nails out relatively evenly. However, on smaller shapes (e.g., the eyes and nose in this case), you’ll want to decrease the gap between nails ever so slightly, to provide more opportunities to create curves and to connect string later on.

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Pull off your parchment paper when all the nails are installed.

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You may be left with some remnants of parchment, where the nails caught it just so and wouldn’t let it go.

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No worries. Grab some tweezers and pull off the leftover bits of parchment.

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Grab your roll of white cotton string.

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Tie a loop knot on the end of your string.

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Hook it onto a nail, and begin stringing. You can cut the string end if you want. To be honest, I meant to but completely forgot, and then I couldn’t find the end later on. That’s a good sign, I guess!

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A tip for successful string art: vary the direction and angle of your strings even across the space. Keep the string about the 1/3 to 2/3 zone on the exposed nail itself – not right against your board, but not right at the nail head, either.

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I found it easiest to work in zones on the skull.

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The jaw was completed before moving onto the upper lip/teeth area. Note: Adding a single string for each tooth was an afterthought here, so the screws were not lined up. While I think the crooked smile is rather endearing, if you want straight teeth, be sure to install your nails lined up accordingly.

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After the middle of the face is completed, move up to the forehead/side zones. Do your best to keep the congestion of your strings even across the skull – don’t have the jaw be strung super close but the forehead area gappy. Keep it even, while always varying the angles and lengths of your strings.

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When the skull is strung to your satisfaction, it’s time to end the string. Pull the string taut, then cut it about 2” out from the last nail.

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Use your thumb to mark the point on the string where you want it to hit the last nail.

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Tie a loop on the string, with the point of the loop being at the point of your thumbnail originally.

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Loop the loop onto the last nail. It should be a gentle challenge to get the loop on the nail – you shouldn’t have to pull so hard that your string will snap, nor should it fit on so easily that the string will sag.

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Because the string sits on top at this point, you might want to snip the end. Take care to avoid cutting the artistic part of your string. That would be sad.

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Lean or hang your DIY skull string art wherever you want him to live this Halloween season.

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You’ll notice that the middle-third position of the string on the exposed nail allows the string art to look and feel almost three-dimensional but still have a nice, smooth “surface.”

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Mr. String Bean (your children will likely want to name your DIY skull string art) will smile even brighter when he’s surrounded by other Halloween décor.

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We hope you enjoy this Halloween string art, and that it makes you happy to pull out of your decorations box year after year. Happy DIYing!

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