Alphabet Soup

UPDATE: I have a new version of this post with lots of pretty tutorial pictures. 
Check it out here.

The idea for this project came from Tim’s supreme ability to compromise with me.  I love letters.  I like those metal or plastic letters you can just put somewhere (they sell them at Urban Outfitters or Anthropology for example) and I’ve seen pillows sewn into the shape of letters that I love.  

Tim doesn’t like either of those things, BUT Tim likes scrabble. He came up with the idea of having a grid of over sized scrabble letters as an art piece in our living room. Great idea.
Here's how it went down! (Sorry I don't have process pictures - just keep reading cuz the good picture is at the bottom.  Suspense!!)
  1. Materials: We decided the simplest way to get our wooden pieces together was to go to Home Depot, choose planks of wood, and have them cut them down to the proper size: about 9.5"x9.5"x1". (Home Depot doesn't make perfect cuts and a 10"x8' board isn't exactly that length, our tiles didn't end up perfectly the same size - but that's ok, you can't tell at all.) The wood cost us $44 because we decided to go with a nicer pine that didn’t have knots (scrabble letters don’t have knots). We also picked up some picture hanging hardware at Michaels for $6 (this kind of hanging hardware).
  2. Prep-Work: We brought our pre-cut scrabble squares home and sanded them down so they would be splinter-less and have rounded edges. Then we decided which letters of the alphabet we wanted. (We didn’t consciously decide on words, but there are definitely tons of words in there.)
  3. The Trick: I downloaded a high res picture of all of the scrabble tiles then blew up the letters we wanted and printed them out. Then I used a handy tracing trick. I shaded the back of the paper with pencil then traced the letters with a pen onto the wood. The result is a faint gray outline. It’s basically like homemade carbon transfer paper.  
  4. The Process: Then I spent a long time painting the letters on with black acrylic paint. A long time.
  5. Finishing Touches: Once I was done, Tim and I used a test piece to decide whether we wanted to polyurathane the pieces. It didn’t make much of a difference except for creating a glare, so we decided against it. We hammered on the picture hanging attachments then set out to hang them up.  (A how to for hanging them here)
Total, the project took us under three days and about $50. People are always saying you should make your own art - well, it’s definitely worth it.


  1. Jennifer Pozner9/23/11, 5:05 PM

    I love this. In fact, I love this enoug that even though I am not crafty (I am a writer, not an artist), I think I want to try it -- with specific eords/phrases. Do you mind if I make words using this tutorial to create and sell a specific phrase to other writers? (I run a small, under-funded non-profit, so this might be a fun way to support the on-profit. But it is your idea, so I would want your permission to do so.)

  2. There might some bad fung shui in there, the two words I immediately see are cheat, beat, die and dead.

  3. The words I see are "read" and "reward."

    Must depend on the viewer!

  4. I once entered all of the letters in a word generator - there are a lot of words there, good and bad!

    Jennifer, you can definitely try this DIY, and you have permission from me to sell whatever you make (thanks for asking!). But I want to make sure you know you might technically need permission from Scrabble if you're going to be selling scrabble tile art. I'm honestly not sure of the legalities of it all, but I don't want anyone getting in trouble!

    Have fun making it though - I know I did :)

  5. Out of curiosity, what size are the pieces of wood?

  6. I second Jules' comment! What are the size of the plank tiles and the relative size of the words you printed out? (With a regular printer I assume?)

  7. Jules and Yukie: Good point! I just updated the post. The tile sizes I used were about 9.5x9.5x1 inches.

    I just printed the high res tile pictures to the same size as the wood (or as close as I could get on 8.5x11 paper). And yes, I just used a regular printer. You don't have to pe perfect when you trace on the letters - just smooth out any imperfections when you paint them.

  8. Love your wall design. Thinking about doing that in my office. Where did you find the silver letters?

  9. @Kiesha: The pillow letters are from So Chic Gifts and the aluminum sided "S" is from Slim Light Box

  10. What a great look- I love the impact! I might have to do this in my new office. I would also LOVE to share the link to your tutorial if you didn't mind! I just clicked over from Apartment Therapy... off to explore the rest of your blog!

  11. Hey Rachel, you can definitely share the link. Thanks for asking!

  12. We're planning something similar for an upcoming library conference booth. Please share the name of the typeface you used. It's very much like the one on real Scrabble tiles. Thanks!

    1. Hi Wendy! I didn't use a font, but here's the link to the hi-res image I based mine on: http://www.fuzzimo.com/free-hi-res-wooden-scrabble-letter-tiles/

      If you go to my other post about this project (a full tutorial) you can see what I did in detail. Here it is:

  13. Awesome! I really like it! I think I might give it a try! And of course I pinned it already!
    Have a lovely weekend!
    Love, Olga

    1. Oh nice! Let me know if you do - I'd love to see pics :)

  14. This looks great!! Mine turned out really well too!