DIY: The BEST Souvenir

If you are on a tight budget like most college students and recently graduated Millennials, it can be a little discouraging when you want bring back souvenirs from a trip, but can’t afford the prices.  Even if you budgeted well and have the money, how are you going to carry all of those items from country to country comfortably?

Inspired by Travel Week, this canvas decoupage is a simple, cheap project to help save all of your memories.  Many of the brochures, maps and tickets that you collect during your journey can be turned into an amazing keepsake and a fun piece of art to spruce up your dorm room or apartment.  Keep it in mind during your next trip!

You don’t need many items to complete this project (if you have ever decoupaged before, these items should sound quite familiar):

  • one bottle of decoupage
  • one sponge brush (it won’t leave streaks like a regular paintbrush will)
  • one plastic bowl
  • one canvas

When choosing a canvas size, think of where you might hang the finished product.  The one pictured is a 40” x 30” canvas and will be the centerpiece of a bedroom wall (in other words, it’s quite big).  You could also use a few canvases in smaller sizes to create a series for the different places you’ve been – items from Berlin on one canvas, things from Budapest on another.  Or, decoupage a small canvas (4” X 4”) and give it to a family member or friend as a more personal alternative to a magnet or t-shirt.

You should be able to find pre-stretched canvas at most art supply stores at a pretty decent price.  I found my 40” x 30” canvas for about $15 and one of the small 4” X 4” ones for about $4.  Larger chain stores (i.e., Michael’s) also carry pre-stretched canvas but sometimes lack a good inventory of smaller canvas sizes.

How Do You Do It?

  1. You have your brochures, tickets, maps, and other keepsakes, right?  Go through them and cut out pictures – photos of favorite exhibits, fun designs, hostels and famous monuments are good choices.  Include these cut outs with train tickets, messages, show tickets, plane tickets, etc. IMPORTANT: don’t use anything printed on an inkjet printer (i.e., e-tickets) because the decoupage will cause the ink to run and eventually fade when it dries.
  2. Take the rest of your brochures and maps, lay them on top of each other and cut them into strips and squares.  Change up the thickness to create variation.  Also take into consideration the size of your canvas.  The smaller the canvas, the smaller you are going to want to cut the strips and squares (it will look much better).
  3. Empty some of the decoupage into the bowl.  Using the sponge brush, “paint” one side of the strip with the decoupage and place it randomly on the canvas.  Paint over the top of that same strip, making sure that the edges are stuck to the canvas.  ADVICE: I find it easier to work from the outside towards the middle.  The edges might need a little more decoupage and pressure to stick, especially if you are using cardstock materials (i.e., postcards).
  4. Repeat Step 3 until the canvas is covered.  Be sporadic when placing your shapes.  Remember the important pile that you made in Step One? Randomly spread those throughout the canvas as well.  Try to incorporate them in front without waiting to put them all on top, in order to keep the flow of the canvas.  Remember: this is your piece of art and should be treated with care.
  5. After you have covered the canvas and it’s COMPLETELY dry, go over the whole thing with another coat of decoupage.  This will insure that, over time, it won’t fall apart.

I created the above canvas for my last backpacking trip through Europe, and I can honestly say that it is my favorite souvenir.  The items that I purchased on my trip either sit in my closet or have been given away.  However, with this artwork, I can glance at one spot and remember some great times with amazing people.  I hope that your souvenir will do the same for you.

Did you modify my project?  Have a better idea? Share in the comments..

Arianna Netzky Originally from Las Vegas, I have made Madison, Wisconsin my home. I am a seven year undergraduate who has studied Russian history, American political science, cartography, and human geography, but I have finally settled on Interior Design. As a world explorer, I have learned the basics of living sustainably without sacrificing my own comfort. Twitter: @clearshmear

View all posts by Arianna Netzky

3 Responses to “DIY: The BEST Souvenir”

  1. Kimberley Mosher

    Awesome canvas!
    I’ve never thought about decoupaging, but my favourite DIY souvenir is similar… it will cost a bit more, but I’ve found some online suppliers that do photos to canvas printing quite affordably. I will take a few of my favourite photos and enlarge them on artists canvas. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of decorating your place with photos and memories that are your own!

    Reply
    • Arianna

      Thank you, Jen :]

      Kimberely: Thank you for the response. I’ve heard of those websites but haven’t actually tried them out myself. I’ll have to in the near future. My problem is that my “favorite” picture changes every time I look through photo albums (it’s the ADD in me, lol). If I had someone else pick out the photo for me, it might work. I definitely agree that it is quite satisfactory to decorate your residence with your own memories and photos.

      Reply

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