Monday, August 19, 2013

Pretty Clipboards (with tutorial)

I'm kind of ridiculously proud of these. They are sooo pretty and yet so useful as well.

I recycled 10 ink cartridges at Staples last month and received a $20 rewards coupon this month for the effort. I needed Post-It Flags (i.e. bookmarks) and my freshman daughter wanted a new binder to hold her music, so off we went to Staples Saturday.

After the binder and Post-It Flags (and hitting the 1¢ sales for pocket tissue packs and spiral notebooks), I still had a lot of money left on the rewards coupon and I remember that I had considered getting a clipboard for each of the kids. I had tried it once before, getting them each one in their color. They liked having their own clipboards and used them a lot, but they were cheap plastic ones that broke in very short order. I knew the ugly brown Staples clipboards last forever (I have one that we've shared for over a decade), and at minimum I figured I could put a piece of colored duct tape on the back to signify who they belonged to.

So I got 4 of the ugly brown clipboards (my junior didn't want one) and had a flash of insight. Scrapbook paper! Mod Podge! Yes!

So after Staples we stopped by Michael's and I allowed everyone to choose what scrapbook paper they wanted, as long as it was the thinner kind, not the cardstock weight. The paper, and a sponge brush applicator for the Mod Podge, cost just over $6. I got the clipboards with the rewards coupon and had all the other supplies on hand (in my recently made neat and organized craft drawer), so the total for this project was that $6, or $1.50 per clipboard. Not bad at all for custom, pretty, functional school supplies.

Here's how I did it (aka the tutorial part). As always, click on a photo to see it larger.

Gather your supplies.
  • clipboards
  • normal weight scrapbook paper
  • craft paint
  • paint palette
  • paint brushes
  • Mod Podge (not shown)
  • sponge applicator thingy (also not shown)
  • brayer (not shown)
  • fine grit sandpaper, 400 grit (not shown)
  • smartphone and earbuds (for tunes ;) 

I started by applying craft paint, in a coordinating or matching color, to the edges of the clipboard. Since a standard sized clipboard is 13 inches long and standard scrapbook paper is 12 inches long, I also applied about 1.5 inches of craft paint along the top or bottom of each side to cover where the scrapbook paper wouldn't be. I did this in different areas on different clipboards, but I like the results of the pink one that I applied it to the top of both sides best. (Note, I didn't paint the board that was going to get the camouflage paper, because the camo matched the ugly brown quite well.)

Next, after giving the paint about 15 minutes to dry, I applied a liberal coat of Mod Podge to the back of a clipboard and then put the paper on. The d├ęcoupage instructions I found here recommended using a brayer for smoothing out large, flat surfaces, and since I just happened to have a brayer on hand I used it. I know for a fact that I would not have bought a brayer for this project if I didn't have one, that I would have used one of my bone folders instead. However, the brayer worked really, really well and I was able to apply 8 sheets of scrapbook paper with not a single wrinkle. So, definitely give a brayer due consideration with this project.

After allowing the Mod Podge to dry for around 15 minutes, I trimmed the paper with the edge of the clipboard. I did this with an X-acto knife, with the paper side of the board down on a flat surface that I didn't mind getting X-acto marks. Since my dining/school/craft table already looks like this, as well as things you can't see in these shots like burn holes from melted metal and JB Weld, Gorilla Glue, and numerous kinds of paint stains, I just used the table surface. You should probably use a cutting mat or board.

Then I repeated the process for the front side of the boards. It was a bit tricky, but not really hard, doing it while holding the clip open, but otherwise this is an easy project. Instead of waiting 15 minutes for it to dry this time, I waited over night. It was bedtime, after all. However, I do recommend waiting at least a couple of hours before this next step, so that the Mod Podge is quite dry.

The next step I didn't get a photo of (sorry). I used the 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out the edges of the trimmed paper on both sides. The X-acto knife didn't cut perfectly smooth in all spots, plus sanding a bit took back the paper to smooth with the board, hopefully minimizing the likelihood that it will get caught on something and pull up or tear later. 

I did not apply a top coat of Mod Podge, even though the instructions I linked to above said I should apply at least two of them. More than pretty, I need these boards to be functional and I do not like the feel or texture of top coats of Mod Podge and I did not think it would be a good surface to write on. 

I am sooooo pleased with the result. They are pretty (or cute since the boys would object to theirs being called "pretty") and work wonderfully too.

Update: July 2014
The kids use their clipboards very regularly, especially the girls, and after a year of use they are still in great condition and still look pretty.

New update: Feb 2016
These clipboards are STILL beautiful and they get used all the time. The pink camo and butterflies are especially hard used, and the scrapbook paper isn't coming up at all. Two and a half years later and I'm still pleased as punch with theses.

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