While everyone in blog world was talking about pumpkins and Halloween costumes, I was busy planning and decorating a Hoedown Party for my daughter’s preschool class. In a nutshell, I transformed a large box into a photo booth that mimicked an old Western Wanted Poster.
Because this was a used wardrobe box and had traveled many miles, I found the bottom to be more sturdy than the top. Given the fact that this box was about to be used by over a dozen little preschoolers, I flipped it upside down so the top framework would be as stable as possible.
I decided which side would be the front and then cut out a decent sized square window. For the door, I cut down the seam on one side. I also cut off the top and bottom of the door to make it like a swinging saloon door. In hindsight, a double swinging door is more authentic. If I were to do it again, I would leave both sides of the door attached to the box and cut down the middle to make a double swinging saloon door.
Then I got to work creating the wooden look. This is reeaaalllllyyyy easy. Take a permanent marker, like a Sharpie, and draw vertical stripes about 4″ apart over the four outside walls. Then add random horizontal lines to create planks. Just draw by free-hand. No need to use a ruler or be precise. In fact, uneven/wavy lines look more realistic.
Next add wood veins by drawing scattered short vertical lines all over the planks. You can also throw in a few knots by coloring misshaped circles sporadically.
For this project, I used things I had around the house. After all, the box was free and the party was short. I wasn’t about to invest big bucks.
I used brown crayola washable paint and a foam brush (both things I had leftover from other projects) to soften the harsh black marker lines. My 5-year-old helped me slather the brown paint over every Sharpie line and circle to create a wood grain appeal. In the picture below, it looks harsh and noticeable. However, after the paint dried, it took on a softer and more subtle appearance. Keep reading and you’ll see how the brown paint blends in once dry.
After the paint dried, I created a background by gluing white poster board in the area behind the picture window. I did this so the pictures of the children posing as cowboys/cowgirls would turn out better HOWEVER you could skip this step and I don’t think it would make much difference.
If you do glue a white poster board background, I simply used Elmer’s standard glue and smeared it around with a paintbrush to avoid any ridges or bumps showing through. I also did this to make sure the glue covered all the edges.
Poster board wet with glue tends to curl up at the edges. To fix this, I laid the box down and used weights (books) until all the edges were dry (see pic below).
After finishing the booth, I turned my attention to the WANTED poster.
I took a standard white poster board and stained it for an aged appearance. To stain it a brownish color, I made a batch of tea and poured it into my bathtub. Then, I soaked the poster board in the the tea water for an hour or so.
While the poster board was wet, I carefully tore all the edges off and let it soak a little longer in the tea mixture. Be careful when making the torn edges because the paper rips very easily when wet.
I also folded and crumpled the poster board in the tea water to give it some lines and character.
After it soaked long enough, I let it air dry overnight on a towel. While the poster was drying, I printed the words, “WANTED $20,000 REWARD” and cut out each individual letter (yes, a little time consuming but not terrible if done while watching your favorite TV show).
I don’t have pictures of cutting out the letters or gluing them on, but I’m sure you can imagine how it’s done.
I need guidelines, so I chose to cut out the square picture hole first before attempting to glue the letters on straight. I also used a ruler to get the lettering in a straight line, but that’s just my perfectionist side. Everything else I did free hand. For pasting the letters on, I found it much easier to use a glue stick.
Finally, I glued the finished poster board onto the box using Elmer’s school glue (FYI a glue stick isn’t strong enough for this part). Like earlier, I smeared the glue on the backside with a paintbrush so there were no visible ridges or lines.
If you look closely in the picture below, the black numbers and letters have texture to them. I did this by swirling the glue stick over the top of each letter/number. It acted similar to mod-podge and the swirling effect gave it a weathered appearance. I’m sure there must be a product that would create this same appearance more intentionally, but again, I was doing my best to be creative with the basics I had on hand.
After all the glue was dry, I added one last antiquing touch. I rubbed the side of a brown crayon over parts of the poster board wherever it needed extra staining marks. It’s hard to see this addition since I took my pictures in bright daylight. However, I promise the poster board looked old and weathered!
My last addition was to glue a black poster board on the top side. This is another step not completely necessary (especially if you have a new box). Remember, the top of my booth was the old bottom side of my moving box. It’s fair to say, it needed a fresh looking “lid” for the photos.
I realize everyone is in a Thanksgiving and Christmas mindset. So, you’ll have to tuck this little how-to project away on Pinterest if you’re planning a Cowboy themed party in your child’s future. Below is a Pinnable collage of pictures to spark your creativity later. As always, please don’t hesitate to ask questions! Oh, and check back soon for how I made photo props and table decorations!