DIY: Child’s hand print Christmas manger craft

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I know there are a lot of hand print crafts out there for children, but this one is my absolute fav.

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Probably because it’s accompanied with a sweet little saying that makes it that much more special. So I decided to enlist the help of my little one to make these as awesome grandparent gifts for Christmas.

I used a very thin (1/8″ thick) piece of leftover wood that I had lying around to make these. Each board measured approximately 9 3/4″ wide by 11 1/2″ high. Yours don’t have to be exact. I sanded the edges real fast just to make sure no little fingers were harmed in the making of these.

Then you get to painting! I used acrylic craft paint, and it worked just fine.

First, paint the entire board a light blue. Let it dry, about 20-30 minutes.

Next, carefully paint the palm of your little helper in brown. Make sure you also get all five fingers! Place your child’s hand near the bottom of the board with fingers facing down. Hold and apply pressure for a few seconds to make sure you get a good hand print. Done! Now the important part. Go clean your child’s hand so that she doesn’t place brown hand prints all over the cat. Let the hand print dry, about 20 minutes.

I also decided to use my daughter’s thumb print to make baby Jesus. I didn’t have a tan color on hand, so I had to mix light purple and yellow to get tan, but it worked. Get creative. Paint your child’s thumb and hold down on the hand print to make baby Jesus. This is why it’s important that the hand print is already dry. Hold and apply pressure, clean off your child, and let dry, about 15 minutes.

Now go send your child off to play so that you can get to work. Using black, red and yellow, draw on the eyes, smile and halo. I used a golden yellow color to paint the stars, which I hand drew first in pencil to make sure they actually looked like stars. The pencil will show through, so draw lightly!

I let the finished picture dry overnight so that there was no risk of me accidentally smudging it with my arm when painting on the letters.

Okay, here comes the fun but tricky part.

I laid out and printed off the saying backwards on my printer so that I could transfer the ink to the wood surface. Now this is your lucky day, because it took me at least half a day to lay out and design the words. Believe it or not, there is a lot of math involved in laying out the words just right, but don’t worry, I’ve done the hard part for you. You can buy and download two versions of this font printable from my ETSY shop for just $9, one already inversed and one designed for easy tracing or instant hand printing. How easy is that? You’re welcome.

Lay the paper (ink side down) on the board. Make sure you’re not crooked.

Dip your paint brush (I used a 1″ brush) in water and begin to paint the water over the letters. You want to get the paper wet to help transfer the ink but not so wet that the paper rips. Mine ripped a little. Do as I say, not as I do.

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Once you’re done with that, use the cap of a sharpie marker to rub each letter and graphic onto the wood. Go slowly and if you need to check, lift up the corner of your paper slowly to make sure the ink is transferring. It took me about 5-10 minutes to do this. Remember, this just serves as a pattern. It doesn’t have to be perfect; just good enough that you have a pattern to follow.

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You’ve almost done! The hard part is over. You have successfully transferred your ink onto your wooden canvas.

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Now comes the fun part (or at least it’s fun to me). Using a fine tip sharpie (the regular sharpies are too thick;use fine tip), begin to color in and trace over each letter and graphic. The benefit of using sharpie over a paint pen is that sharpies don’t run or smudge like paint pens do, and I have yet to find a paint pen that is as precise as a fine tip sharpie. I did use a regular sharpie to draw the final border because it’s thicker, so make sure you have one of those on hand too.

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You did it! You’ve successfully captured a moment in time with your little one’s hand print and transferred beautiful words onto wood to make it come alive.

As a final step, I applied two coats of spray poly just to seal everything in (wait about 30 minutes for your words to set just in case), and I believe you have to wait about 10 minutes in between poly coats.

I also decided to drill two small holes near the top, run some old wire through as a hanger, and tie a small ribbon to it to finish it off. Feel free to be as creative as you’d like on this.

Check out my finished product.

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If you don’t believe me as to why it’s better to use a font pattern than to free hand the words, take a look at one of my free handed boards compared to the one where I used a font pattern.

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Font patterns rock. I use them for everything.

Happy crafting!