I actually came up with the concept of using wood glue and stain to create contrasting shades four years ago for the desktop succulent planter project. I had completely forgotten about this idea, though, until last Christmas when I made the wooden advent calendar that featured Santa coming down the chimney. In the process of designing Santa, I ended up drawing him on a scrap piece of plywood and painting him in before I realized that I needed to cut out the shape before painting. So at the end of the project, I ended up with an extra Santa on a scrap piece of plywood that wasn't good for much of anything. But I liked the drawing so much, and I didn't want to waste my hard work, so I decided to cut out a rectangle around the drawing and frame it as part of my Christmas decor. To add a little extra dimension to the drawing, I painted Santa's face with glue and then stained the wood around the drawing. It was such a simple trick, yet I loved the effect so much. And I made a note to myself to include this technique in another piece of artwork later.  

I was in the process of coming up with some nursery related projects, when suddenly the glue and stain idea popped into my head again. I ended up coming up with a fairly simple design that can be tweaked and altered endlessly. The moulding is a fun and simple way to frame this art piece—but if it's too much for you or doesn't fit your aesthetic, you could swap it out for a different type of moulding or a frame from the store. Or, if you like the look of an unframed piece of wood, swap out the plywood for a one-by-twelve to give the piece a little more substance and make it look intentional. Play around with different stains, paint colors, and types of glue to get exactly the look that you’re going for. 

Step 1: Cut the wood

Cut a piece of plywood to 8” x 10” with a circular saw  or cut a piece of door skin to the same dimensions by scoring it repeatedly with a utility knife. The edges don’t need to be perfectly straight because they’ll be hidden by the moulding frame.  If you don’t have a saw or prefer to not make the cuts yourself, you can have a 1” x 12” length of spruce cut to 9” for you at your local Dunn Lumber.

Once your backdrop piece is cut to size, cut the moulding to fit around it with 45° angles at the corners. Use a backsaw and a miter box to make the cuts easily and cleanly. The type of moulding we’re using has a lip on one side—make sure this side is the inside edge of your frame. 

Step 2: Sand moulding

Sand wood lightly with a fine/medium sanding sponge, focusing on the cut edges and the corners of the moulding where the wood has a tendency to splinter.

Step 3: Sketch your design

Draw out your design on the wood in pencil. I’m doing some snowy mountain peaks under a night sky. I like to use a ruler for the mountains and a hole saw or the bottom of a cup for the outside curve of the moon. Then I freehanded the inside curve of the moon and the snowy peaks of the mountain. Try to keep your pencil lines light and erase them so that they’re barely visible—you don’t want these to be noticeable on the finished piece.

Step 4: Paint wood 

Paint the tops of the mountain with white acrylic paint and a small brush. I used a flat brush for the sides of the peaks and a small pointed brush for the jagged edges and peaks. Repeat with a couple coats until you’re satisfied with the coverage. I love working with acrylic paint because it’s always dry by the time I get around to the second coat. 

This step is a little tedious because it's precision in a small space. Taping off the peaks of the mountains would be an easy way to speed up the step. 

Step 5: Draw lines

Draw lower mountain slopes using a fine-tip permanent marker and a ruler. Permanent markers do have a tendency to bleed on wood a little bit, so I recommend using a light hand and not allowing the tip of the marker to linger anywhere for long.

Step 6: Use glue for shading

For this step we’re using mod podge instead of wood glue because it has a more clear finish—but you could absolutely do this with wood glue instead. You also could use a regular white glue like Elmer’s. Watering down the mod podge makes it an easier consistency to paint and didn’t seem to make it less effective. Paint over the base of the mountains and the painted peaks, being very careful to keep a straight line on the edges. Paint the moon also. Allow the glue to dry and then apply another coat. 

If you’re working with wood that has a more porous grain, make sure the glue is sinking in and getting into all the cracks—otherwise you’ll end up with the stain bleeding later on. Apply a coat of glue over the white paint as well to protect it from the stain. Use a toothpick to dot the sky with stars. You can also dot the sky with some of the white paint to add a multidimensional effect to the stars. 

Step 7: Add wood stain

When the glue is fully dry, stain the sky. We used a dark stain to add a lot of contrast. Apply the stain over the moon and the stars, but apply minimally over the mountains. Wipe off stain on top of the painted parts immediately, first with a dry towel and then again with a damp one (because it doesn’t take much for white paint to look dirty). Follow the directions on the side of the can for applying the stain and wipe off as directed (wiping the stain away from the mountain peaks).

Step 8: Add a hanger

Hammer in a sawtooth hanger into the back of the top moulding so that your artwork can easily be hung on a wall. 

Step 9: Frame your wood art

When everything is completely dry, it is time to add the moulding around the picture. Glue the moulding to the picture and to itself. Because our plywood was a little warped, we used some stain cans to weigh it down so that it adhered to the moulding.

For more DIY nursery projects, head to DunnDIY.com and check out this wooden baby gym, a mountain range coat hook and this DIY toddler busy board.