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DIY Art for Home Staging: 5 Practical Ideas to Save Money (That Don’t Involve Macaroni or Glue)

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In desperate need of some art to hang in an existing empty spot on your wall? Or are you frantic over how empty your house looks now that you’ve depersonalized the place?

Whatever the reason for your stark walls and bare tabletops, staging with artwork may be exactly what you need to help your house sell.

“Rooms can look a little barren once you’ve taken down all the wedding photos and family-specific artwork,” says experienced Charlotte, North Carolina agent Nancy Braun.

“When we stage a home, we like to hang artwork to bring beauty back to bare walls and to add a pop of color. We’ll sometimes use sculptures, too, which add texture and dimension.”

The proof that staging works is in the numbers.

In our recent survey of 900 of our top agents, a whopping 67% say that staged homes sell for more money—and they sell for anywhere from 1% to 20% more.

A graph showing how staging increases a home's price.

Of course, if you’re already facing the expenses of selling a home, you’re probably not eager to drop a bunch of dollars on artwork to stage a house you’re selling.

You can make your own art on a budget—if you’ve got a good eye and a dash of artistic talent.

Unless you’re already a working artist, creating art when you’re in the middle of selling your house might sound a little nuts at first. But it doesn’t have to be too complicated, expensive, time-consuming, or messy.

The real question is: How do you keep DIY artwork from looking like a 5-year-old’s finger painting?

Here’s a few non-cheesy art project ideas to help you out.

Source: (Andrian Valeanu/ Unsplash)

1. Channel your inner Bob Ross

Do you automatically envision amateurs slapping paint awkwardly on canvases while watching an old Bob Ross rerun when someone says “DIY art?”

Well, embrace that stereotype and you’ll find just the step-by-step process you need to create attractive, homemade artwork.

PBS painting instructor Bob Ross has become a pop culture for good reason—the man is a master at teaching easy techniques so that almost anybody can produce a great-looking painting with plenty of “happy trees!”

The official Bob Ross website is chock full of all the info you’ll need to create your own copy of your favorite painting.

Buy a DVD of your favorite episodes of his “The Joy of Painting” television show, or pick up a book filled with detailed written instructions on his creative painting techniques. You might luck out and find a Bob Ross-style painting class in your area.

Each episode of the show will tell you exactly which colors you need and the right size of canvas to buy. However, it’s less expensive to purchase a Bob Ross oil paint kit that contains all the necessary colors used in the included instructional video—plus some of Ross’ favorite, unconventional brushes and palette knives.

There’s only one problem with painting along with Bob Ross: his medium of choice is oil paint—which is notoriously difficult to work with, it’s a pain to clean up with toxic paint thinner, and it takes forever to dry.

Plus, oil paints to use on canvass and the required supplies tend to be price-y.

For a less expensive, easier to work with option, consider acrylic paints instead.

On the downside, acrylics are notorious for drying quickly, which may make it difficult to duplicate Ross’ wet-on-wet technique.

However, acrylics are also water-soluble, which means you can add water to keep them malleable longer. There are also acrylic paint retarders available to help slow their hyper-fast drying time.

You may not be able to exactly copy Ross’ painting techniques if you use acrylic instead of oil, but most can be easily adapted to work with acrylics.

2. Enlist the guidance of an expert artist at an art class

Speaking of teaching, Bob Ross hasn’t cornered the educational art market. Casual art classes are popping up across the country, and many of them already instruct with easy-to-use acrylics.

Plus, many let you get your artistic buzz on with a glass of wine while you paint, too.

Companies hosting wine and painting parties number in the dozens, depending on where you live. Here’s just a handful of the best that may be available in your area:

While these are all national companies with franchises across the country, there are plenty of local options available, via sites like Yelp and Groupon.

Wine aside, the other benefit to DIYing your art at a paint and sip class is that the materials are all supplied for you as part of your attendance fee, including the canvas, paint and brushes.

DIY art used for home staging.
Source: (W/ Unsplash)

3. Keep it simple with abstract artwork

When you get right down to it, attractive, eye-catching artwork doesn’t need to be an image of some pastoral scene or picturesque still-life. Just ask Kazimir Malevich, the artist behind the conceptual abstract painting, “Red Square.”

In fact, creating abstract artwork with one or two shaded hues blended on a canvas may actually be preferable to painting a recognizable object (or an object that should be recognizable).

“Keep your artwork more on the modern side rather than a traditional look that can read old and stodgy,” advises Braun. “Modern artwork can really liven up a room, making it fun and playful.”

Malevich’s “Red Square” isn’t some 20-minute rolled-on paint job. It’s got texture, shading, and brushstrokes only a gifted artist can master.

Painting one solid color on a canvas can’t stand up as an easy DIY artwork, but there is an easy technique that you can master in 20-minutes or less: It’s a blending technique known as the ombre effect.

You simply take two or more complementary colors (or one color and a neutral, like white or black), and gradually blend them into one another across the whole canvas.

For example, you might blend a blue hue into green, creating a vibrant blue-green in the middle as one color transitions into the other. Or you might take a deep eggplant and transition into a pale lilac by increasingly adding more white and less purple as you paint the canvas.

If you’re working with watercolors, you can even create an ombre effect with a single color and a graduated wash technique, by using less pigment and more water as you progress across the watercolor paper.

The biggest downside to DIY abstract artwork is when amateurs try to blend too many colors on one canvas.

Blending two colors that are next to each other on the color wheel is pretty simple—even when you add white and/or black into the mix to tint and shade your primary colors.

But try to blend three contrasting colors, or hues that are opposite one another on the color wheel, and you’ll get a big, muddy mess.

This happens because shades of two primary colors combine to create a new hue (red and blue make purple, blue and yellow make green, etc.), but combining all gets you an ugly shade of brown.

So don’t waste time (and the money you spent on supplies) trying to get too fancy combining lots of colors with this DIY artwork project.

4. Experiment with “found object” art

Not confident in your painting skills? Not to worry. Sometimes great art isn’t made, it’s found.

Found object art is simply displaying a natural or man-made object in a way that focuses attention on its beauty or design.

Maybe you frame a series of fall leaves you found in your front yard. Or hang vintage kitchen utensils in shadow boxes in the kitchen. Or even just a piece of decorative wallpaper displayed in a pretty frame works.

The key is how you display the objects. For example, a pair of antique oars leaning in the corner will just look like junk that needs putting away. But hang them on the wall with the paddles pointing in opposite directions, and voila—art.

You can even create found object art with stuff from your giveaway pile by getting a little crafty with a can of spray paint.

Try this: spray paint a series of three thrift-store-destined vases all the same color. Or maybe you create a collage—say out of aged sheets of music, or pages from a tattered book.

Don’t just wing it, though. Whatever project you decide to “craft,” check out YouTube and other DIY sites for pro tips that’ll keep your finished project from looking too “crafty.”

For example, here’s a few tricks to avoid amateur mistakes when spray painting those thrift store vases:

  • Always spray in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside to prevent toxic fumes build-up, and to avoid getting spray paint flecks inside your house.
  • Lay out paper to avoid object-shaped paint stains on your deck, grass or driveway.
  • Never start spray painting directly on the object or the paint will pool and leave amateur drip marks on your artwork. Always start spraying on the paper and move onto the object mid-stream.
Source: (John Gibbons/ Unsplash)

5. Mine your Instagram for wall-worthy photographs

Thanks to social media, so many people these days are becoming experts at amateur photography.

If you’ve got a great photographer’s eye, and you’ve got an Instagram filled with frame-worthy photos, then the hard part is done. Simply pick a few of your favorites, get them blown up via Amazon for as little as $16 for an 8″x10″ to $40 for a 24”x36”.

Just steer clear of photos that are too people-focused. Stick with still-life shots, architectural images, or nature shots.

Don’t worry if your Insta is more selfie and family-focused. If you’ve got a feed filled with followers who love your picture-taking skills, get the shots you need from your neighborhood.

For example, if you’re selling in a small town, you could:

  • Take a series of black and white shots of the retro store signs on main street.
  • Celebrate your local flora and fauna with cactus photographs if you live in the desert.
  • Hang a series of sand dunes and ocean waves if you live in a beach town.

The biggest mistake you need to be on the lookout for with enlarging photos is distortion. The company where you’re ordering your enlargements will typically have specific image quality guidelines to help you avoid this issue.

Make sure you know the resolution or megapixels of your photos before you place your order.

The downside of DIY Artwork

The last thing you need when DIYing art is a finished product that’s an amateurish, waste of time and supplies—one that isn’t even good enough to be a Pinterest-fail.

Sellers that do take on the challenge of DIYing artwork need the objective eye of an experienced real estate agent to help decide if the finished product will help or hurt the home sale.

If your DIY artwork fails, that’s OK. You can always find affordable artwork online or pick up inexpensive pieces at art fairs where artists who haven’t yet “made it” in the art scene are selling unique quality work for less than you’d find it in a formal art gallery.

Making your own art is a lot of fun, but fun isn’t important if your main reason for getting creative is to craft finished pieces that’ll help your house sell. Your DIY artwork may not sell for thousands of dollars like famous paintings do, but it can add a few dollars to your home’s sold price—if you do it right.

Header Image Source: (Rumman Amin/ Unsplash)