This project started out as a sewing accessory, and quickly evolved into these DIY concrete silhouette coasters. I love tracing silhouettes. I can simplify an objects texture, while turning attention to its shape. It’s not necessarily enjoyable, but is super satisfying when I’m done. I used the northern lights, and the sky at dusk for inspiration. These particular DIY concrete silhouette coasters are bound for my sewing area to be used as pattern weights.
As I have described in previous posts, my DIY approach often starts with the statement “why buy it, when I can make it for double the price and hours of my precious time”. This post will henceforth describe (in 4 semi-intensive steps) how to make these DIY concrete silhouette coasters.
The cement was too thick when mixed per the instructions on the bag, and after my first attempt I went rogue. Rather than measure exactly, I found it easiest to seek a water:cement ratio that would give me “soft peaks”.
Soft peaks is a baking reference; if you can glob a chunk into the mixture and it holds it shape on top without flattening out, it will pour easily into a mold.
Basically, you want to avoid them. Such is accomplished with patience (you can see with my coasters I lack this virtue). Pour slow, mix to appropriate thickness (see above), and as you pour, push the cement into all areas of your mold.
I found angles and corners to be both where air-bubbles hide, AND where they are most noticeable in a finished project, so spend extra time working them out.
A chopstick is handy to poke around in the spots described. Use it to “stir” the bubbles to the surface, and use lots of jiggling to try to agitate them out.
I thought I could agitate a smooth finish, and attempted to do so on my first coaster trial.
Learn from my mistake (a putty knife is much more effective at smoothing out the top).
I left the cement in the molds until I had time to revisit within a day or two (because, kids, right?). Had there been unlimited opportunity to craft, I’d have followed the cement bag directions for cure time.
I gently pulled the DIY concrete silhouette coasters from the molds and sanded any burrs. The actual molds got rinsed off with water. I’d flex them in my hands under the faucet to flake the dried cement free for the next use.
Step 2: Northern Lights, Sky at Dusk
I envisioned a powdery, graduated colour transition, sponged delicately onto the surface of each pattern-weight. The reality wound up being porous cement that absorbed the moisture from the paint at the same speed I applied it. This made it really hard for me to blend colours since I couldn’t work fast enough in the presence of very quick-drying paint.
You can avoid this by priming your paint surface first. It will put a barrier in between the wet paint and moisture sucking cement, and give you more time for blending!
The nice part about having a border around the edge of the vinyl is that you don’t need to cut in or worry about a crisp paint edge around the lip; the vinyl will cover where your paint stops. Try not to get too close to the edges (but close enough that it will extend under the vinyl).
For the “stars”, I cut a hexagon-shaped hole in a piece of card stock to keep paint from spattering onto the raised edges of my coasters and sunk a spray bottle lid right into the bottle of white acrylic paint. You may want to water the paint down- it will pass through the spray nozzle with more ease than mine did.
Lacking a spray bottle you could also just “flick it” on from a paintbrush.
For the “Northern Lights” Coaster design, I sprayed the whole hex. For the “sunrise” and “sunset” coasters, I only wanted the dark sky to have visible stars, so I placed another piece of card stock to block the lighter areas.
Step 3: Constellations and Trees and Bears (Oh my!)
I’ve had outdoorsy silhouettes traced to my Design Space for years that I use over and over. The process of designing this particular project involved layering a hexagon with animal and tree shapes. I added some organic shapes and sliced them accordingly to fit inside the edges of my DIY concrete silhouette coasters.
Make sure your vinyl dimensions fit your area. I cut paper “tester pieces” to see how tight I could fit my vinyl to the edge of my coaster. There are lots of options out there for hexagon-shaped molds, so you may need to adjust the size in design space if your mold is a slightly different size than mine.
Because of the lip around the edge, I cut my transfer tape to fit smaller than the lip. The hexagon shapes were cut slightly smaller than my finished vinyl, so I could easily lift the edges once the vinyl was placed. I could reuse each transfer piece a few times before it got too ratty, so I only needed one transfer tape hexagon per three coasters.
I found it easier to use a small, separate piece of transfer tape for the constellations and birds. You can then decide where they fit best. In some of my coasters, you can see where a bird was lost in the darkest part of the “sky”. If you do it this way, you can also mix and match them around.
This step will keep the vinyl from peeling when it gets wet. Clear epoxy would be a great way to seal it to a smooth, clear finish, but I’ve never worked with it before (check out these beginner epoxy kits though!). I have seen people online talk about “Dishwasher safe sealer” by Mod Podge which would fit this application, but it does require a 28-day cure. I went with a water-resistant spray-on varathane, and applied the recommended 4 coats per the instructions on the can.
Step 4: Base of choice
What started as a plan to glue some felt to the bottom of each piece evolved when the felt offerings in town were lacking.
I had “tacky spray” laying around, and sprayed a generous ammount onto the cork and arranged the tiles onto it, leaving space around each piece to trim it with an exacto knife after it dried.
The cork edges needed a sand after cutting, since the exacto-knife-cut edge was a bit rough looking. After this step, they are complete!
They work great as coasters, but are so far really shining as pattern weights for me (this was the original intent, basically something to weigh down paper patterns onto fabric while I cut around them).
The lip around the edge is great because I can toss pins and clips onto them as I go. Perhaps a future development could include magnets in the concrete to really adhere pins to the surface?
Thanks for following, and in case you missed it in my narrative, below is a link to the hexagon silhouette shapes I assembled and used, you have my permission to use them to make your own DIY Concrete Silhouette Coasters.
Don’t forget to let me know if you actually used them for anything! Comment to let me know or tag me on instagram @Olive_these_Harry_Days
Have you ever wondered why a lot of blogs contain links to products or websites that sell things? Amazon specifically, despite Amazon not always being the best way to source certain items?
“Amazon Associates” is the name of Amazon’s affiliate program. Basically, it’s a way one gets rewarded for sending them traffic that makes them money. If you “click through” someone’s link and make a purchase (on anything!) in the 24 hours following, a fractional percentage of what you pay Amazon for your product is paid out to the blogger (basically). It doesn’t cost the purchaser anything at all, but those few dollars are so very appreciated by the little guys out there working on creating things.
I’m not a career blogger, I do this as a hobby and don’t make an income of much (I made $24 last year off my links, which I still think is pretty cool!). I see any income as a way to theoretically offset my yearly website fees, and I wanted to add this addendum as an “Aaah, I get it” opportunity for those of you that have no idea that THIS IS HOW IT WORKS?! Not just for the purpose of my links either! Find a site or blogger whose work you appreciate, and see if they have any affiliate links you can click through on sites that you would already be buying things for. They’ll be sending you mental hugs every time they see that 30 cent increment show up in their account!