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DIY Penguin Nursery

In design, repeating an image helps to strengthen the visual message. There is definitely power in repetition. I often think some of the best examples of this design technique come from Andy Warhol. The silver wigged artist drove this point home with his Pop Art masterpieces like his Campbell’s Soup Cans below.

Andy Warhol Campbell's Soup Cans

The couple I was working with on a recent project wanted to design a gender-neutral nursery that was unique, cute and different from anything they’ve seen. They called me to talk design and come up with some fresh ideas for them. After brainstorming some animal motifs, we landed on penguins. Their graphic black and white shapes and super cute aesthetic made them a perfect choice for this modern nursery.

Exploring the principle of repetition, I created hand-cut templates, which would become my penguin pattern. In the center of the line of penguins, a large square penguin painting would hang. Read below to see how I made the stencil pattern. This same principle can be used for a variety of animals, flowers, cars or any image or composition you can think of. Repetition is the key!

1. Sketch your image onto stencil paper or use acetate (available at most arts and crafts stores).

2. Separate the image by color or layers. For the penguins, I used dark grey, white and orange, so I made three stencils—one for each color.

Penguin Nursery Stencil

3. Carefully cut out the template shapes with a sharp Exacto knife. I used scissors for the longer cuts. Keep your eyes on your blade at all times, and make sure to put it away when the children are around, they are super sharp!

Penguin Nursery Stencil

I wanted my penguins to be in a line, so I used blue painter’s tape to make sure that all my penguins started at the same height. Then put on some fun music and start stenciling!

Penguin Nursery Stencil

The big “trick” with stenciling is to use as little paint as possible. I dab a teeny bit of paint on my brush, then blot the brush on a rag or paper towel to take some of the paint off, leaving just a little bit on the brush so that it’s almost dry. Then repeatedly tap the brush around the edges of the design and fill in the center. Tapping is better than brushing since the brushing motion can force paint under the stencil making the image messy. Stencil brushes are a must and are readily available at art stores.

Penguin Nursery Stencil

You can combine several details and colors within one layer. Below I used one stencil for the beak and eyes so they would end up consistent.

Penguin Nursery Stencil

When all of the stenciling is done, I added some outlines and additional details (like the shine in they penguins’ eyes) using a liner brush and some very fluid black and white paint. This last layer of detail really makes the image look sharp and complete. With all of my artwork, I work big to small, leaving the tiny details to last.

Penguin Nursery Stencil

Then it’s time to hang the main 30″ x 30″ painting in the center of the wall. The background is sprinkled with metallic white stars that shimmer.

Custom Penguin Nursery Art

The graphic grey and white artwork was complemented by my clients’ choice of chunky modern furniture. The crib and changer’s dark and white elements visually nod to the dark and light elements of the penguin artwork. This turned out to be a super cute gender-neutral nursery! Penguin nursery complete!

Penguin Nursery with Custom Sam Simon Artwork

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Friday 28th of November 2014

What company are the furniture from I love the furniture and decor!!!


Tuesday 7th of May 2013

Sam, I just have to say, you have a gift in creating beautiful things. So simple, yet very attractive! Thank you for sharing this one!

Sam Simon

Friday 10th of May 2013

Dear @Lisapeck:disqus thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked this post and project!! xoxoSS

Andrea Lowe

Sunday 5th of May 2013

I'd like to try this on my sons' room. But I think I would do whales. At least I would only need to do white or blue, which are exactly the colors I used. The only problem is I am not good with an Exacto knife.

Sam Simon

Friday 10th of May 2013

If you are not comfortable with an exacto knife, then use a scissors. Whales are pretty simple shapes and would be easy to cut out using a scissor.

Sam Simon

Wednesday 8th of May 2013

No worries, just use a nice pair of scissors, there also might be a whale stencil you could find pre made-