“Put a Bird on It” Painting

In an ode to my home-town of Portland, I think it is appropriate to “put a bird on it”. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should really watch IFC’s Portlandia.

I did this project on Canvas Board; around $1 a pop, it makes a great alternative to regular stretched canvas. However, you can really put a bird on any surface. Using wood is also an interesting and cheap idea.


  • Canvas Board
  • Paint, Bottom Layer: 2 Colors + White, Top Layer: Black (can also use spray paint of any color for top)
  • Paintbrush
  • Portlandia Bird Stencil (Click Here!)
  • Cardstock Paper & Pencil (to trace stencil)
  • Sharpie
  • Scissors
  • Tape

STEP 1: Paint Bottom Layer

I put the paint straight on the canvas; I like seeing streaks of the pink, purple, and white, so I didn’t mix it all the way.

I painted straight down to give it a striped pattern. You could also experiment with different strokes for various textures. Remember to let it dry completely, otherwise when you get to the end and peel the tape off, you might pull some paint off with it.

STEP 2: Create Stencil

I traced the stencil on to Cardstock paper by placing it on my computer screen and using a pencil. Then, cut out the stencil, and place it on to your canvas. Trace the outline of the stencil with black sharpie.

STEP 3: Tape

This part takes a little while. I suggest using Blue Painters Tape. It sticks fairly well, and paint doesn’t bleed through. (I ended up using old masking tape, which was tough to work with and preferred to stick to my fingers instead of the canvas.)

I eyeballed the edge of the stencil area and cut pieces of tape to match. For the straight lines of the stencil, I matched those with the straight side of the tape. You will probably end up using a bunch of little tape pieces.

Make sure all the edges are well pressed down before moving on. I would also suggest adding a double layer of tape to make sure the bottom paint is completely protected from the black.

*Note: the simpler way to do this is to use the stencil (see “Alternative” below). However, I feel that tape gives you a cleaner edge, since stencils tend to move.

STEP 4: Paint Over Entire Piece

Cover the entire piece with black paint, and go gingerly around the edges, to avoid pulling up the tape.

You will probably have to do 2 coats of black to completely cover the paint underneath.

STEP 5: Peel It Off

Make sure it dries completely, and then pull back the tape.

If there are any messy edges, you can clean it up with the paint brush.

And ta-da; you have “put a bird on it”!


If you choose to use spray paint and don’t feel like taking the time to tape the stencil (I don’t blame you!), then you can also lay the stencil straight on to the canvas, push it all the way flat, and then spray over. Wait for it to dry, and then peel it back and you are done.

I tried this variation as well (with a shiny silver, instead of black), and the edges were a little messy. Luckily, I had a silver paint pen in my art bucket, and so I outlined the bird to give it a sharper line.


2 thoughts on ““Put a Bird on It” Painting

  1. Thank you for the stencil and the awesome idea! My hallway wall is boring and sad, but now I’m going to put a bird on it!

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