Recycle Art

Here is a recycle art project using cardboard and styrofoam to create a Japanese symbol wall plaque.

Age: Adult

Difficulty rating: Easy

Time Scale: 3 out of 5

This has the look of chiseled stone and copper but is light weight and inexpensive to make.



  • 5x5 inch piece of heavy cardboard
  • latex paintable caulking
  • 6x6 piece of tan tissue paper
  • 6x6 piece turquoise tissue paper
  • 7x7.5 inch piece of styrofoam (I used the rigid pink insulation)
  • black craft paint
  • charcoal grey paint
  • light grey paint
  • moss green paint
  • copper metallic craft paint
  • heat gun (if you have one)
  • dremel (not necessary but makes the project go faster)
  • serrated knife or jigsaw
  • sandpaper
  • tracing paper
  • white sheet of paper
  • white glue
  • Paint brushes
  • Gorilla glue
  • Paper towel
  • Pop can tab
  • Spray sealer

Recycle Art Inspirational Sign

To make this recycle art project, cut a piece of heavy cardboard into a 5x5 inch square. With a pencil, draw out the Japanese symbol for tranquility. *template here. You can use this, or use whatever symbol you choose.

Lay a piece of tracing paper on the cardboard and trace over your design to transfer it.

Now with latex paintable caulking, fill in the area of the symbol, so it is raised up from the cardboard at least an 1/8th of an inch. *If you don't have caulking, you can use hot glue.


While this is drying, cut out a 7 x 7.5 inch piece of styrofoam. You can use a serrated knife or a jig saw to cut this. Write the word "tranquility" (Or the word that represents the symbol that you have chosen) near the bottom. Either free hand it or print it up on the computer and then trace it on to the styrofoam.


Use a heat gun to melt the edges of the styrofoam. Don't do it too much, and make sure to do this outside! If you don't have a heat gun, just pick pieces off with your fingernails. You want it to look like chiseled stone.

Sand it lightly.

Carve the tranquility lettering into the foam with a dremel. If you don't have a dremel, use an embossing tool or knife. Try to do the lettering an 1/8th of an inch deep or so.

Now, for your recycle art project, mark on the styrofoam where the cardboard piece will sit. Paint the styrofoam with two coats of charcoal grey, but not where the cardboard will be glued on. Glue adheres better to non painted surfaces. Paint two coats on the back, also with the charcoal color.


When dry, stipple the front with light grey and some moss green paint using a pouncing paint technique. Let dry again and then add a bit of black.

Paint in the lettering with black paint.

When the caulking on the cardboard with the japanese symbol on it has dried completely, paint on white glue. Apply the tan tissue paper and brush white glue on top. Make sure to use your brush to get all the air bubbles out. Now do a layer of the torquoise tissue paper.


When this is dry, brush on black that has been slightly watered down. Leave on for a few seconds and then wipe off with a damp paper towel. Don't rub too hard or you will damage the tissue paper.


After this has dried completely, paint the symbol with the copper metallic paint. Add a small amount to the rest of the cardboard. Stipple the paint on randomly, leaving some of the turquoise color of the tissue paper still showing.


Glue the cardboard to the piece of styrofoam. I used gorilla glue, which I hadn't used before. I didn't know it was this crazy expanding stuff. Reminded me of that awful expanding foam I have so many problems with. Some of the glue oozed out from the edges.


I thought I was going to have another craft wreck to add to the list. Luckily it was just like the chiseled rock look I was going for. I just had to add a little more paint, when the glue was dry. My recycle art wasn't ruined afterall.

Glue a pop can tab to the back for hanging. As you can see, I wasn't too particular with the back.

When everything is all dry, seal with a couple coats of spray sealer.

Isn't it surprising what supplies you can use to make your recycle art?


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