By Niclas Backman

Niclas Backman, Lowbrow Art Academy Member, has produced this super cool tutorial, to show us how he does his bad-ass wood cut-outs.

Ok. So I got a request from Sandra Havik to make a small tutorial about how I make my wood cutouts start to finish. For a faster progress I will be doing the linework with markers instead of a brush and instead of designing something new I went with one of Sandras slugs and it will be a single layer.

This is Sandras original.

Wood Cut Out Tutorial

And this is my rough copy with some changes to the tounge and tail so they won’t break easy.

Next I add a fat line outside the shape to make room for an outline. This all depends on the pen the sketch was made with to begin with and how you want the outline.

On this shape I want soft rounded edges on the finished piece so I add about 2-3mm all the way around.
I find it easier to simply cut out the design with a scissor but you can also do the design straight on the wood or you can transfer it with transferpaper.
Change of clothes...
Editors note: check out the wheels in the background!!

This here is my basic setup. Two stands for 5€ each and a 29€ jigsaw. The material is mdf, medium density fiberboard.

The sawblade is a standard/medium wood blade but other works to.

Here I have simply drawn a line outside the paper.
You can also lay the paper down and use a spray can over the edges to make an outline.
Some wiggling with the jigsaw and the piece is cut out.
Sand, sand sand

When looking closer on pieces you see on, for instance Instagram, some artists leave the edges rough like this. I prefer a more refined look so the next step is, sanding, sanding, sanding.

For sanding you need sanding stuff. Use what you find works best, try different stuff like machine papers, regular sheets, pads etc. I sand by hand with what i have at home basically, from rough- to fine grit. I prefer to sit on my stair entrance relaxing and sanding, getting some air.

Nice rounded edges

After sanding a while you end up with this if you’ve done it somewhat right. It’s easy to get carried away and sand away details or not stay true to the original design. This piece where a bit too small for the details, making it hard to get into the small corners.

Next and final step for now is primer.

 I use a cheap, basic wood primer applied with brush. 

I start with the sides and go around with two coats before i apply two coats on the surface.

Leave to dry until the next day at least. With faster materials, like 2k primers and/or sprayprimers both the priming and the drying time would be faster.

Next step is to gently sand the primer smooth with a fine grit paper or pad. Try not to sand through.

You should end up with a smooth surface.

With smaller pieces like this the easiest way is often to simply draw your design gently on the piece, but just to demonstrate I will use a transferpaper.

The transfer papers are good for roughly marking up your bigger designs, to ensure you don’t loose proportions, when copying your design onto the piece.

The hard part is that the transfer papers are big, like A4, and will go between your wood piece and your sketch.

This makes it tricky to get your sketch exactly where you want it on the wooden piece. A delicate touch and some masking tape strips helps a lot.

Place the transferpaper on top of the wood with the transferside down as shown and your sketch on top.

Follow the lines you want to transfer with a ballpoint pen applying pressure.

You now have the lines you want transfered to the wooden piece.
They are just a guide, you can always change, add and ignore when applying the paint which is the next step.

Your piece is ready for paint and you can use everything from 1-shot enamel to posca- or molotovmarkers. I mostly use acrylics since they are cheap and dries fast, not forcing you to wait for paint to tack up between colors like with enamel. The downside coverage, often forcing you to lay several coats. 

Ready to paint

You also have to consider the order you apply the colors in, since a light color over a dark one will create a muddy color, unless it’s a very thick layer.

The black outlines on this one will be made with posca acrylicmarkers which are a bit faster to work with than a brush and I’ll only need to do one coat.

Make sure the primer is completely dry, otherwise markerpaint will crack.

Sandra Haviks design

Since Sandra Haviks design was a sketch, I will wing the colors based on her other designs, going with greens, yellow and orange Tones.

When the piece is colored it’s time for outlining. I call this the ”ugly stage” since it sometimes can look really weird and sloppy before the linework is there.

P.S. Make sure you have a jar of water next to you when painting with acrylics to clean your brushes in. Acrylic paint tastes really bad and you should definitely leave the spitshading for watercolors only.

The linework is done.

Now the piece will rest for a few days to ensure it’s completely dry. After that there is several options, either leave it as is, or add some kind of finish and further protection, all depending on what paint you used.

This being flat acrylic i will put some coats of acrylicbased flat (no gloss) clearcoat on top as protection and to make the surface a bit smoother hiding the brushstrokes.

When you apply the coats it looks thick but most of it evaporates when drying.

Being a man with no patience we now pretend that a couple of days have passed. For this I use a acrylicbased (but solventcarryed) flat clearcoat.

To make sure the solvent doesn’t desolve the acrylicpaint, lightly dust on the first layer and let it dry. Keep on adding layers until you’re happy, following the instruction on the can (or not…).

I felt like the piece needed something more so I modified a picture frame, painted a fake woodgrain on the masonite backpiece and added the lettering from Sandra Haviks original sketch before a coat of flat clear (a hairdryer is a good thing when working fast..).

I mounted the slug floating using a small woodpiece between the backpiece and the slug and voilà, done!

Bio: I’m Niclas Backman, also known as ”Art by Backman” or ”Art by B” (my signature). I’m 34 years old from the middle of Sweden and recently I’ve found my way back to my creative side, that for too long has stood back for other things in my life.

I strive to be versatile in my practice, working with plenty of different materials and technics but mainly lowbrow – kustom kulture- and tattoo flash inspired. Everything from pop surrealism on canvas to multilayerd 3d colorfull art cut out of Wood, flirting with both grafitti, pop art and traditional tattooart. I’m extra fond of painting on raw Wood where the grain in the material gives a extra contrast to the motives And painting eyeballs. Did i mention eyeballs…

Follow Niclas and see more of his super cool wood projects on Instagram and Facebook