diy project: brenna’s pinhole artwork

this perfect-for-summer project comes from brenna berger at paper + ink. she documents her amazingly clever custom invitation designs on her blog, so when it comes to paper it’s no surprise that she’s full of ideas. i love the simple, modern feel of these, and the fact that they cost next to nothing to make. on an semi-related note, i recently decided to have a movie marathon of all corporate “must make it big in nyc” movies from the eighties (wall street, secret of my success, working girl…you get the drift), but now i am definitely not going to start it until i have some paper and a thumbtack ready:) thanks, brenna! -kate

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

we live in a (very) small house. having lived here for a little over a year, I have realized that as far as décor goes, less is more. to maintain this theme, i am paring down and switching out my dated photos for some clean lined, monochromatic pinhole art. i gathered some inspiration from heather smith jones, and chose a summery subject… seaweed. grouped on the mantle, these sea inspired paper pieces are detailed and soothing… just what our tiny house needs. on a small scale, each piece of pinhole art can be turned into a folded card for someone special, or wrapped around glass votive holder for some nighttime twinkle. relax, channel your inner zen, and poke away. -brenna

1. paper (preferably cotton)
2. thumbtack
3. pony bead and hot glue (optional)
4. scrap cardboard (at least as big as your paper)
5. tape
6. image of choice (some options are available here)

1. securely tape your image on top of the cotton paper. then tape the paper to the scrap piece of cardboard. the cotton paper and the cardboard should be about the same size. i taped only one side to the cardboard so i could lift my paper and check my progress.

2. the pony bead acts as a spacer for the thumbtack. it keeps the pin from going too far into the paper and creating too big of a hole. for the bead spacer, put a dot of hot glue in the hole of the pony bead and place the bead over the pin of the thumbtack. let dry.

3. with the thumbtack, pierce through the top two papers, just until you hit the cardboard. if you are using the spacer bead, just push down until the thumbtack stops. poke along tracing the lines of the image while placing each new hole as close as possible to the last.

4. continue until you have traced over the entire image. lift the paper to insure a lovely image, and add any freehand holes if needed.

5. cut to size and you are done!

  1. Nicole says:

    Ooo thanks so much for sharing! I’m going to attempt this tonight! nx

  2. brigwork says:

    Would this work on patterned paper?

  3. Stephanie Shumway says:

    I really love this! What a great idea- and so simple! I have a feeling that my house will be decorated from floor to ceiling in pinhole art in a few months time. soo cute

  4. David says:

    beautiful job brenna! very elegant in white on white. I’m thinking I might try to do one on a piece large enough to be a cylinder around a glass candle holder.

  5. What a great idea! These are beautiful!

  6. Alex says:

    this is such a wonderful and simple idea! i definitely want to try this, even on plain colored paper :)

  7. Krista says:


  8. Tess says:

    This fits perfectly into my budget! I’ve got paper, a pin, & time- can’t wait! Now I just need to figure out what kind of movie marathon I’m in the mood for…

  9. Kari says:

    So simple, yet so genius. I wonder how this would look as a silhouette/portrait? I think my rabbit may have a pinhole ode to her by this weekend!

  10. Jelli says:

    Seems like using a pencil eraser instead of the bead would be easier. Rip that eraser off a stubby pencil, and you are set to go.

  11. Julee says:

    It is amazing that such a wonderful and simple idea can create such beautiful art and has so many interesting applications. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Heather says:

    These are so cool! Inspiring, as always.

  13. Bonnie! says:

    Wow! Cool!

  14. Debi says:

    This is nice. Think I will do one of my lab.

  15. Betsy says:

    I’ll be making these! The idea is kind of a twist on those discarded tin can nail hole “lanterns”. They appear to be easy to make. They’re inexpensive and the end result will be some cool, textured, simple cohesive artwork to complement what I’ve already got going on in my room. Nice!

  16. Serena says:

    I absolutely love this! It’s so simple and the final product looks like an imprint, almost like a fossil. This is defs going to be a project for my dorm room next year…

  17. Stephanie says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I will def. try my hand at these.

  18. Suzanne says:

    Can’t wait to try this inspired idea!

  19. lisa says:

    i’m so glad and relieved to see that you give heather smith jones credit as your inspiration, but i wonder how she might feel about you turning something she’s been doing for over 10 years in her art practice into a DIY project. sure artists get copied all the time, and i don’t think that anyone has the “rights” to any technique or practice in this day in age, but this does seem to trivialize her work a bit??? i do think that heather’s intent is completely different – she’s no merely thinking of making decorative objects… there are other artists who have used this technique as well – wendy kawabata comes to mind:

  20. Rachel says:

    Yes, I sure hope people understand that this inspired idea was actually that of Heather Smith Jones, of whose work I personally own and can attest to the beauty and delicacy.

  21. Tess says:

    pinhole art is not a new technique, so no need to get all defensive about “ripping ” someone off. It’s a simple method that can provide a variety of effects. I like your designs Brenna. Nice work

  22. The technique isn’t new, so no one can claim it. But what someone does with it is their personal property. While artists would appreciate it if people didn’t copy their art, as long as someone doesn’t try to sell the “copy”, there’s no law against it.

    Brenna’s images are her creation. Heather’s are hers. Wendy owns her pieces. I own mine. But none of us claim the technique any more than painters claim their paint brushes.

    When you buy an artist’s work, you are buying their creativity as well as their skills. We hope you enjoy that little slice of us that you take home with you.

  23. Beth says:

    I made a couple of these over the weekend and they came out well but my hand is killing me today. Perhaps my grip on the little pin was a bit too tight, but it left me wondering if there’s another tool that might be a little easier on the hands.

  24. Mary says:

    These are so pretty! I’m thinking of doing some of these to decorate my home. :) I was thinking that an embroidery needle or a paper punch awl thing-I’ve got one with a handle like an exacto knife-would work well so your fingers don’t get cramped up as much. :)

  25. Marien says:

    So I totally just did this at my office and discovered 2 things:

    1. The pencil eraser idea instead of the bead/glue gun is fantastic! works really well.

    2. Mouse pads (albeit small) are IDEAL as a base for this project.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  26. Candace says:

    I have got to do this I just love it!

  27. Mary says:

    Ended up doing 3 smaller prints of leaves for my home. I got my images just by searching for coloring book pages on Google. Used some frameless picture frames (Ikea’s “click” frames) to hang them-they look awesome! Thanks for the inspiration!

  28. Shay says:

    I would love to cross this with the lighted fireworks design and make LIGHTED pinhole art!

  29. Kasandra says:

    I found some Sashiko patterns on-line which will be perfect for this type of craft!
    Many thanks for sharing your skills


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