Create a Subway Artwork or cheap artwork print

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Have you seen subway artwork? I am not meaning a picture of a subway… I am talking about a picture with lots of words on it. Something that is very important to us is traveling and we have a list of places we want to see. And because I am trying to decorate our home with our adventures, why not put a list of the top 10 places we want to see in a frame? How about something like this…

create subway artwork

So here is a tutorial to create a subway artwork for cheap!


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  • a list of things you want to display
  • computer with Photoshop (you can use a different program: Canva)
  • industrial print (find it at Staples)
  • frame (we used an old wooden window)
  • Elmers glue (optional)
  • foam brush (optional)
  • plywood to fit the frame (optional)
  • paint (optional)
  • caulk (optional)
  • clear spray paint (optional)

Find the list of tools we use.

Most of the optional things on this list have to do with using an old wooden window as a frame!

The first thing you need is a list of words you want to display. It can be your favorite saying/quote, top 10 places you want to see before you die (that’s ours!), really anything you want. After you have your list its time to move to the computer.

Open up Photoshop or whatever program you want to use, you can find a FREE trial for Photoshop here. After opening the program, create a new file (CTRL+N). Name your file, I named mine “subway artwork”. Adjust your width & height, I like to change it to inches and my file will be 16″x24″ (will fit the frame I am using). TIP: Keep in mind that industrial prints come in 18″x24″, 24″x36″, 30″x42″, and 36″x48″. Make sure your resolution is set to 300 then hit OK.

Create Subway Artwork

Next add the grid to your file: view-grid (or CTRL+-), this will help you line everything up.

Create Subway Artwork

Now select the TYPE Tool and select the area you want your words displayed. This is where the grid will help! Make sure to select the width you want but make it taller than you need, this will come into play later… Then type your first word or sentence. I used the font “Rock Salt” with my font size at 180 pt.


To create a new word, copy the layer of the first word. To do this, right-click the layer then click “Duplicate Layer”. NOTE: The duplicate layer will be placed directly over the original layer.

Create Subway Artwork

Select the “Move Tool” and place the word below the last word, keeping everything a lined.

Create Subway Artwork

Adjust the size of the font if the next word is longer than the original and then type in the new word.

Create Subway Artwork

Next, adjust the size of the new word until it fits perfectly in the space provided. Continue this process until you have added all the words you want. At this point you may want to adjust each word or move things around to get it to fit or give you the look you want, I had to do this. You can now remove the grid.

Create Subway Artwork

For our artwork, I decided I wanted the words to fade lighter. So I faded my words going down by 90% gray, 85% gray, …., and ending with 50% gray. This can be done in the font color section.

Create your own Subway Artwork

Now my file is complete and ready to save. To save the file, select “Save As” (CTRL+SHIFT+S) and save as a Photoshop file, this way you can make changes if needed. Then save again as a JPEG file with maximum file quality.

Create Subway Artwork

Print the file where you would like, I printed ours at staples for around $3, find that here. Please note that is for an industrial print and they do use thin printing paper.

After printing the file, I added the print to the frame. Because we are using an old wooden window frame (see how to do that here) and I happened to break the glass while trying to remove it, I decided to glue the paper to the backing. But a window frame does not have a back so I created my own using plywood.

I cut a 1/4″ plywood piece to fit where the glass was before I broke it, I then sanded the plywood smooth. With our print being mostly white, I then painted the plywood white using a brush but you could also use spray paint. Once the paint dried, I applied Elmer’s glue with a foam brush to the painted plywood. I tried adding glue to the paper but with the paper being so thin, it did not work very well. So I would leave that part out next time. But after lightly gluing the plywood, I then added the paper onto it, making sure the words were facing up. Then I lightly rubbed the paper with a rag to remove any air bubbles between the plywood and paper. The process is very similar to how we added a photo to wood, HERE.

Please note that I was not able to get all the bubbles out and the white background did have some discoloring to the paper from this method. But I really like how this made the print look old/used. So please be aware that your print will not be crisp after this method.

OK after the glue dried, I then sprayed the paper/print with 2 coats of clear spray paint. This will protect the print because we do not have glass to cover it.

Once the spray paint dried (sorry there is a lot of dry time around here), I then added the print to the old window frame. To keep it in place, I applied white caulk to the back of the wood frame and plywood, where the two meet together.

After that dried, I then used a picture frame wire hanger (like this) to hang the picture on the wall. If you are interested in seeing how I prepared the old window frame, check out this post.

What do you think of our top 10 places to see subway artwork? What are your top 10 places to see?

DIY subway print


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