Donation Can DIY: Image Transfers & Vinyl Text

Make a Donation Can for Your Favorite Charity with Laser Image Transfers & Cut Vinyl Text

Can you tell that I didn’t paint the word bubbles and colorful text embellishments on this donation can?

Donation Can DIY: Front View

You probably can, because the ribbed surface of the donation can would have made painting by hand very difficult.

Donation Can DIY: Back View

I used two methods to create designs that conform to the ribbed surface:

  1. PVA (decoupage medium) laser image transfer for the word and thought bubbles; and
  2. Electronic cutting machine to cut the sentiment circle embellishments from self-adhesive vinyl — I used a Silhouette Cameo, but if you have a Cricut, it would be just as simple.

Donation Can DIY: Top View

I used the weeded-out vinyl letters to decorate the top of the donation can. “Waste not; want not,” my mother taught us.

Donation Can DIY: Lid Lifts Up for Emptying

The empty infant formula can has a flip top that reminded me of step-on kitchen garbage cans. So I gave the can a carrying handle to complete the look.

Cutting a donation slot in the plastic top is easy peasy. Then, after collecting donations, the lid lifts up for emptying.

Donation Can Backstory

I work with a group that supports a local orphanage. We’re always looking for new ways to make the children feel loved and cared for, as well as ways to raise money.

So someone suggested that we sponsor a monthly birthday bash.

Adults in our volunteer group with birthdays in a given month host a party at the Villa Infantil for any of the children who share that birthday month. The adult birthday people prepare a kid-friendly meal at home and then schlepp it to the villa. Of course there are birthday cake and presents too! Plus lots of fun and games.

As more adults heard about the birthday bash, they joined the party. So the adult birthday people found they were cooking and serving for a lot more people. But hey, there’s no free lunch!

Donation Can Word & Thought Bubbles

Thus the idea for a birthday bash donation can was born. That also explains the phrases I used to decorate the can. The adult visitors get a kick out of the humor.

The kids are intrigued as well. In fact, the first month that we used the donation can, one of the little boys grabbed it and went running off. He was quickly caught amid giggles and kidding about what a naughty boy he was.

How to Make the Donation Can

Donation Can: Dremel Tool Holes & Crop-a-Dile Grommets

If you have a can with a plastic rim like this one, it’s easy to use a small drill or Dremel tool to make holes for a handle. Next I used a Crop-a-Dile to finish off the holes with grommets.

Donation Can: Mask and Spray Paint

Use painter’s or masking tape to mask off the plastic lid. Then spray paint the donation can a neutral base color.

Donation Can: Shape & Bead Wire Handle

I used some heavy gauge (but quite flexible) wire I’d salvaged and shaped it into a handle. I figured it didn’t have to look brand new. After all — this is a garbage can.

A few beads form the handle’s grip.

Donation Can: Insert Wire Handle in Holes

Bend each end of the handle into a right angle and insert through the holes. Use pliers to squeeze each end up into a U-shape.

Donation Can: Glue Beads in Place

A couple dabs of glue holds the beads of the grip in place.

Donation Can: Cut Opening for Donations

Use a box cutter to cut a hole in the top. Then clean up any rough parts with a round-tip manicure scissors and file the hole smooth with a flexible nail file.

Donation Can: Ready to Decorate

Ta-da. The donation can is ready for use … unless you want to decorate it. And of course we do, right?

How to Make Laser Toner Transfers for the Donation Can

This laser toner transfer technique creates an image embedded in a flexible transparent sheet, which can then be transferred to your project. You don’t need to print in reverse and this technique is perfect for transferring onto uneven surfaces such as the ribbed can I wanted to decorate.

Donation Can: Create Word & Thought Bubbles in Graphic Program; Then Print

I created the word and thought bubbles in Photoshop. Use whatever graphic program you have. Then print the designs onto cheap flimsy paper.  See paper selection tips in Polyurethane Transfer Vintage Cutting Board to learn why cheap and flimsy are good things for a change.

Pale colored paper also helps. When it comes time to rub the paper off of the layers of PVA medium, you can easily see any bits still left behind.

Donation Can: Cover Designs With 3 or 4 Coats of PVA

Brush a layer of water-based polyurethane varnish* onto the images. Let dry. Repeat four or five times (until the film of varnish is thick enough to work with once the paper is removed).

* Typical water-based varnishes contain both polyurethane and acrylic (PVA) resins.

Let dry overnight.

How to Remove backing Paper from Laser Toner Transfers for the Donation Can

Cut transfers apart. Submerge them in water, paper side up. Let soak. [The next two pictures are from Transfer Laser Images with Any PVA Medium.]

It will take a minute or two for the paper to soften sufficiently to rub it away from the film of varnish. You may notice the varnish turn a bit milky as it softens (as any PVA product will do). Not to worry – it will re-cure.

Transfer Laser Images: Submerged Image in Water

Gently rub away the soaked paper layer with your fingers.

Transfer Laser Images: Floating Pieces of Backing

You may want to change the water a couple of times if the bits of peeled paper obscure your view.

Donation Can: Remove Backing Paper from PVA Transfer

Pat the image transfers dry.

Donation Can: Paint on back of Image Transfer Where Desired

Paint in any areas you want to be opaque. I painted the reverse side of the word bubbles with white acrylic so they’d stand out against the cream colored donation can.

[See another example of the pretty effects you can get by selectively painting these clear transfers in Polyurethane Transfer Collage.]

Donation Can 13

Use the polyurethane varnish to glue word bubbles in place. Then cover the whole can with two coats of varnish.

How to Design Self-Adhesive Vinyl Stickers for the Donation Can

For the self-adhesive vinyl stickers you need:

Donation Can Silhouette Vinyl Cut Stickers
Draw a circle on your design space and fill it with color. Then duplicate the circle as many times as you want. Change the colors to suit your project. The colors are a key to what color(s) vinyl you want to use and also make it easier to design the text part of the stickers.

Elsewhere on the design space, type a sentiment to fit each sticker. Then fill all the sentiments with white so you’ll be able to tell how the stickers will look when the words are cut out.

Finally, move a sentiment to the center of each sticker and save your file. Aren’t they cute? I’ll definitely be using this Silhouette file for future projects.

Fonts used (click for free downloads):

How to Cut & Apply Self-Adhesive Vinyl Stickers to the Donation Can

Donation Can: How to Print onto Different Colored Vinyl in One Pass

Either use the gridlines to position pieces of colored vinyl on the cutting mat or print a copy of your layout to use as a template.

[I used tape to help secure the vinyl. However, this is not recommended and could void your warranty. I need to get some new cutting mats A.SA.P.!]

Donation Can: Weed Out Excess Vinyl & Save the "Weeds"

Weed out the vinyl but save the “weeds.” I placed mine on the edge of my cutting mat to save them. However I should have moved them to a piece of backing paper left over from the vinyl. I had a hard time unsticking them from the cutting mat so that I could transfer them to the donation can. Live and learn.

[Weeding out Lobster 1.4 small text from the red word bubble was so much fun — NOT— that I recut the blue Happy Birthday bubble using AR Christy Medium. No good either. I concluded that Happy Birthday is just not an easy phrase to weed out.]

Finally peel vinyl stickers up and rub them onto the donation can. Notice how nicely the vinyl conforms to the ribs of the can.

** This post contains affiliates links. If you click on a link and make a purchase I receive a small commission. Thank you very much. That’s what makes this free resource of art and craft information possible. **

Here are more Image Transfer and Electronic Cutting Machine Project articles.

The Artful Crafter — Helping Crafters to Be

About Eileen Bergen


  1. Nice! Those thought-bubbles are so cute!

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