You feel a small, sad tug on your sleeve. Looking down, you see a quivering lower lip and lowered shoulders.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” you ask.
That sweet little lower lip steadies just long enough to squeak out: “I’m having a bad day.”
“Remember what we said about bad days?” you prompt. “Should I go get our homemade toys?”
Unsurprisingly, that pout turns up and into a small smile: “Yes!”
You walk over to the toy chest and pull out your new set of BridgeWood toys, the wooden blocks the two of you painted in an Ombre fashion just last week. You sit on your favorite sofa chair and pat your lap. Climbing up, your little one reaches for the blocks, knocking them together.
“Who made these?” you ask.
“Me and you! Because we’re real toymakers!”
Now it’s your turn to smile. “That’s exactly right. And you see how the colors go from light to dark? Do you remember what we said about that?”
Your question is met with a solemn nod: “Yes. Some days have a lot of color and some days don’t have a lot of color.”
“That’s exactly right. But if you’re having a colorless day, what did I promise will happen soon?”
“Mhm,” you nod. “But between you and me, every day feels colorful when I’m with you!”
Ombre Wooden Toys are very pretty and simple to create. The trick to making these homemade toys is to work quickly. It takes a little practice, so you might find it helpful to practice the technique on a piece of paper until you are satisfied with your results. It won’t take long, and you will soon be creating beautiful gradations of color on your Made-With-Love toys!
One of our favorite ways to create the Ombre is to ‘stretch’ it across an entire set of Love Letters. It looks beautiful, organized carefully on a shelf, or scattered about during play. Stretching the Ombre effect across the entire set makes a fun and challenging puzzle for little ones.
This toymaking tutorial presumes that you are already familiar with ‘The Basics: How To Make Toys.’ Check it out to familiarize yourself with the steps before diving into this slightly more advanced technique.
For this tutorial, we chose only to paint the Ombre effect on the end grain. We left two sides blank, and placed white stars on the last two sides. But there are many ways to use this same technique to create various Ombre effects. For example, we have used Ombre with Ombre letters, white patterns, and white letters. You can make many beautiful toys with this simple technique and combine them with patterns and designs. You could even use the method to create an Ombre effect over all six sides of the wooden block!
How to Make Ombre Blocks
Prep the Blocks
Check each edge of the wooden toys. If there are any rough edges, sand them smooth and wipe them clean.
For detailed instructions and tips, see the “Prepping the Blocks” Tutorial.
Mix Your Paint
- If you are going to mix any colors, mix them now. This tutorial will help you get your favorite colors. Because we used Rosy Red and Snowy White, we did not need to mix paint.
A note about the brushes:
Ideally, you will want three foam applicators or perfect brushes: two for the individual colors and one for the blending. If you do not have three foam applicators, you can substitute the squeegee or detail brush for the individual color application.
Apply the Base Paint
- Dip one foam applicator into the Snowy White Paint and apply it to the bottom third of the end grain. Smooth out the paint.
- Dip another foam applicator into the Rosy Red paint and apply it to the top third of the end grain. Smooth out the paint.
- Be sure to leave the middle third of the grain unpainted.
Blending the Ombre Paint
- WORKING QUICKLY, using the foam applicator with the white paint, apply another layer of white paint on the bottom third of the wooden block.
- Using the Rosy Red foam applicator, apply another streak of red paint to the top third of the block.
- While the paint is still wet, use the dry third foam applicator to blend the two toy-safe paints.
- Keeping the applicator flat, brush the Snowy White paint back and forth, working your way up to the Rosy Red paint. Continue to the top and then brush back and forth back down to the Snowy White paint, carrying the Rosy Red paint along with each paint stroke.
- Continue to blend gently. Keep the ‘pure’ Snowy White and Rosy Red close to the original near the wooden toy’s top and bottom. Blend the two colors in the middle.
- If necessary, add extra paint but only the ‘pure’ color to the very edges of the wooden block.
One thing we have discovered that helps during blending is to keep the Snowy White and Rosy Red sides of the applicator pointed toward to ‘pure’ color edges on the edge of the wooden blocks. If you twist the applicator, the paint will continue to blend, but it won’t give you the gradation you want.
4. Continue to blend until you are satisfied with the look.
5. Repeat the technique on the opposite end-grain of the wooden toy.
6. Set on an unpainted side to dry.
7. Continue with the rest of the set.
8 Once finished, clean your foam applicators and tools.
Getting a Crisp Edge
- Once dry, take your sandpaper and, referring to the technique in the ‘How To Sand’ Tutorial, sand the edges of your handmade toy to a perfect, crisp edge.
- Wipe Clean
Seal the End Grains
- Seal the painted end grains by dipping the foam applicator lightly into the sealer. Apply to the surface of the end grain.
- Apply two coats and set on an unpainted side to dry.
If you plan to continue without waiting 72 hours for the sealer to cure, place the homemade toys on a gallon freezer bag a finger-width apart. This will prevent them from sticking to each other or accidentally getting glued to the surface as the underlayers continue to cure. With this precaution in place, you can continue the project once the wooden toys are dry to the touch.
Applying the BridgeWood Star
- Cut out the BridgeWood star stencil from the silk screen stencil.
- Center the stencil on one of the unpainted sides of the wooden toy.
- Using the techniques from ‘How To Make Toys: The Basics’, scrape white paint over the star. Peel to reveal your perfect image!
- Repeat this process to apply the star to the opposite side of the toy block.
- Set on an unpainted side to dry.
- Continue with the rest of the set.
Sealing the Last Four Sides
- With the foam applicator, seal the last four sides of your set.
- Set on the sealed, Ombre side to dry.
- Set on a plastic gallon freezer bag and let cure for 72 hours.
Now, it is time for play! Your beautiful Love Letter toys will bring wonderful color to your little ones’ playroom and lives. We sincerely hope that your Made-With-Love toys will bring you and your loved ones great joy throughout many years of happy playtime.