String art

String Art: Make Stunning Designs with Thread and Nails

I was excited and a bit wary when I heard our art group’s next project would be string art. I thought it would be fun hammering nails into a plank. However, I am prone to noise fatigue since I have hearing loss. Although a small group, I wasn’t sure if I could handle the noise when many women took out their frustrations on those nails!

In this article, I will discuss the following:

1 What is string art?

2 Five benefits of string art

3 Safety, tools, and materials

4 Getting creative with your string art project

5 Your first string art project – making a cactus

6 Closing thoughts

Let’s dive in and explore this stimulating and versatile hobby

1 What is string art?

String art or pin-and-thread art, in its basic form, is the threading or weaving of thread around nails or pins to create designs or geometric patterns.

Designs can be as simple as a heart, feather, or words. Or in its advanced form, as complex as portraits, animals, or intricate geographical patterns like mandalas.

String Art: Make Stunning Designs with Thread and Nails

2 Five benefits of string art

1) Therapists often recommend physical activity for anger management. Hammering in all those nails will get your anger and frustrations out of your system, and you will use your anger to create something beautiful!

2) String art gives you a creative outlet to play with colours, patterns, and textures.

3) Holding the nails develops your fine motor skills while you practice focus and accuracy when driving in those nails without hitting your fingers.

4) The simple act of weaving the thread calms you by directing your focus away from your worries and anxiety.

5) Using string art, you can experiment with and learn about colours, shapes, and textures. 

3 Safety, Tools, and Materials

a) Safety

  • You should wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from stray nails.
  • Consider wearing gloves to protect your hands from cuts and scrapes from sharp nails. But also to absorb the impact should you miss those nails!
  • Investing in hearing protection like earmuffs would be best if you plan to make string art a hobby since regular exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss.

b) Tools & Materials

  • A base material like a wooden board or a canvas.
  • Pins or nails to use as anchor points for your design. Flat pin nails will make threading easier.
  • A lightweight hammer to gently drive the nails into the base.
  • String or thread to outline and create your design. You can use embroidery floss, yarn, or thin wire based on your desired look. 
  • Your design.
  • Pliers to hold the nails steady while hammering, primarily if you use small nails.
  • Glue to stop the points of your thread from unravelling.
  • Scissors to cut your string or thread.
  • A ruler or measuring tape to measure even spacing between nails.
  • A pencil to mark the placement of your nails on the design.
  • Paint and brushes if you want to paint a background colour or decorate your base.
  • Tweezers 

4 How to get creative with your string art project

a) Finding compelling designs

The simplest way for a creative string art project is through your design choice. Creating a unique abstract design is easy by combining and overlapping various shapes. 

Or you can look for compelling designs on the internet, in string art books,  and in the many colouring books available online and in hard copy. For example, use mandalas to create beautiful and advanced string art projects. 

b) Playing with colour

Another way to add interest to your design is by playing with colour. For novices, you can find a colour wheel online to guide you regarding colours that contrast or complement each other. Or to see the many possible tints and shades when you choose your colours.

But do not be afraid to trust your gut and your eyes when threading. Sometimes, the best creations are as simple as using colours together that are pleasing to you. 

c) Adding other elements

Once you’ve mastered the basic techniques, you can add other elements, such as stringing beads or charms, into your project for a different look. 

5 Your first string art project – making a cactus

a) Preparation

  • Prepare your base by painting a background colour or decorations. Or use your wooden base with its natural wood grain as a background for a simple look.
  • Find a simple line sketch of or draw a cactus scaled to fit on your base.
  • Use a ruler and pencil to mark out the placement of your nails. Two-centimetre spaces between the nails are a good guide. To clearly define your corners, space your nails closer together.
  • Now, centre your design on your base and stick it down with masking tape.

b) Driving in the nails

You are now ready to start hammering the nails in, according to the guide markings on your design.

  • Do not drive the nails in completely into the board. You must ensure that you leave enough space according to the thickness of your medium for the weaving of your design.
  • Ensure that the nails are straight. If any of them are skew, tap them on the side with the hammer to straighten them. 
  • Once you have driven in all the nails, remove your paper design. Use the tweezers to remove small pieces of paper stuck onto the nails.

c) Start and outline

  • Choose your starting point and tie your chosen medium to the first nail. 
  • Use the glue on the edge of the embroidery yarn to keep it from unravelling.
  • To outline your cactus, turn the thread around the first nail, then around the next, and continue until you have outlined the complete design.

d) Creating your masterpiece

  • Once again, choose a starting point and tie your thread to the first nail, finishing it with glue as before. 
  • Start threading your yarn to and fro between opposite nails. You can show your creativity by creating unique patterns and using different colours or create texture by the density of your weaving. 
  • Continue until your design is complete, and glue all yarn ends as you start and finish with a new piece.
String Art: Make Stunning Designs with Thread and Nails

6 Closing thoughts

For those who wondered, I did enjoy our string art project. It was so much fun hammering in those nails, and I took my cue from Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid. First, a few taps to ensure the nails have a good grip on the wood, then two or three hard blows to get them in just right.

I managed with the noise much better than expected, primarily because I focused on creating my masterpiece. However, I did need some quiet time afterwards.

The next time you come home angry and irritable after a difficult day, hammer in some nails and experience the joy of creating something beautiful while simultaneously calming your mind with a string art project.


Admin, W. (2019, June 20). The Benefits of Practising String Art. String Art DIY. Retrieved August 22, 2023, from https://www.stringoftheart.com/blogs/news/4-mental-health-benefits-of-string-art

Robboy, A. C., CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW (n.d.). Releasing Anxiety Through Repetitive Motion. Center For Growth. Retrieved August 22, 2023, from https://www.thecenterforgrowth.com/tips/releasing-anxiety-through-repetitive-motion

Ross, L. (2017, September 4). 4 Mental Health Benefits of String Art. String of the Art. Retrieved August 22, 2023, from https://www.stringoftheart.com/blogs/news/4-mental-health-benefits-of-string-art

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