Organizing art supplies is kind of like whacking heads off a hydra:  It’s a never ending process that still manages to be profoundly satisfying.  Last week, Sarah attacked the hydra with crazy-cool paper mache storage for colored pencils and markers, which she created using little more than a cardboard box, paper, and glue.  This week, I’ll be taking a similar approach to taming my paints.  (Whack!)  If you don’t have a paint storage problem, this piece can easily store a variety of other art & crafting supplies: Twinkling H2Os, tubes of seed beads, jars of embossing powder, and more!


Okay, time for a true confession – and it has nothing to do with those naked men.  (Sorry.)  When I told my husband my idea for this tutorial, he got ridiculously psyched about the idea of making “little tiers for the paint to stand on.”   And sure, maybe he was secretly pscyhed about getting the paint bottles off of the dining room table, the dining room floor, the buffet, the washing machine, the kitchen island, and the stack of his work ties waiting to be cleaned, but either way, he asked if he could try a design of his own.   What he devised worked so well that I adopted it wholesale, and since he cleverly used Flat Rate boxes from the garage, all of his measurements will work for you, too!  You’ll find them in a convenient printable chart a few paragraphs down.


  • Large Flat Rate Box (the square variety)
  • Medium Flat Rate Box (the long and skinny rectangular variety)
  • Box cutter or good utility knife
  • T square (not essential, but REALLY really helpful)
  • Ruler (18″ is best, but 12″ will do)
  • Pencil
  • Ball point pen
  • Wood board or other surface for cutting on
  • Masking tape
  • Paper (newspaper, wrapping paper, etc.)
  • Paper mache paste (I used Sarah’s recommended 1:1 mixture of all-purpose glue and water)
  • Tissue paper, napkins, or other material for the top layer
  • Collage images


Part One: Building the Skeleton

When you finish the first half of this tutorial, you will have built the skeleton of your piece.  It will look like this, and you will adore it:


Between here and there, however, there is work to be done!


Cutting the Large Flat Rate Box

1.  Fold and tape your Large Flat Rate box as if it were filled with goodies and ready for mailing.

2. Turn the box so you can see the bottom.  With the “seam” pointing North-South, choose North or South side to be the front of your piece (your call).  Measure one inch from the bottom of the front of the box and mark.  Draw a horizontal line so that you have a 1-inch lip across the front.  Cut along the lip from one corner to the other.


3.  Turn the box on its side.  Touch one corner of your ruler to the upper corner of the lip and the other corner of the ruler to the opposite corner of the box.  Draw the line with a pencil, then cut it with your box cutter.




4.  Repeat Step 3 for the other side of the box.


5.  Liberate the top of the box by slicing it free from the back.   You will now have the framework for your storage piece.



Cutting the Medium Flat Rate Box into Strips


1.  “Puff” your Medium Flat Rate Box so that it begins to resemble a three-dimensional rectangle, then stand it on end so it looks like the box below.  Using your box cutter, make a cut where you see the cut in the picture.



2.  Lay the box flat.  You’ll cut it using that diagram I mentioned up top, which you can preview here and print using the link below (use the Back button on your browser to navigate back to the tutorial):




3.  Using the diagram, measure and cut each strip according to the number given for the width.  (Don’t worry about the height until Step 4.)  As soon as you finish cutting a strip, label it with the number on the diagram.



4.  Once all the strips are cut width-wise, cut them again according to the height on the diagram.  When you complete Step 4, you should have 7 strips that look roughly like this:


Turning the Strips into Tiers

To make these strips into tiers, you will draw three lines on each strip, which I will call Lines A, B, and C.


1.  Begin with Strip 7.  Position the ruler in the upper left corner and mark the strip at 1  3/8″.  Repeat the process in the upper right corner.




Lay your ruler so it just touches both marks.  Take your BALL POINT PEN, and pressing firmly, draw a line across the entire strip.  This is Line A.  (You want to press hard with the pen so that you simultaneously draw the line and score the cardboard.)  Line A will always be marked at 1 3/8″.



2.  Place your ruler on Line A.  Make a mark 3 1/2″ along.  Draw a perpendicular line at this mark, remembering to press firmly with your pen.  This is Line B.





3.  Starting at Line B, lay your ruler along Line A.  Measure 11 3/4″ from Line B and  make a mark for Line C.



Measure from the Line C mark to the end.  That distance should also be 3 1/2″.  Assuming it is, draw a second perpendicular line at the 11 3/4″ mark, which is (as already suggested) Line C.



4.  Take your box cutter.  Cut a corner flap by running your box cutter along Line A, starting at Line C and ending at the edge of the strip.



Repeat this process on the other side of the strip, starting at Line B and cutting to the edge.


5.  To ensure that the sides will fold together nicely, cut a thin triangle below the corner flap as shown here (the exact angle doesn’t matter):




Repeat this process for the other side.



6.  Fold the strip on Line A.  Fold it all the way down.


7.   Now let the top go.  Fold the corner flap in and the bottom flap up.




8.  Flip the piece onto the bottom flap and trim the excess.


9.  Tape the corner flap and the bottom flap together.




10.  Repeat steps 8-9 for the other side.  You will now have a piece like this.



10.  Set Tier 7 in the back of your frame.



OMG, you just built a tier!  Yourself!  Out of cardboard!  Go you!


11.  Okay, it’s probably occurring to you right about now that you have to repeat that whole process for each strip – and that’s true.  After you do the 2nd one, however, you’ll have the process down, and it will feel much faster, I promise.


The one and only change to the process happens in Step 2 and works as follows:

  • You always draw Line A 1 3/8″ from the top of the strip because that’s the width of every tier.
  • You’ll change the position of Line B each time – for example, from 3 1/2″ to 3″ – because Line B dictates the height of the tier.
  • You will always measure 11 3/4″ inches from Line B to Line C so that every tier is the same length.  Here is a chart that shows the changing location of Line B:

Strip 6 = 3″

Strip 5 = 2 1/2″

Strip 4 = 2″

Strip 3 = 1 1/2″

Strip 2 = 1″

Strip 1 = 1/2″


Once you finish all seven strips, you’ll have that beautiful completed skeleton – and you might be ready for a beautiful adult beverage!  Tomorrow (or whenever you feel ready), you can proceed with the paper mache section of the tutorial.


Part Two: Paper Mache

Sarah gave an awesome overview of the paper mache process in her tutorial, so I won’t go into any detail here.   The process is pretty basic anyway; you just need to:

  1. Tear your strips of newspaper or wrapping paper.
  2. Dip a strip into the glue and water mixture (or your mixture of choice) and “squeegee” it between your fingers so it’s not dripping wet.
  3. Lay the paper over the tiers and smooth it into place, taking great care to adhere the paper to the crevices in between the tiers.  (Otherwise, your beautiful tiers will become tears as your storage device turns into a ski slope.  At every stage of the process, make sure the tiers continue to look like sharply-defined stairs!)
  4. Do three layers on the tiers, and three layers on the sides, back, and bottom.  You can dramatically speed up drying time by turning your piece upside down and putting it right on top of  a heater vent.  (Sarah taught me that, because she is smart that way.)
  5. Finish the bottom, back, and sides with a layer of tissue paper or napkins, then finish the tiers to a layer of collage images.


Here is my piece after the first layer of newspaper:



I chose patterned red tissue paper, which created a great look:



I got all of my collage images from a book called ABCs of the Human Body.  I do recommend you use one source for all of images so that you don’t have 18 different thickness of paper.



To finish up, I tore small strips of tissue paper and added them where I needed them around the top and edges to make the piece visually interesting:


Once that dried, I loaded it up with paint – and applauded!  That’s 50 bottles of paint in one unit that I just made for free!




Okay, so here’s the deal:  You know those awesome Sugar Skull Bunnies Sarah makes?   Like this one?


Yeah, you can win one – and she’ll even make it just for you in your choice of colors!   All you have to do is make this project, a project inspired by this project, or a project inspired by either Sarah’s or Cindy’s project, then take pictures and post them in our flickr group by 11:59 PM on February 5th.   We’ll put up a poll and let the public vote on their favorite project, and the winner will be featured on our front page for the rest of the month!


So to summarize: You make a cool thing, you win a prize, you enjoy some time in the spotlight, AND you get to whack hydra heads!  What’s not to love?!



Ann D'Angelo is a dedicated drinker of diet Coke who has never spotted a thrift store she didn't want to visit or an item she didn't want to alter. Check out Ann's shop.


cindyjob · January 13, 2012 at 3:45 pm

I can't wait to see it in person!

sarah · January 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm

I am so annoyed that I just got a bunch of little baskets for my paint cause I want to make one!

nanner · January 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm


    AnnDAngelo · January 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks, nannernopants! You are too kind! 😀

Lisa Kastello · January 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm

sarah- maybe you could make inserts for your baskets based on cindyjob's tutorial?

    sarah · January 13, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Cindy hasn't posted hers yet! 😛 But my baskets are teeny and not really divider-worthy. Boo.

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