DIY ‘Spider-Verse’ Art on Upcycled Materials

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Turn leftover shipping boxes, wrapping tissue, and other discarded paper into upcycled surfaces for original art. Image: Lisa Tate

Over this recent holiday season, I would think most people in the circle of geeky families both went to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and accumulated a good amount of post-gift-giving fodder. This includes leftover cards and envelopes, cardboard boxes, wrapping tissue, or other paper waste. If you haven’t yet recycled or tossed out these items, try upcycling them as drawing surfaces, just as Miles Morales might do.

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Put together bits of cardboard or wrapping paper to make some unique, textured surfaces, which look good with different styles from vintage to urban.

At the beginning of Into the Spider-Verse, we see Miles distributing his “sticker art” throughout the neighborhood. This is a sort of mild, artsy-type of graffiti that, at least in my hometown, is popular in the urban areas. His medium of choice was those “Hi, my name is…” badges distributed at office parties, conventions, meetings, and other large gatherings.

Instead of actually sticking these things in public places, find a small packet of these nametags and stick them randomly on an unfolded cardboard box. Make sure to overlap them. This will give you a good large surface for drawing with a Sharpie or paint.

If you want to add graffiti or urban-style text to the painting but don’t have the hang of it yet, I recommend the site Graffiti Creator for some help or inspiration.

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Miles used old name labels to spread his art through town. Put them on leftover cardboard instead. Image: Lisa Tate

Next, try a surface using just discarded boxes. First, tear or cut the boxes in different size pieces, and use a glue gun or double-sided tape to stick them together. This will make a slightly uneven surface, so keep your image simple. I have seen large-scale works done this way, which works as sort of a portable graffiti image. If you have room on a wall, it makes some cool wall art, particularly in a game or media room.

Now, try using some leftover wrapping paper (including gift bags or tissue paper) for a smoother effect.

If using tissue paper for the surface, you can decoupage to make it stiffer. Some markers or paint may smear when you do this, so be prepared for that effect.

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Spider Noir and Spider-Gwen on cardboard pieces and used wrapping tissue. Images: Lisa Tate

I kept my example images Spider-Verse centric, since the movie’s animated style inspired me, but don’t feel you have to stick just to these characters.

Also, you can make several of these upcycled surfaces in advance and keep them on hand for when the next inspiration arises. Have them ready for any age when boredom hits after homework or on weekends.

The Spider-verse has already inspired fan art enthusiast to style their own “Spider-Persona,” so the possibilities are only limited to your own imagination.

Follow Peter Parker’s advice:

“One thing I know for sure,” he told Miles, “Don’t do it like me. Do it like you.”

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