Make a Nutcracker Christmas Advent Calendar

This year I want to make more sustainable choices, and part of that is creating a reusable advent calendar for my kids. Now, most of the wooden advent calendars out there cost upwards of $50 so I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to dawn my DIY hat and make it for less!

This Advent calendar only cost me $15 to make if I include all the paint and mod podge I already had on hand.  The wooden calendar was only $10 CAD at Michaels and I know they sell these calendars year after year.

Christmas advent calendar DIY crafting

My cute little pink and green nutcracker inspired this make, as I created a FREE .PDF printable for you to download with the nutcracker theme for this advent calendar.

Grab the FREE printable here.

nutcracker advent calendar Christmas decor DIY

Making the Advent Calendar

Check out our video tutorial on YouTube to guide you step by step through the process in real time.

Supply List

wooden advent calendar baseWooden Advent Calendar Base (like this one at Michaels)
Martha Stewart Decor Chalk Paint in white creamChalk paint in cream
acrylic paint in leaf greenAcrylic Paint in leaf green
acrylic paint in ocean breeze tealAcrylic paint in ocean breeze teal
mod podge for crafting and wood transfer methodMod Podge (I used matte, but the satin also works)
Champane gold glitter extra fineChampagne Gold Glitter
Acrylic paint in metallic champagne goldAcrylic paint in metallic champagne gold
Extra fine glitter in the colour crystalExtra fine glitter in the colour crystal
Rustoleum crystal clear enamel spray paintRustoleum crystal clear enamel spray paint

Prepare the Wooden Base

The first thing you will want to do is paint all the drawers.  I used a white chalk paint by Martha Stewart, as it was nice and thick, so I only had to paint a single coat of paint onto it.  If you are using an acrylic paint, be prepared to give it at least three coats of paint.  I painted both the face of the drawers, as well as the inside.

 Paint the wooden drawers with chalk paint

I have two methods to share with you on how to transfer the images to your wooden drawers, so be sure to read the whole blog post so you know which method you prefer.

Transfer an Image to Wood:  Method #1 Reverse Transfer

For this method you will be using the mirror image file from your FREE printable.

mirror image nutcracker Christmas printable

 Begin by printing out the template with the best colour settings you have (selecting photo quality works great).  Print out on regular printer paper.

Next, cut out the boxes that are outlined in light grey (they should be about 3cm x 3cm).  I make quick work of this by using a rotary cutter and quilting ruler, but you can just as easily cut them out with scissors.

Cutting out the ink jet templates for the wood transfer with mod podge

Begin by taking one of the squares and folding it in half and then in half again.  Clip the corner so that you create a small hole in the centre of the square when it is unfolded.  You do not want this hole to be larger than the handles on the drawer fronts.  

Cut a small hole in the paper

In order to get the paper to fit onto the drawer front, cut two vertical (or horizontal) slits on either side of that centre hole you made.

Cut a small slit on either side so the paper can fit over the handle

Using a small paintbrush, paint on an even layer of mod podge onto the front of the little wooden drawers.  You do not need to paint the handle with mod podge, but you need to ensure you cover the entirety of the front face of the drawer.

paint with mod podge

Next place the paper on top of the mod podge with the printed side touching the wet mod podge.  (Also be sure that the image is pointing upwards to the top of the drawer.) 

Lightly press down be sure not to allow the paper to slip or the image will be smudged.

Paper transfer to wood method 1 with mod podge

Allow to fully dry (I left mine overnight).

Now is the fun part.  Using a cloth dipped in water, wet the paper, but do not rub. 

rub off the paper to reveal the image transferred onto the wood

Then, gently using your fingers, rub off just the paper.  

Be careful, as if you rub too hard the ink will come off in that spot and if you use too much water you could have some running of the ink.

rub off with fingers

Now this method will give you a more washed-out appearance, but it really does look just like it was painted directly onto the wood surface.  This would look lovely with a rustic DIY.

Then once it is dry go over with mod podge to seal it up.

Mod Podge Transfer to wood method 1 reverse image

Transfer an Image to Wood:  Method #2 Decoupage Transfer

Now, I wanted to go for a more vibrant look on this one, so I decided to use the decoupage method.

This one is remarkably similar but with a few key differences.  First, download the REGULAR template (not the mirror image one) and print it out on regular printer paper.

Next, using a thin and even layer of mod podge, paint the fronts of the drawers.

use mod podge to paint the wood

Using the same technique as in method #1 cut out a small hold in the centre of the paper and make two small slits on either side of the hole.

Place the paper with the printed side up (not touching the mod podge) onto the front of the drawers.

Press down firmly, ensuring it is straight.  Allow to completely dry.

press the paper into the mod podge on the wooden drawers for the advent calendar

In order to get perfect edges, take a sanding block with fine grit sandpaper and sanding only away from the front down (otherwise the paper will lift up) sand away all the edges.

Sand the edges

To seal the paper and make it durable, paint an even layer of mod podge on top of the paper.

Seal with mod podge

Allow to dry overnight.

Allow the drawers to dry overnight

The rest of the Advent Calendar

Begin by painting the "tree" of the advent calendar.  I chose to mix two greens together to get a green similar to the Nutcracker's pants and hat that inspired my drawings for this calendar.

I used three coats of acrylic paint on this in order to get even coverage.  The wood just soaks up the paint in this Christmas DIY.  Though, if you were to use a chalk paint, I suspect you could get away with a single coat.

Paint the advent calendar base

Next, I painted the handles on the drawers with a metallic champagne gold.  You could leave them white, but I thought a nice metallic really made a pop!

Paint the handles gold

 This next step isn't necessary, but I wanted to add a bit more gold to the piece and I had some teal washi tape in my stash that I wanted to use up and the colour matched perfectly.

I placed them on the bottom of all three tiers of the tree and wrapped around the sides.  I then used a small razor blade to cut away any of the overlap that I didn't want in my design.

add washi tape for a glittery feel

Next, to seal the washi tape (and the acrylic paint) apply a thin coat of mod podge on the entire tree base.

Allow to dry overnight.

Meanwhile, the drawer knobs have dried, and you can add some optional gold glitter suing mod podge to adhere it to the knobs.

Now is the time to also add some clear glitter details to the front of the drawers.  The key to this is painting a very light coat of mod podge in the area you want the glitter.  If you go too heavy on the mod podge it will distort the image slightly.

After the mod podge has dried on the tree, apply another thin layer of mod podge just to the edges of the tree and using the clear glitter apply it to the edges, like sparkly snow.

add glitter to the advent calendar

 Seal everything up

Now we need to ensure glitter doesn't get all over the place and our paint doesn't chip off.  

Using a spray can of clear sealer (mine was satin finish, but you can also buy matte versions) spray the entire tree and the boxes (both the face and the inside of the drawers).

Spray a clear lacquered top coat to protect the wood finish

Allow to dry overnight.

wooden advent calendar

You are done!

If you do decide to make one, I would love to see if and you can tag on Instagram @SheerStitchery

PIN it on Pinterest!

Make a Wooden Advent Calendar DIY for Christmas