DIY Stained Tree Growth Ruler Chart

Every year on my birthday, one of my favorite traditions was adding a new height mark to the doorway. There was a mark from every birthday since we moved to that house, when I was 3. Most people have a similar memory. Unfortunately for our current generation, it is very rare to stay in the same house during your entire childhood. My daughter has already lived in 2 houses before her 2nd birthday, and our current rental house won’t be our last. In order to still keep the height mark tradition alive, we have turned to portable growth ruler charts. And of course, I was excited to make my own.


  • A nice board of light wood, roughly 6.5 feet tall. I believe mine was pine.
  • A dark wood stain, I used Minwax wood stain in “Jacobean.”
  • A clear coat, I used Minwax Polycrylic Water Based in “Clear Matte.”
  • Brush/sponge/cloth to draw with.
  • Pencil.
  • Measuring tape or ruler.
  • Trash bags or cardboard or some place to set your artwork.
  • Frame hanging tools.
  • Optional: Vinyl sticker to create a title or any other lettering you want.


  1. Look at this website and watch her videos. Many years ago I stumbled upon this website Reality Daydream  and I fell in LOVE with creating art with wood stain. I am no artist, but I thought this was something within my skill level. I needed an excuse to create my own, and I thought the growth chart would be the perfect opportunity. She is an expert in this technique, so please take my instructions with a grain of salt and follow what she says instead.
  2. Figure out what you want to design. Since I was doing a growth chart, I decided I wanted to stain a tree, because you know…growth, and family. Perfect metaphor. Also, trees are easy, and I can’t draw. This technique looks absolutely gorgeous as a floral pattern, and if you check out the link in #1 and see some of her other projects, there are some really amazing things you can do!
  3. Gather your materials. I got everything I needed at Home Depot and the brushes I had in my stash, they were from Michael’s. My piece of wood was about 9 feet long and I wanted it to be about 6.5 feet long, so I had the wood specialist at Home Depot cut it down for me. My amazing friend designed and cut the vinyl words for me but you can either make your own with a vinyl cutter or order a custom piece off Etsy.
  4. Set up your project. I laid trash bags on the floor and put my wood board on top of it. I then laid a measuring tape next to the edge of my piece of wood, and used the pencil to mark out the ruler marks. I then used the pencil to outline my tree. If you are going to use a vinyl sticker on your project, now would be the time to place that where you want it. HINT: Make sure you start your numbers at about 6 inches, NOT 1 inch. Baseboards vary in size but you will need to account for them so your board can be flush against the wall.
  5. Start staining! As you learned from looking at the website and videos in #1, the longer you leave the stain on and the thicker you put it, the darker your stain will be. I put 4 coats in my ruler ticks and numbers, two coats on the tree trunk, and just one very light coat for the leaves. A little goes a long way so start thin before you know how your piece of wood will take the stain. Bethany from Reality Daydream says she uses cut up cloth to get the best result. I decided to use a brush for the trunk and a sponge for the leaves and I think it turned out well, but I do see how the cloth would be easier for the designs she does.
  6. Clear coat it. Once your stain is dry, add a thin layer of clear coat to seal in and protect your project.
  7. Hang it up! Once your clear coat is dry, nail frame hanging tools to the back top of your board. Then measure where you want to hang it so the ruler is accurate. Hang, and done!!
  8. Start Measuring. Based on where you place your stain you could use a variety of things to measure height, the go-to being a black or colored Sharpie pen. Or, if you have horrible penmanship like me, there are plenty of vinyl options available on websites like Etsy. Here is one I just ordered for our family!

I loved how this project turned out!! Staining made such a cooler look than paint would have. You can still see the wood grain in the trunk and where parts of the wood was more absorbent than others, which adds a really interesting dimension to the tree. I have made a lot of the art in our house, but this one will forever be my favorite. I cannot wait to start adding my new stickers and creating a piece we will treasure forever.




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