Sign Tutorial {How to make a wood sign}

June 20, 2011

I get asked a lot of questions about how I make my signs, so I thought I would re-publish this tutorial that I had posted a few months ago.
If you want to make a sign for yourself, I hope this helps!
Happy Monday!

Here is a tuturial on how I make my wood signs and how you can too! I hope this will be helpful if you’re not sure what steps to take and products to use.

Disclaimer: This is just my made-up way of doing things. I’ve never taken a class in painting and certainly am not a professional! I’m sure there are better ways of doing things, but this is what I’ve found works for me.

Ok, so here goes…

Step 1: Find a piece of wood to use. I’ve found wood at barn sales, yard sales, in our attic, from leftover projects…wherever! Just make sure it’s in good condition and not rotting. I have my husband cut the wood to size if needed.

I found this particular round wood piece (I think it was the top to a child-size picnic table) at a barn sale. I loved the shape and knew I could do something with it.

Step 2: Clean the wood with a brush or rag.

Step 3: Paint primer onto the wood. I am in LOVE with B-I-N primer. It covers the wood really well and dries in about 15 minutes. You can get it in a gallon, a quart, or as a spray paint.

If your paint is going to be a dark color, you can ask the paint store to darken the primer, so that your paint covers the surface better.

Use a foam brush to paint the primer onto the wood. Since B-I-N primer is not water-based, I use a disposable brush so that I can just throw it away instead of needing to clean the brush. You can find these inexpensive foam brushes at Walmart, craft stores, or paint stores. They cost about 25 cents or less.

Here is the wood covered with primer and ready for paint.

Step 4: When the primer is dry, paint the wood with a semi-gloss paint similar to this:

I often find cheap semi-gloss paint in the “as is” section of the paint/home improvement store. The paint is perfectly fine, but for whatever reason, the store mixed it incorrectly or the customer didn’t like the color, so the store will try to sell it already mixed at a low price.

I usually need to brush two coats of paint on. You can use a paint brush like I did (below) or a small paint roller.

Step 5: Decide on what kind of lettering (font style & size) you want to use and print the words from MS Word onto regular copy paper. (Fonts used in this sign are Scriptina & EcuyerDax, both of which you can download for free.)

Step 6: Arrange the words onto the wood exactly where you want them to be painted. You can use a ruler to make sure the words are straight and positioned correctly. Use scotch tape to tape the paper onto the sign.

Step 7: Put carbon paper under the printer paper and trace the lettering onto the wood with a pen.

I use this type of carbon paper, which you can buy at bookstores or at Amazon.com.

And, by the way, you can re-use the carbon paper over and over again. You don’t need to use a fresh sheet each time you trace something.

Edited to add: If you are painting onto a dark background, you can also find white graphite paper (similar to carbon paper) that will trace a white line instead of black.

Step 8: Using a tiny paint brush and acrylic craft paint, fill in the lettering that you just traced. Most times I do two coats of paint for the lettering.

You can buy small bottles of craft paint at Walmart or craft stores for around $1. You can also use paint pens, which are great for small letters and details. However, they mostly just come in primary colors, so I don’t use them a lot.

If I want the sign to look rustic, I will use sandpaper to sand the edges and lightly sand the lettering to make it look a bit worn.

Edited to add: paint pens also work great if you aren’t comfortable with using a paint brush. You can find them at most craft stores or even Walmart.

Step 9: To finish the sign, spray it with a sealer or lacquer like this to protect the paint:

And there you have it! You are finished!

This sign is actually going to be hung on a porch wall at a friend’s house.

If you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll be happy to answer them!


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