I get asked quite frequently how I go about painting my signs, so I thought I’d do a quick tutorial for those of you who are game!
The ‘crafty’ methods out there for sign-painting (unless you are one of the mind-boggling talented few who can actually paint a perfect sign by hand) always involve some sort of image transferring from a computer-generated design to wood (or whatever material you are painting your sign on). And there-in lies the conundrum of sign-painting. How do I get my tidy computer-designed image onto this darn piece of wood? And how do I do it easily? There are many, many methods out there, but a lot of them rely pretty heavily upon specialized (expensive) printers or other materials/ methods that aren’t easily available to the average crafter. I’m also pretty impatient, so the idea of designing up and having any sort of professional materials (ie, vinyl stencils, large-scale prints, etc) made ahead of time is just too much hassle for me. And all of that costs extra money. No bueno.
My method assumes a couple of basic things: first, and foremost, it assumes that you have a computer and average, consumer-grade printer. Secondly, it assumes that you have some sort of program for ‘designing’ up your image, which can be as basic as Word (really, this is all about being able to print letters, right?). Third, and finally, it assumes you have, or can acquire the magic ingredient:
I love me some grease pencil. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, this is a great tool–it is a waxy, crayon-type marker that will work on pretty much any surface, including wet ones. And it is also the key to easily transferring printed images onto another surface. So if you don’t have one, go to any craft or art supply store and pick one (or five) up. They come in very handy for a multitude of projects.
Allrighty! On to the sign-making. So first of all, you need to pick your wood (or whatever other material you want to make your sign out of). I have a ton of scrap wood sitting around the yard, and I selected a piece that was about a foot wide by about 5 feet long.
This wood originally was part of an old work-bench table-top, so it was painted and chippy and old and dirty. In other words, it was perfect.
After you have your signboard selected, you’ve got to figure out what you want to put on it. I can’t help you here. You are on your own. My sign was destined to hang over our new compost station, so I wanted to be clever and make an old-timey advertising-type sign. I came up with “Miss Kate’s Special Grow Sauce”. Don’t ask me why. Given the size of your signboard, you also need to decide on your layout. I got creative with this one and had all sorts of different sized and shaped lettering, but that’s just me. Figure out the approximate size you want your letters to be, and then head to your computer and get to work. I always print everything on standard 8×11 printer paper, so if your sign is larger than 8×11″, you’ll need to print out the various bits and pieces and then put it together like a puzzle….the bits for my sign looked like this when they came out of the printer:
Then you will need to cut them out and place them on your board, anchoring them a bit with a single piece of tape on each one.
Once you have them more or less where you want them, then one at a time, remove the parts, flip them over, and use a grease pencil to color the back side of each letter. The thicker you put the grease pencil on, the better the transfer.
Once you have the back side of the paper colored, flip it back and attach it where you had it before. Do this with each segment, one at a time, until they are all colored and all reattached. Now, it is time to trace your letters. Press firmly, and I find that it helps to make tiny little scribbles instead of perfect, straight lines, because perfect, straight lines never seem to turn out like perfect, straight lines.
Soon enough, you will have your letters pretty neatly transferred:
At this point, your sign is ready for paint, and it’s all about staying inside the lines….I never can. Cheers!