Sign Tutorial {How to make a wood sign}

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!

145 thoughts on “Sign Tutorial {How to make a wood sign}

  1. If I'm planning on painting the wood signs, I'll use either a white primer first or I'll use a paint that has primer in it (saves me a step). For the stained (brown) signs, I don't use primer or paint. I stain them with a Minwax stain that you wipe onto the wood. Let me know if you have any questions!

  2. Hi Aimee! I absolutely love your signs. They are just to cute! I was wondering what fonts were used for this sign? http://aimee-weaver.blogspot.com/2013/02/monday-shop-update.html Did you stain the wood or was it already that color? If it was stained, what color stain did you use? I love that color! I can't find any barn wood. So do you have any other suggestions on what type of wood to use? Is there something at Home Depot or Lowes I could purchase to make a sign? Thanks so much for this amazing tutorial!

  3. AH-HA! I've been looking for an easier way then completely free-handing or wasting all that vinyl! Thanks so much!!!You'll be able to see it on my newby blog soon! I'll be sure to mention you!!! onlandrufflane.blogspot.com

  4. Hello! I just love your blog and signs!! Thank you so much for posting the tutorial. Right now I am using old barn wood for my signs. But I want to make a bigger/wider sign, like your "I am my Beloveds" sign. How did you secure the wood pieces together for that? That's where I am stuck. Thanks so much!!

  5. Thanks for your comment! You can secure the wood boards together with two thinner wood strips on the back going the opposite direction that you screw each board into. I hope this makes sense!

  6. Hi Aimee,Thanks for the tutorial! I am in the process of securing some weathered barn wood to make a couple of signs. The wood I am getting is the very light gray weathered – almost white although it isn't painted. One of the signs I will probably dry brush with red paint, but the other I was hoping to get the rich dark brown color you have on your unpainted signs. I know you have said in response to other comments that you use stain for this. Do you think applying a dark walnut type stain directly to the light gray wood will produce the color of your signs? I'm leery about sanding them at all because I don't want the wood to look new! I'll also have to cut some boards to size. Do you do anything to distress the freshly cut edges to make them look more authentic or do you not really notice the clean cuts?Thank you so much for all of your help! I'm looking forward to this new project! :)Heather

  7. I would sand the wood a bit if you want the wood to have a brown look. If you stain directly on gray, weathered wood, it typically gets very dark – almost black and doesn't have the rich brown stained look. We usually sand the edges of fresh cuts, so they look more authentic. I hope this helps!

  8. Beautiful work and so inspiring!! Please share how to find the lovely scrolls you use. I've looked high and low for pretty scrolls and just can't seem to locate any I love, but yours are perfect! And I'd be ever so grateful for the link to find them. Thank you thank you!!

  9. I'm making a sign on old fence boards and I'm having a hard time transferring the lettering using graphite paper have you ever had this problem? If so, did you come up with a solution!

  10. Thanks for your reply Aimee. The fence boards are painted white so I'm using a dark graphite paper. It's just so rough that it doesn't show up well. I've actually been cutting the letters out and making a stencil. It's working, but taking more time than I had hoped for. I think I'll sand the next fence post sign next time to see if that helps. 🙂

    • Old fence boards make it harder to paint letters. For this reason I use new board, sanded some, and finish with a barn wood finish. You can find directions for making new boards look old on Pinterest.

  11. I love all of your signs! They’re beautiful! I was wondering about the ocean sign. It doesn’t have any wording on it, it’s 3 horizontal boards painted to look like the sky, ocean and beach. How did you paint it? What kind of paint did you use and what tips do you have? You do an amazing job on all your artwork!

  12. On my last sign, I decided to go for it and paint the words with a brush. I STRUGGLED…What kind of a brush do you prefer for scrolling fonts? I found my cursive to be quite jerky.

  13. Aimee – I love your work. Just curious – how do you get your wood so smooth? We have a 100 yo barn falling down, but most of the boards are too rough to paint lettering onto, even after sanding. Do you have a magic sander? I’d love to find a way to make use of the boards.

  14. Aimee, I so admire and LOVE your work!! I’ve been using paint pens on wood signs or chalk pens on chalkboards or slate. I love the look and personalization of hand painted lettering, but don’t have a lot of confidence with a paint brush! Any chance you could post a video tutorial of yourself hand painting a few words?

      • Hi there Aimee. Awesome tutorial! I have started making signs over here in Australia, although no where near as amazing as yours. Is it only Microsoft Publisher that you use? I have just been using Word (totally old school ) but hace seen some amazing signs and am assuming that people must use some other program, any hints or suggestions. TIA, and again love your work 😊

  15. Thank you Thank you Thank You!!! You just made my job a whole lot easier as I am just really getting back into my craft state. I truly appreciate you taking you time and posing this!

  16. I was wondering what kind of paint you use and if you thin it with anything. I am trying to paint a sign for a friend but I think the brush marks look bad. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  17. You did an excellent job if explaining everything. Very clear instructions.. And helpful tips. I like that you inclued the product information. Thank you.

  18. Hello It is refreshing to see someone who is in the business be so helpful to others with information two thumbs up.. I would highly recommend any one who wishes to purchase a sign to contact you and I hope others would do the same. You deserve support.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s