Hand-painted signs are NOT complicated. Yes, they take time and some resources that you don’t normally have just lying around the house, but this craft is not beyond your grasp. This tutorial is meant to keep you from leaving all those beautiful hand-painted signs on your Pinterest boards forever.
Let’s begin with a list of the necessary supplies so that you can decide if you want to read any further:
- Lumber (any size you want!)
- Someone’s table saw (to cut your lumber if necessary)
- Stain (any color you like)
- Sandpaper or sanding block (any kind will do)
- an old rag or small brush and some gloves (don’t want to get stain on those hands!)
- Paint markers (or a round paintbrush and paint)
Hopefully after looking at that list, you are a lot less intimidated. I know when I figured out that short list was all I needed, I was pleasantly surprised. I felt like surely there was a special paint or brush that made the magic happen. But alas, if you have the determination, you can make awesome hand-painted signs, too!
The Tutorial: DIY Hand-Painted Signs
Step 1: Measuring and Cutting
I didn’t take any pictures of this because I’m not the one who cuts! Just ask around for someone to cut boards for you with their table saw. It doesn’t take long; I usually have my husband, father-in-law, or sister’s boyfriend do it for me. As for the measuring, just do a size that’s right for your design. For this project, my little board is 3.5″ x 5.5″!
Step 2. Staining
This is the most time consuming part, but if you’re only doing one board, it might take 5-10 minutes, depending on how careful you are. It took me 30 minutes to finish all these boards.
If you’ve never stained anything before, there’s two methods: a brush or a rag. I found that with bigger projects, I definitely use a brush. If you decide to brush the stain on, you still need to wipe away the excess stain after a couple minutes with a paper towel or rag.
However, I have found that with the smaller projects I prefer to use a rag – it just seems to go more quickly. Once you’re done, let these dry for a couple days. Even after one day, the smell can still be strong and depending on the humidity, it may still be tacky.
Step 3. Hand-Painting
Once you feel confident that your stain is completely dried, it’s time for the fun part – painting!
Always go into this stage with a plan. I like to draw/write my pattern out in a similar size to look at while I’m painting.
You do not have to know how to do calligraphy to make a good sign. I simply write in my own handwriting first. Then I go back and add width to every down-stroke in the word. Lastly, I fill it in, and ta-da, I have created faux-calligraphy. (By the way, does anyone remember Lilo and Stitch? Loved that movie.)
As I mentioned before, you can use a paint marker (I’ve just begun to use these) or regular acrylic paint and a paintbrush. I am currently using the chisel tip Elmer’s paint markers. I love not having to dip my brush continuously. However, sometimes it is difficult to control the flow of the marker, so sometimes it won’t let out enough and if your impatient gets the best of you, that leads to big globs, which is bad. Also, the tip is not flexible at all which takes some adjusting to if you’re used to brush pens. Lastly, the paint from the markers dries in a tacky way, which makes it more difficult to go back and add more layers.
On the flip side, if you use a paintbrush and acrylic paint you are unlimited in your colors (acrylic paints are super cheap). Just be sure to add a little water to your paint so that it glides more easily across the wood. This may mean you need to add a layer or two after the first initial layer, but unlike the markers, it is easy to go back and do this. However, painting with the brush takes a little getting use to – rather than push down, you must glide, which is different than how we write in everyday life. Also, you will need to constantly refill your brush with paint. I learned how to load my brush best in this video by Rita Joy.
In the end, what you do is completely up to you. It will take some practice either way!
A couple more random tips for painting (I learned from mistakes so you don’t have to, right?!)
1. Let the paint completely dry before adding a second layer. (To speed up the process I use a heat gun.)
2. Until you are comfortable writing on the board, it is fine to sketch your design lightly in pencil first. (However, only use light stains if you plan on sketching – otherwise you might get frustrated because you can’t see the sketch!)
3. If your design is a little off-center, just add embellishments to give it a more balanced feel.
Will you give it a try? I promise it’s not that complex, and you don’t even have to go buy tons of new craft supplies to do it! Make your own decor, give a one-of-a-kind gift, or even make your own small business out of it! The possibilities are endless – I can’t wait to see what you create!