People are always asking me about who makes the signs in the shop and they're usually pretty surprised when I tell them I do it myself. Since I was making some new signage for an upcoming offsite event, I thought I would share the process with y'all, it's not hard, and with the right tools you can make your own signs too!
To Start: Prep the surface you will be working on by sanding and staining or painting ahead of time.
Find the font: figure out which font styles you like,and then scale the text to fit the size of the wood. I work in Illustrator, but any program where you can work with text is fine. Once you get the text to the proper proportions print it out.
Tip: You can also use your own hand-drawn fonts/images. For ease of scaling take a picture and upload the jpg to your desktop, then it can be easily scaled to the size you want in any photo editing app.
Center the text and make sure it is straight on the wood and then fold the paper over the edges and tape the top section to the wood. Then place the tracing paper under the print out and fold the bottom half of the paper under the wood and tape to secure in place. Make sure the transfer side is facing the wood-( I have made that mistake before!)
Trace the the letters on onto the wood. You can use anything with a point, but I prefer pen, pencil is great, but sometimes the tips break. When tracing I tend to air on the side of over-tracing, really making sure that the little circle or weird tip of a letter is definitely going to be visible once I remove the paper. You can go back and re-trace once you have lifted the paper, but you take the chance of things moving and being out of line.
Tip: Once you lift the paper, if there are gaps or missing trace lines, go in and pencil in the missing lines.
Once you get the lines traced, lift the paper away and begin to fill in the letters with paint. I use another piece of wood as a brace to keep my hand parallel with the sign. This makes it easier to do long straight lines.
Tip: rotate the sign around to make it easier to paint, i am constantly rotating as I paint so I don't have to try and paint at odd angles.
I use ONE SHOT enamel oil based paint because, well, I love it. Also, it's made for sign painting, goes on smooth, and covers nicely.
Tip: use a thin line brush and wipe it off often, to avoid build up on the tip. I also will dip the brush in mineral spirits then wipe it with a rag before putting more paint on the brush. To clean your brushes clean them with mineral spirits, then lather up with dish or hand soap- I was taught to put the soap in my palm and rub the brush vigorously around, making sure to coat it well with soap. Only then should you wash it under water. I will repeat that step until the brush is clean.
Let the paint dry at least several hours to over night and then go over any spots that need touch-up or added layering of paint. Again give the paint ample time to dry, then put a couple layers of clear coat over the wood.
Here's what the finished signs look like out in the world: