I’ll admit it. I’m hooked. Painting on wood is addictive. And harmless enough. If you don’t mind the occasional paint spatter on your good clothes when you get so excited about a project that you forget to change before you jump in. And the coating of sander dust that stays on your shoes and up your nose from prepping boards for paint. I think those hazards are a small price to pay for the incredible bliss of creative release that comes from painting on wood. Sometimes my fingers just itch to paint and I can’t seem to stop!I especially love the hand lettered signs. I like to do most of mine free-hand, but there are other options if free-handing it is not your thing. I begin with a piece of wood that I can sand and prep to be perfect for painting. Pallet wood is good if you have it, and I have recently been using boards from an old privacy fence. New wood can work too…especially if you paint it first, but I really like the finish of the weathered boards.
The first thing you want to do is sand your board, removing all the rough edges, and in the case of my old fence boards, residual dirt. I love my little electric hand sander, but you can get the job done with a piece of course sandpaper and a little elbow grease.
Once your board is sanded, you need to bump the piece up against something to take off the dust from the sander. (I bump mine against the floor of my porch until I can’t see any more dust coming off. You don’t want to sweep off the dust with your bare hand because of the splinters! Ouch! And if you dust it with a cloth, it may leave behind fibers that will have to be removed before the next step.)
Now, your board is ready to be prepped with either paint or some kind of sealant. This is important because wood is porous and will soak up the paint when you begin to paint your letters unless your first apply a barrier.
If you choose to paint your board, a thin coat of the paint color of your choice is what you need. You might even want to thin the paint a little with some water or make a batch of chalk paint by mixing regular paint with a little plaster of paris and water. Once your board is painted, allow it to dry thoroughly. If you want a more rustic look, you can rough up the edges with the sander (or sandpaper).
If you prefer to keep the look of bare wood, a terrific sealer for this is matte spray Mod Podge. Just spray it on your board, allow it to dry for just a few minutes, and voila! Your board is ready for lettering.
If you want your free-hand letters centered, just count all your spaces to make sure the words are properly centered and spaced. Just write the wording you want for each line of your sign out on a piece of paper, then count each letter and space between letters. Next, divide this number by two. The number you get should correspond to the letter that will be in the middle of your line. Some lines you won’t need to count, you can just see which letter should be in the middle. For example, in the sign below, you can tell that if you want the word “Heart” to be centered, the “a” should be directly in the center of the sign. Measure the the center point of the sign and paint that center letter first as a guide for the remaining letters. (You can come up with your own method for doing this, but this iway seems easiest to me.) Sometimes when I am free-handing letters, I go on Pinterest and look at different fonts to go by, then practice making my letters on a piece of paper before painting them on the wood.
I love to use Sharpie Paint Markers to paint my letters, but you can use a small brush if you prefer, especially if you are using any of the following methods:
- Print Transfer: Print the lettering that you want for your sign in the font and size of your choice from your computer. Lay paper flat, right side down, and color over the letters with a led pencil, charcoal stick, or chalk. (Use a contrasting color for this. For example, if my background is black, I will use chalk. If I am painting on a white background, charcoal works well.) Flip the paper over, right side up onto your board. Secure with masking tape. Trace the outer edges of your letters, pressing firmly with a pencil, to transfer the lettering onto your board.
- Cricut: If you have a Cricut die cutting machine, you can cut out letters and then use what’s left after you remove the actual letters for a guide. Once you use this cut-out for an outline for your letters, you can finish them up free-hand pretty easily. (Tip: To keep the paint from bleeding into an area where you don’t want paint, us a tiny bit of paint-on Mod Podge, or even clear finger nail polish around the edges of the cutout and allow this to dry before you start painting. It won’t affect the look of the finished product and it will keep the paint from running.
- Pre-Made Stencils: These are great and super-easy to use. Hobby Lobby has a good variety of stencils, but lots of other retail stores carry them to and they are usually all at a reasonable price. You can get thin cardboard stencils or plastic stencils, which tend to hold up better.
* With any of these methods, you are not limited to lettering! You can paint whatever you choose!
So jump right in and get a project started! There’s no time like the present! For ideas, check on my board entitled “Signs” on Pinterest. Search “Nicole Mouchka” on Pinterest to check out any of my boards!