Hand-Painted Signs are Hard

Men, when you have your first child, you will need a lot of stuff.  I know you are thinking crib, stroller, car seat, toys, diapers and other endless baby accoutrements, but that’s not it.  You will need things like night-light-houses, signs, frames, letters and other, seemingly (but, trust me men, they are not) pointless, decorations for the nursery, house and car.  You have no idea.  Seriously.

One of these items my soon-to-be-mother wife requested was a hand-painted sign saying, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move mountains.”  I don’t like hand-painting signs, but because it’s for my loving wife, for my daughter, and for our house, I had to overcome my fears and inabilities.

With a hand as steady as an avid coffee drinker on a boat in the midst of a hurricane, I find hand-painting signs tedious and terrible.  You know what I mean.  But, just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it cannot or should not be done.

Here is one method, in seven easy steps, for conquering hand-painted text signs.

Step one: Print out the sign text as you would like it to appear on the sign.

Step two: Cut and tape in place.  Tape along one side so you can flip over the paper and chalk the back-side.

Step three: Flip over the paper and cover the back with chalk.  Ensure coverage of the lettering pretty heavily.  If you miss a spot, you will have to come back and do this step again, so try to get it right the first time.

Step three: chalk the back-side of your text. Note: I taped the “LET” all the way around and then had to cut the sides. Whoops

As you can see, I used driveway chalk.  Why?  Because I had it on hand.  No shame.

Step four: Color in the text using a ball-point pen.  It’s tedious.  It’s painful.  It’s a little bit of a pain in the butt, to be honest, but results are worth the pain.

Step four: grab a pen, color in the text and fight off the urge to down a bottle of Midol (hand cramps!).

Step five: Flip over the paper and make sure the chalk rubbed off onto the sign.  After all the pain, the chalk rubbing will provide an easy outline to paint over.  If the chalk is light, then go back to step three and repeat.  The most important areas to be able to see are the letter outlines.

Step five: flip over the paper and check out your chalk rubbings.

Step six: Paint over the chalk.  Granted, the shaky hands don’t help, but the chalk rubbing outline provides a great way to stay inside the lines.

Step six: finally! It starts to look like a sign.

Painting Tips:  My brushes (moment of honesty: the cheap brushes you would buy at large craft store) are pretty terrible.  The hairs spread out when paint is on the tip which makes it difficult to paint, let alone have sharp lines.  One trick I came up with is to cut the brush tip down to a point before I starting.

Before painting, have a small cup of water to rinse the brush in between paint applications.  This will help the brush stay wet and avoid dried paint globs forming on the tip.

When painting, start in the center of the letter and move paint out to the edges of the letter.  This will help get clean edges and cover the area in even paint.  This is standard painting technique: start in a big area and work to the edges / corners.

Step seven: Take a step back and admire.  If there are spots you have to go back and fix, then go back and fix them now.  Paint over any spots where you may have gone over the edge of the letter with the background color.  Even out any letter areas which may be lighter or thinner.

Results! Clean off the chalk and step back.  I fixed the top inside of the “R” and the top the “W.” 

Remember, “imperfections are evidence the sign was hand-painted by the indigenous peoples of … wherever you live.”  That’s right, a paraphrased quote from Fight Club.

Sign up on the wall to the left of the crib. The lettering looks pretty good, albeit hand-crafted for sure.

Results: Here it is!  I had to go back and touch up some areas where I painted outside the lines, but I think it turned out pretty nice.

At the reveal to the customer (my wife), she “loved” it, but tilted her head and said it was missing something.  What could it be missing?  “Mountains,” she said.  Ahhhhh.

Read: Let her sleep (because I need sleep and I only sleep when she sleeps)!

We live in Denver, Colorado, so getting inspiration for mountains is easy, go outside and look west.  I got on our roof and sketched out the mountain profile as well as noticed the color differential (thank you bad air quality).  I thought this would add a personal touch to the sign and be a reminder of where she started (both the sign and our daughter).

Sidenote: Trying out a handful of colors for a project is a good idea.  Why?  In addition to getting the right color for your project, it also provides a handful of “off” colors which can be used in other projects down the line.

The colors I used for the mountains were samples for the wall color we didn’t use. We try to re-use everything here at Worthy Woodworking, so finding another use for these samples in the nursery they were purchased for was a fantastic surprise. The colors worked well on the sign for the color differential I spied whilst on the roof, so it must be kismet.

All done.  Happy wife, happy life.  On to the next nursery project…

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This entry was published on April 2, 2015 at 4:10 pm. It’s filed under Construction, Tips and Tricks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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