How to Paint Letters on Wood

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Use stencils to create sharp, professional-looking letters.
Use stencils to create sharp, professional-looking letters. (Image: abstract,sign/symbol.restaurant and car park sign image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com)

Unless you have considerable artistic talent or a very steady hand, you will find it difficult painting sharp, straight letters on wood. Fortunately, you can produce professional-looking results by utilizing stencils. Before you begin the application process, you will need to condition the wood to accept the paint, or your letters will eventually peel and chip. In addition, you will need to select the appropriate type of paint, or the finished letters may eventually fail.

Things You'll Need

  • Respirator
  • Tack cloth
  • Heavy-duty fabric drop cloth
  • Stencils
  • Stencil spray adhesive
  • Blue painter's tape
  • Acrylic spray primer
  • Acrylic spray paint
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Oil-based spray primer
  • Oil-based spray paint

Move the wood to a well-ventilated area if possible. Wear a respirator if the wood is placed in a poorly ventilated area.

Place a drop cloth beneath the wood.

Place the stencils face down on the drop cloth. Spray stencil adhesive on the back of the stencils.

Place the stencils on the wood. Tape the edges of the stencils down using a low-tack painter's tape.

Spray the exposed areas of the stencils with acrylic primer. Skip this step if the wood was previously painted. Wait two hours for the primer to dry. Do not remove the stencils.

Spray the exposed areas of the stencils with acrylic paint. Wait 10 minutes, and then carefully remove the stencils. Wait an additional two hours for the letters to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Stencils are available at craft stores.
  • If the wood is coated with varnish, you must remove this glossy layer using sandpaper prior to application.
  • If the wood is stained, you should use an oil-based primer and paint.
  • Do not use ordinary adhesives in place of stencil adhesives, or you may not be able to remove the stencil.
  • Do not paint over bare wood, or the letters will peel.

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