Painting Techniques for Wooden Sign Sayings


Painted wood signs depicting funny or familiar sayings are a common decorating accent piece. Some signs use cut-outs of the words, while other signs have words lettered onto a wooden background. These signs are usually designed to have a primitive or folk art look rather than a finished detailed sign appearance. There are several techniques which make this project easier so that almost anyone can create a sign that they find attractive.


  • Select the size of board you want to use for a sign. Sand the board on all sides and slightly round the edges so that the sign feels soft to the touch. Use an orbital sander and sandpaper from medium to fine grit. Paint the wood on all sides. This will keep the wood from cupping. Cupping occurs when unpainted wood absorbs moisture causing the wood to curve or cup. Use an exterior latex. Type out your words on your computer in the font you want. Enlarge the words to fit on the wood. Place your words under a mylar stencil sheet and cut a stencil with a stencil tool. Mylar is a clear plastic sheet sold in craft and art stores for stencils.


  • Select an acrylic color paint for your lettering. Tape your stencil to the wood and use a stenciling brush to pounce the paint through the stencil and onto the wood. To pounce, use a stiff, round, stencil brush with most of the paint wiped off. Press the brush straight down through the stencil openings quickly so that paint cannot flow under the sides of the stencil. Allow the paint to dry for 2 hours before lifting the stencil. Allow the paint to dry another 2 hours and then tape off a 1/2 inch border around the outside edge of the wood. Paint the border with the same color paint. Allow the paint to dry 4 hours and then wash the wood with a light stain. Spray the entire board with a clear coat finish after the stain dries.


  • Place your photocopied word over the painted board with a sheet of graphite paper between the two. This is an alternative to stenciling. Trace your word or saying onto the board. Add a little extra space between words to make them easier to read. Fill in the letters using a small artist brush and acrylic paint. This will create a more crisp lettered finish than stenciling. Create shadows by painting a gray edge along the bottom and one side of each letter.

Hand Lettering

  • Draw two lines on the painted board representing the top and bottom edge of the letters. Print out a copy of the words you want to paint in the style you like. Add an additional space between words for easier read-ability. Hand draw the letters onto the wood by starting in the center and working to each side. Follow your copy for a visual guide. Use a flat-edged long-handle paint brush to letter the words calligraphy style. This technique uses the design of the brush to create the right shapes. Paint the words using the drawings on the wood as a guide.

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