3 lettering techniques to consider when making your sign

December 17, 2014

Are you making a sign or painting a window? Here are some how-to tips and tricks to help you get started and make your awesome lettering stand out.

3 lettering techniques to consider when making your sign

Choosing the right paint

If you’re painting a window, you might think getting a water-based paint will be easier to wash off later. Wrong! Go for a latex-based paint. Water soluble paints will come off with just water, but when you wash your sign off, the colours will streak and drip down, potentially staining the wall and floor beneath.

On the other hand, a latex-based paint will be easy to chip off with a regular scraper from the hardware store. Then, you simply vacuum up the chips. You’ll also want to consider whether your sign is temporary or if it will be there for a long while. If your sign will be outdoors, make sure you get a paint that is weather-resistant and apply a protective coating on top.


If you’re painting a wood surface, but like the grain of the wood, staining can provide a beautiful background surface onto which you can add opaque lettering. Just a few layers of stain or a diluted stain will add just a touch of colour. To go bright, apply multiple layers. You can also try a shaded ombré look by adding more layers of stain to the edges of a sign and gradually less towards the middle.


There are many different ways to paint a sign. Consider fine brushes for details and larger brushes for the overall surface. You can also try cutting sponges for getting into little corners or use textured sponges to create special effects.


For painting borders and edges, hide the parts you don’t want to paint with tape. Make sure you choose a tape which won’t leave glue behind. Also, make sure not to apply the paint too thickly over the edge of the tape and be gentle when removing the tape so as to avoid chipping or removing any of the paint on the surface you were intentionally covering.


For a vintage look or to make letters stand out, you can paint each letters in its entirety, let dry, and paint only the outlines with a thin paintbrush and a lighter paint colour. Make sure each colour dries before applying another. Some paints can bleed into each other, making your lettering look blotchy and not as crisp as you would like it.


Stencilling can help you get crisp lines. Start by cutting out the stencil to see and plan the overall spacing of the letters. Just one word of caution: don’t forget the centre part of letters with a hole in them! Then, paint out your letters with the stencil holes in an opaque and contrasting colour. You can also go over the inside of the edges of the stencil with a strong stroke and paint the interior with only a little bit of paint on your brush to simply shade the insides of each letter.

Those are just a few quick tips, but most paint, craft, and hardware stores will have all kinds of great supplies and tools to help you create the sign you want. Visit your local shops and discover some great tools. Happy lettering!

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