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DIY Hand Painted Sign Ideas

If you are my twin, then you missed the "Naturally Gifted Handwriting" line in Heaven. I'm in awe at some of the extraordinarily talented individuals that can hand letter like nobodies business. I'm inspired by their talents and it gives me the drive to keep on practicing.  ;)

DIY signs have been around for a long time and there are so many different ways to create them. You can use stencils, vinyl lettering, wood appliqués, etc. But, you can also make them without any of things or any expensive programs. For this tutorial, all you need is your computer/ printer, tape, a pencil, paint/brushes, carbon paper and some wood!

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1. Gather Your Wood. 
Select your wood and determine the size of your sign. 

We chose a sheet of Lauan Plywood from Home Depot because it's inexpensive and light. You can cut it yourself or if you happen to purchase yours from Home Depot, they'll cut it for you! We asked them to cut ours to 48" wide by 36" tall. When we arrived home all it needed was a light sand along the edges. Time saver! For the trim, we used the cheapest 1 1/2 boards we could find. The more knots and imperfections the better. We wanted it rustic.

2. Create Your Design.
Collect your inspiration and choose your color palette. 

 For our sign, we selected three hues from Country Chic Paint. The background was painted in Vanilla Frosting then dry brushed with Dark Roast. We also used Dark Roast and added Mustard for the lettering.

Start by painting the backdrop. While you're background layer dries open up a new Word Document and create your saying. All of my block words were printed from Word. If you want really LARGE letters (like the word "happy" below), you can create your text in just about any FREE Photo Editing online site (Pixlr, Fotor, are just a few examples) using a plain white digital paper. (I've included an example directly below. Hover your mouse over the below space, (I promise it's there!) Feel free to save it for your own personal use.) 
digital paper, free digital paper, white paper

Once you have the white digital paper saved, upload it to your favorite photo editing site and use the add text function to create your word(s). I like to use Fotor.com because that's one site where you can access your own fonts. Once you have it the way you like it, save it as a jpg. (The size of your word/phrase doesn't matter at this point). We're going to blow it up in just a minute using another FREE program.

Next, take your edited .jpg you just created and upload it to Block Posters. A fabulous free program that allows you to enlarge any .jpg image. You tell it how many paper sizes wide and tall it should be and it will create an enlarged version. Once printed you do a quick re-assembly with some tape and put it back together. (Visit here to see another example of how this is done.) Here's my "happy" all in one piece.

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3. Easy Trace Method
Grab a pencil and your Carbon Paper

Carbon paper can be found at just about any Office Supply store. You will get more sheets then you need for around $5. I used just one sheet for this project and can still re-use it again and again for another project. Once your background is dry, position your words on your Lauan and give them a quick two piece scotch tape just temporarily hold them in place. Starting at the top (because you don't want crawl over a word that's already been carboned on, place a sheet of carbon under a word and LIGHTLY trace around your letters. I traced my words too hard and had to do an extra coat of paint to cover them up. Trust me lightly tracing will get the job done. ;)

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This is what it will look like when you take the carbon paper away. Don't worry too much if your tracing isn't perfect (see mine!), paint can fix that later.

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And when you're finished it should look something like this..

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4. Time to paint.

Small stiff brushes will become your new best friend for this project. This part takes a little bit of time so turn on a good movie and have at it!

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You can either paint and take a sander to it afterwards to give it more of a vintage feel or you can go light on the paint in areas and give the same effect (like I did on "Skies Are Gray").

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When you're finished, measure the width and length of your board and make your trim cuts accordingly. Depending on the look you're going for, you can choose to stain, paint them or leave them as is. We stapled our Lauan board to our frame but you could also use short screws as well. If you have one you'd like to show case place your link in the comments, I'd love to see it!

Have a great week!
Carrie || Thirty Eighth Street


  1. Do you have any pictures of the back side or advice on attaching the board to the frame? I love this idea but on my last similar project had trouble attaching the Lauan to the frame...

    1. Hi Kaitlin! I use a staple gun attached to an air compressor and long enough staples so that it hooks into both the Lauan and the frame. Hope that helps!.. Carrie