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Sick of the 'easy', 'simple', 'foolproof' wooden sign tutorials that have you tracing letters and painting in the lines?  ('Cuz hint: it NEVER turns out like theirs!)  This is the easiest guide you'll find to help you create wooden signs with your very own sentiment.  No tracing, no free hand, just simple step by step instructions for the cleanest looking DIY wooden signs!  And your sign won't break the bank either!


  • Plywood
  • 2 colors of paint (Base can also be a stain)
  • Vinyl
  • Paint brushes
  • Needle nose tweezers
  • Credit Card
  • Measuring tape and/or T-square
  • Sanding disc (optional)

1.  DIMENSIONS.  After you've decided on the perfect wording, pick the perfect place for your new sign!  Measure the dimensions that fit the space and write them down!  Sometimes, this step is overlooked, but can make all of the difference in the world!  Head on over to Lowe's or Home Depot and pick out a piece of plywood for your project.  Choose a piece that is pre-sanded to save on time and materials!  I recommend Oak or Birch wood and 1" thickness (actual dimension is usually closer to .75" thick).  If you choose a thinner material, it doesn't give you a substantial look for your finished piece! Hint: Lowe's and Home Depot both offer FREE cuts to your exact specifications and also have pre-cut pieces measuring 24 x 24 as well as 24 x 48 which are GREAT sizes for many wall signs.  If you choose a large piece like the 24 x 48, go with the 1/2" thickness to cut down on weight, especially if you intend to hang the piece.  You won't need the additional depth to add to its' already substantial nature!

2.  DESIGN.  After you've decided on a size to fit your space, it's time to start designing your lettering.  In order to get clean crisp letters, we use a 'negative' design technique in which vinyl lettering is placed on the sign, painted over and later removed.  If you don't have access to a Cricut or Silhouette vinyl cutter, NO worries!  There are plenty of online sites that allow you to create your own custom vinyl lettering in an endless number of fonts and sizes.  Simply choose one and order your text in the font you prefer and to your size specifications.  (Don't worry about vinyl color because it will not remain on your sign anyways-just go with the cheapest option.)  Tip: I recommend leaving roughly an inch around the edges so your lettering doesn't get too close to the edge. So, if you're using a 24' x 24" board, make sure your design doesn't exceed 23" x 23".  If you have trouble finding an affordable site for your lettering, email us at sales@driftwoodmarket.net for help!

3.  BASE COLOR. After you've cut your own vinyl or ordered your lettering, it's time to begin thinking about colors for your masterpiece.  This tutorial uses a simple dark stain base and white paint top coat as these are tried and true and match almost any decor.  To begin, I stained my 24" x 24" board dark brown (including the sides!).  The base color you choose will be the color of the letters and/or design, so choose wisely.  It's very important to get this layer right in order to make your letters clean and crisp.  It may take a few coats, depending on your desired color.  Make sure the stain (or paint if you so choose) is completely dry between coats and before moving onto the next step...
4.  PLACEMENT.  It's now time to mark where each line of your creation will go on the board and make small pencil marks to guide you and ensure each line lies completely straight, with equal (or your desired) spacing.  This can be accomplished with a measuring tape and/or T-square. I recommend cutting each line of text apart and laying it on your board to envision your desired spacing (see pic in step five). 
5.  APPLYING VINYL. After your board is completely stained, it is time to begin applying your vinyl lettering.  This is accomplished with the help of some transfer tape (you can even use painters tape if you don't have access to vinyl transfer tape!).  Lay the transfer tape over one line of your vinyl lettering.  Use a credit card to smooth the tape and ensure it adheres to each letter. 
Remove the transfer tape and the letters should be stuck to it, exactly as if you're reading the line you're about to adhere.  If not, go back and rub the credit card over each letter, to gain better adherence.  Once you've peeled the line of text from its' backing, very carefully, using the guide marks you placed on the board in the last step, adhere the transfer tape and letters (sticky side down-duh!) to the correct position.  This is a crucial step as you only get one shot!  Do not try to adhere too much text at once, as that will almost always give you crooked text!  Once your transfer tape is on the board, use your credit card, beginning at the CENTER of the line and working outwards, in both directions, to adhere the letters to the board and release any trapped air bubbles.  You can then remove the transfer tape and voila: your letters are adhered to the board!
Wooden sign tutorial
6.  ...AND REPEAT.  Repeat step five for each line of text or design element.  I had 7 lines of text in my design as well as a large bunny.
7.  TOP COLOR. After all of your text is adhered, give it one more check to ensure each letter is completely adhered.  You don't want any loose edges as paint will seep under and give you unclean letters!  If all of your letters are properly adhered, go ahead and gently paint over the entire board, (including the vinyl!) with your desired top coat color.  I chose white in this step.  (Note: Only your base coat can be stained...your top coat CANNOT be a stain.)  Whether or not you paint the edges in this step is completely up to you.  I did not as I liked the contrast between the stained edges and white front.  If a couple coats are necessary, just make sure each coat is completely dry before painting another. 
8.  PEEL!!  I know what you're thinking: "There's no way this is going to turn out OK!"!  But, trust me, you're about to see the fruits of your labor!  Using needle nose tweezers, when the paint is completely dry, begin gently peeling each letter up.  Do not use the tweezers to get under the edges of the letters and pull it up.  Pull the letters off by grabbing the vinyl in the middle of the letters, not allowing the tweezers to touch the paint that will remain on the sign.  You don't want to scratch the paint.  Think of it like trying to fold each letter in half, by grabbing it in the center with the tweezers.  Along with the vinyl letters, the layer of paint over the letters will come off, leaving you perfect clean letters in your base color!  Tip: using your base or top coat and a thin point brush, you can fix any small mistakes you may have made!
9.  SAND (OPTIONAL).  I then sanded the edges for a vintage look, but this is completely optional!
Happy crafting!
If you still don't think the DIY thing is for you or you simply don't have time, check out Driftwood Market's collection of signs here!
May 26, 2016 by Bonnie DiCocco

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