*This post is about wood paint and all you need to know to correctly use paint for wood.

Wood paint can be difficult to figure out so I decided to do some research on it. Being new to looking at paint for wood I was wondering what are my options? I knew I didn’t need to be an expert but wanted to ensure I wasn’t wasting my time or money, yet still getting the look I was wanting.

When looking at paint for wood the options are vast and can be confusing. Consider the look and feel you are going for. Utilize an Acrylic or Latex paint, the color of your choice, then with a small paintbrush or sponge applicator spread evenly across the wood sign, typically going with the grain. Let dry and repeat.

During my research most of the articles and YouTube videos I saw referred to painting the letters ideas of the wood versus general painting. So I wanted to give you more information to help you out with general painting ideas.


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If you would like to know more about Paint Letters On Wood Signs you can see my article here “Ultimate Guide On How To Paint Letters On Wood“.

1. What Supplies Do You Need When Looking At Paint For Wood

The supplies you will need are basic and not very expensive. If you are on a budget then this will work for you.

  • Small Roller – You can use a standard house painting roller which is 9 inches wide if you have them around the house from another project. However, if you want to put out a little money the preferred size is a 4-inch wide roller.
  • Roller Cover – There are several roller covers to choose from. Your generic Synthetic Roller Covers are a great choice. They include Polyester, Nylon, or Dacron.
  • Roller Tray – You will need a tray to roll the paint from and apply it to your wood sign. I recommend getting a tray for the 4-inch roller and then wrapping it with a plastic bag or tinfoil prior to pouring the paint so you can use it again.
  • Sanding Blocks – You will need both medium (120 Grit) and fine grit (240 Grit). An alternative is sanding paper if you have them around from another project.
  • Flat Surface – A table in the garage that is flat is the best place to paint your wood signs. This keeps the paint even while drying.
  • Cover On The Table – An old sheet or old towel works perfectly for protecting the table or flat surface you are using from any spillage which may occur.

Ensure you paint your wood in a well-ventilated area, preferably outside on a patio or yard if possible. If that is not possible due to weather or the temperature, the garage is a good place where you can open a window to ventilate any fumes which come from the paint you are using.

Additionally – If you are going to paint in a closed-in room I would suggest a mask to alleviate any fumes you may encounter.


2. What Kind Of Paint Do You Need

Depending on who you research you get varying opinions on what kind of paints to use when painting wood signs. Since I was looking at paint for wood in general, not lettering, I had a hard time finding information. So I have compiled a list below to help you in your effort.

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TypeCrack or PeelNeed SealedToxicWater-BasedSizeCost
AcrylicNoNoNoYes2 oz~$2.50
LatexNoNoNoYes2 oz~$2.50
OilNoYesYesNo2 oz~$5.50

There are many things to consider when choosing your paint for your wood project.

  • Wood Type – Different types of wood accept paint in different ways MDF, plywood or pine, and walnut for example. The main point is to consider what paint you want to use. Most applications will use Acrylic paint with no issues.
  • Varied Color – “Wood Color Paint” – This is important to consider especially if you have a specific color to match for a logo, business wood sign or you have a specific color you are looking to match.
  • Can You Mix – Most of the paints I researched to have the ability to be mixed to lighten or darken to color variations, however, some don’t – Be sure to look when you pick your paint or consult the salesperson or website where you are buying your paint.
  • Drying time – If you are on a timeline you need to consider the time it takes for your paint to completely dry. For most paints (Acrylic and Latex) the drying time is about 4 hours. Oil paints on the other hand take up to 24 hours.

If you would like to see what products I’m using and purchase you can see my recommended products here – “Recommended Products

Lastly, I want to mention, that if you choose an Oil-based paint ensure you look at the implications of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and the effects of polluted air, inhalation, and poisoning.

If you would like more information on this subject you can go to this reference. “The Health Effects of Oil-Based Paint” on the Livestrong website.

3. How Do I Paint Wood

Painting your wood sign is quite a big subject so I decided to narrow it down to the basics. What are the basic steps I need to know? The list below considers the fact that you have already chosen your wood. For this list, I used common pine 12×12.

  • Sand Your Wood With Sanding Block(s) – preferably a medium grit to start. Then go to a fine-grit sanding in the direction of the grain. If you have a sander that would be preferred. Use 120 grit to start with and then use 240 grit sandpaper on your sander to finish.
  • Do you want a Rustic Wood Appearance – If you are going for the Rustic look at the start with the Medium sanding block or 80 Grit Sandpaper. Sand a little but not enough to make the surface completely smooth.
  • Wipe Your Board With A Clean Cloth Or Microfiber Towel. This ensures the board is clean with no dust to clump up in the paint.
  • Paint With A Primer Paint – It’s always a good idea to paint a primer on plain wood prior to the final cover. Please consider this step even though the final color choice you have states the paint includes primer.
  • Paint the Final Color (Wood Color Paint) – If you are going for a single color paint the final color on the primer from the last step and let cure for 24 hours. Despite the 4-hour drying time of Acrylic/Latex paint I recommend 24 hours. This makes sure you have a completely dry and durable surface to create your wood sign design. If you are going for a multi-color background then ensure you completely let it dry prior to taping off the section which needs the additional color.
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This videos does an excellent job depicting paint raw wood

Is There A Difference Between Indoor And Outdoor Paint For Wood

Before we get into the specifics about indoor/outdoor painted signs what is the difference?

  • Indoor Paint – Indoor or interior paint for wood signs is meant for resisting staining and can be cleaned easily. It is not meant to confront the harsh outdoor elements.
  • Outdoor Paint – Outdoor or exterior paint for wood signs is meant for the harsh outdoor elements and against fading and mildew.

Now we know what, which is the best paint to use? In my research, I have found latex to be the best paint for painting wood signs. The solution provides enough protection for both environments, and color choices and is very easy to work with.

However, please note that maintenance will be needed no matter what paint you use especially if you place your wood sign outside. If you want to place your wood sign outside it is recommended that you seal the wood sign with a sealer (Polyurethane).

If you seal your wood it will resist the fading and elements of weather better, but still would need to be re-sealed approximately once a year depending on how long you leave it outside. Most folks who have wood signs for home decor only place their wood signs outside during good weather or to celebrate a family event. The other alternative is to place it under an overhang which does provide some protection from the Sun’s UV rays and inclement weather to a certain degree.

Related Questions

How to paint with Stencils? – Painting your wood sign with stencils comes after the process of painting your wood sign. Stencils allow you to place lettering, pictures, logo, or whatever you would like on the wood sign.

Choosing the best wood – The wood you choose would be defined by the look you are going for on your wood sign. Different wood provides different textures, colors, and grain lines. Please note the wood you choose may depend on the cost you want to spend as some wood pieces are very expensive. Most wood projects use pine.

Can I spray paint my wood sign – You can use spray paint for the background of your wood sign. It can be a little more expensive. A typical can of spray paint (12 oz) runs $4.00 versus a small container of Latex or Acrylic paint (2 oz.) runs $2.5. Although smaller it does go a long way

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