Painting Wood Signs

Painting letters on your wood sign is important and you want to give a good impression especially if it is for that special person, friend, or family member. There are many options and ways to paint the letters, and frankly, it can be overwhelming, so being a novice, I decided to do some research to see what was the best way for me to paint the letters that presented the message I wanted.

How do you paint letters on wood signs?

  • Carved, seal the wood sign with a sanding sealer, then paint with an aerosol primer across the letters then sand. 
  • Not carved, print the font, size and letters you want from a computer, cut the letters out, arrange on the board, use a marker to outline the board.  With sponge applicator, paint inside/outside lines. 

Painting Letters On Wood Signs Explained

Many folks choose different methods to paint the letters on their wood signs.  What is interesting is the many options you can use.  So, when researching I asked myself a few questions.  What color, effect, method, and how much will it cost on my minimum budget.  Surprisingly I found more options and methods that didn’t cost a lot but gave me the look I was going for.

Painting your wood sign is a simple process of applying the desired paint (Acrylic recommended) to the method(s) described below. Use small brushes or a sponge applicator (Preferably sponge) to apply your paint in a dabbing motion with a general – Not Generous – amount of paint. Apply at least two coats and let dry between each session.

Carved: How To Get Paint In Wood Carved Letters!

If your wood sign project is carved the method of painting is very simple and provides a very nice look. You can paint using a spray can (Preferably Primer) purchased at your local hardware store (Most cost effective) or if you have more resources you can use and airbrush system. Both offer different color options and different additives like metallic or glitter for example. (You can apply your stain afterward)

  • Make sure your wood sign is smooth and free of dust. This can be done by sanding with 12 grit and 220 grit sand paper. You can hand sand, and orbital sander, or belt sander depending on what you have on hand. Then wipe off with a clean cloth or microfiber cloth to ensure it is free of dust and dirt.
  • Ensure the carved wood sign is coated and sealed by a sand sealer or urethane, lightly coded with a foam sponge or handy rag.
  • Let completely dry in a well ventilated area – this is important as it will not completely seal the wood sign if still wet. The paint that will be applied will bleed into the wood surrounding the letters creating lines in the wood.
  • Paint the wood sign with your Aerosol paint or Air Brush evenly across from left to right. Then repeat the process the opposite direct to ensure you have complete coverage. You don’t need to paint with excessive paint, but just enough to provide coverage. (Big misconception is to paint heavy – It isn’t needed)
Painted Letter Wood Sign

Not Carved: Alternatives To Painting Carved Lettering On Wood Signs

If your wood sign is not carved and you are on a limited budget, like me, you have many options. Below I have provided several solutions for painting your wood sign(s) that are effective, provide options of look, font, and appearance. Basically, it is limited by your imagination and creative thoughts to tailor however you want. Don’t be the norm and create that special wood sign!

  • Basic Stencils – Home made or bought
  • Dura-lar – Reusable Stencil – Use spray adhesive for sticking to the wood sign
  • Vinyl – Very Effective, but increases cost due the equipment you will need – Hire out (Many sites will do the work for you online) or take the spill in buying – Expect to pay a moderate amount of money for machine and supplies which you will need
  • Hand Drawn – If you are artistic and have the ability to draw your lettering – Awesome if you are able – If not have a friend or hire out

Each of the above options is simple and easy to accomplish with most items you would typically have around your home. This greatly reduces the amount of money needed to paint your wood signs. So let’s get to it!

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

Stencils – Crafty Way Of Painting Your Wood Signs

First of all, you need to decide whether or not you will stain your wood sign prior to painting with the stencil or not. I have had mixed results on both. Preferably you would stain your wood signboard first. It makes painting with the stencil so much easier and you don’t have to worry about attempting the difficult task of staining afterward. If you over-paint from your stencil you are able to correct it fairly easily with hand sanding and stain touch-up.

What Can I Use To Stencil Painting On Wood Signs?

  • Basic Stencils – These are created by yourself using a word processing program in your computer. Additionally you can use some free services on online. Canva is a great choice and the one I used. Choose the font, phrase, and picture, logo if you want that extra punch for impressing the person you are giving to; and how you want them oriented. Print out on you printer. (If to large for one page you can use Rapid sizer (Online) to breakout to multiple pages equally and tape together) Once you have printed them, cut out around the letters or inside the letters depending on the effect you would like with and excato knife or carpet knife. Use basic adhesion spray glue to adhere your basic stencil to the wood sign and paint as described above. Additionally you can buy at your local craft store or hardware store pre-cut stencils. The selection is limited by font and size – beware.
  • Dura-lar – (Dura-Lar) This is a more costly option which would require you to have a cutting machine such as a Cameo or Cricut to cut the plastic stencil. If you have one of these cutting machines, then great! This product is very durable, reusable, and can be cleaned for repeated use if you plan to make multiple painted wood signs of the same phrase and image (if applicable).
  • Vinyl – This is the most common stencil and used widely by many small business wood sign companies. Again, this is cut utilizing the Cameo or Cricut machines. Typically a vinyl product such as Oracal 651 or 631 vinyl is used (There are different products, colors, however I found this product line is the best for this application). It has an peel and stick process were you peel the back off and stick to the wood sign which you are wanting to paint. This provides the stencil for you to apply your paint. Don’t worry the adhesive back is not permanent!

Hand Drawn – Are You Able To Draw Your Design For Painting Wood Signs?

If you have the ability to draw freehand you can use a pencil or colored marker (Preferably erasable) to draw your letters on your wood sign, and completely avoid all the effort and cost of the stencil which is huge (Have a friend that can draw?). This allows you to be super creative and not worry about the cumbersome stencils mention above. Additionally, you would be able to paint your wood sign with little to no cost except for the brushes and paint.

Cost versus Level of Difficulty

There are many advantages to painting your letters to create your masterpiece on your wood sign project. Below I have created a table for you to view and make a determination on what option is the best for you. The main factor(s) involved was limited knowledge, minimum budget, and one-time effort for my masterpiece painted wood sign.

Painting MethodCostLevel of Difficulty
Carved Lettering*HighLow
Basic StencilLowLow
Hand DrawnLowMedium

(*) Denotes extra equipment needed – Con: Cost of equipment and learning curve

Related Questions:

Are painting letters on wood signs hard? Painting letters on your wood sign is not hard but can be time-consuming. Plan plenty of time to ensure your paint dries completely. With patience, effort, and a little fun you can achieve the vision in your mind of the end product.

Why do my letters bleed when I’m painting wood signs with stencils? When using the stencil for painting your sign, if you are not getting a good seal around the edge of your letters on the stencil the paint will seep under the edge of the stencil and the letters will not be crisp and clear.

How much paint do I use when painting on wood signs? Dip your sponge applicator into the paint and get a small amount (Enough to dabble the paint up and down and get coverage), not a generous amount. You don’t want to over-paint the lettering on your wood sign.

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