How to Paint a Wooden Sign

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to paint a trendy wooden sign.

By: KariAnne Wood [KariAnne Wood writes about DIY & crafts for children. She blogs at Thistlewood Farms]

Lettered wooden signs are everywhere. You see them in stores and boutiques and barn sales across the country. The reason for their popularity is obvious: What better way to personalize your home decor and make a statement without saying a single word? The challenge is that wooden signs like these are often expensive and may cost more than an average home decor item. But did you know you can make your own for a fraction of the cost? All you need are a few simple supplies and a little creativity.

What You Need:

  • 1/4″ plywood sheet, 24” x 32”
  • Vinyl lettering
  • Stain
  • Acrylic paint (I used a light gray color)
  • 1” x 2” pine board for frame

What You Do:

Step 1: Pick a Saying

Sometimes this can be the hardest part. Here are a few suggestions: a family motto, a funny saying, a favorite quote or even something a family member frequently says. Many times craft stores have pre-made vinyl quotes in a variety of fonts, styles and sizes. If you are at a loss for inspiration, this is always a great place to start. For this project, I selected a quote that is one of our family’s favorites. I’ve been telling it to my children for as long as I can remember and it seemed like the perfect way to add a little bit of our family’s personality into our home.

Step 2: Frame the Wood and Add the Layout

To begin the sign project, add a basic wood frame to the piece of plywood. If a frame seems a little overwhelming, you can always create the sign without one. However, the frame is simple: It’s just four 1 x 2-inch pine boards cut to fit. There are no complicated 45 degree angles with this project. Instead, cut two ends of the board about an inch longer than the top and bottom of the plywood board. Next, cut two sides out of the board about an inch shorter to fit and attach all four pieces to the plywood board.

You’ll want to lay out the saying on the plywood to make sure your spacing works. Here, I divided the quote on the plywood into five lines of text to make sure it fit on the board. This quote was pre-designed, but if you are designing your own on a vinyl-cutting machine, it’s a good idea to combine different fonts and letter sizes for a truly custom look.

Lay out the letters.

Step 3: Stain the Plywood

Stain the plywood board and frame. Follow the manufacturer’s directions on your stain for the easiest application. Let it dry thoroughly before moving to the next step.

Step 4: Attach the Vinyl

After the stain is completely dry, peel off the vinyl backing and press the vinyl letters onto the plywood board. Make sure your first line is straight and, using that as a guide, space the other lines of text accordingly. Hint: Making a hashtag shape around the words with pencils is an easy way to ensure your text goes on straight.

Once the vinyl is applied, you’ll want to make sure all of the letters are attached firmly to the plywood. Using a flat edge, score the letters to remove any bubbles or wrinkles in the vinyl.

Attach the letters.
Step 5: Paint

Now you are ready to paint. Using a foam brush, lightly brush acrylic paint over the stain. Make sure not to disturb any of the vinyl lettering when painting the front of your sign. Paint just the face of the sign, leaving the frame stained. Two coats of paint are usually necessary to ensure proper coverage. Make sure to paint inside the open letters as well. Let the paint dry before moving on.

Paint the sign

Step 6: Peel Off the Vinyl

The last step is to remove the vinyl letters. Make sure the paint is thoroughly dried, then begin to peel off the vinyl letters, starting at the corner of the sign. Peel up the corner of a letter and carefully remove the vinyl from the plywood, allowing the stain to show through. Continue this process until all of the letters on the sign have been removed. Next, inspect your quote. You may need to touch up the letters if some of the paint bled through. Simply scrape away any excess paint for sharper, crisper lettering.

How to paint a wooden sign.

That’s it! You’re done. What an easy project to add a little personality to your space. It’s a fun way to get creative with paint and stain and create a unique piece for your home.

About the Author:

KariAnne Wood writes often on DIY crafts for children. Her decorating and lifestyle blog, Thistlewood Farms, has been named decorating blog of the year by Country Living. KariAnne writes about her DIY creations for The Home Depot. To review other wall décor ideas from Home Depot, you can view an interactive here.