Painted Sign Tutorial ~Easy DIY Technique

Hi. My name is Larissa, and I’m addicted to old signs.  There. I said it. There’s just something about the typography and artistry of old advertisements, name plates, just…whatever. They draw me in, and since it’s hard to find these relics, I like to create my own – especially on cast-off wood. Let me show you how in this simple painted sign tutorial.

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces…especially paired with antique treasures like this single tree!

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces

Who can resist the time-worn wear and chippy paint, all telling a story of days gone by?

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces

I’d like to show you the transfer method I use to create signs and furniture. I have oodles of examples of how I use this method on my furniture makeovers seen HERE like this chest.

Thrifted Acme cedar chest is an industrial work of art with vintage typography by Prodigal Pieces |

Only a couple items needed besides your wood (and an antique anything, if you have something!) to do this painted sign tutorial.

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces

  • oil pastels – I mainly use kids pastels (cheap & work just as well), but any will do. You can also use chalk, transfer paper, or graphite paper.DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces
  • colored pencil – in a bright color
  • acrylic craft paint – in color desired
  • #5 or #6 round paint brush – you could use any one hand, I prefer these.
  • paint tray or plastic lidDIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces
  • Microsoft Word, Photoshop, or similar program
  • printer
  • masking tape, painters’ tape, or similar

First, measure the wood you’re using to get the parameters you need your graphic to fit into.  I typically leave about an inch allowance or greater, depending on the design.

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces

Next, I lay out my graphic (you can also use a pre-made design or clip art) in a software program.  I used to use Microsoft Word, but now love to use Photoshop.  No need to reverse the image, just print it out as you read it, and tape it together, if needed.

Once your graphic is printed, grab your oil pastel (I like to use the same color as the paint I’m using), and rub the reverse side of the graphic everywhere you want to show up.   To be able to see where to rub, a light box is great (I have a homemade one), but I always use my window since I’m too lazy to drag out my light box. ahem.

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpiecesLast, center and tape in place your graphic with the right side facing you. Then, take your colored pencil and trace firmly all the parts you coated with the pastel.

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpiecesBefore completely removing the paper after you’re done tracing, gently lift up a side to see if you’ve traced every part and make any necessary adjustments.

It should look like this…

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpiecesNow you’re ready to paint!  I think you can figure this part out, so I won’t elaborate on this part.

Seriously, any old wood will do.  See! Here’s part of my stash:

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpiecesHere’s another sign using a vintage Morris rocking chair part and a thrown out Vera Bradley sign made of foam board. (it doesn’t even have to be wood!)

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces

DIY: Repurposed & Painted Sign Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpiecesGot questions?  Just let me know! To get these DIY tips and tricks in your inbox, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get your FREE Furniture Buying Checklist and special discount to my shop

AND…Don’t forget to stop by my shop to see the latest additions.

Shop Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.comUntil next time!

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More projects for you like my painted sign tutorial:

Antique Stereo Repurposed Into Sewing Cabinet by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpiecesDIY Repurposed Snack & Beverage Stand Tutorial by Prodigal Pieces #prodigalpieces

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  • Karen Aber Ploransky

    Fast and Easy, just the way I like projects!

    June 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm Reply
  • Lucy Auburn

    I love to make old looking signs too! These turned out great!

    September 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm Reply
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  • Sindy

    Would you please tell me how to get the graphic pattern on Photoshop? I have Photoshop, but I don’t know how to make the graphic and get it large enough for my project. I have a small laundry stool and I want to paint a graphic on the seat that says “The Dirty Dog Laundry”–thanks!

    May 10, 2015 at 10:02 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Hi Sindy! Sure, the link in my post must have been removed when I moved my blog, but I’ve replaced it for you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! 🙂

      May 11, 2015 at 5:33 am Reply
  • Stacy

    I am addicted to old signs but have never made one and I can’t wait to try it. I am confused as to why after you print it out do you shade it all in on the opposite side. Can’t u just turn it over and trace the outside without shading it in with an oil pastel? I think I am confusing myself? LOL
    Thank you so much.
    God Bless

    January 14, 2016 at 9:45 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      They are very addictive, Stacy. hee hee. Sometimes if the lettering is small it’s just easier/faster to shade the whole thing in. When I do larger text, I only shade the outside edge. 😉

      January 18, 2016 at 5:51 am Reply
  • Ashlyn

    Such a cool project!! I cannot wait to try this myself! thank you for sharing!!

    February 23, 2016 at 11:02 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you, Ashlyn! 🙂

      February 25, 2016 at 6:02 am Reply
  • Ammy

    Excellent Job done by Larisaa ….. Thanks 🙂

    July 25, 2016 at 1:39 pm Reply
  • Signs NY

    Thanks for such a great post ! You really did well and described this post very well. Now i can also even make hand made signs 🙂

    July 25, 2016 at 6:22 pm Reply
  • Kathy

    My brain can’t wrap around your instructions although I think they are wonderful. I found a overhead projector at a yard sale and I use transparencies and tape them to white paper. So far so good.

    July 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm Reply
  • Jolena

    Cute, smart and thrifty. Thanks for showing us!

    February 10, 2017 at 8:30 am Reply
  • Cheryl B.

    I see to use photoshop,but do you have to get a special paper?Like a long roll paper to put in your printer.ive never done any tranfers or labels.etc.but I would love too

    March 16, 2017 at 2:19 am Reply
    • Larissa

      I just divide the image up into 8.5″ x 11″ sections, print and then tape together for a larger image.

      March 16, 2017 at 7:58 am Reply
  • Tara @ Stilettos and Shiplap

    I’d love to have the ability to hand letter beautifully as so many others do. As it is I don’t even have nice regular handwriting. I’m definitely going to be trying this method to make my own signs. Thanks so much for sharing, Larissa!

    November 27, 2018 at 3:14 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      I know what you mean. This makes it super easy and makes for great practice too.

      November 27, 2018 at 5:50 pm Reply

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