A Secret for Hand Lettering Signs

I do A LOT of hand lettered signs and I use a variety of methods for them, but this “secret” is by far the easiest method I’ve encountered. I usually prefer hand lettered signs to stenciled signs because I like the “homemade” look it gives. I guess my theory is if I wanted a factory made looking sign then I’d just go buy it.

This sign in particular is very special for me because I made it for my dad. My parents live on the lower Ocoee river and my dad turned a super large natural drainage ditch into a dry creek bed and then eventually into an actual creek. He set up a pump in the river and pumps water from it to the top of his creek then it runs through the creek and right back into the river. (Very ingenious.) We call his creation “Ocoee Creek” and it needed a sign to properly show off this name.

Man Made Ocoee Creek

Man Made Ocoee Creek

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I began with a piece of pressure treated wood (this sign will be outside and not protected from the elements so I chose to start with pressure treated for extra protection) and then I sketched out my design very lightly with pencil. I just drew it out right on the wood. I also wrote out the words “OCOEE CREEK” with a very thin pencil line.

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Next I took a sharpie (here is the secret part) and went over my letters. I started with them being very thin then went over each letter again to thicken it up. This gave me a nice, straight edge and a marker is much easier to control than paint. I did the same with the turtle and leaf parts of the sign as well. After the marker completely dried I went back over it again with a sharpie a second time and then let that dry completely.

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Next I took a tiny paint brush and a variety of green and brown shades and began adding small strokes of these colors to give the letters depth and a more “painterly” look. I only touched up here and there so that my nice, clean sharpie lines were still visible. I let a first coat dry and added another layer for more depth. After my “painterly” touches were all dried up I went back with my sharpie to clean up the edges a little. I also filled in my drawing around the lettering with paint and gave them depth as well. Letting things dry completely and then returning to add depth is the key.

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So the secret to a hand lettered painted sign? A sharpie! Who knew?

After the sign was complete and dried I sprayed it with a clear polyeruthane spray to help protect it. This will need to be redone every so often to continue to maintain a coat of protection.

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The sign is now hung and looks great it this rustic environment.

The Completed Hand Lettered Sign

The Completed Hand Lettered Sign

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Here is a a video of the creek. Photos just simply do not do it justice!

Now go forth and make yourself some signs full of all those amazing quotes you’ve pinned on pinterest!

-Kelli

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