How To Make Custom Distressed Wooden Signs

Posted in Accent Pieces, Blog, Featured, Techniques





If you saw our last post you saw that we have been busy at work making some really cool distressed wooden signs for Christmas.

We have really had a blast creating these little signs.  They are easy to make and they can say anything you want them to say.  The only limits are your imagination!

So, now we come to the fun part, where we show you exactly how we make these signs so that you can do it yourself.  There are a lot of different ways you can do it and we certainly encourage you to experiment and find new and better ways to do it for yourself.  This tutorial just shows the method that we use and have found to work the best for us.

So, let’s get to it.

Here’s what you will need

  • Paint – 2 or more colors (we recommend using Chalk Paint – the official kind or the do it yourself kind that you can make cheap using our free recipe HERE
  • Paintbrushes – 1 large standard brush and 1 small lettering brush
  • Wood Slab: We used a simple pine 1×6 board from Lowes cut into 2 ft sections but you can use anything that will fit what you want your sign to look like
  • Writing Pen
  • Word Processing software, printer and paper:  We used Microsoft Word but any word processing program will work.
  • Sandpaper, Steel Wool, or Sanding Block:  You don’t need all 3.  Any of these will work
  • Furniture Wax And Cloths – We used Minwax clear furniture paste or you can use our dark wax recipe or other similar furniture wax

distressed wood signs

 

1) Prep And Paint The Wood

I like to do a little sanding to the edges of the board to make them rounded and smooth and not so shard and jagged.  I think this really makes the sign look better but it’s up to you.

Next paint the board.  On this one we are doing a red bottom color that we’re going to distress down to so we start by painting the board red

distressed wood signs

 

2) Vaseline

distressed wood signs vaseline

After the bottom coat has dried take some vaseline and smear it on the places that you want to show under top coat color (that we will paint on a little later).  The vaseline makes the top coat of color come off super easy later on so be careful where you put it. (If you want more info this method is detailed in full in our tutorial “Chalk Paint and Vaseline Method”

Add it wherever you want the sign to show wear but we recommend focusing on the edges and sides.  Then add some in other places, but don’t add really big smear marks on the front and sides as it can sometimes come out looking unnatural.

*NOTE: You can skip this part or you can use candle wax instead of vaseline.   Both of these substances make distressing much easier but you can choose not to use them and just freehand distress with the sandpaper later on if you wish.

3) Top Coat Of Paint

distressed wood signs

Now add your top coat of paint and let it dry.

 

4) Lettering

distressed wood signs

Ah!  Here is the tricky part you may be saying, and while it is the most tricky part of the process it is MUCH EASIER than you think!

Now, how you choose to do this is up to you.  We are not professional artists so this method is likely going to be for those of us who have a shakier hand than those with more skill.

If you have artistic ability and can paint the letters by hand please do so.   You can also choose to use stencils for your lettering.  That is fine and a little less time consuming than the method we are going to show you, but with this method you have access to nearly limitless font type and size possibilities so we really like doing it this way.

What you will need is a word processing program like Word or similar.  Just make your page orientation set to “landscape”, type your letters and then adjust the font size so that it takes up about 2/3 of the page (if you are using a 6 inch board like us).  Of course you can adjust this to fit your sign or you taste.  Remember the page will typically be 11 inches long so remember that when you are adjusting your letters.

After you get them the way you like you can go ahead and print the letters.  You may not get it exact the first time, but we have only had to reprint one time.

distressed wood signs

Next, line up the pages so your letters are where you want them to be on the sign.  Then tape the pages to the board.  We used standard painters masking tape, but anything will work okay.

Make sure the paper is flat and tight against the board with no bulges

Now take your ballpoint pen and trace the letters (with considerable pressure but it doesn’t take much)

distressed wood signs

When you are done, remove the paper and you should be able to see the indention of the letters in the wood.  Sometimes it depends on the paint color, wood and lighting to see it good but if you put enough pressure when writing you shouldn’t have much trouble.

Here is a picture of our letters after the tracing

distressed wood signs

Now you are ready to paint the letters with your small lettering brush.  It doesn’t have to be a specific type of brush just something small enough to go around the letters.

Now, again unless you are an artist this may look a little shaky at first and you may have trouble staying in the lines, but don’t worry.  When you distress the letters that shaky, imperfect lettering is really going to look authentic so hang in there and do your best.

Remember old signs were hand painted and not always by great artists so that’s the look we want anyways.

distressed wood signs

distressed wood signs

 

5) Distressing

Now. take your sandpaper, steel wool or whatever you have and begin scuffing the sign.  If you used vaseline or candle wax it will come off pretty easily.  Just start sanding and work at it until the piece is how you want it.

distressed wood signs

 

6) Waxing/Finish

When you are finished distressing you can apply a finish.  We used Minwax furniture wax on this one, but on some of our other pieces we used our secret dark furniture wax recipe.  You can get the recipe FREE HERE

distressed furniture wax

 

ALL DONE!

See, that wasn’t so bad.  Just add any type of hanging hardware to the back and you will be enjoying your new sign in no time.

distressed furniture wax

 

Thanks for coming by to see our latest tutorial.  We hope you enjoyed it.  Please come back often.

Angie & Chris

Learn how to antique furniture with antique glaze or wood stain with our free tutorial

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10 Comments

  1. Loe your BLOG!!!!!! Thank you for the great tutorials and the recipe for chalk paint! Keep up the great work!!

    • Thanks Katie! We appreciate you coming by

    • Angie & Chris: Just wanted to say thank you, for all the wonderful ideas and great instructions.. Can’t wait to try out your recipe for the Chalk Paint. I will send some pictures when I get done..Not sure what I am going to paint… I have so many ideas. Keep up the good work.

      • Thanks Shannon! We’re glad you came by. Please send us some pictures when you are done and we may feature them on the site or our facebook page. Good luck!

  2. How fun!! Silly question…What does the minwax do?

    • Hi Crystal. There are no silly questions! The minwax finishes and seals the piece. This will protect the paint job, and in this case, the lettering. You can also use a higher gloss finish like polyurethane, but we typically use wax for distressed pieces.

  3. Where does the Chalk paint come into play? Do you add it to both colors or just one?

    • It’s entirely up to you. We typically use it on all the colors we use on a piece, but it’s more important on the top color as that is the one you want to distress more easily. If you didn’t use chalk paint on the bottom color it wouldn’t hurt you.

  4. awesome! I love this 🙂 Would this work with a dark stain and red acrylic paint on top?

    • Hi Sherri! Probably so. The acrylic may not distress as easily because it is more durable than latex, but it should be fine. You just may have to put a little more elbow grease in. Dark stain is a wonderful way of aging paint. We use it often. Good luck!