I’ve been hunting around, trying to learn more about sign painting.
Specifically, this type of sign painting:
My usual haunts, like Skillshare, Coursera, and Lynda, don’t have any classes for sign painting on their sites. I’ve been figuring it out on the go, trying out different types of paints and brushes, but decided to get technical with it. Instead of teaching you how to do it, I’m rounding up every good (and free!) tutorial I can find on the internet and including them below. See one I missed? Send it to me here. Let’s learn sign painting together!
1. How to Paint Signs, by Flair for Signs
This one is fun, albeit an amateur video. They show some good techniques here, like using a mahlstick (that metal bar) to steady your hand and create straight lines. They show how to create some angled strokes, but, it’s pretty basic.
2. Learn 2 Paint Signs
This website is pretty wacky looking, but they describe in words what the video above shows. For example, how to hold and control a brush, as well as simple letter strokes. They also suggest the use of guidelines when you’re starting out to make sure your lines are straight.
One thing that stuck out to me is their description of how to load a brush with paint—you’d think anyone who went to art school would know how to do this, but I love the technical details. They also note, in bold: ALL STROKES ARE MAINLY DOWN. This is different from calligraphy.
3. ‘Aspiring Sign Painters’ blog post on Best Dressed Signs
This blog post outlines the different tools and supplies you’d need in sign painting. You do not, as I thought, use acrylic paint for this. It looks like you need lettering enamels.
Cost breakdown based on their recommendations:
- Dick Blick offers 1-Shot Lettering Enamels on their site. If you wanted to build yourself a starter set and buy black, white, blue, red, and yellow, you’d run yourself about $50 without shipping. You can also just get a set of 12, 4 oz cans for $87.
- Andrew Mack brushes aren’t available from the manufacturer, but you should be able to find a distributor near you. I live closest to Sam Flax Art & Design, but they don’t list Andrew Mack products on their site. It looks like you can get their brushes on ebay for about $5 each. Not bad. As a beginner, you might be able to make do with 4-5 brushes.
So it seems like it’ll cost about $100 to build yourself a sign painting starter kit (if you factor in mineral spirits, shipping, and other side things).
4. Pin Striping and Hand Painted Sign Techniques
This is a really adorable video made by a fellow named John ‘Jbone’ Lennig. For pinstriping, it looks like he’s using both hands to make a single line (seriously, if I’ve learned anything from watching these videos, it’s that you need to support your shakey hands). He also uses tape as a guide for curves and hard edges.
The comments on here are also surprisingly enlightening, with people asking questions and other’s answering them. For example:
- “I use 1-shot. First wipe the vinyl with lacquer thinner to get rid of that hard shine. Then rub it with vinyl floor wax and let dry. If you don’t do the second step, the paint never dries.”
- “Remove the tape immediately or it could pull off some of the paint you used it for. Pull it at a 45 degree angle.”
- “It looks like john is using a Kafka Kwill for the yellow casual lettering. I’ve used Kafka’s striping brushes and they are fantastic so i would only assume the Kwill is just as nice.”
5. Roundhand Lettering Demo by Glen Weisgerber (sign painting legend)
Watching this video makes me feel crazy. HE’S SO FAST AND PERFECT. Keep it together, he’s been sign painting for decades.
In this video, he notes that he sketched out the guides with a stabilo pencil (about $1.99 each). A key point here is that it says it can write on any surface—so you’re not stuck later. Glen also notes that he’s using a lettering quill, which I mentioned above. He says he trims some of his brushes to fit his specific needs, from removing excess hair to changing the edges, which make thin upstrokes easier. “The key to good script is a consistent lean on all your letters,” he says.
I’m interested here in the enamels he’s using—they’re so thick and smooth. To be fair, I tried this with screenprinting ink and dollar store brushes, but I love that he doesn’t need to go and touch up the lines at all.
There’s another video of Glen demoing a “single stroke, casual lettering.” Press in, down, and snap to the right. I like that he talks through his process. He mentions here he’s using a Langnickel #7 Lettering Quill. Langnickel’s unfortunately no longer in business.
What tutorials for sign painting have you found that you like?
6. But what kind of Acrylic Paint should you get?
Don’t have the time to test and try out every single brand of paint you could ever hope to work with? I really love this article by Wonderstreet, outlining the pros and cons of a bunch of different acrylic paint brands.