I love vintage signs and apparently everyone else does too. The cost of a genuine old sign is somewhere in the hundreds of dollar range.
Did you know that you can make your own sign practically for free. Yup, free! I’m assuming you have some acrylic paints or latex paint just laying around your house and you have access to some pallet wood and a printer. Ok, it might not be totally free, but it’s pretty darn close.
What I like about homemade signs is that you can choose absolutely any image you like. You don’t have to settle for an old Shell gas station sign that’s practically rusted out.
Go online and search “Vintage Signs” and once you narrow your scope down, like “crabs”, decide what style you like. Do you like a realistic picture, a cartoon image, just the outline? Do you like the old style, lettering with a shadow or just block lettering?
Once you decide on what kind of sign you’d like to make, start designing. My program of choice is Microsoft Publisher, but I’m sure there are others with just as many options.
Publisher allows me to create absolutely any size image I like. This sign is going to be 30 inches by 36 inches. The size is totally up to you.
Decide on your graphic. This crab graphic was chosen from within Publisher with the provided Clipart. For vintage pics, you can’t beat The Graphics Fairy or Vintage Printable or just click on google images for 1000s of pictures.
With whatever image you choose, make sure it takes up a good portion of the sign.
Decide on the font you want to use. CRABS is done in an Algerian Font…I like the shadow that it comes with…not as crazy about the “A”.
“Chesapeake Bay Fresh” uses the font Freehand 521, and “Live or Steamed” uses the Joan font (I just liked the name for some reason).
If you can’t find a font you like in your computer library you could always try searching the website 1001 free fonts. Apparently they have 28,748 fonts to browse through and use. It will blow your mind! The fonts above are just a few of the Western fonts found at the website.
If you like a border around your sign, you can either add it now or when you’re painting. If you like an arrow or some other graphic, that should also be inserted now. Play around with the size of your image and lettering before printing. You don’t have to decide of the color of your lettering or background until you are ready to paint but it may help to see what different color combinations looks like while you’re playing around with your sign.
Once everything is just how your want it, print out the image you created and tape back together. Mine printed out on 16 pieces of paper.
If you can, do just an outline of your lettering or objects, such as the arrow and you’ll save yourself a lot of ink.
Could have done this step first, but either way, make your sign the same dimensions of the sign you just created on your computer.
This sign is created with strips of pallet wood, nailed together with slats on the back. If your pallet wood is rough, take a palm sander to it until it is smooth enough to paint on. It does not have to be perfect. My pallets had a fairly smooth side and a really rough side, I chose the fairly smooth side for the front of the sign.
Before transferring any image, paint the background a solid color.
Follow the background by painting any other background images, in this case, the arrow.
If you’re painting a border, that can also be painted now.
The next level on my sign is the crab, it goes under the lettering and over top of the arrow and background.
Transfer the outline of the crab by using the printout from the computer. The way I do all my signs is to scribble on the back of the picture with pencil wherever there is a line to be transferred. (If you happen to have carbon paper, of course you can use that) Place the image right side up on your sign and using a pen, trace around the image. The pencil acts as carbon paper, transferring the image to your sign. You’ll use this same technique when transferring the lettering.
Your image can be as painterly as you like. Look at my inspiration pieces above, most of them are just one solid flat color.
Crabby is done, the final level is the lettering. Transfer the lettering the same way you transferred the crab, by scribbling on the back in pencil. This is where my early years of paint by number come in handy, painting in all the lettering.
Painting is finished but for me he looks a bit too new.
For a more vintagey sign, gently take a sander to the sign, it will age it a few years.
Finish up with a coat of clear wax or tinted depending on how old you’d like your sign to look. May need to experiment in a corner first.
I realize that not everyone likes crabs, I live in Maryland so I think I am legally required to love crabs. Think about apples from Washington, peaches from Georgia, crawfish from Louisiana or lobster from Maine. Above you’ll find a bit more inspiration (who doesn’t like ice cream) . These vintage style signs are all out there on the internet to inspire you.
Have a great week. Stay inspired!
I was feataured at