How To Paint Wood Signs With Vinyl Stencils, Faster & Without Any Bleeds (with 3 videos!)

Wood Crafts

Ok, I will apologize in advance. This post is a little video-heavy! But some things are just better shown than trying to explain with words and text.

This is my go-to way of painting signs. And I’m throwing in some starter basics to help you get the stencil on your wood in the first place.  Because lets face it, that can be just as hard as painting it!

Start with the board you want to use. And hopefully you have a design or at least shape in mind.

Sand the board well to remove and large rough areas, gaps, and ridges. All those bumps add places where your vinyl wont want to stick well, and gaps in the stencil where paint could bleed.

Paint your board the color you’d like the background to be. Any paint will do, but I love me some chalk paint! I use Waverly chalk paint from Walmart for pretty much everything.

Once your paint is dry, sand it thoroughly, and do any desired distressing, using 220 grit sandpaper. This sandpaper will make for an even smoother surface for your stencil to stick to, but it will also make the stencil peel off easier without pulling bits of paint and wood up with it. Sand it as smooth as you can get it without taking off too much of the paint.

Once it’s all sanded down well, you can work on your stencil. Cut your stencil out using removable vinyl. I use Oracal 631 vinyl, typically in matte black, but it shouldn’t matter what color you use.  Apply transfer tape, or contact paper, to the back to help you transfer the vinyl, from the backing to the board, without losing any of the floating pieces, like the circles inside letters and such. See the video below for some help on that.

** UPDATE: I have since switched to using Oramask 813 Vinyl Stencil material! It pulls less wood and paint up and seals the stencil even better!

Once you have your transfer tape onto your stencil, go ahead and get the stencil onto your wood. Here’s another video showing you how I’ve found is the best way to do that. You can do this same method, but applying the tape along a top edge as well, rather than the middle.

Now it’s time to paint your stencil! Again, I use the Waverly chalk paints for the lettering. And I like to use wide, flat, artists brushes. They leave much fewer brush strokes than a typical paint brush, so the letters look very smooth!

Look at how easy that was! Sure, I get a little nit-picky sometimes and might mess with it longer than I need to… but this way is still so much faster than having to be super careful with ultra-light coats of paint using a makeup sponge!

Once you get your letters painted on, and any touch ups done that you need, seal it! You just spent all the time getting your sign painted and have these beautiful letters, you don’t want them getting scratched off or marred. I always start with a spray sealer first. My favorite spray sealer is Krylon’s Crystal Clear Matte Spray. I love Minwax’s Polycrylic in Matte, but their tips clog very easily and the spray starts spitting and leaving drops on your sign. The Krylon consistently sprays awesome every time. I spray the first layer of sealer so that I don’t smear my lettering. Especially black letters on white. Brushing on a sealer can cause the paint to smear and ruin everything. Once I get that first layer sprayed and dried, I then brush on an additional layer or two of the Minwax Polycrylic. I do love that stuff, just not their spray. After each coat of the Polycrylic I lightly buff it will fine steel wool. It removes any imperfections or dust that may have landed on it while it was drying, but it also smooths it out and gives it a beautiful sheen that I just love! 

And there you have it! Your very own painted sign. And I was in such a hurry to share this all with you, that I haven’t even finished the one I was working on in the video. It’s not a sign technically, but a photo hanger type thing. But I’ve made one of these before, so I’ll show you that one instead. Yes, the colors are different. But you get the idea! Let me know if you have any questions and how it works out for you. I’d love to see how it goes!


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