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How to make a vintage "Grocery" sign

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nothing quite spells “old tyme” for a sign better than the old, beat-up, chippy antique variety. And while authentic antique signs can still be had, they’re getting scarce. And finding the one with the right subject and the right size can be tough.

Fortunately they can be replicated with this quick little technique. With a little creativity where text and color come into play, you’ll have yourself that vintage sign in no time!

Supplies: Old board, paint brush, palm sander, acrylic craft paint, mask

 1. Brush a fairly vibrant color onto an old board. Be sure to leave lots of wood showing through. For this, the rougher the paint job the better. Allow to slightly dry, but not fully cure.

2. Apply a second coat with another color of choice in the same streaky manner. Allow to dry to the touch, but not fully cure.

3. Cut a mask in an appropriate letter style. You can cut this with the help of a computer or hand cut it. Reverse weed it, so you create a stencil. Premask your stencil. 

4. Position the lettering and use tape as a hinge on one side. Flip it back, remove the liner and apply.

Remove the premask. This is where the real fun begins. You may pull a bit of paint off with the premask. In this case, this is a good thing!

5. Apply your text color over the stencil, roughly following the letter shape, as if it had been hand brushed. Again, neatness is best left behind this round.

6. Remove the stencil before the text paint is dry. Because the paint layers were not fully cured, removing the decal WILL remove lots of paint. You’ll see all sorts of layers and tones exposed at this point.

 7. To even out the distressed background, apply scraps of vinyl where needed, then remove. Repeat until you’ve achieved an even distressed effect. The result will be a very believable distressed finish. Once the sign is fully cured, a light sanding with the palm sander is an option, however, the finish will remain haze free if you opt out of the sanding step.

8. Dress it up! Find some old hinges, bolts or any other "jewelry" you desire. I added plant hangers on this one. This creates much more interest than a simple board left on its own accord. 

9. Put your sign to work on the shop wall or, in this case, in your kitchen. Enjoy it, but be forewarned—if you use Grocery as your chosen text, you will be reminded you need to shop. Often. And that can be a very good thing. 

Donna Williams shop, Graphic Impact, and her home décor studio, Funky Junk Interiors, are in Chilliwack, B.C., Canada. You’ll find her on Facebook at Funky Junk Interiors.


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Comments  22

  • Lori Avery 14 Jul

    I love this sign! What a wonderful tutorial!!
    Donna Is such a talented lady!!

  • Noella 25 Aug

    Great step-by-step Donna!  Clear, concise and fun.... as always. Lovely kitchen too!!

  • Ben Adams 04 Oct

    This is a fantastic type of sign for any application. There are many people who don't appreciate rustic, classic signs and the work that went into producing them before technology took over. I've seen many of these on American Pickers, a great show to watch to see some vintage signs.

    I think anyone who wants to create a sign for an event or to be part of their home can get some inspiration from the ideas presented in this post. Excellent work.

  • Jenice 02 Jan

    I love the techniques and the look. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jeannie 14 Jan

    I love the signs you have made, I have one Question where would one go to get the decal? I really liked the farmers market and the grocrey sign.

  • sharon kincade 15 Feb

    Thanks for the directions on making old signs.  I love them and just started making signs.  Thanks again for the tips

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