How to Paint Perfect Signs & Graphics

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Lately I've been working on lots of painted signs and furniture graphics, and I've been getting lots of questions on how to do them. So today I thought I'd share one of my favorite techniques for transfering images for signs and graphics. It definitely meets my criteria for go-to techniques - it's easy, it works, and it costs next to nothing. Win :)


Here's how to do it:

1) Scale your image to the correct size


The easiest way I've found to size my images correctly is to use Powerpoint. First, open a new presentation and customize the size of the slide to the dimensions of the surface you're working with.


Then, insert the image and adjust the borders so it is the same size as your slide. 

If you're transfering text that you're creating yourself, insert a text box into the slide, type your text, and adjust the size of the font and text box until you're happy with how it looks on your slide.

Finally, save the image as a PDF (I'll explain why next).


2) Print the image


The easiest way I've found to print images to the correct scale is to use Adobe Reader. First, open your PDF in Adobe Reader and select Print from the File menu or the toolbar. Under "Page Sizing & Handling," select the Poster option. I also like to click the box next to Cut Marks, as they help me to properly align all of the pieces of the image. If your image is large and takes up multiple 8.5 x 11 pages, the preview to the right will show you exactly how it will be printed out.


3) Assemble & color your printout


Once you've printed your image, tape each of the pieces together in the correct order. Next, flip the image over and color all over the back of the paper with a pencil, pastel crayon, or chalk. I typically use pencil unless the image will be painted on a dark surface, in which case, I use chalk. You do not have to color every inch of the paper itself, but do double-check that you have covered the back of every part of the image to be transfered.


4) Trace the image


Flip the image back over so the colored side is against the surface of your piece. Trace over the outline of the image/text to be transfered with a pencil or pen. The writing instrument you use doesn't even have to work - the point is to apply enough pressure so the color on the back of the paper is transfered to the surface of your piece as you trace. Once you're done, you should have a nicely transfered outline.


5) Paint the image


My favorite tool to use for this step is a paint pen, but you can also use a small artist's brush if you have a steady hand...which I do not :)



And you're done!

I use this technique for image and text transfers with smooth edges and solid fill, like the pieces below:









As for transfers with more detailed fonts that are harder to reproduce by hand, I like to use the technique described in this post. Equally easy, equally great results :)

Take a look here for even more ideas you can create with this technique!




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