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Making an “Antique” Sign

 I must apologize!  I posted a teaser about this sign I made for Cottages & Bungalows and said I would post the tutorial after the issue was off newsstands.  Well…that was in August, so I think it’s safe to say that those issues have been pulled.  So, at long last, here it is…

What you’ll need:

  • 12” wide pine board cut to desired length
  • Acrylic craft paint (at least three colors)
  • 2 ½” sash brush
  • 1” artist brush, 1.0 liner brush, ½” angled shader
  • Computer
  • Printer and printer paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Graphite transfer paper
  • Ballpoint pen
  • 80 grit sand paper
  • Dark brown soft furniture wax
  • Round brush or cotton cloth
  • Clean cotton cloth
  • Drill with driver bits
  • Tape measure or ruler
  • 2 D-ring hangers
  • Hammer and nails


How to do it:

Cut a piece of 12” wide pine board to desired length or use a piece of scrap lumber.  If wood is new, hit it with a hammer and scratch it with nails to rough it up.  Using a 2 ½” sash brush, paint the board in desired color.  It is best to use a flat or matte acrylic or milk paint.  (I used MMSMP in Boxwood.)  Allow paint to dry.

Use a word processing program on the computer to design text for the sign.  Sizing it to fit on the board may take some trial and error, so print only one or two letters at a time until the right font size is determined.  Print the letters.  For smaller letters and words, cut out and tape them together.  Place graphite transfer paper under the lettering and trace outline with a ballpoint pen.  Make sure lettering is level on the sign before tracing.  One piece of transfer paper can be used repeatedly for entire sign.

Use a 1” wash brush to paint large letters or a ½” angled shader for smaller letters.  If desired, paint a border on the sign as well.
Choose a darker, coordinating color to paint an outline and shadow around letters.  This makes the letters stand out and gives the sign a three dimensional appearance.  Allow paint to completely dry.
Sand entire sign with 80 grit sandpaper to distress lettering and paint.  Allow wood to show through in some areas.  Wipe away dust with a cloth.
Use a round brush or soft cloth to apply a dark brown furniture wax in a thin layer to entire surface of sign.  The wax will settle in the imperfections in the wood, giving the sign an authentically aged look.  Allow wax to dry for 3-5 minutes, then buff to a shine with a clean cloth.
Turn sign over and measure approximately 2” in and down on each corner.  Make a mark with a pencil or pen.  Drill a pilot hole for the D-ring hanger screw on the mark.  Attach D-ring hangers to back of the sign using screws.  Hang sign on nails.  For heavy or large signs, locate a stud or use anchors to hang securely.   Always use caution and wear safety glasses when using power tools.

 That’s it!  This is a great project to do with free scraps of wood and can be completed in an afternoon.  I love projects like that.

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  1. I love it:) It would look great hanging in my log home. Great tips on how to make it also:)

    • Can you please tell us what sorts of furniture pieces you are taking to Lucketts this weekend? I go up frequently to shop, since we’ve been furnishing a new house, and have one of your pieces, a turquoise dresser. I would love another piece or three.

    • Great, accessible tutorial. What is that font you’re using? Thanks!

  2. You make it look so easy to do. What a beautiful sign.

  3. Janet Lawson says:

    Great tutorial…
    The sign looks great…

  4. love this!!!

  5. Your sign turned out absolutely beautiful! Love the colors, word choice, font choice. Finish. AAAAAA!!! SQUEAK! Thanks for sharing!

    I’m attempting this tonight!!! I have all the stuff, and I have seen a few tutorials. I will not be afraid! I am mostly typing this comment for accountability. Perhaps no one will go bug me to see if I have done it, but it bugs me when I promise and don’t deliver. JUST DO IT!

  6. Eileen says:

    Marian, thanks for the sign tips. I just finished your book. I made a point to slow down and savor this book rather than speed read like I usually do. What a pleasure it was. The content is such a beautiful marriage of philosophy and a life plan together with your decorating. I was also so impressed with the quality of the book itself….the pages and the feel of the book are what a book lover such as I enjoy. Reading is not only a joy, but a tactile experience as well. I am pleased to add it to my new library, the first room to be finished in our construction. I have a feeling this is your “first” book.

  7. This sign that you made was the first issue of C&B that I got with my subscription. I was so excited to see your name there (don’t ask me why – I guess because I know you, and it just makes it seem real and. . . possible. . .).
    It’s a great tut. I have so many ideas for sign to make – and lots of great pieces of wood to use (I’ve been collecting them) but I get bogged down in finding just the right method of getting the letter on there. I like this low tech solution. . . but I don’t think my shading would come out as nicely as yours. Ohhh – maybe I can look for typography online with the shading “built in”!!
    Hmmmm. . .


  8. Deborah H. says:

    Would you mind sharing what green paint color was used? Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve been wanting to make a sign for quite some time. I think I’m ready to take the plunge. Thanks again!

  9. Lorretta from NH says:

    Awesome, can’t wait to give it a try using a beef theme to represent a Hereford Farm we had for many years.

  10. This post is so timely for me because I plan to make a wooden sign for Christmas. I especially needed to see how you did the shading of the letters. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  11. Love the sign and the tutorial :)

  12. Annie Vee says:

    Hey Marian

    Loved this tutorial but I’m so very sure I’ve seen it before. But maybe it’s just me??? Anyways, this has nothing to do with sign painting, but painting…rather waxing.

    If and when putting on clear PLUS dark, do you buff after the clear coat?

    thanks in advance

  13. Yeap I have some I need to make for grand kids….thanks for the tips

  14. I adore these types of signs and your tutorial will help those that don’t know how.

  15. Thank you for the great tutorial! I plan on making my first sign as a Christmas gift so this post can at the perfect time for me!

  16. kris a says:

    LOVELY! Please, please share the “brand and color name” for that beautiful green you used!

  17. Beautiful…I love the results of this project.
    Debbie :)

  18. You have a lovely way of teaching and inspiring in the same breath. Thank you for sharing so much.
    I stop by often and seldom leave a nice word or two. I am going to change that. I started by writing about you on my blog today. I thought I better let you know incase the paperazzi gets it’s mits on my corner of the world. ha.
    I always feel like stopping by your blog was so worthy of my time.
    Grace and Peace, Miss Daleen

  19. This is so beautiful!! Your tutorial is so great also – very thorough. I may have to actually try it! :)

  20. Tricia says:

    Just so happens that this sign was one of my inspirations for the sign I posted about last week! I absolutely love it!

  21. Sherri says:

    Hallelujah! This little tutorial came along at just the right time! My son and his fiancee are getting married in June and their reception is in our newly renovated barn. We’ve installed a beautiful barn quilt on the front of the barn and I want to make some signs that will make it easier for the wedding guests to 1) navigate from the parking area (out in the pasture) to the reception area; 2) know which stock tanks hold adult beverages and which hold water bottles and soft drinks; know where to go when they need to use the “facilities”; etc. I WILL be using your technique on old barn wood to make some signs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  22. Linda S. in NE says:

    Hi Marian, Thank you for a great tutorial on sign making. As usual, you make it look so easy because you are so talented. One question…For us “old-timers”, is transfer paper what we may know as carbon paper? Your photos sure look like that may be the case. Thanks again.

  23. Emily says:

    Marian, you are one amazing, lady! I love this and I am going to make one! Thank you for sharing.

    Take care,

  24. Teri Carroll says:

    Dear Ms. Mustard seed, just wanted to let ya know I ordered your book the day it was released and received in the mail Monday. Haven’t had time to read front to back yet! What a great inspiration you are thanks for sharing all your talents with your many followers! Yes tried chalk paint live it painted my buffet. Turned out beautiful . Dining china cabinet next maybe two toned not sure yet! But thank you for inspiring me! In more ways that could be imagined! Teri

  25. Denise T says:

    Want to do a big one , but I want to use one of my favorite verse/ quote. I have questions regarding crackle. I bought crackle along with milk paint. I do not remember if you have any furniture that was done with crackle and milk paint.

  26. awesome! I’ve been wanting to do one of these for so long…here’s my hang up, I can never think of words to put on my sign. I hit a wall every time….i have sign typography block :(
    how do you come up with what to put on your signs? i love the sign over your sink too.

  27. Wow! How cool. Came out great. Thanks for the step by step. :-)

  28. Rondell says:

    Hi Marion, I received your book this past Monday in the mail. I only had a few minutes to quickly look thur it before I had to leave for work. I love it ,so very inspiring to me, I’ve read it twice now and I’m sure I will again:) I wish I could be at your book signings I’d love to have your name in mine.
    Love your home and everything you have done to it! Thanks for a lovely read and of course the inspiration!

  29. Thankyou for sharing this lovely sign. Great job.

  30. Thanks for the tutorial! It would make a lovely Christmas inspired sign! ie. Fresh cut fir trees, or something of the sort. I have holidays on the brain today :) Cheers! — Pauline

  31. Thank you so much for sharing this great tutorial. I’m a huge fan and quite simply LOVE your work. Congratulations on the book, I can’t wait for mine to come in.

    Wishing you continued blessings,

  32. Thank you so much for sharing this great tutioral! I can’t wait to try this.

    many continued blessings,

  33. Kaille says:

    Thank you, Marian, for another great tutorial! I don’t know how you do it all – you are amazing and an inspiration to so many of us. Can you tell me what that block letter font is that you used with the transfer paper? I love it! Thanks again :)

  34. I LOVE that you shared this! I think signs in the kitchen are such a cute way to add a little spice.

  35. Love the sign! Thanks for the tutorial! One of these days, I’ll get up to Lucketts to check out your stuff…and the great shops there in general. I’m only 15 minutes away but can’t seem to find the time to get there!

  36. I LOVE this antique sign!:) my husband and I made a similar sign using your tutorial..:) we just finished, and I linked to this amazing tutorial over at my blog! Thanks for sharing!:)

  37. Love this tutorial, thank you! I cannot wait to try it. I’m a life coach and I’ve been making 12×12″ paintings on canvas to donate to an organization called Moving Families Forward (they help furnish and decorate homes for women and children in need in Los Angeles.) I’ve only been able to write inspirational quotes out by hand on the canvas thus far (which looks lovely, but I’ve really wanted to try using typograghy fonts too.) Stamping on canvas has been too inconsistent but this technique could work perfectly. Maybe I should try boards as well. It’s probably less costly than the 1 1/2″ deep, ready to hang, canvases I purchase. Rambling aloud now…just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate you sharing this technique. You’ve inspired me to make more pieces for the charity now, which will result in many more happy recipients, thanks to your generosity in sharing your art & techniques. All the best!

  38. Connie says:

    If you only knew how much you’ve inspired me to move forward with decorating projects…you’d be floored! I too would love to know the font you used for this sign (can you tell I’m ready for yet another project) :-) Thanks to you my home is being transformed one room at a time (well not really to be honest I have jumped from room to room with projects but I’m LOVING the results). Thanks again Marian for giving me the courage to take the risk. BTW I’ve painted so much a friend came over and I had an old wooden bowl filled with potpourri that contained a few pieces that were blue and green and his daughter asked me if I painted them as she has seen me painting so much! I had to chuckle when I responded to that one but as you can see, I’m addicted to your Milk Paint :-)

  39. Emily W. says:

    For everyone asking about the font, I believe I fount it. It’s called Holtzschue and can be downloaded from – enjoy!

  40. I have made quite a few signs and this is one of the best tutorials I have read! I love the furniture wax tip! I usually dry brush but I can’t wait tk try the wax!

  41. This blog shows the best and easy way for making an antique sign.

  42. Gorgeous instruction! I’m just going to do in this style stand with a collection of minerals and such signatures for my doughter. Could you tell me the name of this style for sure – rustic, country, shabby chic, federal?

  43. can you tell about how to paint the hutch as well under the sign…i wish I had that magazine! the sign tutorial was fabulous, thank you

  44. Just saw the “Dairy” sign…great sign, and a great tutorial. I’m going to make one……this week. I have one question….what word processing program did you use to get that font,,, and font size. My W/P program won’t even get close to that size…..

    Kindest Regards, and Thanks again

  45. does anyone know what the actual font name that is used for this sign? Thanks

  46. Where do I get “dark brown furniture wax”? I seem to only be finding a tin with no coloring specified and nothing else.

  47. maggie says:

    please, I’m new … is the furniture wax sufficient to make these signs “outdoor” compatible ? thank you.

  48. Kristen says:

    This is really cute and looks easy!

  49. Great post! We will be linking to this great post on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.


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