This simple tutorial will show you how to make a wood sign in 3 easy steps. In addition, learn what paint to use and other tips for how to create a stunning, large DIY farmhouse sign!
This post was originally published on June 11, 2018 and has since been updated.
Farmhouse signs are so popular right now that just about every home decor section you go to is filled with them.
And yet, I’ve always struggled to find one that’s exactly the right size, style, and phrase for whatever space I’m decorating.
When we decided we wanted one in our dining room makeover, rather than searching high and low for the perfect sign, we turned to our creative skills and decided to build one ourselves.
Our DIY farmhouse sign was a really neat project – in this post I went into detail about how I hired my Starbucks barista to paint it for us. 🙂
I looked for a sign like this when I was designing our dining room, and I wasn’t ever able to find one this large.
Plus, finding one that size, in those colors, with the phrase “Stay Awhile” on it was pretty much impossible.
In today’s post, I’m sharing with you the step-by-step instructions we sued to build a DIY farmhouse wood sign so next time you want one for your space, you can fully customize it just like we did!
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How to Make a Wood Sign
Simple DIY Farmhouse Sign Tutorial
If you’re looking for the perfect sign and having a hard time finding it, I hope this tutorial on how to make a wood sign helps you create one! It’s rather simple, and I’m sure your DIY wood sign will turn out beautiful.
What kind of paint do you use on wood signs?
Before we start building, let’s talk through what kind of paint to use on wood signs. There are lots of different options, so we’ll start by looking at the pros and cons of each before I tell you what we think is the best paint for wood signs.
Low-cost craft paints (most commonly acrylics) are often a go-to for crafters because they’re cheap, can be purchased in small amounts, and are often something they already have in their craft supplies.
While convenient, craft paints aren’t as thick as other paint options so they don’t cover as well. For large signs like the one we built, it would take A LOT of craft paint to get a nice, even coat of paint over the entire board.
They also don’t come in sheens other than matte, and so aren’t quite as durable as other paints.
Craft Paint Pros:
- Available in smaller quantities
- Might have it “on hand”
Craft Paint Cons:
- Thin paint can look streaky
- Not available in glossy sheens
- Less durable
Spray paint is one of the most convenient ways to paint things because it doesn’t require another other tools (like paint brushes or trays) and dries extremely fast.
The downsides to spray paint are its tendency to run if you don’t take your time, the risk of over-spray and the fact that it can be expensive if you’re doing large projects.
If you decide to try making DIY wood signs with spray paint, make sure you prepare your wood really well by sanding it completely smooth and getting all the dust off of it before painting.
I would NOT recommend painting the lettering onto your DIY farmhouse sign with spray paint unless you’re using a stencil and don’t mind throwing that stencil away when you’re done.
Spray Paint Pros:
Spray Paint Cons:
- Tendency run or drip
- Risk of over-spray
- Can be expensive
Interior Paint (Water-Based)
Interior house paint, especially in a semi-gloss sheen, is a great option for painting your DIY wood sign. Not only is it design for painting wood trim, but the glossier sheens are also extremely durable.
The downside to interior house paint is that it can cost more than basic craft paints (although a sample is only a few dollars and goes a long way!) and you have to search through and select a color.
Many people get intimidated by the amount of colors that are available in the paint section of home improvement stores – and I totally get it! I mean, 50 versions of white?! Seriously?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, my suggestion is to ask the clerk for a suggestion for a primary color or if you’re using white, go with a pure white with no color added. Don’t forget, you can always get a sample to see if you like the color too!
Interior Paint Pros:
- Comes in lots of colors
Interior Paint Cons:
- Can be expensive
- Comes in lots of colors 😉
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Cabinet Paint (Oil-Based)
Cabinet paint is the most durable out of all the paints described here, but it’s also the most messy. Oil based paint stains, so if you choose to use this type of paint, be very careful about doing it in a place where you won’t ruin anything if it spills.
We have, however, found a pretty amazing oil-infused cabinet paint, that isn’t so dangerous to our clothing, that works extremely well. It’s super durable and levels out amazingly well. Grab some here.
The other thing about cabinet paint is that it is rather expensive. Our favorite (which I mentioned above) is about $25 for a quart. But trust me, it’s worth it!
Cabinet Paint Pros:
- Extremely durable
- Levels out for a smooth finish
Cabinet Paint Cons:
- Can stain
Best Paint for Wood Signs
Our paint-of-choice when making wood signs is a combination of semi-gloss cabinet paint (for the main sign) and matte interior paint (for the lettering.)
We’ve found that semi-gloss cabinet paint is durable, covers and levels well, and looks fantastic.
I also love the way the matte paint on top of the semi-gloss paint adds an extra layer of depth to the sign.
Ok, let’s get building!
1×2 Common Board
4’x4′ 1/4″ underlayment plywood
White Cabinet Paint
Compound Miter Chop Saw
Nail Gun and Nails
4″ Paint Roller & Tray
Crafting Paint Brush
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How to Make Wood Signs
STEP 1: BUILD AND STAIN THE FRAME
Begin by cutting the sides of your frame out of your 1×2 board using mitered (45 degree) ends.
We chose to make our sign 2’x3′ so we cut two boards at 24″ and two boards at 36″.
Next, to create the recess for the back of your sign, run the short side of your frame boards through a table saw set with the blade at 1/2″ high and 1/4″ in.
Break away the 1/2″ by 1/4″ piece and clean up the edge with a chisel. This is the notch that your back piece will sit in when it’s assembled.
Apply wood glue to the seams, clamp, and then nail together using a nail gun. Let this dry in the clamps for about 24 hours.
Lastly, stain the entire frame using a rag and let it dry for another 24 hours.
STEP 2: CUT AND PAINT THE BACK
Using your 1/4″ underlayment plywood, measure the notched area inside the back of your frame and use your table saw to cut a board to fit.
If you don’t have a table saw, many home improvement stores will cut plywood down to size for you!
Paint the front of this board with your foam roller and cabinet paint and allow to dry for 24 hours. If needed, give it a second coat of paint and let dry for another 24 hours.
With cabinet paint, it’s really important that you give it a solid 24 hours to dry in between – this allows the oil to set completely.
Once dry, place the board (face down) inside the notched frame and nail in place using small finishing nails.
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STEP 3: PAINT ON THE PHRASE
Like I mentioned, we recruited someone to paint the calligraphy part of ours, but you can use many different methods to get this done. You could paint it free hand (like our girl did), use a stencil, apply vinyl letters, or even use the pencil indentation method I described in this post.
Either way, the final step is to add a fun phrase of your choice to the sign.
Once you’re done painting, drill a small hole in back on the top frame so a nail could sit inside the hole and hold it up.
I chose the phrase “Stay Awhile” because I honestly think having people lingering in my home is THE BEST. 😉
See, wasn’t that so easy?? I hope you’re able to use these simple steps to create the perfect DIY painted wood signs for your home!
Also, if you’re not the DIY type, but you’d still like a custom built sign, let me know! We’re willing to take orders and build these for you. 🙂 Just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
As always, let me know if you have any questions.