This simple tutorial will show you how to make DIY wood signs in 3 easy steps. In addition, learn what paint to use and other tips for how to create a stunning, DIY large wood sign full of farmhouse style!
This post was originally published on June 11, 2018 and has since been updated.
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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 a DIY large wood sign ourselves.
Our DIY wood 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 an easy painted 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 for how to make wooden signs so next time you want one for your space, you can fully customize it just like we did!
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How to Build and Paint DIY Wood Signs
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 farmhouse sign will turn out beautiful.
Ok, let’s get building!
How to Make DIY Farmhouse Wood Signs
For a printable copy of the materials and instructions, scroll down.
- 1×2 Common Board
- 4’x4′ 1/4″ underlayment plywood
- Wood Glue
- Finishing Nails
- Wood Stain
- White Cabinet Paint
- Black Paint
- Compound Miter Chop Saw
- Table Saw
- Nail Gun and Nails
- 4″ Paint Roller & Tray
- Crafting Paint Brush
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How to Make Wood Signs with Paint
Before you 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 farmhouse wood signs.
What kind of paint do you use on 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!
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!
Now that we’ve reviewed your paint options, choose the paint you want to use and paint the front of the back board with your foam roller and allow to dry for 24 hours.
If needed, give it a second coat of paint and let dry for another 24 hours.
We used cabinet paint, and with this type of paint it’s really important that you give it a solid 24 hours to dry in between coats – 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.
I recreated this sign for a client and used printed letters (from my computer) cut out as a stencil. It worked just great to trace with a pencil and then paint inside the lines!
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!
As promised, here are the printable instructions:
- Cut the sides of your frame out of the 1x2 board and your desired lengths with mitered (45 degree) ends.
- Run those frame pieces through your table saw with the blade set at 1/2" tall and 1/4" out. This will create the notch for your sign back to sit in.
- Break out the 1/2"x1/4" piece and clean up the edge with a chisel.
- Glue, clamp and nail the frame together and let dry in the clamps for 24 hours. Then stain the frame and let dry another 24 hours.
- Measure the notched area on the back of your frame and cut your 1/4" plywood to fit then paint it with the color of your choice.
- Stencil lettering onto the front of your sign with paint.
- Drill a small hole in the back of your frame for hanging and you're done!
The lettering on the front of your DIY wood signs can be done freehand, using stencils, vinyl lettering cut with a Cricut machine or even the pencil transfer taught in this post.
As always, let me know if you have any questions.