- Blame Pinterest or Fixer Upper: For whatever reason, wood signs have become wildly popular.What makes them so appealing is their homey, non-mass-produced aesthetic, which is why many people choose the DIY route when it comes to crafting wood signs.If you’re looking to showcase wood signs in your home or garden or for an upcoming event, it’s surprisingly easy to make your own—no hand lettering or artistic skill required.Using tips and tricks from Instructables and Mountain Modern Life, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to make DIY wood signs with nothing but wood, an inkjet printer, and a few household supplies. Here’s how.
How to Make DIY Wood Signs
The supplies you need vary somewhat depending on the method you choose. For most projects, you’ll probably need the following:
- A piece of unfinished wood
- Sandpaper (ideally coarse grit)
- Freezer paper (or transparency paper)
- Printer paper
- A ruler
- Masking or painter’s tape
- HP inkjet printer with high-quality ink (Do not use a laser printer, as these may create a fire hazard when sending freezer paper through the printer.)
- A spoon (or any object with a smooth surface)
- The text or image of your choosing. This should be saved as a computer file in a mirrored format. You can use the “mirror” function in MS Paint, Illustrator, Photoshop, or a similar program. Skipping this step will make the words or letters appear backwards on the piece of wood.
- Clear-coat spray paint
- Paint and a small paintbrush (optional)
Sand the wood
This is a critical step if you want the ink to absorb into the wood as effectively as possible. Use the coarse grit sandpaper to sand with the grain of the wood. Once you finish sanding, brush off sanding dust to create a clear surface for the ink.
Cut the freezer paper and adhere it to printer paper
Using your ruler and scissors, cut a piece of freezer paper to the size of a regular piece of printer paper (8.5 X 11 inches). It’s fine if the freezer paper is a bit smaller than the printer paper. Cut the freezer paper edges as cleanly as possible and make sure the freezer paper doesn’t extend past the edges of the printer paper, as this can cause a printer jam.
Once you cut the freezer paper, use the masking or painter’s tape to adhere it to a piece of printer paper. Make sure the shiny side of the freezer paper faces up.
Note: If you don’t want to use freezer paper, you can purchase transparency paper instead. You will not need to adhere the transparency paper to printer paper before sending it through the printer.
Print your text or image
If you use freezer paper, feed it (and the attached printer paper) into the printer so the text or image prints on the shiny side. If you’re not sure how to orient the paper so it prints correctly, run a test sheet of regular printer paper through the printer. Mark one side of the paper and then note which side prints with the image or text. Orient the freezer paper accordingly.
If you’re using transparency paper, simply print the image or text directly onto the transparency paper.
Transfer the image or text to the wood
Once your image or text has printed successfully onto the freezer or transparency paper, it’s time to transfer it onto the wood. Take your time with this step.
Start by placing the freezer or transparency paper on the wood, ink side down. Be careful not to slide the paper around once it’s been placed on the wood, as this can smear the ink. If you’d like, you can use tape to hold the paper in place on the wood.
Next, use the spoon (or another smooth object) to rub over the letters or image. This should transfer the ink onto the wood.
Once you’re done smoothing over the ink, gently pull off the paper to reveal your image or text on the wood.
Apply a clear coat
Using clear coat can help preserve the image or text on the wood over the long term. Before applying, make sure the ink is completely dry. Then use spray-on clear coat and let it dry before handling again.
Additional Tips for Perfecting DIY Wood Signs
- If this is your first time attempting a DIY wood sign, it’s a good idea to practice on a piece of scrap wood before using the piece of wood you want for your final design.
- If you aren’t satisfied with the appearance right after applying ink to the wood, you can use sandpaper to remove the ink and start over.
- If letters appear faint, use a small paintbrush to fill them in. If you want a more faded and weathered aesthetic, dilute the paint with a little bit of water.
- If you want the letters to look distressed, lightly sand the board after the ink has dried.
- If you use colored ink, it’s a good idea to choose bold colors, sand the wood well before applying the ink, and use a design with large letters that have plenty of space between them. These strategies help ensure the color effectively transfers to the wood.
- If you’d like your image or text to appear a little lighter, consider an alternative application strategy: Print directly onto a piece of printer paper, tape the printer paper to the wood, and then use a damp sponge to dampen the backside of the paper (thereby wetting the ink). Use a spoon to smooth over the ink, and then gently remove the paper. Be sure not to get the paper too wet, which can cause the ink to run.
As you can see, crafting DIY wood signs is surprisingly easy—and you don’t have to be an expert calligrapher to make it happen. Experiment with these tips and tricks to create gorgeous wood signs that are unique to you.
- *This article is sponsored by HP.