Making a Custom Sign: Trial and Error

Hello my crafty friends! Summer has kept me quite busy, but I have been able to squeeze in some junkin’ and a few little projects. My latest project is a custom sign I made for a co-worker, with the phrase “Endeavor to Persevere”; a quote from an old Clint Eastwood movie. I haven’t made a sign in a long time, so I had a little bit of a rough go. I thought I’d share my trial and error, and a few tips for sign making.

To start out, spray paint your board with your color of choice. I got this pre-cut board at Lowe’s for $3.


Sand it to your liking. Go heavy on sanding for a more distressed, country look. There’s no way to mess this up, so just sand away.


For custom signs, I always use foam stamps. I have had a lot of people ask where I get the large foam alphabet stamps from. They are hard to find, and to be honest, I get them where ever I can find them! All of the stamps I have were ordered online after Googling “large alphabet stamps”. I got them from various sources, such as random online craft stores and people selling gently used stamps on Etsy. Craft stores generally do not sell large stamps like these, so your best option is going to be online.

I use artist grade (thicker, more pigmented) acrylic paint, and I’ll tell ya why in a minute.


Do not dip the stamp into a big glob of paint. It will be WAY too much and will splurge out the sides when you press down on the stamp. To apply paint to the stamp, use a small piece of slight moist sponge to gently dab on the paint. It seems like a pain, but I promise it’s the best way!


This was my first attempt. I did not like the way it looked. It looked uneven and my spacing was horrible. I do try to space it out ahead of time by marking the board with little pencil dots, but spacing can be hard to perfect.


Here’s why I like to use spray paint for the board and heavy grade acrylic paint for the letters. Before the acrylic dries, you can actually wipe off the stamped letters completely.  After stamping many crooked letters, I simply wiped them away with a moist paper towel. Then, when I was done, I still did not like the way it looked. I used a wet sponge to wipe off the entire phrase. It came off quickly and easily. I immediately dried the board with a kitchen towel to avoid saturating the wood. It’s definitely nice to know you have this option should you mess up!


I decided to use a different set of stamps with a clear back. I highly recommend stamps with the clear backing, as it makes it significantly easier to line up your words! You can SEE the spacing and exactly where the letter will land. Again, these are hard to find…I got lucky and found these online at some random craft store.


I like this wording much better and the spacing is more even after using the clear backed stamps! No need to worry about the excess board on the right. I will saw it off and even it out.


To clean the foam stamps, run under water and use a sponge (or your fingers) to rub the paint off the surface of the foam letters. Place on a paper towel to dry. This is important, or else the acrylic paint with harden on the stamps and make them difficult to use.


I cut down the board using a small electric hand saw that I got at Lowe’s ages ago, for small projects just like this. They are inexpensive and great tools to have on hand. I then re-sanded the edge to keep the distressed look even on both sides.


To finish off the sign, I used a dark brown gel stain to give it a bit of an aged look. I liberally squirt it right on the sign, and then rub it around with a paper towel. Then wipe off the excess. It’s a subtle effect, but it softens the bright white of the lettering. I find gel stains and antiquing mediums in any craft store, next to the craft acrylics in small bottles.


For the hanger, I always use these easy-to-install metal hangers. They are found in any home improvement store. The little prongs press right into the wood and make for a strong hold.


Finally, I sprayed it with a clear poly to seal it. Here is the final result. Hope she likes it!


In junkin’ news, I hit up a barn sale recently and got this incredible stack of old historical photographs. I listed them in my Etsy store and they have already sold!


I also picked up a small enamel bed pan, a fun brightly colored vintage tin, and a glass flower frog.


I got this awesome old bowling pin set, complete with a bunch of brightly colored wooden pins and a yellow ball. I LOVE these for country decor. I now have them listed in my Etsy store. 🙂


Lastly, I got these gems at the Goodwill thrift store recently. The Peter Rabbit coin bank is silver-plated and very heavy. I polished him up and he is now for sale in my Etsy store! I also got a bunch of tin molds that always seem to sell well.


Can’t wait to give my friend her sign. She plans on hanging it in their cottage up on the lake. Hope everyone has a great week and Happy Crafting!

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Reba Corder
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 18:49:00

    I enjoy reading everything you write about. You inspire me to keep on going with all my projects too. Just like you, I love to go junking to see what I can find.


  2. Barbara Briggs Ward
    Aug 11, 2013 @ 20:04:29

    Amazing old bowling pins and I love the sign! Always wondered how you made the letters looking like you do! Thanks for sharing.


  3. mary root
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 00:58:00

    The sign looks great! Thanks for sharing! Your blog is so inspiring to me, you keep things so simple and I really appreciate that. I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a similar type of blog and the way you do yours makes it seem not as daunting and overwhelming as many others. Keep on doing what you do and thanks for the inspiration! (o;


    • Eyeballs By Day, Crafts By Night
      Aug 16, 2013 @ 16:41:58

      Thank you Mary!! I know what you mean about some craft posts being daunting and overwhelming…sometimes they just don’t give enough detailed “how-to” steps. I really do try to keep mine simple so thank for you noticing! 🙂 You should start a blog if you’re interested; they are lots of fun and a great way to connect with other crafters. They are a fun hobby for sure. Best of luck and I will sure be visiting if you start a blog of your own! 🙂


  4. LC (@jelliedkey)
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 13:48:59

    it turned out great! I’m sure your friend will love it! i love those pre-cut boards at lowes. sometimes i get the 7 or 8 ft. ones and cut them into a few boards, to do a few at a time, and it’s super cheap.

    I get my sponge letters at the Dollar Mart stores in the kids school supply section. They have a packet of them, that opens like a notebook. Well, you can take them and glue the backside to a piece of little wood (like a stamp back) and make your own little letter, sponge stamps. They work great. Maybe people that can’t find them to buy, can try that.


    • Eyeballs By Day, Crafts By Night
      Aug 16, 2013 @ 16:39:20

      Great idea for making your own sponge stamps! I have heard of doing that but wasn’t sure if they actually worked. Thanks for the suggestion – I bet there’s lots of options with so many kids school supplies coming out this time of year!


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