I have been busy in “the dungeon” (the garage) preparing pallets for painting. Pallets render beautiful wood that is perfect for distressed signs. The older and shabbier the wood the more beautiful it seems to be. My only complaint would be dis-assembly. They are an absolute pain to get apart. I am not a big fan of sawing and sanding either, but even with new wood, you would be in for that. It’s best just to spend a day committed to being filthy and get it done.
My favorite way to finish old wood is to white wash or color wash. I am not very scientific about it I am afraid. I have become very lazy. I just wet a paper towel, barely ring it out and dab it in paint and rub it in like lotion. If you want it darker just get more paint. If you get it on and decide it is too dark, just make sure your paper towel is wet and wipe it away. You get a nice color but are still able to see all the wood grain and character flaws that make each piece unique! If your wood is too new and you are wanting that old weathered look, you can go back over the edges and larger scars with a bit of black (if you do a color other than black).
Now about lettering… There are several ways you can go about it. There is always the vinyl letter standby. You can rub on a transfer using the freezer paper method. (One thing to mention is that on a dry surface like unfinished wood or color washed wood is that you cannot wipe away mistakes like you can on a painted surface. The thirsty wood absorbs the ink readily. The third way is to free hand your lettering.
Lately I have just been super lazy. I don’t want to cut or print anything out, I just want to get to it. So I lightly pencil in my letters. I don’t worry about the font style or anything like that, just get the basic size down. There are a few key components to nice free hand lettering:
- Keep the aspect ratio correct. Lower case letters and a little more than half of upper case and tall letters. All letters keep the same height and spacing. If your size gets off, return back to the size at the beginning of the word so that it looks like it is on purpose.
- Keep your letters on a straight plane. If you find it is impossible to keep them straight, your only option is to make them crooked on purpose by tilting each letter a different direction
- Match your characters. If your saying has more than one e, then your e’s should look the same. Lower case a, d, q, o, p, b, & g should have the same roundness and legs or matching serifs (the little marks at the end of the legs) Lower case r, n, m should also look alike.
- I usually rough in my letters, and then go back and fill in thicknesses, fancy curves, and serifs, always erring on the side of less, since you can always make the letter thicker, but once it is too fat your stuck, unless your good at getting the paint off.
- Keep telling yourself, you can always paint over it, and many times you can wipe off mistakes with a brisk scrub, and it is just a pallet. The world is not over if it fails. Pep talks help me to keep moving forward when I inevitably get to that point where I think I have messed it up beyond hope. I find myself at that stage in nearly every craft I take on. “It’s ruined now. All I can do is try to fix it” And I spend the rest of the time hoping no one sees it until I am able to rectify a colossal mistake.
- Take a look at similar pieces and try to see what makes it better than yours. Many times it is a subtle shadow or an added color that gives it depth that you never noticed before. If you are all done with your lettering but it just doesn’t have that gorgeous feel, yet you know your letters are well made, it might be that depth that is missing. I will sometimes take a dry paper towel and rub off a little paint, or water down some dark paint to create shadows under and around my letters. I might add another color with colored pencil or outline with a sharpie for some stark definition. It might need the color of the letters on the edges of the sign to pull it all together.
Here are some more pallet signs! Reward for good behavior in the dungeon!
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