In the past 6 months I’ve become infatuated with sign painters. I’m not generally into the ‘standard’ type of art you’d find in galleries and on rich people’s walls, I love street art, great hand painted signs and calligraphy. It’s all type based, which probably makes sense since I’m a graphic designer by trade. I like that the artist takes a message or a few words and brings it to life in a totally personal and creative way. So, how can I start sign painting?
Where Do I Start?
What tools do I need? Where can I find fonts and styles to practice with? How do I use these tools? First, I googled – obviously. I found this post which is great for getting an idea of what tools you should grab. This article was great for some inspiration as well as resources.
Next thing you want to do is get out there and find really awesome pieces that will inspire you to get creating! You can walk around your neighbourhood and see if there’s anything out there on the street, or checkout pinterest. I’ve started a pinterest board for sign painting here. Inspiration and examples are really great for practice. You can paint on a piece of glass with some really strong work behind just to get the hang of it.
Attend a Workshop
This may not be possible for everyone, I didn’t think it was possible for me! I’ve searched the internet before for more advanced lettering workshops in the Toronto area and usually I only find beginner calligraphy classes. I have come across Mike Meyer’s workshops before while searching but they were always too far (which means $$) or didn’t align with my travels in Europe or the States. One day, I was bored and figured I’d look again and came across Mike Meyer’s website and saw a workshop in Hamilton at in 2 days!! It didn’t say Hamilton, Ontario so I assumed there was another Hamilton somewhere in the world.. I checked their facebook page just in case and found out it was in Ontario!! I felt like I just won the lottery. I bought tickets within 2 mins, it was $600 for 4 days.. pretty expensive impulse purchase but it was worth every cent! The event was held at Brush Boys, which is a sign painting shop in Hamilton run by some pretty rad people. I had the best time during these 4 days, met lots of cool people and learned lots about sign painting.
Buy Sign Painting Supplies
This is easier said than done (in Toronto, anyway). The paints and brushes are specialty items that aren’t found at regular art supply stores like DeSerres or Currys (or Michaels). So if you are in the GTA, you can grab them at Graphic Commerce. I bought a couple brushes, a quill and a one stroke brush from Mack. I also grabbed a black and white 1 Shot paint from them, the total for brushes and paint came to $75 (not cheap, so fun colours will have to come later). I bought the mineral spirits from Canadian Tire for $4.99, linseed oil from Curry’s for $5 and then some house paint, foam brush and plastic cups. The brown board I have pictured below was left over packaging my my boyfriend’s dad’s outdoor veranda they put together. (Someone’s garbage is someone else’s treasure).
Draw Out Your Lettering
Next, I attached a few sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper to match the size of the sign and drew the lettering on with pencil. Ideally when this is ready you will use a pounce pad and wheel to transfer the design from paper to the board.. I don’t have this quite yet so I shaded some pencil on the opposite side of the drawing then then drew on top of the design once more so the pencil/charcoal would transfer to the board. This is very tedious and annoying and won’t work for all applications so I definitely need to get myself a pounce pad & wheel.
Now it’s time to paint. Make sure to mix up your one shot’s well, use mineral spirits to thin out the paint and clean your brushes. This is the part that requires lots of practice.. check out some youtube videos! When you’re done painting make sure to clean your brushes and store them by coating the brush hairs with oil.
Make sure to keep your work so you can look back at it down the road and see how far you’ve progressed! This is another great creative outlet to add to my collection 🙂 Here are a couple signs I made while at the Mike Meyer’s workshop:
Don’t forget to breathe, blink and have fun!