You will need:
piece of salvaged wood
upholstery tacks or short nails (optional)
acrylic paint (background color)
black acrylic paint (or other color to fill in letters)
large paint brush
small paint brush
ink jet printer
Sharpie Marker or other dull, rounded tool
This project started with a pile of cedar fence pieces that we've had sitting in our backyard for ages. My husband had just loaded a good portion of them into our chiminea to be burned when I got the idea for these signs and was able to save them from becoming ash.
I loved how grey and weathered they had become from sitting outside. Start by lightly sanding your piece of wood if it's too rough, or just wiping it off to remove any dirt or other loose particles.
Next, distress the wood to your liking. I hammered a few upholstery tacks into the corners, added a couple of empty nail holes then banged on it with the claw of my hammer. In the photo below the top piece is untouched and the bottom one has been beaten. Poor thing.
Next, choose your paint. Most home improvement stores sell miss-tinted paints for very cheap, so during one of my visits to the Home Depot I picked up this little sample pot of pretty blueish gray paint for .50. Sweet! After experimenting with different paints while makig these signs, I've found that the less sheen the paint has, the better. Cheap acrylic craft paint works best, flat latex paint like the kind I used here is next best. DON'T bother with spray paint- your letters won't transfer well at all.
(I wasn't really sure if I was going to be doing a tutorial for this or not until I was finished, so I'm afraid I'm missing a few photos for some of the steps. Don't worry. It will make sense anyway.)
After you've properly dented and nicked your piece of wood to perfection and added your tacks or nails, take your large , dry paint brush and get a little paint on it. Wipe off any excess on the lip of your paint can and sweep your paint lightly over the wood. You're not going for a perfect paint job here. In fact, you want it to be as imperfect as possible without it looking like you were trying to make it imperfect, if that makes any sense. And don't bother painting the sides, just the front.
Once you're happy with the paint, put the wood aside to dry and head to your computer. Choose a word and a font that you want on your sign and enlarge it to a size that will fit on the piece of wood that you have. Flip it so it's backwards and print.
I used Adobe Photoshop to print my backwards words using the "Rotate Canvas" feature under Image, then clicking on "Flip Horizontal". If you're using another software program like Microsoft Word, it might be a little trickier. Check the already submitted comments to see if you can find something that works, or check out this link that I found that explains how to either flip the text using your printer's functions, or in Word itself. It seems like kind of an involved process, but I tried it with my older version of Word and it worked.
Go back to your wood and rinse the paintbrush you just used, but don't worry about getting the brush dry.
Turn your piece of paper over so that the ink is face down on your wood, position it so that it's centered (I like to crease the bottom of my paper along the edge of the wood so it doesn't move around) and begin brushing the paper with your wet paintbrush.
You don't want to make your paper sopping wet or the ink will just run and the paper will disintegrate. Just wet it enough so that it seeps through to the other side and starts to release the ink from the paper.
Take your Sharpie lid and begin to burnish your letters going horizontally and vertically. You want to transfer as much of the ink from the paper to the wood as you can. Don't peek, though. You don't want to accidentally shift your paper. Just scribble over each letter being sure you've burnished over every bit of each one.
Here's what it should look like when you're done. You could leave it like this if you want it to be really faded looking, or...
... you can go back with your small paint brush and fill in the letters a little with some very, very diluted black paint.
Once you've finished with the word, distress the sign a little more with some sandpaper, taking off some of the paint along the edges and swiping it over the word a bit to make it look more aged and authentic.
Finally, nail or staple twine to the back of your wood to act as a hanger for your new, old-looking sign.
I used some of my favorite foods for the signs I made for my kitchen and I just adore them. The "cocoa" sign was the very first one I did, and as you can see I was more deliberate when filling in the letters with paint than I was with the others. I like the faded look of the other ones more, so I'll go back and sand it a little so that it matches them better.
Here are a couple more signs that need their twine hangers nailed on before they make the trip to the consignment store. I plan on making several more using other colors of paint and maybe even other colors of ink! Wouldn't it be cute to have a little white-washed board with the word "apples" painted on it in red? I haven't tried using other colors of ink yet, but I don't know why it wouldn't work just as well as the black.
Don't limit yourself to food items when thinking of words to put on these signs. You could hang these above a bedroom door and paint the child's name on them, or your favorite inspirational word or scripture reference, or a simple word like "family" or "home" or "welcome". There's really no limit to where these could go in your house. I might just have to make another "soap" one for my laundry room.
One final added note: these signs can be made for outdoor use! Just brush, wipe or spray with a polyurethane finish to seal and protect them from the elements.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the tutorial, and that you can salvage some wood to create a custom sign for your home!
P.S. I'm linking to Frugal Friday on
EDIT: I apologize for taking so long to answer this question, but a few of you have wondered if an ink jet printer or a laser printer is required. I have a cheap old ink jet, which is what I used for this project. I have no idea if a laser printer would produce an image that would transfer using this method. Anyone tried it?