Image source – Pixabay

Hand lettering is an art that is relaxing and rewarding. Lettering can be integrated into home décor items in so many ways. Lettering on wood is an art that comes in handy for people who love to decorate their house with handmade accents.

Once you learn how to do lettering on wood you would be able to create custom wall signs for your home. This technique can also be used to label crates used for organizing miscellaneous items around the house.

When it comes to lettering on wood you have three main options –

1. Freehand lettering

2. Lettering using stencils

3. Transfer technique without stencils

There are three main steps involved in lettering on wood-

  • Preparation of the wooden surface
  • Lettering
  • Sealing the surface

Preparing the wood before you start lettering

Irrespective of the method you choose, preparing the wood before lettering is the most important step.

  • Choose a wooden plank of the desired shape and dimension.
  • Dust the surface of the wood.
  • Take the wood outdoor and use sandpaper to remove any unevenness. There should be no dents or bumps on the surface. Do not use water unless you have enough time to let the wood dry thoroughly before you start painting. If you are worried about hampering the natural grain on the wood, move the sandpaper along the direction of the grain.
  • Use a duster to remove the fine dust after sanding. You can also use a blower if required. Fine dust left on the surface can make the paint look blotchy.
  • Choose the right type of primer based on the final result expected. There are clear primers for wood that can be used to prep the surface. The primer helps enhance the color of the paint used and can also fill any pores on the wooden surface.

Lettering on wood

1. How to do lettering on wood when you know freehand lettering:

Hand lettering is an art that can be learned with practice and perseverance. If you know the nuances of brush lettering then lettering on wood would be easy to tackle. Thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes distinguish hand lettering from traditional cursive letters. You can use bounce techniques or flourishes and other elements based on the theme of lettering.

  • Begin by roughly working on the layout of the words and the spacing you would like in between them. Use a charcoal pencil to draw the guidelines on the prepared wooden surface.
  • Without applying too much pressure, freehand letter the quote using the same charcoal pencil.
  • Make any changes if required. If you are happy with the results you can then start painting over the letters traced in pencil.
  • Use a kneaded eraser to remove pencil marks from the wood once the paint is fully dry.

2. How to do lettering on wood using stencils:

  • It is easy to find a wide range of lettering stencils in the market. From different font styles to font sizes you can pick something that would look the best on the wood you plan to work on.
  • If you cannot find the one that perfectly matches your expectation, you can create one at home. Use a good font generation tool to customize the quotes you would like. Adjust the size of the font and get the text printed out. Use a precise paper cutter to intricately cut out the fonts and your stencil is ready.
  • Use masking tape to position the stencil on the wood once you get the alignment right.
  • Use a charcoal pencil to trace the borders of the fonts.
  • Remove the stencil carefully and begin painting the letters
  • Paint the letters within the borders slowly and carefully.
  • After the paint dries, erase off the pencil marks

3. How to do lettering on wood without stencils:

If you do not have stencils or if you cannot create you can still create elegant wooden projects. Sometimes fancy fonts and bubbly fonts might be difficult to cut out from a printout. So creating a stencil might feel like a tedious job. You can still use a suitable image transfer technique to get the outline of the text transferred on to the wooden surface.

  • Print out the text that you would like to paint on the wood surface. If you have large words to be lettered, you can print each word on a different paper and align them based on the desired spacing.
  • One of the easiest transfer techniques you can use in order to trace the font would be to use a transfer paper. Graphite paper or transfer paper comes in different colors. You can choose black or white depending on the color of paint used on the wood. Contrasting color makes the outline easily visible so that you can paint precisely.
  • Place the transfer paper in between the printed paper and wood and trace the outline of the text.
  • If you cannot get transfer paper you can still manage to trace the letters on wood. In the case of soft wood that easily shows dents, you can use a thick paper for printing the font. Trace the outline by applying firm pressure and you should see the feeble outline of the text on the wood.
  • Another method is using a pencil or chalk. Use a dark-colored graphite pencil or light-colored chalk depending on the color of the background. Shade across the entire area behind the font. Darker your shading easier would the transfer be.
  • Flip the paper to the right side and position it on the wood exactly in the spot where you want the letters to be placed. Use masking tape to hold the paper in place.
  • Use a pencil to trace the outline of the font. The graphite or chalk on the rear surface would cause the outline to be transferred on the wooden surface.
  • You can redraw the outline using a charcoal pencil or chalk if it is too light.
  • Remove the paper and paint your letters within the outline traced. When the outline is light, your paint should hide most of it. If you still notice traces of graphite on the surface you can always erase the marks after you have painted your letters.

Sealing your woodwork

Any artwork on wood would not be complete without using a sealant. A sealant protects the wood from damage due to dust, moisture, and weather elements. The following sealants can be used if you plan to hang the wooden sign outdoor in your porch area. Even if the sign hangs on a wall that gets direct sunlight, the following sealants would world.

  • Polyurethane sealants are affordable and durable. This type of sealant can also give a high gloss finish. If you plan to stain the wood to preserve the appearance of the grain, then this sealant would accent the results.
  • Polyurethane sealants can sometimes get tinted over the years. It shows evidently if you have used light-colored paints for the background. If you do not want this yellowing in the years to come, you can use a water-based sealant. Polycrylic is one such option to work with. You get both satin and matte finishes in this type of sealant.
  • There are spray sealants available for use on a canvas for artwork. These can also be used in order to seal the surface and preserve the appearance of the paint.
  • The use of these sealants protects the wood sign and prevents the fading or degradation of the paintwork.

If it is a basic wooden sign which you would hang indoor Mod Podge would be an easy ingredient to use for sealing your work. It might not be durable but it would help you play with the sheen of the finish.

Tips to get the best results

When it comes to lettering on wood, it is the smaller details that have the greater influence on your work.

  • Pick a quality paint that is not dry or clumpy.
  • Make sure that you pick a clean brush that is not frayed.
  • The consistency of the paint has a lot to do with the ease of painting your letters. Acrylic and chalk paints are the perfect choices for lettering on wood. These are neither too runny nor too thick.
  • Work on the color combinations for the background and letters before you start working on the actual wood.
  • For curvy letters and bounce lettering, or even Copperplate fonts, round tip paint brushes give beautiful results. You can go with a flat brush if you are choosing block letters. Flat brushes also come in handy to create rustic fonts like Blackletter or Gothic fonts.
  • Avoid using brush pens with water reservoirs while working on wood. You do not want the acrylic paint to be diluted.

Having learned how to do lettering on wood, you can easily create personalized name boards and a host of other products. To add to the aesthetics of your home or to impress your loved ones with handmade gifts, this easy craft can be useful.