Today I want to share an out-of-the-box idea with you for a wood sign. Rather than starting completely from scratch, I’m going to show you how to take a sign that already has something on it and add your own unique twist.
I found a really cute sign on last spring’s clearance at Hobby Lobby — it’s wood with a rooster painted on it. There’s a large blank area on it that is begging for a saying. This is a good project to show you how to design in a size larger than your machine, and how to use a photo to aid in the designing phase. Then I’ll show you how to cut vinyl for a stencil and paint the phrase.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
- Sign — I got this one at Hobby Lobby. I’ve done it on wood, but it can really be any material that paint will stick to.
- Adhesive vinyl or contact paper for stencil. I find something like Oracal 651 sticks better to the wood.
- Transfer media
- Painter’s tape
- Acrylic craft paint such as this or spray paint
- Paint brush or sponge
Step 1: Set up the page
To start off with, you’re going to make the page size the size of your sign. We will change it before we cut. For now, we just want to be able to design the project at full size. My sign is 18″ x 18″. In order to set the page size that wide, I need to do 2 things in the Page Setup panel.
- Set the machine to None.
- Set the cutting mat to None as well.
When you do those 2 things, you can set the size of the “page” to something larger than your machine will cut. That allows you to design a large project at full size. Once the designing portion is done, you reset the page size to one that accommodates your machine. Because we don’t have a machine selected, the Show Cut Border is automatically off and we don’t have to worry about the option Constrain Media to Cutting Mat.
If your sign is small enough to fit on the page size for your machine, you can just work as you normally would.
Step 2: Design
Take a photo
Take a photo of your wood sign. It doesn’t have to be an amazing photo — you just need to see where the elements that are already on the sign are located. The key is to take it looking straight down on the sign as much as possible. Lay it on the floor to do that. Then transfer the photo to your computer.
Back in Silhouette Studio, go up to the File drop down menu. We want to bring that photo onto the page we’ve already set up. You can do that with File>Merge. That adds the file you choose onto the page you’re already on.
It’s likely that your photo is larger than the page. That’s okay — we’ll work on it. You may also need to rotate it. Here’s my photo on my page. I’ve rotated it and made it a bit smaller.
Get rid of the background: Option 1
Next, I need to get rid of all the background. Because my sign is a square, there’s a very easy way to do it. I double click on the photo to go into Point Editing mode. A photo is really just a rectangle filled with a fill pattern. Therefore, it has 4 points — one at each corner. I can move those in to quickly remove the background. Here, I’ve moved the upper left and right corner points down.
And here I’ve moved them all. The white around it is my page size I set.
Get rid of the background: Option 2
There’s also another way to do this using Modify options. If you sign is circular, this would be a better option. Or, you can choose it if you don’t want to edit points. Use your drawing tools to create your shape. HINT: hold the SHIFT key as you draw to get a perfect square or circle. I’ve filled my shape with a color (yellow) — which makes it easier to grab — and raised the transparency — so you can see through it to the sign. I recommend doing this every time you use a Modify option.
Adjust your shape until it fits around your sign. Don’t worry if you took your photo at a bit of an angle so it’s not a perfect square — just get close.
Now select both the shape and the photo, open the Modify panel, and choose either Intersect or Crop. Because we’re only working with 2 shapes, they will give you the same outcome — keeping only the area that is shared by both. The beautiful thing is that the fill of the LARGER shape is retained by the resulting shape. Because the photo is larger, that’s the fill that’s kept. That means you have removed all the parts of the photo that fall outside the shape you drew.
If your sign is not a regular shape, you may need to trace the outer contours of the sign to create a shape that way. But tracing is a HUGE topic so we aren’t going to cover that today. Or, see this post on cropping around a portion of a photo.
Set the size
Select your cropped photo. In the Quick Access Toolbar or Transform>Scale panel, set the size to the size of your actual sign. Be sure to lock the aspect ratio.
One more quick thing. While the photo is still selected, center it to the page.
Add and lock a layer (Designer Edition and up only)
This is optional, but it saves time and frustration because you can make the photo stay put while you play with your text. Layers are a feature in Designer Edition and up. If you don’t have DE, you can learn more about it in this post. It’s something I recommend for pretty much anyone, as you unlock quite a few useful features of the software with it. Look for the Silhouette Elite link on the right side of my site (or on the bottom if you’re on a mobile device). Click that and use the code 10OFF for a 10% discount on the Silhouette America website. You can purchase it and use it right away as it’s a digital code you just input into your software.
Open the Layers panel. HINT: if you don’t see the icon along that right side, click the arrow at the bottom to expand the menu. Look at the bottom of the panel and click the + sign to add a new layer.
Your photo will be in your original layer (Layer 1). Click the second box (the one next to the eye) to lock the layer. If a layer is locked, you can’t move things around in it. That’s great, because the photo will now stay put while we add the text.
Now, here’s the really important thing. You want to work on your text in Layer 2. You should be fine, but you’ll want to double check. See how there’s a little green check mark next to my Layer 2 label? That means I’m working in that layer. If your green check mark isn’t there, just click on the words Layer 2 to get into it.
To learn more about layers, see this post.
Alright, now you can add whatever wording you want to your design. Click on the Text Create icon in the left side icon bar. Move your cursor over to the blank area on the photo of your sign. Click there to start typing your text. Write out whatever you like. Fill it with color so you can see it better. I also like to change the line color, usually to clear/none, as the red alters my perception of the colors and even the thickness of the words. If you’re using white as your fill color, you may want to change it back before you cut so that you can actually see it. (Don’t worry — I’ll remind you). Or, you can make it black.
I like to use a mixture of fonts, as I think that makes it more casual. To learn more about mixing fonts, see this post. You can mix fonts within a text box if you like (learn more about that in this post), or create several different text boxes. I chose the latter this time, because I wanted to be able to move them independently around the contours of the rooster.
Here are the fonts I used (all from the Silhouette Design Store):
In the morning when I rise — Farmhouse Bold
Give me, (and coffee) — Farmers Market
Jesus — Kismet
Notice how I have several boards that make up my sign? By using the photo, I can plan out where I want the letters to fall in relation to those breaks. That’s another reason I used multiple text boxes.
Step 3: Cut the stencil
Set up the page
Now that the design is done, it’s time to cut your stencil. If your sign is small enough to fit on the page size for your machine, you can just do this on the file you’ve been using. If, like mine, it’s too big, it’s easiest to copy the text boxes to a new file. That leaves your original file intact for reference, and gives you a new file to cut from. This time, I made different choices in the page setup.
- Chose Cameo as my machine.
- Set my cutting mat to None, as I prefer to cut vinyl without a mat.
- Set my Media Size to 12″ wide. Since my vinyl is on a roll and I know there’s a good amount, I just set my height to 15″.
- Checked the box for Show Cut Border. This is CRITICAL when you’re cutting without the mat.
I copied all my text boxes to this page. (If you had a white fill and no line color, now is the time to change one of those). Again, you have choices here. You can keep them all together to retain the spacing, or cut each phrase separately to save vinyl. I chose the latter, so I moved them around to make the best use of my material. However, since I’m doing a stencil I want to leave more room around each than I normally would. I like to have space between the outer edges of my letters and the edge of the vinyl so I don’t have to be as cautious with my paint. You can add shapes such as rectangles for weeding boxes if you choose, or just cut the phrases apart after your machine has cut them.
Set up the cut job
If you’re working on the same page as your photo, you don’t want that photo to cut. Now, typically when you import a raster image like this it opens on No Cut by default. But you want to double check that, as you don’t need that rectangle around the image to cut. There are several ways to do that:
- Move it off the mat area.
- Delete it.
- Hide the layer in the Layers panel. Hidden layers don’t cut.
- Set it to No Cut in the Simple cut mode.
- Cut by line, fill or layer and don’t choose the one with the properties of your photo.
Cut and weed
Select your material, blade settings, etc. and cut the vinyl. If you’ve moved the text boxes around, cut the phrases apart.
When you weed, you’re going to do the opposite of what you normally do. Instead of removing the background, you want to remove the letters themselves.
If you’re careful with them and depending on the size and font, you may be able to save them to use on another project. You can use the shiny side of the cover of your cutting mat to save them for now. Then, after you’ve removed the stencil from the backing paper, you can use that backing paper to keep them on.
Step 4: Apply the stencil to the sign
Apply your transfer media to your vinyl. Leave the backing on for now so you can move your pieces around on your sign to get the right placement. Use the painter’s tape to hold it down and create a hinge, which makes it WAY easier to get things in the right place before you remove that backing. For more on the hinge method, see this post.
When you’re removing the transfer tape, go slowly and be especially careful with the middles of the letters. Wood signs are rough, so it’s hard for those small parts to stick easily.
If you’re messy like me, or your letters are really close to the edges of the vinyl, put some painters tape along the edge of the vinyl. That also helps it stay in place better on the sign.
Step 5: Paint the sign
I wanted a really rustic look to match the rooster on my sign, so I used a sponge to lightly paint inside the stencil. Dab the sponge in the paint, then dab that on a paper towel to remove excess paint, then lightly dab the paint on the sign. Make sure your paint isn’t too watery. As with anything in painting, it’s better to do several light coats. That will help minimize bleeding under your stencil and make it easier to remove the stencil.
If the vinyl is REALLY having trouble staying put, or you want crisper edges, use spray paint instead.
So, there’s a TON of debate on when you should remove your stencil — when the paint is wet or dry. My best advice — it depends. The sign you’re using, the paint you’re using, how thin your paint layers are, how well your vinyl stencil is sticking to the sign, and many more variables means there’s not one perfect answer. If your paint is watery, removing it too soon may cause bleeding. If your layers of paint are really thick, waiting until it’s dry may peel up part of the paint from the sign. For me, it works best when I wait a bit until the paint is set, but not until it’s fully dry. I gently try it every few minutes, or test it on the back of the sign, to determine that perfect moment.
Your sign is finished!
I’m not gonna lie — this sign sat in my craft room for almost a year before I added the wording on it. Now that it’s done and hanging in my house I LOVE it and wonder why I waited so long. (But I did take the photo outside because the color of the wall it’s on is hideously outdated).
How did your sign turn out?
Leave a Reply