DIY Vintage Painted Sign: Antique Character in an Instant

Does anyone else have a major pickin habit? And I don’t mean your nose! I mean antique hunting/salvage yard snooping / garage sale gawking / flea market fishing/swap meet swooping…. that kinda picking. I have a running list of items that I’m always on the hunt for.

Goes a little like this: window frames, bird cages, beat-up tool boxes, chairs (unfortunately I inherited my mother’s love of a good seat) and last but certainly not least good ol’ fashioned signage. The crumbly-er more beat up the better.

I want to see the wear and tear of a good life. But alas alas alas. Signage is not cheap (the real stuff… not the mass-produced pressed tin signs at Hobby Lobby ((Which of course I love, it’s just not the same thing)))

So, here is my go at a ‘vintage painted sign’. This post is full of my tips and trick for making a painted item look old in a snap. In a jiff. No need to set out the sign in the next hail storm, just do this…….

I had an old wood shelf that wasn’t getting any love on the side of the garage, so I decided that it needed another life. This time as an apothecary sign. Not really sure why I landed on ‘apothecary shop’… just something floating around in the noggin. You can find cheap pine, oak or even plywood pre-cut shelves at Home Depot or Lowes for less that $5. Tons of sizes to choose from.

Using a ruler I ran two guidelines for the lettering to fit in between (top line/bottom line). Then I started with sketching the first letter ‘A’ and the last letter ‘Y’, then sketched each letter from there. Trying to keep the spacing even, but it’s not exact. Remember, I just wung it. I used a light-colored pencil so I could see it. Then I painted around each letter using interior paint samples from Lowe’s.

I am also currently painting a mural, so I have about a dozen or so of these suckers. After I finished filling in with the base color I immediately worked another color in. A teal-ish one. Just a smattering of faded spots. Then fill in the letters.

Next, using a really tiny brush I added ‘shadow’ to the letters. If you are confused as to where to place the shadows just think of the letters as mountains and the sun is rising to the east (right side), and only place the dark lines on the west (left side) of the letters. Next, add highlights to the east side. For good measure add some flourishes and extra embellishments. Swooshes. Zing Zang zooms.

On this sign I actually used puff paint for the highlights, to give it some texture. You’ll see why in the next step. Let everything sit for at least an hour. So that the paint is pretty much dry but still just a tiny bit tacky. Next is a very important step: Antique Glazing. It’s a must for any crafter to have. You can find it in the specialty paint section at Home Depot or Lowes. It comes in a few tints, I prefer pewter to straight black. Rub on the glaze with a paper towel.

Harder and thicker in some spots and lighter in others. The glaze will gather around any nooks, crannies, dents or divets…. so in this case the puff paint. Then let it sit for another hour.

Finally give the sign a good rub down with a medium to fine-grit sandpaper. Open palm, hard in some places and lighter in others. Rough it up extra around the edges or where you think wear and tear would appear naturally. Dust it off and you are gtg…. oh, and add saw tooth hangers if desired.

Definitely looks old right?! Exactly what I was going for. Now, where am I going to display this baby in??…. bathroom? Ah, here’s to DIY’n without an exact end game. Cheers!