by 10design 10design

How to make a vintage “Grocery” sign

Nothing quite spells “old tyme” for a sign better than the old, beat-up, chippy antique variety. And while authentic antique signs can still be had, they’re getting scarce. And finding the one with the right subject and the right size can be tough.

Fortunately they can be replicated with this quick little technique. With a little creativity where text and color come into play, you’ll have yourself that vintage sign in no time!


Supplies: Old board, paint brush, palm sander, acrylic craft paint, mask


1. Brush a fairly vibrant color onto an old board. Be sure to leave lots of wood showing through. For this, the rougher the paint job the better. Allow to slightly dry, but not fully cure.


2. Apply a second coat with another color of choice in the same streaky manner. Allow to dry to the touch, but not fully cure.


3. Cut a mask in an appropriate letter style. You can cut this with the help of a computer or hand cut it. Reverse weed it, so you create a stencil. Premask your stencil.


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4. Position the lettering and use tape as a hinge on one side. Flip it back, remove the liner and apply.


Remove the premask. This is where the real fun begins. You may pull a bit of paint off with the premask. In this case, this is a good thing!


5. Apply your text color over the stencil, roughly following the letter shape, as if it had been hand brushed. Again, neatness is best left behind this round.


6. Remove the stencil before the text paint is dry. Because the paint layers were not fully cured, removing the decal WILL remove lots of paint. You’ll see all sorts of layers and tones exposed at this point.


7. To even out the distressed background, apply scraps of vinyl where needed, then remove. Repeat until you’ve achieved an even distressed effect. The result will be a very believable distressed finish. Once the sign is fully cured, a light sanding with the palm sander is an option, however, the finish will remain haze free if you opt out of the sanding step.


8. Dress it up! Find some old hinges, bolts or any other “jewelry” you desire. I added plant hangers on this one. This creates much more interest than a simple board left on its own accord.


9. Put your sign to work on the shop wall or, in this case, in your kitchen. Enjoy it, but be forewarned—if you use Grocery as your chosen text, you will be reminded you need to shop. Often. And that can be a very good thing.


by 10design 10design

Beyond the routine magnetic sign

Magnetic signs, like any vehicle lettering, can be powerful advertising for a small business. Likewise, they can also be generic identification that lets a small business miss out on that advertising value. If not well done, they can even work against the business by creating a negative image.

They’re also the ideal solution for many clients. When permanent graphics aren’t an option, magnetics can deliver great advertising that can be installed or removed in seconds.

TS72 firstclass 500px Bob Stephens, Skywatch Signs, Zephyrhills, Florida, upsells his clients to magnetic signs that are positive advertising whenever he can. He doesn’t recommend that a business opt for a basic set of magnetic signs unless identification for legal purpose is all that’s required. He likes to do magnetic signs that don’t look like magnetics once they’re on the vehicle. Yes, it costs a little more, but it sends the right message to those who see his client’s vehicle.

“They can go anywhere and get someone to type in three lines of black Helvetica and stick it on a white magnetic rectangle,” he says. “At best, that’s basic identification. At worst, it’s a visual turn-off. But either way, it’s not good advertising. As a business owner, you want to look professional and competent, not temporary.”

In his display area, Bob has a black steel panel with four magnetic signs on it showing the four versions he offers:

TS72 display

Basic, Intermediate, Custom and Deluxe. His basic version provides a clean and appealing layout, but keeps production time and materials to a minimum to keep the cost down. From there, they can choose to upgrade to something even more appealing and professional.

When they see the display, some customers decide they need the deluxe version and are willing to pay for that. Most, though, are willing to move up just a notch or two from basic. They can see the difference it makes when they spend a little more.

“People will pay more,” Bob says, “but you have to know how to sell it. You can’t expect them just to come in with a blank check, or to understand what you’re describing to them. It’s best when they can see the difference.

TS72 Buckley “For the sign shop, the goal isn’t to see if you can do a pair of magnetics for less than $49.95. The goal is to produce effective advertising for your client. A nice set of magnetic signs may sell for $250 a pair. I know that some shops advertise a low-cost set of magnetics to get people in the door, but can you really sell them for less than lettering the vehicle when you have to buy the same amount of film and also buy the magnetic material?”