It has been a long time since I have posted here. I recently purchased a Cricut Maker that I absolutely love and I’ve talked about it sooo much that I convinced my friends they need Cricut’s too. #SorryNotSorry
Buying a Cricut is a huge invest because you are not only buying the machine and the tools to go with but you also need a variety of supplies. When you’re just starting out it can be easy to become overwhelmed.
That is precisely why I am back on my blog. My goal is to write tutorials for my friends (and all of you) while linking the actual products I am using on Amazon. Any Amazon links on this page are affiliate links and I will earn a small fee if you complete a purchase. Any other links on this page are not affiliate links.
Our first tutorial is super easy once you have the right supplies.
This post is pretty long and I didn’t realize that it would be this long as I was typing it. I am planning to make a YouTube video to accompany this tutorial in the future but until then if you find me on Instagram @kimberlaylayyy_crafts I have a highlight that goes over the “Merry Christmas” truck sign I made and I am going to create another one that goes over each of these steps!
Step 1 – Cutting Wood to size:
I typically go to Lowe’s to purchase wood for my wood signs because it is much cheaper than buying a piece of wood from the craft store. I like to buy a 1-in x 6-in x 6-ft and cut it into 12 inch pieces. At my Lowe’s this piece of Whitewood Board costs $7.22 which allows me to make six 12ish inch signs for about $1.20 per project before tax. Keep in mind the actual dimensions of this board will be 0.75-in x 5.5-in x 6ft.
That being said I’ve also trolled the clearance section at Hobby Lobby and Michaels and repurposed a sign by sanding it down and spray painting over the existing design. That is a tutorial for another day.
The next step is to decide how long you want your pieces of wood to be and cut them to size with a saw. If you don’t have a saw when you purchase your wood at Lowe’s you can ask them to cut the wood to size for you. I use a Dewalt Miter Saw but whatever you have will work!
Step 2 – Sanding:
I can’t stress how important it is to sand your wood before you start staining and painting it. Even if you follow the remaining steps exactly if you have not sanded your wood you are likely to have bleeding under your stencil. Believe me. I’ve been there. The sign below is the first one I made. I was too lazy to sand the wood before painting it and it bleed.
I absolutely hate sanding, sand paper, and nail files because they are sandpaper. I can’t stand them! It is so disappointing when the finished project isn’t what you were expecting. The first step to ensuring you have a fantastic wood sign is sanding. Okay I think I’ve said that enough.
As someone who HATES sand paper I do not do this by hand. You can either do it by hand or use a tool like a palm sander. Make sure to sand all sides and edges of your wood sign.
I recommend starting with a medium coarse sandpaper either 120 or 150 grit. Sand with the grain using even pressure until you’re happy with how smooth the board feels. If you use uneven pressure you can end up with dips in your wood which can allow paint to seep under the stencil.
The next step is to use a finer sand paper like 220 grit. Once you’re happy with how smooth the board is blow on it to get the saw dust off and then wipe it with a clean cloth. You want to make sure you get all of the dust off of your wood sign.
Step 3 – Staining:
Once you’ve finished sanding it’s time to stain! My absolute favorite stain is Minwax Penetrating Stain in Dark Walnut 2716. I love the dark rich color it has and how well it contrasts with white paint. If you’re into lighter colors another popular stain is Minwax Penetrating Stain in Classic Gray 271. I find it much hard to achieve the color I want with the light stain but it’s perfect for farm house themed signs. Here are pictures of projects I made using each of these stains!
It’s best to follow the instructions on the back of whatever stain you have available. I prefer to apply my stain using cut up white paint rags and my work surface is an unfolded cardboard Amazon box. I dip my rag directly into the container of stain because I don’t like to dirty any extra containers or risk spilling stain while trying to pour it into a small container for application. I dip the corner of my rag into the stain and apply it onto the wood with the grain until I’ve dried out the rag. Then I continue to dip into the stain until I have covered all sides.
The instructions say that you’re supposed to wait 4-6 hours between coats to achieve a darker finish. Craft projects are typically last minutes gifts and I don’t have time to wait that long. So I prep all six of my boards at once using very thin coats. One I finish with the last board I will start over again adding additional stain to the first board if it looks too light. Wood will only accept so much stain. Any stain that is left sitting on top of the wood won’t be absorbed and should be wiped off with a clean rag.
The Minwax instructions say to wait a minimum of 8 hours before sealing or in our case painting. But remember we’re typically making a last minute project we don’t have 8 hours. At this point I walk away from the project and let the stain dry as long as possible before I move onto the next step. Let’s be honest If you’re crafting using a Cricut there is probably someone else you’re neglecting. Go take care of the dishes, laundry, walk the dog, and/or catch up on the show you’re watching. Once you run out of other things to do (or get tired of cleaning) your sign will probably be dry enough to move onto the next step. If it feels dry to the touch and not tacky you’re safe to move on. If you start too soon, when you remove your stencil material at the end you will pull up stain with the stencil.
Step 4 – Stencil Material:
For my projects, I use a Cricut Maker to cut Oracal 813 Stencil Vinyl. You also have the option to use Removable Vinyl but your board needs to be completely dry.
The stencil material is less sticky and it kind of gets a static cling to the board as you’re trying to find the perfect placement. While the removable vinyl starts to stick immediately and is harder to move around.
If you’re okay with using extra material it is best to cut your vinyl the exact size of your piece of wood. This makes it easy to place the design perfectly when its time to transfer it onto your project. When you’re in design space you want to cut your stencil using the “Stencil Vinyl” setting and I always set my pressure to “more”. I try to use the blue light grip mat for everything if you have a newer mat that is still very tacky the light grip mat will work well for this I almost always add painters tape to the very edges of my design to hold them in place. Once your design has been cut flip the mat face down on your work surface and peel the mat away from the stencil material slowly.
Now you’re ready to weed your design and adhere transfer paper. I recently discovered the joy of using Con-Tact Brand Shelf Liner. Not only is this product cheap but it works wonderfully. I like to stick my transfer paper to the design and use my Cricut scrapper tool on both the front and back to make sure it is adhered well. Your next step is to peel the stencil material backing off very carefully. If any of the pieces come up with the backing lay that section back down and apply pressure so it will adhere to the transfer tape.
Step 5 – Applying Stencil
Once your stencil material or removable vinyl is adhered to the transfer tape its time to apply it to your prepped, stained, and fully dried wood sign. If you cut the stencil material to be the size of your wood in the previous step this step will be easy. You simply line up the edges and begin smoothing your stencil material onto the wood working your way from the middle to the edges.
You want to make sure the stencil is completely flat on your wood sign. If you hold it up towards the light and hold it at different angles you will be able to see any air bubbles that need to be worked out.
Once your stencil is applied and there are no air bubbles your next step is to remove the transfer tape. If you’re using Con-Tact Paper this step is a breeze. If you’re using Cricut Transfer tape you will need to be very careful not to tear your stencil as you slowly pull it off of the stencil. When you remove tacky transfer tape like the Cricut brand your stencil may come up with it. Unfortunately that is normal and you just have to move very slowly to make sure everything stays in place. After the transfer tape is removed repeat the steps above to make sure your stencil is still adhered well.
Step 6 – Mod Podge
Once your design is adhered to the wood sign you are ready to apply Matte Mod Podge. Mod Podge is used as the first layer just in case anything bleeds under the stencil. It is very important to use Matte because it dries clear. If any of it seeps under the stencil you won’t be able to tell. If you use Glossy Mod Podge you will be able to tell if seeped under the stencil.
Some people will tell you that you can be as sloppy as you want and use a ton of Mod Podge because if anything is going to seep under the stencil you want it to be your Mod Podge layer. While this is true you need to be careful not to use too much on intricate designs.
I made a wood sign for a friend that had a bunch of small snowflakes. I used too much Mod Podge and when I went to remove the stencil all of them peeled off. I was so disappointed because I planned to gift it that day and I couldn’t because I needed time to re-cut that portion of the stencil.
Step 7 – Acrylic Paint
This is arguably the best part of the project because you finally get to see your project turn into the finished product you’re imagining. I use Acrylic Paint for all of my wood signs and I would recommend purchasing a multi-pack of acrylic paints like this one. That being said I would also recommended buying a large size of white if you’re going to using dark stain and black if you’re going to use light stain. I personally don’t think it matters what brand you use because you’re going to seal it and keep it inside.
When I first started making wood signs I was using a sponge brush because that is what was recommended to me but I hate the texture it makes on my wood signs. So I’ve started using whatever multi-pack of brushes I can get my hands on. The most important thing is to make sure you use light coats of paint. For example on the sign above I painted all of the snowflakes, then I did the white, the red, and the black. Then I would do them again in that order if any of the areas needed more paint. Typically that is enough drying time in between. You will know you didn’t let it dry long enough if you start painting over a section and instead of adding paint you’re removing it.
Step 8 – Remove the Stencil
Once you’re happy with the coverage in each section it is time to remove the stencil while the paint is still wet. We do this while the paint is still wet because the paint could peel off completely with the stencil if you let it dry. It’s just like leaving painters tape up for too long after painting a room.
Remove it very carefully starting from a corner using your weeding tool to carefully lift any pieces of stencil that may want to stay behind like the tips of the snowflakes in my picture above. Leave the center of your words to be removed last. It’s inevitable that some of the stencil will get left behind. You can remove these pieces by carefully sliding your weeding tool underneath them. If you’re not careful one of two things will happen you will either mess up the paint or end up stabbing a hole into the wood.
For very intricate designs like the word “dachsund” in the sign above you will need to very carefully guide your weeding tool around each letter to remove the stencil. I regretted using the Sunberry text from DaFont.com as soon as I cut the stencil. But at that point it was too late. I was very surprised that I was able to weed that section without any major issues.
Step 9 – Sealing your Project
The final step is to seal your project. I like to use Minwax Polycrylic Water Based sealer in Clear Satin. As previously stated this will seal your project for indoor use. Again I would suggest following the instructions on the back of your sealer. I apply it on top of a plastic bag that our pellet stove pellets come in. I would not recommend doing this step on top of a cardboard box as I’ve had one stick to a wood sign before.
I usually wait until I have multiple signs before I seal them. I use the largest paint brush out of my multi-pack set and apply it to the front and sides of each sign. Once I’ve finished sealing the front of the last sign if I’ve applied my sealer thin enough I can usually go back and start the front/sides of the first sign again.
I try to wait an hour and a half to two hours at least before I flip over the sign to seal the back. You want it to be completely dry. Don’t try to seal the back too soon because you risk messing up the front of your sign. When sealing the back you have to watch out for any drips on the sides. You don’t want any of that to drip to the front of your sign or be visible from the front.
That’s it – let it dry and you’ve made your first DIY Wood Sign! Congratulations and thank you so much for reading this incredibly long post. I am planning to set up a highlight on my Instagram @kimberlaylayyy_crafts that will go through each of these steps much faster.