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How to Hand Letter a Sign without a Cricket

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

How to hand letter a sign

Have you ever wanted a sign or lettering on a wall but don’t have a Cricket to create stencils or vinyl letters? Did you know you can create lettering like this with a few items you may already have?

Completed Hand Lettered Sign
Completed Hand Lettered Sign

In my last post, How to Find Amazing Decor Items at Antique Shops, I walked you through how I came about wanting this bathhouse sign. Signs like this aren’t easy to find already made, and not everyone has a machine like a Cricket ... including me.

Ever since I finished my bathhouse sign, I keep getting asked, “How did you do that?” I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write out the instructions for my DIY friends.

A project like this is great if you don’t have a Cricket. It allows you to transfer a design of any size to a wall, board, or even stiff canvas.

Supplies You Will Need
Supplies You Will Need

What You'll Need

  • Access to design software like Canva or Photoshop

  • Printer

  • Printer paper

  • Ruler

  • Scotch tape

  • Masking or painters tape

  • Hard plastic scraper

  • 4B graphite pencil

  • Fine tip sharpie

  • Ultra-fine tip sharpie

  • Small #3 flat tip brush

  • Black heavy body acrylic paint

<<Download the Bath House template for FREE>>


Create your design in a program like Canva or Photoshop. Be sure to create the design the size you want the final product. For this sign, it was 55” wide x 28” tall.

Print your design on Letter-sized paper. You will need to overlap what you are printing out, so you can tape it together in the next step.

Hand lettering Printouts Taped Together
Printouts Taped Together

Take your prints and scotch tape together. Starting at the top left, line up the printouts from pages 1 and 2 and tape the edges together. Add page 3 to pages 1 and 2, continue until you have your complete design taped together. Pro Tip: To make it easy, lightly tape with masking tape, or painters tape your pages to a window. The light shining through will work as a light table, making it easy to line up your design, and it also gives you a large, hard surface to work on.

Now that your design is taped together turn it over. Just like the last step, you can use the window as a “light table” to see through the paper. Using masking or painter’s tape, secure it to the window.

After Using 4B Pencil to Outline the Back
After Using 4B Pencil to Outline the Back

Using a 4B graphite pencil, outline the edges of your letters. You will want to apply a good amount of pressure. If your line is too light, the next step won’t work. There is no need to color in the letters at this point. If you are good at tracing, you won’t need the ruler, but if you have trouble staying in the lines, a ruler can be helpful.

Once all your letters are traced, you can move your paper to the object or wall you are transferring the design to. Tape your paper with masking or painter’s tape to your surface. It doesn’t have to be all the way around the edge. Just enough to keep it from moving.

Scraping the Letters.
Scraping the Letters.

Using a stiff plastic scraper (I use my Pampered Chef cleaning scraper 😉), rub with pretty good pressure (be careful not to tear) all the edges of your letters. This usually takes two passes.

After the first pass with the scraper, I will start in one corner and go again. As I move along left to right or right to left, I will remove one piece of tape and pull the paper back slightly to see if the transfer is working. If the transfer has missed a spot, I then have the opportunity to lay it back down and rub some more. I will systematically work my way across the board, removing a section of tape (large papers I roll as I go) and checking my work.

Outlining and Painting the Hand lettered Signs
Outlining and Painting

On your new surface, take the ultra-fine sharpie and draw in all the sharp corners giving you a chiseled line when finished.

Take your ruler and a fine sharpie to outline all the straight edges. Using the fine sharpie, carefully outline all the curved edges.

Take your #3 flat tip brush (smaller if your sign is not extra large) and heavy body black acrylic paint and fill in the letters.

New Sign Hung in Master Bathroom
New Sign Hung in Master Bathroom

Viola! You have a custom-lettered sign to show off to your friends and family!

Would you like a custom sign made for you? Reach out to me and I can give you a bid.

Are you ready to make your own sign?

I have put together a FREE DOWNLOAD to help you make your own sign. In the download you will get:

  • PDF file prepped to print out the Bath House Sign template on your home computer.

  • PDF file at the full size to print at any size you need.

  • Step-by-step instructions on how to do the transfer.

  • BONUS: Instructions for building your own 62.5x35.5 inch wood sign.

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