Easy stenciled holiday sign

I was absolutely convinced I wasn’t a stencil person. I’d tried them in the past and they shifted around while I was painting, and lining everything up felt like more work than hand-lettering. So, more often than not, I freehanded … and then felt annoyed at my mistakes.

Let me back up. I had decided to make a rustic wooden holiday sign, since our holiday decor is pretty much limited to an artificial tree (not yet up), a wreath or two, and hundreds of glittery balls that I stuff into any glass containers I can find.

I poked around on Pinterest looking for a good quote to paint, but it took a while to find something I liked.

I didn’t want anything too forcefully religious (“The weary world rejoices”) and so many of the quotes I found were a little … inappropriate for a family Christmas (“The tree isn’t the only thing getting lit this year.”)

I settled on a lovely G-rated line from Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas: “Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

I grabbed a wood scrap and a container of beige chalky finish paint (Americana Decor’s Timeless), and settled down in front of an episode of Quantico to paint my letters.

I had decided to give stencils a second try after finding a package of discounted adhesive letter stencils, and they were pleasantly easy to use.

You peel them off a plastic backing and they stick to your project so there’s no slipping or smudging. (Of course, that didn’t stop me from accidentally painting over the outer edge of the stencil, but that was easily fixed with a bit of sandpaper.)

Because each letter is set within a rectangle, you can line them up easily and know you’re keeping your words in a fairly straight line. I got into a rhythm of sticking on as many letters in a row as I could, and then when I’d need a letter that was already in use, I’d stop and paint what was there — dabbing with a sponge brush.

Then I’d peel up the letter I needed to re-use, stick it in place, and continue laying out the letters again until I hit a repeated one. It was mindless and easy to do while watching TV, compared to the painstaking attention to detail needed when you’re hand-lettering.

I let the letters dry overnight, and the wood was ready for the super-simple finish the next afternoon — a technique SO simple that I actually wasn’t sure it was going to work at all, which is sometimes the case with my ideas. 

The plan was to make a vintage sign with faded letters but without multiple coats of paint and stain and distressing. Because this is a really busy time of year, am I right?

I dipped a clean sponge brush into a can of stain (Minwax’s “Red Mahogany”) and brushed it quickly over the letters — panicking for a second when they disappeared — and then wiped off the excess with a rag. 

I was finished the whole sign in less than three minutes, and the painted letters stood out nicely through the stain. Whew! It had worked! The kids were delighted with the Grinch quote, once I read it to them. (They actually guessed it was from “Elf” first, so another viewing is in order.) 

I still wouldn’t describe myself as a stencil person, but these adhesive ones are certainly the way to go if I need to get lettered quickly — and without a lot of focus on what I’m doing. After all, a show like Quantico really deserves my full attention.

Don’t forget to pin this post so you can come back to it later!


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