Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tutorial for Faux Vintage Sign Letters

I have long been obsessed with words as home accessories. 
In the midst of redecorating my own dining room, I have been searching for old vintage sign letters to spell out something meaningful ( I figured the word would reveal itself through whatever letters I would find.) 
Not being able to find any that were at all right or that could spell anything I liked, I decided to just make my own.
I've seen some tutorials on the intertubes about doing this, however, with all due respect, I think they could have pushed the idea a little further and achieved even more authenticity by using the technique that I'm going to share with you here.

 Just a few products are needed for this project, but be sure and use exactly what I recommend. This process is an actual chemical reaction, substituskies are not allowed ;).

For this project you will need :
* Papier Mache letters of your choice  (mine are from Hobby Lobby)

*Krylon Premium Silver Foil Metallic Spray Paint 
* Magic Metallic "Steel Metallic" and "Rapid Rust"   
*Any patina colored latex paint (blue, teal, aqua, robin's egg, etc.)
*Denatured Alcohol  (also VERY important)
*Sheet of styrene, or a poster board to use as a work surface.

Begin by spraying your letters with the Krylon Silver Foil spray paint. This will act as a basecoat.  Let dry completely.

Now, depending on how rusty you want your letters to be, brush, sponge and dab on the Steel Metallic paint here and there but not everywhere. Let some of the silver show through.  The steel paint has metal filings in it, which will add some authentic texture.  Before this paint dries, squirt or spray on the Rapid Rust. Use alot of the Rapid Rust, don't be stingy.  Also, apply more to some letters than others, you do not want them to be completely uniform.
You really cannot mess up this step.   Flip the letters over so that they are now upside down on your work surface. For some reason, having the steel paint and the rapid rust smooshed together onto a surface really breaks up any brush marks or sponge marks and just makes the chemical reaction look real.  Let the letters sit for 30 minutes or so upside down and then flip over and let air dry.

Now, you should have a very good rusty looking letter. But we're not done yet! 
Here comes the magic part.

Working on one letter at a time, flood the letter with Denatured Alcohol. I usually just pour it on, but you could use a sponge brush to apply it too. Immediately, spray some of the Silver Foil Metallic Spray Paint directly into the Denatured Alcohol. The Silver paint will have nothing to adhere to so it will just start to swim around on the surface. Tilt the letter to move the silver around where you want it. The alcohol dries relatively quickly so you can always add more if you need to.

This photo shows the silver beginning to separate.
I wanted my letters to be quite silver so I added a lot, however these letters look really cool just  rusted too. (In which case, I would use Copper as a basecoat, instead of silver.)

Now you can add a little patina blue or green here and there by dabbing it on and then spritzing with denatured alcohol. I like the edges of my letters to be a bit different from the fronts, so I mainly focus on those areas for the patina.  

                                                 A completed letter!

I guess you have figured out the words I chose: BE STILL.
BE STILL...and know that I am God...
BE beating heart...
BE crazy kids are driving me bonkers!
BE STILL...and stop worrying!

Here they are hanging in the dining room! 


  1. what an awesome idea....thanks for sharing

  2. No problem! I should mention that the magic metallic Steel paint should be shaken very well before using. It has a tendancy to separate during shipping.

  3. Can the base color be any color metalic or does it have to be silver or copper? I was thinking of doing a darker oil rubbed bronze from rustolem or would that not work to rust it? If not that brand what brand has a darker metalic I could use?