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Who Knew!

Thanks for Sharing!

I’m so excited to share my family sign… who knew it was so easy to put words on signs!  I was shocked!!!  If you don’t have a steady hand and feel like adding words to a sign is overwhelming, then you want to check out this really cool sign making tip!

How to make a sign the easy way

Who Knew it was So Easy to Put Words on a Sign

So I’ve got all the details today.

How to make a sign the easy way

So let me jump in and tell you how I made it {affiliate links included for your convenience, find more details here).

Supplies Needed for Easy Sign:


First… I found a scrap of plywood from the garage and gave the side I was going to paint a rough sanding (just to smooth it out a bit).  You can see from the pic that it wasn’t very pretty, but all those flaws will make it look even better in the long run (ok I think we can make a deep life moment out of that statement).

Cheap piece of plywood used to make a family sign

Then I used the leftover paint from my recent family room paint makeover.  Just one really good coat.

Once the base coat was dry I used some espresso brown acrylic paint that I watered down I lightly painted random areas of the board.  This really is better not to think much about the placement.  If you’re like me and one of those over planners you might even want to close your eyes.  Trying to focus on the cracked, worn, character parts of the board was my goal.

Adding some color to the plywood sign

I let the brown dry overnight before moving onto my creamy white.  I used a dry brush method with the white paint.  Dry brushing is when your brush has barely any paint on it.  I usually just dip the tip of my brush in and then wipe it off on the edge of the can as well.  This will give it the faded look with some areas with more coverage and some with less.  Here too you just want to randomly place your white.  Remember there is no right or wrong here… it’s art!  Put some music on and go with it ((smile))!

Now… once your top coat is all dry came the part I couldn’t wait to try!  I found this over at Pinterest a month or two ago and I’d been dying to try it.

Here’s the concept… you print out words on basic white paper, but in mirror image form… lay them on the wood… with a damp paint brush wet the paper on top of the words… use the cap of a sharpie to rub on top of the letters to help them transfer … then remove the paper and stand in shock and awe!


Printing in mirror ~ 

If you have Photoshop Elements you type your word(s) and then go to Image… Rotate…Flip Layer Horizontal.  If you want to use a word processing program then here are a couple ways to try.  This one is creating WordArt and the other way is trying to use your printer.  If you go to File… Print… Properties and see if you can find a method to flip it.

How to get words on a sign the EASY way

Once you have your word(s) printed then arrange them with the printed side facing down.  Fill a bowl with water and dip in your paint brush.  I used a 2 inch wide paint brush. (I wouldn’t recommend a foam brush as they really absorb water)  You need to get the paper damp, but you do not want it soaking wet. (So wipe it on the edge of the bowl a few times)  I did one page at a time and moved quickly. 

How to make a sign the easy way

Once the paper is damp I used the tip of a Sharpie marker and rubbed over the letters to get the ink to transfer. I used a horizontal, back-and-forth method.  You don’t want to rub too hard because the paper could tear.  This is more an issue if your paper is too wet.  Then I removed the paper.  I found that if I let the paper sit to long the ink starts to bleed, especially if it is too wet.

Words transferred onto the plywood the easy way

Words Transferred to Wood

Isn’t that the coolest trick!!!  Obviously you could paint on top of the letters to darken them, but I was going for the worn look so it worked perfectly!

closeup of family sign made on plywood

What do you think?  Are you dying to try it too?

UPDATE!!!!  I decided to darken the letters and I just used a black sharpie… yep SUPER easy!!!

Here’s some other signs I’ve made over the years that you’ll want to check out…

DIY Gather Sign

Family Sign from a Cabinet Door

Pottery Barn’ish Beach Signs

If the DIY thing isn’t your thing, here’s some Family Rules Signs you might love!

You can click on the images to be taken to the sites to find more info!



  1. I love DIY wood signs. Ive been doing crafts an wood crafting sense i was a teen. Im now 50yrs. Sense these signs became a big hit ive been trying to find ways to transfer the words, pictures. As i dont have a cricket. I finally realized duh.. carbon woodworking tracing paper. I was good at drawing yrs ago. But my hands are now crippled from RA. But as long as there is a way to craft i will keep trying. I will also try your way with the sharpie.

    1. It’s amazing how fun it is! I have always been a crafter as well! New to transferring on to different suffaces… Let’s just say it’s the BEST!! EVERYRHING foe Christmas has been done. I carry my camera with me everywhere.. Well now my phone… Take photos of everyone, everything even if it just reminds me of someone. Take it to my computer Print them out on a regular piece of paper.. Transfer to just about anyting and everything. This year has been especially easy with so much transfer. Definitely try the wording horizontally and it will print correctly for you to transfer on to any surface really. Much much easier!
      I too have arthritis ( ED, not RA) this helps so much. It’s so easy to keep doing the things we love with the changes that we’ve had to make for ourselves! I absolutely love her blog fun easy to read, great ways to do things.
      I actually have one board that I transfer to all the time weekly inspiring things for my children and things they need to remember. Really works great but the husband as well reminds the kids and the husband that I am not just here to clean up after them LOL it really gets the message across when you can put it into words simple and easy.

  2. Can I ask how you printed your words out so big? I know you can change the font size but on the paper it splits the words up. I’m having a hard time with making a large sign. Did you print the words individually and then just put them together? Thanks 🙂

  3. Hi Maryann,
    Great Job. You know any DIY project whatever it might be is just superb.
    I will definitely make it a try soon.

  4. This is *so* awesome! I cannot wait to try it. My son (13) is starting a woodworking business, but doesn’t have the skill level to hand-stencil letters. This will really help him. Thank you!

  5. I don’t understand. One of the pictures of the sign is in dark letters and the last few are light letters. I would prefer the darker letters. Wil this method make them dark?

    1. The darker letters are after you go over with a sharpie pen or paint. The light is how it will show up originally.

      1. Ok, thank you for your response! Can I get nice sharp edges using paint pen, or is there another technique for that?

    1. I’m not sure – I think it’s worth trying though. Let me know how it turns out.

      1. Hi MaryAnn, The tutorial was great and pretty easy compared to others on Pinterest but I would like to know the words of your “Family Rules” sign you made here. Specifically, I just need the words after “HAVE FUN” and before “DANCE CRAZY.” I really like the selection of rules on this example. Thanks!
        Donna Z

  6. I wonder, would it transfer more ink if the image was copied with the dark setting on the printer, so maybe more printer ink is used? Love this project. Will try soon!

    1. Print normal (not mirror image) on the back you can outline with chalk or white charcoal pencil then lay where you want it and trace over it on the front side. The white should transfer to your canvas

  7. Pingback: Who Knew!!! This is the EASIEST way to make signs – Anyone can do this!!!… – Best Home Decorating Ideas
  8. I tried the transfer with a LaserJet printer today, and the ink didn’t budge. 🙁 So, after reading a couple other transfer methods, I found that if I traced the image on the backside with a sharpie or pencil and then rubbed the original print (not reversed/flipped backwards) with the sharpie as described above, my marker/pencil tracing transferred onto my canvas. I then went over the letters with the pencil, because that looked really cool on my piece. 🙂

    1. Thanks for this tip! I, too, have laser jet printer and I would’ve not known what to do when the ink didn’t transfer. When I was a preschool teacher we used to use tissue paper to trace on image, then flip the tissue paper over and, using a magic marker, color the image in. The image would transfer to the poster board. I did many creative things for my class using this method! ‘ o )

      1. Just remembered, the school had some kind of ‘image projector’ (way back when…), so we would put a small image in the machine, shine it on the wall, expand the image and trace it! The favorite thing I made was a poster board with a reindeer colored on it – with a oval hole where the face would go. I’d color the kids’ nose (and often, the adults as well) with red lipstick so they looked like Rudolph. The photos were so cute!!

    2. With a laser printer, it is actually sooo simple and you will get a bit darker image. You simply print in reverse as with the inkjet, lay it out where you want it and with an iron on a low setting, iron over the image a few times and the toner transfers beautifully. This also works on fabrics. If you use your inkjet and print on wax paper, the ink doesn’t absorb in the first place, so no need to wet down and rub the paper. Simply press gently. Lay it where you want it the first time though – it can smear until it is pressed onto the wood.

  9. YOU ARE A GENIUS! Thank you sooo much for sharing this- it solved a big problem I had with some rustic wood signs I’m making for a party. Briliiant!

    1. I haven’t tried this, but every article I’ve read on this transfer method says it has to be a laser printer and that Inkjet won’t work. Laser printers use toner rather than ink. Sorry.

    2. Use old school carbon paper. Place the carbon paper on your surface, put your original (printed face up, not reversed) on top of the carbon paper and rub over the original letters with a craft or popsicle stick. The carbon will transfer and then you can either color/paint over or leave as is for a rustic look. Carbon paper still comes in black, blue, or red and is available at most office supply stores.

  10. I absolutely love this! I can hardly wait to try it. I’m curious about preservation of the words. Clear acrylic coat would do it but then the shine would ruin the rustic look that makes it great. :-/
    Still great idea for transfer of anything. Kids artwork, etc. Heading to the shed for wood now!!!!

    1. Hi Terri ~

      I didn’t place anything on it to seal it in. It’s been hanging in our kitchen nook and we’ve had no issues with it. You could find something with a matte finish if you were going to place it somewhere where weather or temperature might affect it.

    1. Hi Melissa ~ I haven’t tried, so I really don’t know. Sounds like a fun project to try though!

        1. There are many comments here that inkjets don’t work worth this method. Any final comments? I’m tired of tracing! Lol

  11. Yes, I am definitely going to try this! I already have a project in mind. Thanks so much for sharing this, Maryanne. Great project!

  12. Great project and thanks for the tute on the transfer, Dd you spray the finished product with any kind of spray or do you think that would make it run?

  13. I’ve never tried this with paper, but you can do the same thing by printing on a overhead transparency sheet. I imagine the images will be darker than with paper, because the ink doesn’t absorb at all into the plastic. The best thing is that you can wash off the transparency and use it again! Love your sign! And I like the tip about washing on the brown paint with your eyes closed 😉

    1. That sounds GREAT! I have n’t had much luck with the other transfers seen on Pinterest or on the internet in general. The transparency idea is awesome. Will try that today!

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