DIY: Rustic Wood Sign

To add a little character to any room in your home, consider this easy rustic “barn wood” hand-painted sign. Although the finished product looks weathered and old, it’s deceptively simple to make. I own a Silhouette cutting machine that can create stencils in vinyl, which can also be used as a template for creating the sign, but I prefer the simplicity of hand painting, which doesn’t require any fancy machine.

Supplies. Photo by Kelly-Anne Rush


• Pine board: You can use whatever size you want. The kind folks at Home Depot or Lowes will cut a longer board down to the size you want, which allows you to get a couple signs out of one board. I purchased an 8-foot x 5.5-inch board and had them cut it in half to make two signs.
• Sandpaper/sanding block
• 1 large paint brush
• 1 small art paint brush
• Rag from old T-shirt
• Ballpoint pen
• Painter’s tape
• 1 or 2 sawtooth hangers
• Tape measure or ruler
• Stain (I used Minwax Classic Gray stain for the aged barn wood look)
• Acrylic paint or flat white paint
• Paper template: Use any word processing program to print out whatever phrase you’d like to paint on your sign. Depending on the size, you may have to print out your phrase on more than one sheet of paper and tape it together.

STEP 1: Sanding is optional.

Prep your board by sanding down the edges and the corners. You can choose to skip this step, although you may find that some of the board edges are rough where they were cut. I like to round my corners for a more “worn” look.

STEP 2: Apply stain in thin layers.

Step 2: Apply stain in thin layers. Photo by Kelly-Anne Rush

Use the larger paint brush to apply a thin layer of stain. Make sure to stain all four edges and check for drip marks. The longer you leave the stain on the board, the darker the color will be. I used a cut-up old cotton T-shirt to wipe off the stain almost immediately after applying. (You may want to wear gloves and old clothes and should definitely use a drop cloth as the stain tends to make a mess.)

STEP 3: Trace your template.

After the stain has had time to dry (usually about 20-30 minutes) you are ready to trace your template. I like to leave about a 1-inch border on all sides of the template and take my time to ensure that my template is evenly spaced on my board. Use painter’s tape to secure your paper template onto your board.

STEP 4: Trace your lettering.

Step 4: Trace your lettering. Photo by Kelly-Anne Rush

It’s time to trace your lettering. For my “Hello Sunshine”sign, I used a free font called “Chalk Hand Lettering Pack” from Using a ballpoint pen, trace each letter on your template using a fair amount of pressure. The objective is to essentially etch your letters into the wood, since the pine board is soft enough to make an impression with the tip of the pen.

STEP 5: Less paint is better.

Step 5: Paint your lettering. Photo by Kelly-Anne Rush

Now that your template has been traced into the wood, use your small craft/art brush and acrylic craft paint (I used a tester sample of flat white Behr paint from Home Depot and it worked great) to carefully start filling in your letters. When it comes to this detail work, less paint is better. Take your time and be careful not to smudge any areas that you’ve already painted as your hand moves across your board. It’s OK if the lettering doesn’t look perfect, since you are going for the “rustic” look and anything hand-painted isn’t going to be perfect. Also keep in mind that from farther away, slight imperfections won’t be noticed. I only painted one coat, but that’s really a personal preference.

STEP 6: Attach sawtooth hangers.

Step 6: Attach sawtooth hangers. Photo by Kelly-Anne Rush

Once your letters have dried, secure sawtooth picture hangers to the back of the sign for hanging. For a 2-foot sign, you may only need one hanger in the center, but for my 4-foot sign, I used two, one on either end. I really like OOK brand hangers.

STEP 7: A brand new ( but rustic-looking) sign.

Sit back and admire your work! I’ve since made several of these signs, both for personal home decor and as gifts for family and friends. An optional last step would be to take some sandpaper and rough up the surface of your board to give your lettering an even more worn/rustic look.

For more of Kelly-Anne’s DIY projects, like a placemat toss pillow and $3 yard sale stool makeover, as well as this rustic sign tutorial, check out her website: And be sure to follow her on Instagram @craftyteacherlady.

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