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The easy way


On many of my model structures I have hand painted signs, as can be seen in the photograph above of  BARLOW MOTORS  and on the front of L. F. WILLS SADDLERY  Click on the links to see these models in more detail. 

 While these hand painted signs require a steady hand and a good quality brush, they can be far easier than you would think. When the wall of the structure has been built or you have the plan of the structure where the sign is going to be placed, measure the size of the area available for the sign. Then, in a computer program like Microsoft WORD™,  I draw a text box to that size, as in the diagram right. This gives me the maximum size the sign can be. I then type in the wording required and select the font and text size that will fill the box. With the use of a sub-program that WORD has like WORDART, you can curve or shape signs to your requirements. 

If you have a program like PHOTOSHOP or GIMP (which can be downloaded from the NET for free), you can make very intricate and interesting signs. The example from "BARLOW MOTORS" seen at right was drawn using  WORDART.

After you have printed the sign, cut around the edge of the sign. Turn over and on the back of the sign, using a soft lead  pencil like a 6B or a dark pastel pencil, and at a very low angle, rub a thick layer of lead or pastel over the entire area. This forms a light carbon paper. (If you can still get it, actual carbon paper would work well)

Position the sign artwork on the structure wall and tape lightly into place with masking tape. I tape only one edge so I can fold the artwork back and thus ensure that I have got it positioned right. Using a biro or sharp hard pencil, trace around the edge of each letter to transfer it onto the wall. Continue to fold back the artwork to ensure you have transferred all the letters (see bottom left).

Now its just a matter of filling in the letters with paint. I tend to paint all the left hand edges of the letters, then when this is dry, turn the building face 90º and paint the top edges. When dry again turn 90º and paint the right hand edges. Repeat for the bottom edges.

There are other options to using a brush and paint. If the sign is black, a fine pen will work fine. Coloured pencils are also great to achieve a well weathered sign. Also, a combination of these mediums can be used to achieve great signs with some very interesting effects.

If you want to weather these signs, a light rub with a cardboard finger nail file will distress the paint nicely. Also, some vertical light streaks of the same colour will simulate the paint washing off the wall by the effects of weather. If the wall is very heavily grained wood, dragging a sharp point down each grain where the sign is will also age it nicely.

Hand painted signs look great on structures and really enhance a model. And it's not as hard as you think to do! Give it a try and I'm sure you will be pleased with the results you get.