DIY Wooden Sign

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create a custom wooden sign with just a few tools, a stencil, some paint, and about two hours. Why spend hours searching for the perfect wall decor when you can just make it yourself? #amiright?

I've always had a fascination with woodworking and creating something from scratch with my hands, some tools, and paint. This is a great project to start with if you've never worked with these kinds of tools before because it only takes a few quick cuts and 18 nails (which sounds like a lot but coming from someone who loves using the Brad nailer, I wish there were more). Plus, once you learn the process, the possibilities are endless! Let's get right into it:

DIY Wooden Sign

Time: 2 hours | Level: Beginner/Intermediate

What you'll need


  1. Start by taking your wood and cutting it down using your miter saw. You'll want to measure and mark the wood where you'll make cuts. For instance, we'll be making a 14" x 12" sign, so mark your 4" x 60" every 14". You'll need a total of three pieces.
  2. Next, we'll mark and cut our trim pieces. These will need to be 9" long and you'll need two pieces. Measure, mark, and cut.

  3. Now, you should have three pieces of wood (4" x 14" each) and two pieces of trim (9" long). Take your planks and figure out with each piece what you want to be the "front" and "back" (some pieces of wood have indents or markings that you don't want to show in the front—unless you're going for that look—so just be wary of this before you start nailing). Place the pieces front-side down and align them as needed.

  4. Grab your nailer and your trim pieces. Lay your trim pieces out on the back of the wood on the left and right side. This will be what keeps your planks together to make your sign. Lay them about two inches from the left and right edges. Now, let's get to nailing!

    Start with one side. Make sure your trim piece is lined up and spans across all three pieces of wood. You're going to make three nails in each plank in a zigzag direction, so you'll end up with nine nails total in one side. Make sure your 4" pieces are touching as you nail, otherwise you'll end up with spacing and alignment issues. Repeat the process for the other trim piece, and voila! You have the makings of a sign!
  6. Now onto the good stuff! Sand that baby down with your sanding sponge or block. We'll be sanding a few times throughout this process so make sure you always have that handy. Get all the corners and edges, and make sure everything is nice and smooth. No, you don't have to sand the back of it.

    Once you have a nice smooth piece, grab your stain, gloves, rag, and sponge brush. Your color is up to you here. If you want to go super dark, you can always put on two coats, but I would advise against putting on a thick layer of stain (makes it messy and takes foreverrrrr to dry). Start with the first coat by dipping your sponge brush into the stain and lightly brushing left to right across your sign (always brush with the grain of the wood, not against it!). As you go, take your rag and wipe the excess stain into the wood. This will not only help it dry faster but give it a more natural look. Make sure to get all your edges, too!
  8. Once you're done applying the stain, let it dry for about 20-30 mins, depending on how thick/how many coats you applied. You want it to be dry to the touch. During this time, we'll weed our stencil—aka remove pieces of the stencil material from the design so that we can prime/paint it (if it's not already done for you).
  9. Now that your stain is dry and your stencil is ready, we're in the home stretch! You'll want to take your sanding sponge and smooth down your board again (lightly run it across your board unless you want a more distressed look, then you can sand at your discretion). Take your stencil and carefully peel the backing away. I like to turn the stencil front side down and take the backing and slowly peel it away (that way your stencil stays flat and you can bend, tear, and wrinkle the backing as needed to get it removed). Depending on how intricate your stencil is, this could be fairly easy or take a little while. Be patient, nonetheless. You don't want to mess up your stencil!

  10. Now take your stencil and gently place it on your sign. Before you press down, make sure it's aligned where you want it to be (do you want your design to be centered, maybe off to the right a little bit, or up at the top? Double-check before sticking it to your sign). Once you have it in the right spot, use your hand and fingers to smooth it out and stick it to your sign. Make sure you get all the edges so when we prime and paint nothing gets underneath.
  11. Take your primer (you can add a little bit of water to it, too, if you want... it's pretty thick) and a sponge brush and dab it onto your stencil. DO NOT brush back in forth in a sweeping motion. This could cause the primer to get underneath the stencil and we certainly don't want that! Once you're finished, let it dry for about 15 mins or so (dry to the touch).
    Now it's time to paint (finally)! Take your color(s) and another sponge brush and use the same dabbing motions that you did for your primer. Again, do not brush the paint across in a sweeping motion. When you're finished with that, let that dry another 15-20 mins.
  13. Almost done! When your paint is dry, carefully peel off your stencil to reveal your masterpiece. Again, you'll want to lightly sand your entire piece again. I like to distress the paint a bit so it doesn't look so perfectly painted on there, so I usually sand a bit harder, but again it's up to you.
  14. And voila! You have your very own wooden sign!

I would LOVE to see pics of what you created. If you share on social media, tag us in it (@graeficdesign) and use the hashtag #crEATeXgd.

And, if you loved this tutorial or have any feedback, leave us a comment below!

xo, happy creating!

1 comment

  • Bree

    Looks great….love this idea! I seriously need to get me one of those nailers too;)

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