January 27, 2015

Fake Wood Signs In 5 Easy Steps

If you are like me and like the look of wood signs but
 don't have  the space for woodworking equipment, here is
 a way to make fake wood signs using only craft supplies.

Step One: Assemble Supplies
The main thing you need to make these "fool the eye" signs is
wood-looking paper. I found a large roll of weathered wood 
paper (4' x12') at Michael's in the kid's section for only $8.

I could not find the paper on the Michael's website but
Another option is to use wood-look contact paper. If you want a white-ish
 color wood on the contact paper, give it a thin coat of acrylic paint. 

You also need a base for the paper to give it form.
I had pieces left over from a project I did using a large 
sheet of insulation foam ($15 for a 4' x8' sheet) at a home
improvement store but you could use a foam sheet from the
floral section of craft stores. If you you don't mind if your fake wood sign is not very thick, you can even use cardboard or
foam core for the base of your sign. 

You can use the insulation foam for lots of projects that you  might normally have to use
  wood for actually. Be sure to take a knife with you to the home improvement store to cut the 
foam in the parking lot to fit it in your vehicle.

Step Two: Cut the Foam and the Paper

Here's the BEST thing about this project...you only have to use
a sharp kitchen knife to do the cutting! Decide what size you want
 your sign to be, mark with a pencil and "saw" it with the knife.

Cut the wood-looking paper large enough to cover the front of the
foam AND be able to go around the sides and attach to the back.
If you are making a small sign and are going to print a design 
on the paper  from the computer, do it before you attach the paper to the foam. 

Step Three: Attach The Paper To The Foam

Pull the paper as tightly as you can to the back of the foam.
Have you ever upholstered a chair cushion? It's kinda like that. 
Start with one side of your sign attaching, move to the opposite
side pulling taut, attach paper, then move to other ends.

You can also think of this like half wrapping a present.
I did fold the ends of my paper covering like a present but if
 someone is looking closely (or it bothers you) you can see the
diagonal fold in the end product. You could pull the paper in 
a straight back fold and not angled like is pictured.

For the first signs I did, I used thumbtacks to hold the paper
down and then glue to keep the tacks in place and under the
edges of the paper on the back. This works fine but I later 
tried regular tape to hold the paper in place and then packing
 tape for extra hold and I think that was even easier.
My pieces of insulation foam had been in the attic for a few 
months and had a slight "bow" or curve. If your foam has a 
bow, make the bow go towards the front so your paper will 
lay flat on the front...the back will be a little concave.

These are going to be a pair of signs I wanted the same size.
Here is one board wrapped and one getting ready to be wrapped...

Step Four: Draw or Paint Words or Images on Front

You may be good at free-hand lettering and drawing...I am not.
I made enlargements of the sayings I wanted and transferred
them to the fronts of the signs.

This set of calligraphy-type markers ($12 at Michael's but I used
a coupon) worked really well to fill in the transferred font letters. 

Everyone has their favorite way to transfer designs. 
At the very end of the post I have more details of how the 
lettering was transferred to the paper if you are interested in that. 

Oops! My signs weren't cut perfectly but I guess real wood
signs can have their imperfections too. 

One of my "wooden" signs had its lettering painted with acrylic
craft paint. To keep the paper from wrinkling, try not to use
much water to thin down the paint.
I tried an experiment of sanding the painted lettering...
don't do it...it only gave a smeared look you would not like.

This little sign was small enough to run the wooden looking 
paper through the computer by cutting it down to 8.5"x11".

It was glued to a round cut of foam since the sides would not show.

Step Five: Hang Your Sign

Another advantage of these faux wooden signs is that they are
so very lightweight that they are easy to hang. I weighed these
signs and each one was less than 6 ounces. Find the center 
of your sign by measuring and mark the spot near the top.

Attach your hanger to the foam low enough that it won't 
show when you put the sign on a nail or other wall hanger.

I didn't have any pre-made lightweight hangers on hand so I
made one out of ribbon, thumbtacks and glue. Cut a piece of
ribbon and make it into a loop. Thumbtack the ends down.
Use a glue that won't "melt" foam and glue it all down.

For the signs that I was going to be hanging on framed chicken
wire, I attached a small Command hook upside down near the top.
I had to think this through...not only is the hook upside down but
the foam becomes "the wall" in the instructions.

There you go! Five easy steps for making these faux wooden
signs that can be used in your home, at parties, school 
functions, as photography props and more. 

If you want to see how I have used them in
 decorating my home, read on...
This faux wooden sign "kick" got started when I wanted
 to  have something simple to take the place of the
 Christmas cards that  had been hanging on the 
framed chicken wire  over the console in the living room.

I had put away the bleached bottle brush trees that had
 any ornaments on them from the Christmas decorations but
kept out the simple trees for winter decorating.

The snow scenes were cleared of any Christmas people and only
snowmen and woodland creatures were left in the "snow". 

These two quotes have meaning to me.
The first one reminds me that even winter, that some view as a
bad or "dead" season, can be beautiful in its own way. In the South
we don't usually have the dramatic snow and ice beauty, but I like
to see bare limbs of the trees against the sky for part of the year.
They look like sculptures to me. 

The second quote reminds me of a sermon that I heard about
 a man who saw a dead-looking tree in the wintertime and 
decided to do away with it by chopping it down.
 In the spring he passed by the stump and saw green
 sprouts coming out.  He regretted chopping down
the tree because it was not dead after all.

I couldn't find the original story but I did find this quote
 attributed to Robert Schuller.  Here is the full quote:
"Never cut a tree down in the Wintertime.
Never make a negative decision in the low time.
 Never make your most important decisions when you 
are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient.
 The storm will pass. The Spring will come. "

The mantle and bookcases also have some hold overs from the
 Christmas decor but (most of) the angels have been removed and bottle-brush-type woodland creatures have replaced them. 

Tom Kat usually won't let me turn on the gas logs unless it is 
"cold enough" but with the Blizzard of '15 going on in the 
Northeast, even the South has below freezing temperatures. 

The bottle brush tree wreath got an "wooden sign" insert. 

The sofa is cozy with sweater-covered pillows.

The bottle brush tree and automatic l.e.d. candle arrangement
came in from the dining room to give a warm glow at sunset. 

The Christmas angel in the dining room becomes a cupid angel
to usher in Valentine's Day. 

Since she is free-floating, her framed backdrop is replaced with
a faux wood one with a lovey-dovey saying on it. 

 An inexpensive 3-fold cardboard project board is taped down
and covered with the wooden-looking paper. Since the sides of
this "sign" will be covered, it won't be noticed that it is not as
thick as a real wood sign would be. 
This wood-looking paper-covered cardboard is also useful as a photo
 background for food or small item photography. 

Her Christmas star is now covered with heart-shaped confetti
that have been glued together to represent the "hundred hearts".

In one of bedrooms (that is slowly becoming my office since
we are empty-nesters) I am working on assembling a gallery wall.
The sign that I experimented on using paint instead of markers
will be used in there.
When I was playing around with the items I had so far in this gallery, I didn't realize
that the bird canvas from Hobby Lobby had the hook installed on the the 
wrong end of the hanging. 

So after "The Five Steps" and the living room tour if you want 
to stay around for more details of how the lettering was 
transferred to to wooden paper here goes...

The free online site that I like to use to enlarge images is
Block Posters. It is really easy to use but it only takes jpg.
images so I composed the text in PicMonkey. I am not very 
tech savvy...there is probably a way to make text a jpg. image
 without using PicMonkey but I don't know what it is.

Block Poster prints out your image in separate sheets on your
 computer after you decide how large you want it to be.
Cut off the white margins and tape the saying or design together.

At first I chose a Block Poster image two sheets wide for my Southern saying...
...I went back to the site and tried the three sheet wide choice
 and liked it better because it filled more of the sign's space. 

If you want a fairly light transfer you can scribble on the back
side of the lettering with a pencil to make your own carbon paper.
I find that holding the image up to a window to scribble helps me "see" where the design is on the paper...less scribbling. 

Then turn the image over, place it where you want it on your
paper-covered foam board. Trace over the outline of the letters
or design with a pencil. If you think it is slipping around, you
can tape the original down on the backside of the board.

If you want the lettering to be easier to see, you can use
 transfer or graphite paper from an arts or crafts store.
 Be aware that is pretty dark. If you are using a light color
of paint for the sign, this transfer might be hard to cover. 

Although you can't burn these signs in the fireplace to stay warm
 in the Winter Blizzard of '15, I hope you will make some to 
warm your heart with sayings near and dear to you. 


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the inspiration! I've been wanting to hang a sign in my kitchen but wood seemed to heavy when there isn't a stud in the right place. Thanks to you, I'm using foam or coreplast for this now. I like the idea of a winter saying in a wreath after Christmas so it doesn't look like you forgot to take it down. Obviously, I'm pinning!

  2. Love this! You ALWAYS have the best ideas! :)

  3. I saw this paper on a wall of an antique mall and wondered how I could use it. Love the signs and thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Such a great idea and wonderful "how to" instructions! I love the angel!!!

  5. THANK YOU!!! Great instructions and thanks for sharing the website for lettering! Most helpful and inspiring post I've read in...forever?!

  6. That is such a clever way to make a "wood" sign!! I love how they came out! I especially like the Christmas angel with the heart bouquet and quote, that is such a great way to use a Christmas decoration for Valentines, so pretty too!! Thank you for sharing your art on Best of the Nest Miss Kitty!

  7. Wow! these are amazing! I especially love the angel and hearts sign--so beautiful! Where did you find that angel?

  8. New to your blog...LOVE IT...great job...love all the bottle brushes...I bring all my blue snowmen for Jan and Feb in honor of my home state...michigan

  9. Your "fake" wooden signs are lovely. I really like the quotes you added to them.

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