How to Design and Apply Lettering on Wood Signs (for FREE!)

It's easy to make your own personalized wood signs by using a free online photo editing program and transferring the image to paint the letters perfectly. All you'll need is a computer and printer!!

I recently made a custom sign for my dining room, and I realized as I was writing the tutorial that the steps on how to design the lettering for a hand painted sign was a complete tutorial all in itself.  If you’re looking for an easy way to design signs, without the need for stencils, fancy machines, or expense software, then look no further!

PicMonkey is an online photo editing application that allows you to do a lot of the basic editing of a software program like Photoshop, but it’s free!  I use it to edit some photos for the blog, make collages, and help to make my family photos look like a professional took them.  They do offer a paid subscription called Royale that unlocks all of the fonts and features. I use this subscription and love it. It’s $4.99 a month or $33 for the year. Or, try it out with this free trial and then decide for yourself how much you love it!

For this tutorial, I’ll just explain how to use it to design custom signs for your home.  From quotes, to Bible verses, to customized baby birth stats artwork – the possibilities are endless!

Using PicMonkey to Design the Lettering


picmonkey 1First, visit the website and click Edit.  Select any photo from your computer and click Open.

picmonkey 2picmonkey 3Click Canvas Color and click the blue dot on the white area of the color map.  Click Apply.

picmonkey 4It’s best to change the dimensions of your canvas to mimic the dimensions of your plywood panel.  Click Resize.  

picmonkey 5Just unclick the box that says Keep Proportions and then enter the measurements of your sign, add two zeros, and click Apply.

picmonkey 6Now that your canvas is set up, it’s time to have some fun designing your text area.  If you are using the sign for your own personal use and hanging it in your home, you can use the fonts on PicMonkey.  If you plan to sell the signs, or the designs you create, you’ll need to purchase fonts with a commercial license.  If you have your own fonts installed on your computer, just click the Yours tab at the top of the font list.

Once you type in the text, you can change the size, direction, and placement very easily.

picmonkey 7After designing your sign lettering, just click Save at the top of the screen.  Save it as a JPEG file (.jpg).

Enlarging the Graphic

Now, if the object you are transferring to is smaller than a sheet of paper, you can just print your jpeg image onto a standard 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper.  However, if you are making a large sign, you will need to know to enlarge the image and print it on multiple pages.

All Windows computers have a program called Paint.  If you are a Mac user, I can’t help you at this point, but I would search “how to print a large image across multiple pages on a Mac” and I bet you’ll find something.  (Sorry.)

how to enlarge an image to print across multiple pages | how to make a picture bigger to print on multiple pagesOpen your image in Paint by clicking File -> Open.  Then, click File -> Print -> Page Setup.  At this screen, you’ll have the option to make your image stretch across multiple pages when printed.  Just measure the size of your plywood panel and figure out how many 8.5″ pages you’ll need across the top and how many 11″ panels down the side.

How to make an image print on multiple pages to make a large sign | How to make a hand painted sign with a quoteWhen you click Print, the lettering will print across those pages.  After printing, you’ll need to trim the edges on half of the sides so the letters match up across the pages.  A little bit of tape between the pages holds it together to start transferring the graphic to your sign.

Transferring a Printed Graphic

I’ve devoted a whole post on different ways to transfer graphics and words onto surfaces to give you an outline to paint perfect letters and images.

Easily transfer letters to paint | How to paint perfect letters | Transfer printed words to paint
How to Transfer Letters to Paint
My favorite of these methods is the chalk method.  Click on the post to read more about it, but basically you color chalk on the back of the paper and use a pencil to transfer the chalk onto the wood.  For a white surface, you’ll need to use colored chalk.

Easily transfer letters to paint | How to paint perfect letters | Transfer printed words to paint

After the image is transferred, the trick is to use a paint pen to perfectly paint in the letters.  I’ve used thin brushes and acrylic paint, and it works, but it takes so much longer than a paint pen.

It's easy to make your own personalized wood signs by using a free online photo editing program and transferring the image to paint the letters perfectly. All you'll need is a computer and printer!!

I used this same process when I made my good morning sign last year.

how to create your own hand painted signs without stencils | how to transfer images or words onto wood to paint
Inspirational Hand Painted Sign
For details on how to make the base and wood frame of this sign, check out this post!

How to make custom wood signs with quotes | how to make a wooden sign with a wood frame

Here are some other projects that I’ve used graphic transfer on.  If you’re new around here, I should let you know that I love to DIY every project in my home and decorate on the cheap!

Like what you see? I’d love for you to follow along!

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6 thoughts on “How to Design and Apply Lettering on Wood Signs (for FREE!)

  1. Finally, I found an explanation on how to get the font to the right size of the wood. I’ve been dying to try this but literally had zero idea how to get the font to print over multiple pages so that it’s the correct size for the wood I’m using. Thank you! One question I’m comfortable and prefer to use photoshop, can I design there and print over the multiple pages would it be similar to how you did it here?

    1. Hi Jen. I’m so glad this hopefully helped you out. I have never actually used Photoshop, but as long as you can save it as a .jpg or .png, you can open it in paint. So yes, I think I’m answering my own question, because any photo editor should allow you to save in those formats. Once it’s saved, you can follow the directions in the post from that point on. Have fun making your sign!

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