View Full Version : Will acrylics work for this?

11-06-2004, 09:02 AM
I need some advice from you all please. I posted my question in the contemporary forum where I usually post, but is an acrylic specific question so I thought I'd ask it here.

I've been asked to repaint an old sign on a restaurant that is a landmark here in Atlanta. Its an outdoor sign, on plywood, 7 feet X 7 feet.

My plan is to paint it in acrylics and then seal it somehow. Does this sound like a good idea or a disaster?

It was previously airbrushed, which I don't do, and so they said for me just to do it however I want to. I'm starting over with new plywood.

Thanks so much for your input - I want to do this the right way and use the best quality paints and sealant.

Charlie's Mum
11-06-2004, 09:19 AM
I'm sure someone will be able to give you good advice about sealing. :D

My only thought is that it should be a good, marine grade plywood to withstand the weather - but I'm sure you'll have that sorted anyway!
Good luck!

11-06-2004, 09:32 AM
I actually hadn't thought about good marine grade plywood. That is a fantastic idea!

Yeah, I know the fine folks here in acrylics will help steer me to success. I'll post the wip pictures as I do this if people are interested.

11-06-2004, 09:40 AM
Just seal the wood before and after painting, and you should be fine. I'm sure there will be an expert in this category soon!


11-06-2004, 04:04 PM
Does the sign have pictures? are there lots of colors on it? If not, you could use exterior housepaint acrylic latex (it's called that, but does not contain latex); these paints are made to withstand weather and to be lightfast. They don't usually mix colors in less than a gallon, but if you can find an accommodating paint person who knows what she/he is doing, they can mix a quart--they just can't guarantee that it will match from one quart to the next, which should not concern you. But they definitely can mix the color that you are trying for.

I'm sure you will get lots more responses to your question here--there are lots of people who know more than I do about these things. But maybe this will help by starting a discussion.


11-06-2004, 06:42 PM
Yes, the picture has lots of colors in it. I hadn't thought about acrylics being lightfast. Ugh.

The picture is of a hamburger and then there is wording/lettering around it and flames. I wonder how I'm going to handpaint the letters so that they are perfect, like a sign?

I do hope this starts a dialogue because I want to make sure I do this right.

Thanks for your ideas everyone!!

11-06-2004, 09:59 PM
Okay first off substrate - I also think that a good marine-grade plywood is the best choice for the substrate. Sand the faces nice and smooth and then prime with any decent brand of exterior-grade trim primer (get recommendations from the store if you don't know what's good).

Acrylics are lightfast enough to use for exterior applications like this but unfortunately the cadmium colours, which are the best of the yellows and reds in certain ways because of their opacity, are not lightfast in the presence of moisture and UV so one is often advised not to use them for this sort of thing. Any other colour with an ASTM rating of I in acrylics should do fine.

After you're done I would seal with a couple of coats of polyurethane varnish. Alternatively you could take it to an auto spray shop and ask them to shoot a couple of coats of clear onto it - whatever they use it's obviously plenty tough enough to withstand constant exposure to the element. You might want to test first to see if it will react adversely with acrylic paint.

About the lettering, even if you are a good draughtsman drawing letterforms freehand with accuracy is exceedingly difficult so I think you're going to have to trace the existing letters in every detail and transfer this to the new sign. This is as laborious as it sounds I'm afraid, but it's the best way to do it right (sorry!)

There are a couple of members who are/were in the sign industry so hopefully they'll see this and provide you with some input too.


11-07-2004, 04:17 AM
Hi there Ursus17

The difficult part of answering your question is that every country has different products and different names for those products...

The base board....It must Marine ply or a base boards that is weather resistant, In Australia we have sheeting called "Weathertex" and "Masonite" which I think you call Hardboard in ther US. You may like to check with your Hardware store regarding the weather resistance of their products or you could telephone a sign shop and ask them what kind of board is weather resistant to build a Dog house as they may not to helpfull if you said that you were going to make your own signs :D

The paint....We have flat acrylic, low sheen acrylic and gloss acrylic here in Oz, I have no idea as to the products that are available to you....But I only use signwriting quality paints as they are a much stronger pigmented paints and the life span of these paints is much better than any other paint that I know other than Enamels. I know "One Shot" has a line of sign enamels in the US, but I do not know if they make Acrylics or not. I would suggest that you look up a sign supplier and talk to then regarding acrylics and the sizes available.

The Lettering....There are numerous way of doing this..

(1)....You could get some tracing paper and trace all of the existing lettering as Einion suggested, then to transfer this lettering onto the new sign you rub charcoal or colored pastel, chalk onto the back of the traced lettering and then you position it on the sign where you want it to be. Then you draw over the traced lettering with a lead pencil and this leaves the image of the lettering on the sign. Now to paint this lettering, you can put a line of sticky tape (Cello tape) across the bottom and top of the lettering and this saves you from having to do the straights on the tops and bottoms. Any letters that you can put the tape on vertically you can do this also as this save you trying to brush straight verticals. You could even get some fine line tape and do the round or circular lettering this way, It would save you heaps of time trying to paint them straight by hand etc.

(2)...You could go to a sign shop and get thenm to cut the lettering out of Vinyl and get them to remover the lettering from the centre so that you have a mask or the background in vinyl and the lettering clear. You then apply this to the sign background positioned where you want the lettering to be (But you must be carefull to position it exactly right as it is/will be difficult to remover once it sticks) and then paint the centres of the lettering in, you then remove the vinyl and you have a perfect letter on the sign.

(4)..you could go to a sign shop and get some application tape which is a low tack tape used for tranfering vinyl lettering to signs. You put this application tape onto the sign covering the area where the lettering is going to go and you transfer your lettering from the tracing paper to the application tape in the position where you want the lettering to be. You then cut out your lettering with a sharp knife and remover the lettering leaving the background of the sign showing. Paint the lettering that is showing and remover the application tape and your lettering is finished.

Clear finish....I personally dont clear finish any sign that I do, But you could clear your finished work for your own peace of mind. If I were to clear something I would put a water base clear on it and I would apply it with a paint roller, The idea here is to get it on quickly smoothing it out as you go and dont go back and play with it once it is on and smoothed out, if it looks like it needs another coat...then just give it another coat as it wont hurt......BTW most water base clears that I use or have seen are white or milky looking, dont be too concerned as they dry clear. If there is any major concerns, then paint a coat of clear on the Dog house as a test first!

a footnote...I would never in any circunstance use tubed artist acrylics for signs, I dont know it lightfastness or its durability, irrespective of the manufactures gurantee's....whereas I know the quality and standard of sign paints. In sign paints Red is the color that will fade the most, but then again so do red cars!

I am outa here....enough typing for this month.....Gaka

11-07-2004, 09:33 AM
Einion - thanks for your honest assessment. Yes, it will be laborious, but you are right. And I do want it to look really good/professional, so I'm willing to spend the time.

Gaka - wow - you are a wealth of knowledge!! This is such a great site as evidenced by the time and effort you took in posting a message about my situation. Dick Blick carries the One Shot line of paints so I'll call them and talk with them about it. I appreciate all of your suggestions for doing the lettering. I think option 1 might be what I try but I'm glad to have other options to fall back on in case that doesn't work.

Thanks everyone for your posts. I feel alot better about doing this sign because I know I will have the right supplies and techniques thanks to everyone here.