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How To Paint Signs - Improving Part 1

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

At this point in the story, I was about 7 months into learning how to paint signs. I don’t know how, but I stumbled upon a Facebook group called the Sign Painters Support Group. This group was set up by students who had attended a workshop by John Downer. John Downer is a sign painter and typeface designer who has educated thousands of students over the years.

It was on this Facebook group that I learned a lot about the history of sign painting, but more importantly, how sign painters used to learn the trade when trade schools were still a thing. I learned how there was so much more to sign painting than just painting big letters above a shop front or pub. Much like any other trade or career, there were rules, best practices and specific steps one used to have to follow to become qualified, or a ‘journeyman’.

I finally found some structure around which I could build my practice sessions. I found what exactly an aspiring sign painter should first learn if they want to make a career out of it. I trawled through years and years of posts and threads, and asked a few questions. I was quickly pointed in the direction of two lettering styles, block and casual. John Downer had created handouts for foundation strokes you should learn to be able to construct block and casual alphabets. These two styles were perfect for learning brush control, letter construction and for learning practical alphabets that would one day be used on jobs.

I quickly learned that not all alphabets are created equal. Just because a well-known and popular sign painter or business creates handouts for beginners to learn, that doesn’t mean a beginner should. John had actually created a version of block and casual based on his decades of studying these styles. Below are some of my earlier attempts at casual lettering alongside where I’m at now. I don’t think I’ve perfected them yet, but I’m a lot closer compared to where I was back in 2018! If you’re a beginner, I highly recommend joining this group, it might be the single best resource for sign painters in this day and age.

It’s been over 2 years since I began studying and practicing these lettering styles, and believe it or not, I’m still perfecting them! It’s worthwhile to point out that up until the end of 2020, I was working full-time in digital marketing, so my practice schedules were limited. I gained a better understanding of just how long it can take to ‘master’ sign painting during this time, which is something I’ll delve deeper into in the next blog!

Find me on Instagram to see me latest work here or get in touch to talk about a future project.


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