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Learning Sign Painting - The Beginning Part 2

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

Carrying on from the previous blog about how I discovered sign painting (hyperlink first blog), I was now ready to start painting. My first order of sign painting supplies in early 2018 was as follows.

  • AS Handover Series 2112 brushes - #1, #3, #7

  • Mahl stick

  • OneShot paints in various colours

I pretty quickly realised that I had no use for the small size 1 and 3 brushes so I only used the #7 in the beginning. The difference between using these brushes with quality sign painting paint was night and day compared to the art shop brush and house paint. Any of the practice I had done before this was essentially useless! The long, natural-haired chisel writers that are made for sign painters hold so much paint and allow for the smooth stroke you look for. I watched some more videos on YouTube and began painting lines and shapes. Here are a few of my early attempts.

The early issues I had were understanding how to palette a brush, what consistency my paint should be and how to load my brush with paint. These 3 basic components are crucial to achieving a nice stroke, but YouTube videos don’t convey them properly. I had read over and over that finding a local sign painter who would show you the ropes is the best way to learn. The sign painting trade in Ireland, like everywhere else, went through a tough time with many of the painters retiring or moving to vinyl when it became more popular and profitable during the 80s. Luckily, Vanessa Power was incredibly helpful and invited me to her studio to show me some of the basics.

I went back home and got stuck into practicing, reading my new books on type and sign painting and even tried a few letters. Here are some of the first books I bought, and the first letters I tried to paint for a friend.

Looking back now, I had no idea how to practice. I just kept on painting line after line, shape after shape. I made some half-hearted attempts at painting actually letters but again, I didn’t know what I was doing! Some of the books were great sources of info, introducing me to type and lettering theories, vocabulary and techniques. I was slowly learning more about the world of sign painting. Soon after, I found an online resource that to this day I still credit as being the main reason I’ve gotten as far as I have with learning this skill. Learn more about it in my next blog post!

Find me on Instagram to see me latest work here or get in touch to discuss any projects you have in mind.

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