A Vintage Sign using Canvas (A Tutorial)

We’ve got a big blank wall in our hallway that needed some new art work…..so I made this vintage looking sign for Mr. LBB’s birthday. His great grandfather used to own a Sinclair gas station so I thought it would be a sentimental piece as well! This tutorial uses a ready made canvas which makes the final product lightweight and much easier to hang than a heavy wood or metal sign.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

I discovered the distressing technique I use in this tutorial on accident through page layering in my art journals…it’s an easy, fool proof way to simulate aged, peeling paint:

Note: I use this technique in these following tutorials too: Distressed Folk Art Painting and How to Fake A Landscape Painting

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
First I started with a blank 24″ x 36″ canvas (actually this was an old one that I was testing some finishes on….but same difference):

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Step 1: Preparing the canvas
I used matte medium to decoupage thin sheets of newsprint (I like to recycle old phone book pages) to my canvas.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
I covered the entire canvas in overlapping pieces until the top and sides were covered.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Before all the layers dried, I used a brayer to flatten any very large air bubbles. I used wax paper in between the brayer and the canvas to keep it clean.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Step 2: Creating a Stencil
I printed out my graphic/text on regular sized paper. Then I took it to Fed Ex/Kinkos and used the large copier to enlarge it to the exact width I needed (cost about $4).

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
I rolled out a large piece of contact shelving paper and I used spray adhesive……

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
…….to attach the photo copy to the top of the contact paper. (Note: Do NOT apply to the paper side of the contact paper, you will be peeling this off later.)

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Step 3: Painting
Once the paper layers were completely dry, I used white gesso to cover the canvas and make it an opaque white. This prepares the surfaces for paint. Then I covered the entire surface with white spray paint as my background color. Once the paint is dry wipe the surface clean to remove any residue that may interfere with your adhesive stencil.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Next I used small detail scissors to cut out the letters from the contact paper stencil. Then I peeled of the back of the contact paper and placed it on my prepared canvas. I used paper to mask off everything except for the word “Sinclair”:

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
I used green spray paint to fill in the letters:

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Once the “Sinclair” was dry, I masked off the rest of the sign except for the words “gasoline” which I then spray painted red:

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
I repeated the same process for the black dinosaur:

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
The sign immediately post-spray paint:

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Stenciling in this way isn’t a perfect process so I had to touch up some of the letters….but it actually adds to the “aging” of the sign. I used white gesso for the touch up.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Step 4: Distressing
After the entire sign was dry, I took my detail sander (I use a Black and Decker Mouse) and sanded down the entire sign. The paper starts to sand off in raised areas which gives the painting a random distressed look.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
I sanded down the corners a little extra where extra aging would have taken place.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
I wiped down the entire canvas to remove excess dust from sanding.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Step 5: Additional Aging
I took dark brown paint and watered it down a little to make a thin glaze (I use Golden Fluid Acrylics because they thin well and are a nice glaze layer, but any paint will work).

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Spread the brown glaze layer making sure to get it into the places where the paper is showing through. The paper layer will soak this glaze up and turn a brownish color.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Take a cloth or paper towel and wipe off the excess paint as you go.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
It helps to have a good assistant:

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
A finished vintage sign! You can apply a varnish once all the layers are completely dry to protect the painting.

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com
Now I just have to hang it!

How to make a distressed vintage sign using canvas. DIY tutorial via lilblueboo.com

Visit the following tutorial too! Click the image for the post:

Subway Art Pillows: DIY Subway Sign inspired pillows via lilblueboo.com

 

Comments

  1. stephaniecorfee says

    love it and love you! i don't know what i'd do without my sander too! and that's a great tip about using old telephone book pages! now i can stop scouring for old books and being sad when i rip pages from them! telephone books= totally UNsentimental! : )
    you rock!

  2. Shannon says

    This is totally awesome and now on my to-do list. I've got lots of walls in need of art.

    Thank you so much for sharing!!

  3. Catherine peacelovesweater@blogspot.com says

    This is sooooo beautiful! My husbands family had a store and I've always wondered how I could reproduce that sign to have in my home. Now I know! Thank, it really is gorgeous!

  4. Soren Lorensen Design says

    Love it :) I secretly guessed it said sinclair last week but had no clue why or what sinclair is so never said anything. haha!!

    • Erin says

      I suspect, being a child of the 90s, that Sinclair + the dino is a reference to the TV sitcom “Dinosaurs.”

      • bj says

        Sinclair is an old gas station and the dinosaur was the “mascot”I guess you’d say. Brings back memories… ūüėČ

  5. Shelly K says

    That's super awesome. How long did it take you from start to finish to include drying time etc? A few hours or days?
    You're pretty rad girl.

  6. Jane says

    This tutorial is timely. I was just contemplating how to transfer my idea to a canvas…a sign I have always wanted to use in my kitchen…Thanks for the instructions. I'm heading to Kinko's in the morning!!!

    Jane (artfully graced)

  7. Lisa @ Fern Creek Cottage says

    What a cool sign! Thank you so much for giving us the turorial on how you made it. This is such an interesting technique. I can't wait to try it.

  8. asnipofgoodness says

    I am sooooooo excited about this tute, thanks so much for sharing your process with us. I have been thinking about making a 'vintage'sign, and the process I had in my head is not even close to as easy as this, and wouldn't have produced nearly as good of results. I love that it's on canvas, so much easier to hang!!!
    I was thinking of doing a sunbeam one, or perhaps a Cambell's soup one. I love yours, and what a great tribute to your heritage!

    Thanks again for sharing!

  9. The Polka Dot Closet says

    Thank you..That was a lot of work for someone for which you have a lot of love!

    Carol

  10. Rachel@oneprettything.com says

    Wow, that looks amazing! I never would have thought it was canvas. Thanks so much for this, I'll be linking.

  11. Cathe Holden says

    Oh how I love (faux) vintage signs!! What a fantastic tutorial and final piece. Awesome!!

  12. The Tiny Homestead says

    thanks for sharing your technique. it's very impressive. I love that it's on canvas too instead of wood (just cause it would be lighter and easier to hang). I like the design that you did to. Where are you putting your sign?

  13. Meghan @JaMonkey says

    I just love this! One of the best DIY projects I’ve found. Now I need to think of a good sign to do! Thank you!

  14. says

    I’ve been looking for just this effect and was so happy to find this! I came to the conclusion that the only way to get the art that I want is to make it myself, and this is the one that has the look. Thanks!

  15. Sheli says

    Love this. I’m new to all of this kind of thing so pardon me if this is a crazy question, but what is the reason for the paper on the canvas first? What would happen if you did it straight on the canvas? Would it just soak up the brown paint in the distressing step?

  16. Fran says

    Where did you find the font to do the Sinclair sign? I want to make one for my husband who worked for them for years, have no clue where to find the print and pic of the dino to make template. Any help will be a welcome!

  17. Charlie says

    Oh my GOSH!!! This is PERFECT! My dad owned the Sinclair dealership in my little town in SD!! I will be doing this for my son for sure!!

  18. Michelle says

    Used your tutorial & made a sign that I’m so happy with–thank you so much! Your steps are just perfect for the look I was wanting :)

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  2. […] Here is the link to the tutorial I used. She was making a canvas sign, but I used her technique to apply the letters […]