How to Paint Letters on Wood Without a Stencil

Have you ever wondered how to get perfect lettering on a sign without using a stencil? We asked the crafting community on our Facebook page and got some great tips!

How to Paint Letters on Wood

Lisa asks, “”What is the best way to put letters onto wood? I want to make a sign but I think I’ll need a stencil and not sure how to make one.”

Suggestions for this post were taken from this thread on the Craftaholics Anonymous Facebook Page.

How To Paint Letters on Wood Without a Stencil Craftaholics Anonymous®

“I’ve done it before just by printing it out on paper, then tracing it onto the wood & painting in the lines. If you’re going for cheap.” – Amber H.
“You can make a stencil with freezer paper. Very easy and inexpensive.” – Tricia M.
“Draw it on paper, put the paper on the wood and use a ballpoint pen to trace it, pressing down hard. It makes guidelines for you in the wood to paint.” Jessica W.

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Easy transfer tutorial from Diddle Dumpling

“Look into the Sillhouette Cameo or SD! The BEST addition to my craft room (die cutting machines)” – Kristin F.
“I don’t own a silhouette or cameo or any of those. I can’t afford one, so instead I print out my letters, and trace them onto wood, then hand paint the letters.” – Alicia F.
“Put on the letter stencils, dry brush or paint over them, then peel off the stencils.” – Kim F.
“Yep I do wood burning aka: pyrography. You can use carbon paper and trace letters you’ve printed onto the wood and then trace it with a wood burning tool. Or you can trace the letters on wood with carbon paper and paint them in.” – Shealynn B.
“You can always buy plastic stencils; check on Etsy or eBay.” – Cindy M.
“Wood burn the letters into the wood using a handheld wood burning tool (Walmart or Joanna) and use wax paper to draw or write out your design or phrase and trace over the design with the wax paper on top of the wood.” – Brittany A.
“I cut letters out of paper on my silouette and then mod podge to wood.” Laurel S.
“Just be careful with paint. You need a sealer over the wood or the paint will bleed if you’re going to leave the wood natural. I’ve always loved bold painted ones with beveling around the letters with gold or other color. There are tons of fonts on the internet. Print out one that you like & do it the old fashioned way- rub the back with your pencil & trace over the front – ta-da!” Lisa P.
“I made a wooden address sign. I stained the wood first, a dark walnut . After that had dried well I placed my cut out letters, contact paper,or any stick back..could even use basting spray on paper letters. Any how once the wording is in place I painted the sign a matte black, over the letters as well. Just have to make sure your letters stick well at edges so no bleed through underneath. When dry, peeled of the letters. Looked really nice. Waxed the whole thing with clear min wax.” – Alice B.

The ball point pen method from That’s My Letter

“I’ve seen a genius idea on Pinterest where you print out the letters on regular paper, put the paper on your wood, and trace it with a pen, using a little force. It “carves” the outline into the wood, which you can then paint, plus the indented outline makes for nice clean edges.” – Chandra J.
“I always use transfer paper and hand paint it after. You can cut stencils from frisket paper which can be found at art supply stores. Cut the letters with an exacto knife and then stick it on the wood. Frisket paper has an adhesive back.” – Karen J.
“I used to play around with printing the letters and then trace the lines with carbon paper and paint them in. My son just bought a large vinyl cutter from US Cutters and now he can make the vinyl letters for me.” – Missy V.

Looking for more vintage wood ideas?

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How to Install a Wood Ceiling

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  1. 1

    I’ve made stencils out of old X-rays. Just print your saying on paper, tape it to the X-ray and use an exact knife to neatly cut out the letters. Or just make the whole alphabet. I’ve done this with many photos from Google images for my new beach room.

  2. 2
    Kristine Zsigray

    Do you have a picture of the imprint in the wood, from the pen?

  3. 3
    sheri askew

    Love this~!

  4. 4
    Catherine Hines

    When tracing onto light coloured wood, I generally use on tracing paper, and erase any visible lines afterwards. I also find that rubbing chalk (white or coloured) works the same way – good for dark wood or lighter coloured font paint.

    1. 4.1

      Can you recommend the type of paint to use to paint letters on stained wood for a sign? so that the letters wont bleed?

  5. 5
    Catherine Hines

    *carbon tracing paper

  6. 6
    Tiff W

    I always forget to buy carbon paper, and I don’t have any fancy machinery to print the letters out except for a black laser printer. So I take chalk (so far my backgrounds haven’t been white, but I guess I could use colored chalk for white backgrounds), and cover the back of the printed letters on the paper with the chalk. Then I trace hard with a pencil, and it sort of transfers like carbon paper would.

  7. 7

    Check out you can even make your own stencils from photos.
    I used for a sign for my art group.

  8. 8

    You have some great ideas, would like to use a couple for gift ideas.

  9. 9
    Phyllis Holterman

    Love your idea!

  10. 10

    I have done several ways that have been listed here, and to add on, microsft publisher has a banner section where you can put in the size of your wood , like your making a banner and print it out exactly like you want, you can even get the font you like best that way. im sure there are many programs to make banners that would work just as well.

  11. 11

    Please add me to mailing list

  12. 12

    So many good tips! Thanks!

  13. 14

    Thanks for all of these tutorials on one link. I remember reading somewhere about using a credit card to get your letters pressed down really good to the wood, then use Mod Podge on the edge of the letters and wood to get very clean lines. Has anyone else seen this pin or know where to find the tutorial? Thanks for any help you can give me and thanks again for all of these tutorials

  14. 15
    Nancy Blake

    Thank you! This is a lot f help! Been looking for something like this!

    1. 15.1

      Glad to help out :)

      1. Martha Wolsch

        Please add me to mailing list.

        1. You should get a confirmation email!

          1. Nancy Slagle

            Can you add me to your mailing list please?

          2. done!

      2. michelle

        Can you recommend the type of paint to use to paint letters on stained wood for a sign? so that the letters wont bleed?

  15. 16
    Toni Davis

    One could do it the really old fashion way….learn Calligraphy (the art of fancy lettering) I make signs all the time. Draw a few guild lines with pencil or chalk, use a beveled or straight brush, and enjoy the accomplishment of having made the sign without a stencil!

    1. 16.1

      Finally! I don’t have printer or fancy equipment. I would like to truly know how to do this without purchasing fancy costly (to me anyway) stuff. I will keep practicing my “penmanship”.

  16. 17
    Marge Creedon

    Without a stencil implies, to me, that this will be your handwriting. That is what I don’t want. Plus, I don’t want someone else to do it for me (that would defeat the purpose of this being my project). My handwriting isn’t bad, on paper. After reading all of the ideas, I still don’t feel confident enough to tackle something like this project. :( Maybe that will change in time, and after having a few smaller projects with lettering under my belt.

  17. 18

    I always buy letters from WalMart or Michael’s and paint the letters before glueing them on.

  18. 19

    I am trying to make wooden signs for a hobby and decorate my house. I am not a good painter, and handwriting is not good as well. I can’t even stay in the lines. Lol I don’t own a printer. How can I make signs with sayings without paying so much.

  19. 20

    If you are going to stick letters on and then paint the entire project and then remove the letters try this: paint your wood, place the letters, and then paint it again in the same color as the first time ( the color you want the letters to be). After tgat dries, pain again in the final color that you want the piece to be, then remove the stuck on letters. The second coat of paint prevents the third from bleeding and makes nice crisp lines. This works with painting walls 2 different colors as well.

  20. 21

    How doe’s it looks like before painting?
    Do you have an image?