Need Help from Sign Makers

Hey Everyone - See attached images. I am looking for ideas on how to finish this sign once it is cut. The letters are raised and need to be black. The background needs to be white. I was thinking of cutting it all out of MDF, priming it white and then trying to carefully paint the letters and the flooding the background with white again. I have seen some beautiful work on these forums and just looking for some advice.

This sign is for the grandson-in-law of Burke Bridgers, NC surfing pioneer and this is a replica (done in V-Carve) of an actual North Carolina historical marker.

Front View:

Perspective on raised lettering (right now, raised .25"):

The actual sign:

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I’ve seen people do this by painting the white, then using a sponge roller with the surface colour and rolling it very, very lightly so as not to flex the roller down into the grooves…


What are the dimensions?

28 x 28 (ish) Gonna use every bit of the works surface minus all of the crap I have hanging off my router.

You could cut a sheet of something like styrene into a mask to spray the lettering

you could paint the background white after cutting the sign, and paint the text with a foam brush.

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You could use a two color HDPE board and cut through to the white leaving the black letters.

Beachy East Coast types wouldn’t appreciate HDPE but that is a very good and simple solution. My new plan is to figure this adhesive vinyl stuff out, but I will wait on more replies from this forum because I know from experience that among the many responses, there will be some brilliant solutions (beyond, “…you could paint it!”)

Here is the vinyle I ordered from another thread. So, at the very least, I am committed to learning how to make this stuff useful.

I use vinyl like that for my Silhouette Cameo! It’s great. I’ve covered my Jeep in decals.

My first thought was to:

  1. Use the inlay generator to make letter shaped recesses 1/8" deep into the field of the sign and paint the whole thing white. This establishes the letter spacing nicely.

  2. As the second process in the inlay generator, cut the letters out with tabs so you could liberate and paint them black.

  3. Glue the letters into their corresponding locations and clearcoat the whole thing.

The above is a lot of work, but the only other alternative I can envision is to carve the whole thing out in relief, manually paint the letters black, then carefully paint the field white. Even more work…

Another problem with the above procedure is that it really only works for the letters and not the borders. If your field file was three shades of gray, one for the border, one for the white field, and one for the recesses the letters fit into, that might help.

I was also thinking about the possibility of cutting the whole thing out in relief in one step and painting the whole thing white, then cutting some kind of mask that fits perfectly over the letters, protecting the white areas, then hosing the whole thing down with black to get the raised surfaces. I would think there would be a lot of overspray that would also need to be touched up by hand.

Just some thoughts. Maybe a light misting instead of a brainstorm…

This is actually a very important concept in sign making, so I’m interested to see how it pans out.

Good luck!


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Hmm, with the right bracket and pen/brush it should be possible to use the X-Carve for painting the letters black after everything is painted white, like an old fashion pen plotter :smile:

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What about the vertical sides of the letters? Does your method paint those black also?

I have really good success by finishing the first color surface and then applying two coats of shellac, then painting the second color surface. Any over spray is very easy to removed from the shellacked (sp?) surface. You can even use paint thinner since it will not hurt the shellac.

I suggest you try a simple test sign with this method and see what kind of results you can get

I have a spring loaded pen holder mounted to my X-Carve. This sounds a lot better than the actual result. It is GREAT for paper however. I have used at least 6 different kinds of “pens”. You can however, get unbelievable results on paper.

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Already scheduled. I think the combination of this approach and the vinyl will yield a pretty good result.

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No, the sides don’t have to be black too. Just looking for a passible result.


Well, if the sides of the letters don’t have to be black, then cut out the whole shebang as one relief piece, paint it white, then use an ink brayer to “paint” the top surface black. It’s stiff enough to not smoosh down the sides and you’ll get good, even coverage. This was originally my first idea until I saw the sides were black. That makes things much easier!


Now we’re talking. My first thought was, “… what the &$% is an ink brayer?”

Quick Google search brought up these 30,000 results.

I’ve narrowed it down to 20,000. Any specific experiences with any of these?

Unless you’re planning on going into the printing business, I’d just get a wide $10 one from Speedball. They make quality stuff and for this, I’d prefer a synthetic handle vs. a wooden one. You’ll need a wider footprint so that you can span lines of text to keep the corners of the roller from touching the white.


Another option is to cut out the letters in mirror image and then leave tabs holding the letters in place.

The face of the sign is painted white and the sides of the letting is painted black.

The sheet containing the letters is then glued face down on top of the face of the sign and the tabs are all cut out (or they’re machined away by sanding or planing away the surface). This will leave all the lettering in place and the right side up with the face of the lettering needing paint - the sides of each letter were painted earlier.

Not really ideal for this type of sign as the glue holding each letter is only adhering to the paint. But for signs using light & dark woods to provide the contrast between the background and the letters, it works rather well.

This video may explain the process better than my attempts…