DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted BELIEVE and GRATEFUL Sign

DIY / Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Create your own outdoor vertical painted wood sign using Chalk Paint. Use both sides to create two signs: Believe Sign and Grateful Sign.

DIY Outdoor Vertical Sign Collage

For some time, I’ve had sign-envy. Our neighborhood is full of front porches that are decorated for each season. Porches add so much warmth and character to a house.

One of my favorite front porch decorations is a large, wooden sign. I’ve been looking around for them, but never buy one because they’re so expensive! When I saw this  ‘Believe’ sign (by Creative Raisins), I was inspired to make a sign that won’t break the bank.

Before making my sign, I searched for a word that could be used for fall and the Christmas season. While I found plenty of great vertical sign ideas (FALL, JOYBe Merry), I failed to find one word that applied to both seasons.

BUT, every board has TWO sides! So, I decided to make 2 different signs with the same board.

Multipurpose and cost-saving.

GRATEFUL sign for the fall season.

BELIEVE sign for Christmas.

This sign was made in my driveway using a common wood board. The board was painted with 2 colors of chalk paint, distressed, and stenciled. To make it last through snow and rain, the sign was sealed using spar-Urethane. (Update: I made this sign in October of 2014  – it is now 2017 and it is still in great shape – no peeling paint!)

Online, a finished (one-sided) vertical wood sign similar to this goes for $60-$120. Most need to be sealed for outdoor use after purchase. The cost for all the materials used here was $23, with plenty of sealant and paint leftover for future projects.


  • 1 inch x 8 inch x 6 foot Common Board
    • Money Saving Tip: These go for ~$4, but after digging in the Home Depot cull lumber pile, I found a slightly warped and roughed up board for 70% off and paid just over $1. Who cares if a DISTRESSED, outdoor sign is a little warped or beat up?
  • Chalk Paint – 2 colors
    • I used Folk Art Home Decor Chalk Paint in Cascade and Rich Black
    • Money Saving Tip: Plan ahead and use a Jo-Ann’s 50%-off coupon on the Chalk Paint, Spouncer and Stencils. Sign up for their free mailing list, and be aware that they may accept coupons from Michaels. Plan ahead and buy ALL with a coupon; there no reason to pay full price, well, EVER, when they mail coupons regularly
  • Fine and Rough Sandpaper
    • For prep and distressing
  • Paint Brushes
    • Money Saving Tip: Planning to distress? Any paint brush will do; use an old one
  • Letter Stencils
  • ‘Spouncer’ or ‘Dabber’ 
    • What on earth is a spouncer? Essentially, it’s a round foam ‘stamp’ used to apply paint. It creates clean edges without paint bleeding under the stencil. Trust me, you want to use this – it saves time and makes stenciling oh-so-easy!
  • Outdoor or Marine Grade Urethane or Sealer

Process Used

1. Prepare to Paint

Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor
Sand to remove any loose wood pieces and place on boxes to elevate from the floor
  • The board was placed on two boxes to get it off the ground (I used 2 cases of diapers)
  • Both sides were lightly sanded using FINE sandpaper to remove any loose wood pieces (helpful if using cull lumber as it might be a little beat up)
    • Don’t worry about sanding the entire surface, especially if planning to distress. Imperfections give character and makes distressing look more realistic
  • Wipe down both sides to remove any saw dust or debris

2. Apply Base Paint Color

Apply the base color of paint
Apply the base color of paint
  • Apply the base color of chalk paint (Rich Black). Not going to distress? Skip this step
  • It’s the base so it’s OK if coverage isn’t perfect. Go ahead and work quickly, but get paint into any deep crevices so when distressed, you see base color, not bare wood
  • Allow to FULLY DRY, then flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated. Then allow to FULLY DRY

3. Apply Contrasting Color

Layer with a contrasting color of paint
Layer with a contrasting color of paint
  • Before applying the second color, determine how you plan to distress the paint. I tried two ways:
    1. Paint with FULL coverage, then sand to distress after the paint dries, OR
    2. Paint roughly, allowing the first color to show through – see below (MUCH EASIER)
Apply the second color roughly so the first color shows through
Apply the second paint color roughly so the first color shows through
  • Apply the second contrasting color
  • Allow to FULLY DRY and flip the board over and paint the other side, ensuring the outer edges are also coated

NOTE: You COULD use a different color on each side so you end up with two unique sides 

4. Distress the Surface (if desired)

Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper
Distress the edges and flat surfaces as desired using sand paper to remove the top layer of paint. Use care not to remove the base coat and expose bare wood if you desire to see contrast
  • Use rough and fine sandpaper to distress the paint in RANDOM areas. Decide if you want to distress where the letters will be stenciled (I did not)
  • Use FINE sandpaper on the edges so the base shows without going down to bare wood
  • Use coarse sandpaper on flat surfaces if the fine requires too much elbow-grease
  • If you go too far, or don’t like it, go back, add paint as needed and repeat until you like it

5. Paint Stenciled Letters

  • Align your stencils and tape to in place
  • Transfer a small amount of chalk paint to a plate or bowl
  • Apply paint to the end of the spouncer and blot slightly to remove excess paint
Dip the Spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray before 'stamping'. Slightly overlap the spouncer with the stencil and opening to prevent bleeding. Blot until paint is no longer transferred and go back over the thicker areas to evenly distribute paint
Dip the spouncer in the paint and blot off on the tray to remove excess paint. Stamp so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until paint is no longer transferred, then go over painted areas to evenly distribute paint
  • Press down to ‘stamp’ paint so the spouncer slightly overlaps the stencil edge to prevent bleeding. Repeat until no more paint transfers
  • Use the now somewhat dry spouncer to go back over thickly painted spots and stamp to evenly distribute paint
  • Continue applying paint until all letters are stenciled
  • Remove stencils carefully once paint is fully dry

6. Seal for Outdoor Use

  • Place the sign on a large tarp in a well-ventilated area (garage with door wide open)
  • Use an appropriate mask to protect yourself from fumes
  • Read the can to be sure you apply properly and in the correct temperature range
    • Follow the same process (see here) as spray painting furniture for even application
    • Don’t forget to spray all edges
    • The spray I used had a special nozzle to prevent over-spray – a MUST HAVE feature!
  • Apply multiple coats according to manufacturer recommendations. The manufacturer of this spray recommended 3 coats for outdoor use. I applied 4 to be sure
  • Allow to dry 72 hours before using outdoors or as manufacturer recommends

Here are the pictures of the sealed, finished product in front of our house. When I was taking these pictures for the blog, a random woman stopped her car and asked me where I got it. That seemed like a good sign that it turned out well.

Completed GRATEFUL sign
Completed GRATEFUL sign
Completed BELIEVE sign
Completed BELIEVE sign

What will you put on your two-sided vertical sign?

DIY Outdoor Vertical Stencil-Painted ‘Believe’ and ‘Grateful’ Sign |

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