Reverse Sign Painting

I have to show you what I just got from today’s lovely guest mom blogger. I ordered one of Cathe Holden’s sketchbooks from her new Etsy store. But what I got in the mail, I didn’t want to open, it was way too pretty.

I love that Cathe is so creative. I saw her packaging on her blog a while back, but seeing it in person was WAY better. This is just normal white copy paper with a string and a button. Add a sticker and you’ve got a one of a kind wrapped gift. Just adorable. I will be using the string and tags included to create one myself.

Oh, and I also loved the sketch book too. ha! I’ll be thinking of you Cathe when I draw in it.

Cathe found a box of plain 4×6 sketch books at the dump! Crafty girl that she is, added a cover and pretty ribbon for a bookmark. Talk about a great recycle job. I’ve got to go find our dump! ha. I’m smelling the paper now to see if it smells like rotten bananas… sniff… nope nice and fresh:-)

Enjoy this Reverse Sign Painting Tutorial

Guest Post by Cathe Holden

Seriously, who doesn’t love old signs? They’re not so affordable or easily found these days, so why not make your own? When I was selling antiques in a few years back, I couldn’t make these reverse painted signs fast enough. Here are a couple from years past. One hanging in our barn and one was for my (tom-boy) daughter’s camouflage-themed room. Another hangs in my studio, a sign that hung in my (antique) store space. Type only signs or those with simple graphics aren’t as hard as they look. It helps if you have a steady hand and a software program that allows you to do simple layouts. Even better yet if you have access to vintage art such as Dover Clip Art books or copyright free images from the web. Keep it simple or if you’re up to the challenge, paint multiple colors in layers.

(1.) Our local transfer station (the dump) has a recycle area always full of old windows. If your savvy, you can find these pretty easily on craigslist, through companies that replace windows, etc. The trick is finding one in a paint color you like and a size you prefer. I keep several colors and sizes in my shed for future signs, but recently I picked up a little window just for this tutorial. You will also need acrylic paint, a paint brush, and tape.

Before you begin painting, clean your window well. This includes sanding or dusting off any flaky paint and dirt. You can seal the flaky paint with a paint on sealer. I would avoid spraying a coating unless you mask off the window from overspray. A straight-edge razor will scrape all the old paint and additional junk you find stuck to the glass. Please use caution when sanding and displaying, as most old windows contain lead paint. Once clean, give the glass a nice cleaning on both sides.

(2.) Determine which side is your favorite as this will be the side you tape your template to.

(3.) Create your art (I am using my name for use at a craft fair for this project) and FLOP the image before printing. You may need to print in tiles and puzzle piece together your final artwork. Remember, your art MUST be backwards. If you are painting with black paint, it is a good idea to print your image in a different color than black, such as grey (50% black). This is helpful to see areas you have yet to paint. When your paint and template art are the same color, you are more likely to miss areas. I am using off-white paint over a black template -very easy to see where I’m going.

(4.) Tape your art into postion on the BEST SIDE of your window face DOWN. I taped mine in place in one spot and then cut close around image and finished taping all around. This helps keep the image tight against the glass so that it doesn’t sag in the middle and cause a visual distortion. Begin painting on the opposite side. One tip is to NOT turn your artwork as you paint. Because of the thickness of the glass, there is a gap between your painted side and the actual template, so turning your sign as you paint will cause another visual change and your artwork may turn out thicker and thinner in places -not how you’d want it. Once dry, you can remove most of the template, keeping a small area taped just in case you have to replace the template, and view from the good side to see if you have any transparent areas you’d like to go over.

Some paints are more opaque than others and I recommend you test before subjecting yourself to mulitple layering of tedious painting to get good coverage. The paint I used took only one coat.

The final piece adorned with some holiday fluff is ready for its hanging hardware and a successful gift show.

Other little tips: Add a large vintage decal to the sign on either side; Signs with acrylic paint will last best indoors; If you find you were a little shaky in painting, you can always clean-up your edges with a razor blade or X-acto knife.

Buy Everyday Essential Oils YL
About Amy Locurto

Amy is a creative mom of two and graphic designer. When she's not working on Living Locurto, she's busy designing Printable Party Supplies and working on I Heart Faces, her photography blog. Find Amy on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram.


  1. This is a very good post! Keep them comming!

  2. Reading Reverse Sign Painting | Living Locurto – FREE Printables, recipes, p on (via @wibiya)

  3. Samantha F says:

    LOVE the idea, thanks so much for sharing. I tried this and absolutely loved the results. I botched a few spots but I figure with practice it could be great. Thanks again for the idea. You can check out my project inspired from yours on my blog:

  4. I love this! I don’t have a vinyl machine or access to one and this is giving me a lot more flexibility. Your sign turned out darling. Thanks for sharing, this is so smart!

  5. Yes, old windows makes for some unique art forms. You explained very well the basics of how to create this art form.
    I am a retired sign artist and appreciate any art form. I will try this minus the template. One other thing, there is not a paint made for glass, but latex type paints adhere tighter than oil base paints.
    .-= James C.´s last blog ..Sign Painting =-.

  6. I think I am going to do this with some dollar store frames! Love it! Thanks!

  7. Great gift idea. I will be linking!

  8. I love this! An (untested) suggestion- rather than taping the template down, could you run it through a Xyron sticker maker that is outfitted with the repositionable adhesive? That stuff is clear, and the template would peel right off when you are done- it would fully adhere, so no worries about sagging. Just put it face down when running it through, rather than face up as normal.

  9. Ooo, painting on glass is hard! Looks awesome, Amy! I especially love the measuring tape bow.

    angela | the painted house’s last blog post..The Cottage Project: Are We Done Yet or Decking the Walls

  10. This project is beautiful! Thank you so much for the tutorial! I am a huge lover of old windows and have a collection of them waiting for a project like this!

    Hugs from Eventually Cottage!

    Dawn from Life at Eventually Cottage’s last blog post..Visit Amanda for her 100th Post Giveaway!

  11. WOW! What a gorgeous project! Wish I had seen these a few months ago when I was struggling to come up with some personalized handmade Christmas gifts. Thanks for sharing!

    wendyp’s last blog getaway

  12. This looks great! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  13. How cool! Thanks for this tutorial. It’s so amazing!

    I will be linking from Dollar Store Crafts!

    Heather’s last blog post..Make Prada-Inspired Leather Earrings

  14. wow. love. it.

    ashley’s last blog babies

  15. Hey, this post was featured in your BlogHer ad, cool! Do they tell you if they feature a post, or do you just stumble across them now and again?

    Bella Casa’s last blog post..My Favorite DIY Project from 2008

  16. I love this idea! I’m currently in the process of planning a new kitchen and dining room for an addition we are building to our house. I want to decorate it with things I’ve made. I’m definitely doing this! Thanks so much for sharing Cathe!

    Chocolate on my Cranium’s last blog post..Wordfull Wednesday: New Beginnings

  17. Cathe is seriously all sorts of great, isn’t she? Thanks for the tutorial, now all I need is the rocking dump! 😀

    t. allen-mercado’s last blog post..Tuesday already?!

  18. Oh… just so everyone knows Cathe laughingly informed me that she doesn’t actually go through the garbage when finding things to recycle. What? No walking around through trash?? There is a whole separate recycling center on site a 1/4 mile from the actual landfill. She just calls it the dump:-) Ha ha. I really thought she found a box just lying around outside.

    So go find a recycling center. I’m checking into that soon. Great idea!

  19. Thanks so much for posting this technique. I have some great old windows I saved from a home remodel. I am going to turn them into a jewelry display and I think this will be a great way to put the logo on.

    anji gallanos’s last blog post..Creative Treasures

  20. Have you ever heard of stencilpro? Hmmm, I think that’s what it’s called. You can make any design (NOT backward) and then you set it out in the sun and it burns a screenprint for you. You can then use paint or glass etching material to decorate tees, glasses, windows, etc. It’s great for this! I can’t remember the darn name….I use it a lot and just call it, “that screen print stuff.”

    min’s last blog post..Bunch of Flakes

  21. What a wonderful tutorial! The signs you have created are gorgeous. I love old windows, and your ideas are perfect for displaying their charm.

    The button on the packaging idea is marvelous too!

    Grace@PoeticHome’s last blog post..Typewriter Tuesdays: PC Compatible Glass Keys

  22. This is FANTASTIC! Love it! I’ll be linking.

    Rachel’s last blog post..Daily DIY 2009.01.05

  23. I love this reverse sign painting! I have to try it!

    The Mrs.’s last blog post..Under the weather…what’s with the weather?

  24. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog recently! I sort of took a mini-vacay from blogging for the holidays and am now trying to catch up. This post today was so great! That sign… There’s so much fun stuff on your blog. Enough to keep me entertained for hours! Gonna go paroose some more!! -Mandi

    Mandi’s last blog post..Double Oh Nine – And a long wordy post to kick it off!

  25. What an awesome idea! I bookmarked it so when I get time I can come back and do it.

    Minnesotamom’s last blog post..The Call to Dunkirk

  26. I saw her post about her packaging – it totally makes me want to order one of her sketchbooks just to get the fun packaging!

  27. Amy….how sweetly simple you inspire women like me to continue to bring those little feminine touches into my home. Stumbled this for you!

    lylah ledner’s last blog post..sorry, i’ve been busy lately

  28. That packaging was the prettiest thing ever…you must have been so excited to find that in your mailbox!

    Love the window frame tutorial as well. I’ve always loved old window frames ~ what a fantastic use for them.

    Thanks again for sharing the great ideas you find Amy.

    theArthurClan’s last blog post..Improving Some More…

  29. I’m always on the hunt for old windows too- never thought to check the dump- thanks- great lesson-


  1. […] on painted items.  There IS a solution though – reverse painting on glass!  I found a tutorial for you by Cathe Holden of Just Something I Made for Living Locurto.  The tutorial is for reverse […]

  2. […] board on Design Sponge would be fun for the couple who loves to entertain. *Cathe Holden’s reverse painted sign on Living Locurto is perfect for commemorating a wedding date. *Right At Home’s vintage style […]

  3. […] the coolest projects I have come across! If you only click on one link today, click on this one to Living Locurto’s reverse sign painting tutorial! Not only is the idea wonderful, but the tutorial is informative, makes the project look easily […]

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