Tag Archives: letter stencils

Making Signage From Letter Stencils: Part 1

As a member of the “gig economy” I do contract and part-time consulting, marketing and customer service work for various clients. Two retailers I work with recently had need of some in-store signage. One is a hardware store and one is a craft supply store and they both sell stencils. I’ve been experimenting with letter stencils to make signage that gets the message across and at the same time demonstrates how to use some of the products that the stores sell.

JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Maplewood, MO has a teaching department of which I am a member. The education coordinator asked each teacher to make a sign or two for the classroom samples display to highlight the categories of classes we teach. I was assigned “Kid’s Crafts” and “Jewelry”. I was given two blank pieces of foamcore already cut to size and access to the classroom supply cabinet. Fun!

I like the look of cut-out letters layered over a background. To help me visualize how to arrange the letters on the foamcore board, I cut out some pieces of scrap chipboard and used a letter stencil to trace the outline of each letter in position. Then I decided what colors to use in the actual sign. Since it’s spelling out “Kid’s Crafts” that’s a good excuse to use some really bright colors!

Planning the placement and colors of cutout letters on a sign

I traced the letters again onto the colorful cardstock pieces I selected then cut the letters out with an X-acto knife. I’ll save the cutout letters in case another suitable project comes up.
Cut out letters

Next I selected papers to use as backgrounds for each letter. I marked the foamcore as a rough guide to where I would place the background for each letter.

Selecting backgrounds for the cutout letters

A little black and white in a design is a great way to add visual interest. Some of the background papers already have some white in the pattern. To get some black in the design, I outlined each cut letter with a black Sharpie marker and drew some faux sewing stitch lines to help convey the hand crafts theme. The black outline also covered up my pen lines from when I traced the letters. Black Sharpie markers are such an essential part of my tool kit (like glue sticks) that I buy them wholesale because I go through so many!

Adding details with a black Sharpie marker

In order to read well from a distance, I thought some of the letters needed an improvement in the contrast. I added high contrast solid paper behind the letters that needed to pop a bit more. Then I added a strip of black and white paper tape (also known as design tape and washi tape) to the top and bottom edges for a more finished look.

Assembled sign with paper tape

The final finishing touch was to glue on a few colorful buttons here and there. I used a similar design idea to make my sign for Jewelry. That was fun to make because it gave me a chance to use some “shiny” supplies that are appealing but hard to find a use for that is tasteful and appropriate – metallic papers, silver ribbon, glitter papers and plastic jewels! I outlined the letters in the Jewelry sign with a metallic gold Sharpie paint marker that looks good with the jewel-toned papers and theme. The paint marker also has good enough coverage to conceal my pen lines.

Finished signs for the Jewelry and Kid's Crafts classroom display signs.

These signs were fun to make and also stretched me creatively because I used a few materials and colors that I don’t design with very often. That’s good exercise for any designer!