My experiences with painting always go something like this: it sounds easy but it never is. By no means am I a professional artist in any way, but I do love to create new and interesting crafts and DIY projects. For my new project that I have been working on (so excited to share it btw) I underwent the daunting task of painting letters onto a small piece of wood without any type of special stencils. After many practice rounds, I have to say it went a lot better than expected. I would even say it went great! This list is a detailed explanation of how I was able to paint these letters with some small round brushes and acrylic paint that I already had at home. Think of this post as a beginner’s guide for hand painting letters.
I used 3 different brushes for this project. 2 different sized small round brushes and 1 flat brush for accents. You can pick up similar brushes at any local craft store. They are nothing special.
The paint I used is an all-surface black satin acrylic paint that I picked up from Target. Again, it is nothing fancy. Make sure the paint you use is recommended for the type of surface you are painting on.
Here goes the list of my top 10 tips for painting letters:
Do not drink caffeine before hand.
This is really hard for me to say being the coffee lover that I am, but I must suggest not drinking coffee, nor any caffeine, before beginning a letter painting project. I cannot be the only one that gets a bit jittery after drinking caffeine. The first place that gets jittery is always my hands, which makes it really hard to paint something detailed. When painting letters, you want as steady of a hand as possible, so it is best to postpone drinking any caffeine until after completing this project. That just gives you something to look forward to when you are done…woohoo!
Trim brush hairs that won’t cooperate.
Before painting, take a close look at your paint brushes that you will be using. You may notice some bristles that are sticking out and just do not want to join the rest of the hairs in their proper places, no matter what you do to them. I have found that the best way to deal with these uncooperative bristles is to simply cut them off. In my experience, if I do not get rid of these bristles, then they end up dragging paint into places I do not want it – outside the line that I am painting. Make sure you cut the hair off the brush as much as you can. Try not to leave anything hanging. I do not use any expensive or professional paint brushes so doing this to my brushes does not bother me. For small brushes, I actually have discovered that the scissors I bought for my nails are the perfect tool for doing this. Who would’ve guessed?!
Practice makes perfect.
Yes, we have all heard this before but I will say it again. I cannot tell you how important practicing is! Practicing helps determine what type of font you want to use, how much pressure you want to give your strokes, what type of brushes you want to use (see tip #4) and so much more. Practicing is an absolute must for this type of project, especially if it is your first time painting letters like this. Knowing the perfect way to paint the letters beforehand will really affect the outcome of your project. I practiced about 10 times on note cards for this project before I even touched the wood with my brush.
Test out different brushes.
It is likely that you already have the perfect lettering brush right in your home. For my project, I used two different sized round brushes to paint the letters and a small flat brush to give the accents on my letters. I tried at least 5 other brushes while I was practicing to determine which ones were right for this project. I found that the larger round brush that I used was good for painting straight lines and the smaller one for curves. For every person, the perfect lettering brush may be different and may even vary between projects and the style of lettering you are going for. Therefore, it is very important to test out different brushes before deciding which one(s) you are going to use.
Use a ruler and pencil to outline where you’re going to paint.
To make things easier, lightly draw out your letters before hand using a pencil and use a ruler to accurately mark where your letters should be placed. Try not to erase too many times when doing this. The penciled letters will guide you as to where you are going to want to be painting and will ensure that your letters are correctly spaced a part from each other.
Use short strokes.
Painting short strokes with a light amount of pressure will leave less room for mistakes. The longer the stroke, the longer you have to remain in control of your brush and the thinner your paint gets as you go. Additionally, using short strokes to paint letters decreases the risk of painting a curvy line and allows you to evenly coat every area with paint. While it may take longer to paint this way, it is definitely worth the extra time and effort to do so. You will be much happier with your results.
Do not paint with blobs on your brush.
Always make sure that you wipe off the excess “blobs” of paint on your brush before you use it on your painting surface. You do not want to have too much paint on your brush since the excess paint can spread beyond your control into unwanted areas on your painting surface. Instead, stick to using a minimum amount of paint that you need and always be sure to wipe off what you don’t. A good practice for me is to always paint onto a different surface before painting on the actual surface every time you dip your brush into the paint. This will ensure that there is never too much paint on the brush. Just look how many times I was wiping excess paint for this small project!
Be patient and go slowly.
The moment you begin rushing is the moment you’re going to mess up. Take your time throughout the entire painting process. It can be tempting to speed up when you are close to the end but don’t. If you do, you are going to risk messing up and ruining your hard work. I always take a break the moment I start to get anxious about completing the project. After a few minutes of R&R, I come back to my senses, and I am ready to work!
Do not aim for perfection.
While you may come close, you’re not going to achieve perfection painting letters free-handed. The more you try and make your letters absolute perfection, the more chances you have to smudge paint or make the letters look worse than they did before. My advice is that when you are happy with your letters, move on to the next. I cannot tell you how many times I ended up messing up my projects because I was trying to fix an “issue” that was not really that much of an issue in the first place. In other words, do not push your luck. Trying to make the letters perfect will only end up in dissatisfaction in what would have been a great project. This is what my project looked like before proceeding to step #10:
Use a fine-tip marker or pen for touch-ups.
If there are some issues with your letters that just cannot be ignored, a fine-tip marker or pen of the same color as your paint can be used for touch-ups. I recommend using this method with caution, however. Too much pen can be obvious and unflattering for painted letters. When done right, though, this is a great quick-fix method for touching up those letters that you worked so hard to paint. Here is a picture of the pen I used:
And here are the final results…
There you have it! My top 10 tips for hand painting letters. These tips are ones that have worked well for me in my crafting endeavors. Have any other great tips?? I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to reach out to me with any additional comments or suggestions about painting letters and most of all….Happy painting!