Distressed Stenciled Sign using Contact Paper (Before and After)

The other day I decided that I wanted to stencil a quote on a sign to display in my home that would inspire confidence as my kids return back to school.  I went online and read through quite a few quotes before I came across one that was just what I was hoping to find.

The sign says 'Believe you can and you're halfway there' by Theodore Roosevelt and will rest on the board and batten ledge in my dining room.  It will be right at eye level when the family is sitting down to eat so I'm pretty sure they might actually even read it from time to time. 

Size:  4" tall x 34" long

My goal was to coordinate the sign with my gallery wall by repeating the shapes and colors. 

I first made this sign at a 'Super Saturday' craft day years ago--back in the day before vinyl and personal craft cutters.  I had to use a sharpie marker to write the words on it and was never happy with how it looked.  It hasn't hung on my wall in a very long time and was taking up precious storage space so it was time to either donate it or give it a makeover.

First I had to sand the board down to bare wood.  I stained it in dark walnut with a clean rag, painted it with SW Alabaster paint, and then sanded the edges to distress it.

I don't have pictures of the next steps, which might be for the best because things got a little ugly.  I took it to a craft night to work on and (despite my better judgement) I used regular paint to stencil the black letters instead of spray paint (which looks so clean and smooth).  This would have been fine if I'd been patient and brushed it on in several thin coats, or even if I'd used my stenciling brush, but I didn't.  The result was a whole lot of sloppy, messy lines.  I figured I'd have to go home and sand it back down and start all over again but a friend suggested that I try distressing it first. 

In the picture the sign is distressed on the left and the sloppy mess is on the right. 
(I was actually quite happy with how the pattern turned out, it was spray painted and the lines were crisp and clean.)

Sloppy Mess

Distressed and Aged
 (I was able to wipe off most of the black smudges on the white paint that you see with a damp cloth.)

I buy my contact paper at Wal-mart (it's a better quality than what you would buy at the dollar store and cuts so much cleaner) for around $5-6 for a large roll.  It's so cheap that you can afford to mess up, unlike with vinyl.  I use a Silhouette craft cutter to cut my contact paper stencils.  (Shanty 2 Chic first shared this great tip!)  The width needs to be cut to 8.5-9" wide to feed through (or the maximum width of your cutter) and doesn't require a mat.  I set the Silhouette on the vinyl setting and it works perfectly.  Once you have your stencil cut, weed out the letters and, just like vinyl, use transfer paper to place the design on the wood.

Tip:  I like to reuse my transfer paper.  I can usually use it 2 or sometimes 3 times before it loses it's stickiness.  I wrap it back on the roll in-between uses.  It saves a little money this way. 

Once you have pressed the contact paper down on the board well, spray over it with light coats of spray paint.  The paint will not dry well over top of the contact paper so be careful as you pull it off so that it doesn't mess up your board, tweezers help.  I like to take the contact paper off when the paint is still tacky.  You won't want to leave the contact paper on the wood for very long or it will leave behind a sticky residue.

In the picture below you can see how clean and smooth the blue words are because I used spray paint.  I think that it looks just like vinyl but it's less expensive and gives you a wide variety of color options.  You can also still choose a gloss or matte finish, depending on what paint you use.  Another plus, you won't ever have a letter peel off or bubble over time.

The sign didn't turn out exactly how I first imagined it would, but I think I like it even better this way.  I love the distressed vintage look and I think the flaws give it some personality.  Anyway that's my story and I'm sticking to it because I really don't want to start over. ;)

I hope that I was able to pass on a few tips that might save one or more of you some frustration.   For those of you who don't have access to a craft cutter I think that if you are using a stencil that isn't too detailed you could cut the contact paper with scissors or an x-acto knife. If you've tried this, I'm curious to know how it worked for you.

I have a little Fall craft that I made the other day that is also stenciled and am looking forward to sharing it with you soon!

My kids go back to school this week so I'm hoping to get in a little more crafting/blogging time.  Thanks for sticking with me through my random posting over the last several months and a big welcome to all of you who are new readers!

Today's Fabulous Find...
Stenciling with Contact Paper and Spray Paint

Linking up to:  I Heart Naptime  Today's Creative Blog
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Lisette Harzing said...

Wow! Gorgeous. And so much work. I applaud you for hanging in there.

Janet said...

Thanks Lisette! I'm afraid if it wasn't for my friend's suggestion I would have thrown in the towel on this one! :)

lynn said...

oh, my, janet, this is just awesome! i'll have to try contact paper on my next project--tfs:)

Karen said...

I love how it turned out Janet! The lettering totally looks like vinyl and I love the distressed look. It looks great! Thanks so much for sharing the ideas:)

Capturing Joy with Kristen Duke Photography said...

super cute! came from today's creative find...I love the vision from transforming something old to something new!

Manonnn said...

I love that I thing I'm going to try to do my own version!!!



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