How to Make a Distressed Sign – A Reader’s Request

It is January, it is cold, we have been in a polar vortex this week, and it has been -20 below outside – now that is cold. Old man winter is back in Upstate NY after taking a couple of years off. How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

One of our readers reached out to me over the Holidays with a request on how to make a distressed sign. It made my day! Great minds think alike because I was actually researching how I would make a sign for our guestroom. Last year I spent a lot of time working on my guest room and I really never blogged about it because I am still not happy with the look. One of the reasons is the outer facing wall needs something….so I thought about creating a feature wall out of photos etc… to see how that worked in the space.

Currently, the wall has this awesome print that I purchased at an Antique shop in CT. It is made out of antique floral wallpaper. It is awesome and unique.  That will be the center of the feature wall.

One day when I was surfing around on Etsy I came across signs capturing the year you were married. Steve and I were married in Oct. 1996, and these signs reminded me of the sign my parents have in their hallway stating the year our family home was built: 1828. So, I thought I would create two signs for this space.

For the established date sign, it was a snowy day last week, (before the polar vortex arrived) the weather was too bad to head into the city to Joann’s or Michael’s so I was combing through our local Wal-Mart and found this sign of a building in NYC, it already had a hook on the back and it was the size I needed. It was $6.00 dollars so I bought it and thought I would give it a try.       The walmart sign web

The next day the weather was better and we headed into Michael’s and I bought a 11X20 piece of wood that was sanded and had nice edging which will be perfect for distressing. I had a coupon on my phone, so I got it for 40% off list price. Do you use the Michael’s or Joann’s app’s I think there are awesome and then you don’t forget the coupons!

So now I needed to figure out what the sign should say…Back to Etsy I went for inspiration. Low and behold I came across a cute sign that said “you are the icing on my cupcake”. Now here is a little fun fact about me – I LOVE cupcakes and have been called the cupcake girl by my clients, because I always send or bring them Crumbs cupcakes when I am in NYC  – love that place, so I thought this saying was perfect and cheerful for the guestroom.

The signs painted white web

I painted both signs Old White by Annie Sloane which is my favorite paint for distressing and since the room is a Shabby Chic décor – I wanted that kind of look for the wall.

Picture of the annie sloane paint used for sign web

They both took three coats of paint. Then I had an idea. While walking around Wal-Mart, I picked up a couple of Painters markers and they had a gold color.

The signs painted white web

I thought for the larger sign instead of distressing I would just put a layer of paint on the plaque and then rub it off, I tried it on a corner and really liked the look.

Showing the distressed corners web

So if you would like to try this at home just apply the paint in the same way and areas you would to distress and then take a cloth and smudge…Now that gives the piece a distressed look without having to sand. I like the gold hue it gives the piece.

Sign with me distressing and rag web

While at Michaels, I did pick up some letter stencils and originally practiced my saying with the block letters – but then I tried scribing it and liked the free hand better.

trying out the block letter stencils web

So I then used gold craft paint and free handed the saying on the piece with a paint brush. Note you might have to go over your brush strokes a couple of times because you don’t want too much paint on your brush.

Gold Paint for Sign web

I went through my stencil drawer and found a small star burst that I also added, I thought about trying a cupcake but then I thought it would be too babyish. The plaque did not come with a hanger so I just need to add one to the back and we will be good to go.

Icing on the cupcake sign web

So for an hour or two of work you can have a couple of really cool sign – with a saying that means something to you…

date sign web

So I hope this inspires some great sign making in your future, send in your favorite sign sayings and we will put them up on our Facebook page…Happy Sign making and hopefully you can get a cupcake or too as well.



  1. Love this! I never knew that making something new looked aged would be so easy. And I *really* like the detail of aging the frame, as well. I can’t wait to try this myself!

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