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Enamels on painted fascia boards
Painted lettering is alive
Signwriting is more than painting letters with a brush. It’s a craft. And done well, it’s extraordinary.
Brushed lettering has personality – similar to an individual’s handwriting. The appearance of painted letters can add character to an otherwise generic type design. Hand lettering evokes a mood which is tricky to replicate with the aid of a computer. Countless ‘hand lettered’ digital typefaces are available. But they struggle to emulate the real thing.
Techniques used in producing traditional signwriting takes years to learn. Understanding how to use all of these techniques can take a lifetime to master.
Cutting in the big letters at Dundee Contemporary Arts 2018
Make your signs unique
In recent years, interest has increased for traditional signwriting. As well as demand from independent designers, agencies, shops and retailers.
The craft is recognised as such and injects a special touch for exterior signage, interior displays and visual branding. In addition to vintage and retro projects, pleasure vehicles and honours boards for clubs, schools and organisations.
Traditional signwriting in Dundee is rare and can be used to great effect. Most notably for large exterior wall lettering. Often, there is no other practical or cost efficient method to create large lettering or graphics. Especially on textured surfaces.
Another benefit of choosing painted lettering is that almost any colour can be matched. This enables an identical finish for the lettering when matching with other painted surfaces.
23 carat gold leaf laid on painted gold sized lettering before tidying and burnishing
Styles, effects and finishes
Most signwriters have a recognisable lettering style, unique to their own skills and preferences. Unlike computer generated lettering, nuances are apparent when hand lettering is examined. This can be intentional or due to the execution of the brush painted letterform.
There are also many effects which can be applied to painted lettering. Such as depth, colour fades and a variety of shadow forms. In addition, options can be widely used across decorative lettering. Especially popular for that fairground look.
In contrast, lettering can be closely replicated at scale when necessary. However, there is still the hint of the craftsperson’s individuality and the warmth that the brushed letter portrays. This is the magic contained within.
Choosing finishes such as 23 carat gold leaf is also popular for adding a luxurious quality to the lettering. Glass gilded gold and variated leaf is the pinnacle of hand painted lettering.
Hand lettered enamels on restored Morris van
Restoring original lettering
A perfect complement for the heritage of your vintage vehicle, is reinstating hand lettering and pinstripes. Especially on commercial vehicles.
There is a distinction for vintage vehicles which benefits from signwriting. Researching typefaces used in the vehicle’s original era is important. As well as how the lettering and effects were designed and painted. Colour selection is vital for authenticity too. Special attention should be invested for show models travelling nationwide for delighted enthusiasts.
Preserving this spirit is a salute to the tradition for all who have lettered them before.
Enamel on gloss painted fibre glass
Grasping brushes and mixing paints
Critical to the success of hand lettered signs is knowledge of coatings and how to use them. With so many different surfaces, it’s essential to select suitable materials to use.
Oil and water based primers, undercoats, gloss paints and varnishes are all readily available for most paint receptive surfaces. But not all are suitable for handling with a lettering brush. Equally, not all colours coat evenly. Nor hold their brilliance in exterior conditions. The signwriters’ experience helps identify available alternatives.
Understanding how long painted signs and lettering can last in direct sunlight or exterior conditions, saves time and expense. In addition, it’s wise to schedule maintenance or the inevitable rejuvenation of worn paint.
Refurbishment of an original fibre glass Dundee coat of arms
So much more than painted letters
The signwriters knowledge presents opportunities for bespoke projects which don’t include lettering.
Such as illustrations, murals, mirrors and glasswork. Not forgetting, a multitude of lining and striping of surfaces. There’s even the odd occasion when an airbrush can be dusted off for highlights and blending colours.