I recently planted some herb seeds in my garden but I couldn't remember which order I'd planted them in without checking my notes each time. So I decided to make some signs to identify them.
These herb signs were laser cut and then the names painted on using a vinyl mask. I could have just laser etched the herb names onto the signs at this point but I preferred the idea of painting them.
The main process in this Instructable is to use a vinyl cutter to make a stencil to apply your design. It's quite easy and could be applied to all sorts of projects. It doesn't have to be herb signs. You don't even have to make a sign, or use text. You could use this to stencil a pattern or image onto pretty much anything, even fabrics and clothes.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- 3mm Laser ply (or any other material)
- Coloured (or patterned) sticky back plastic
- Transfer tape (or clear sticky back plastic)
- Gloss paint
- Yacht varnish
- Vinyl Cutter
- Laser Cutter
- Craft knife
Step 2: Step 1: Cut Out the Signs
I drew up some simple sign shapes in DraftSight and cut them out of 3mm plywood using a laser. Alternatively you could cut them out by hand or with a band saw.
Step 3: Step 2: Cut Your Design Out of Vinyl
Using a vinyl cutter, cut out your design in the coloured vinyl. Make sure you only cut through the vinyl and not right through the backing paper as well. Then cut around the design leaving a few cm on all sides with a pair of scissors.
Carefully peel off the letters from the backing paper, making sure you keep the middle bits of the letters like a, b, d, e, g, o etc. These bits can easily come off with the rest of the letter by mistake. If this happens, place the letter back into position on the backing paper and press the middle bit down while peeling the letter off again.
If the letters don't peel off very easily, bending the vinyl at the edge of the letter or using the tip of a craft knife can help lift up the edges to get them started.
Step 4: Step 3: Transfer the Vinyl to the Sign
The remaining vinyl now needs to be transferred to the sign. Simply peeling off the bits and sticking them onto the sign is not the greatest solution as you have to do the middle bits of the letters separately. This can be fiddly and you'll probably find it really difficult to get all the bits in exactly the right positions.
Instead, you can use transfer tape, or alternatively some clear sticky back plastic. For this project, I used clear sticky back plastic as it was cheap and easy to pick up from a stationery shop or supermarket. If you opt for sticky back plastic, you don't need to to be very sticky. You can stick it to something and peel it off a few times to make it less sticky. This will make it easier to use.
Cut out a piece of transfer tape that's about the same size as the vinyl and stick it over the top. Press it down firmly with your fingers and make sure there are no bubbles. Be extra careful to press down on the middle bits of the letters so they stick to the transfer tape.
Then you can remove the backing paper leaving the vinyl on the transfer tape. As before, be careful with the middle bits. If they stay on the backing paper, go back a bit, press the transfer tape down a bit more and try again.
You can then position and stick the vinyl onto the sign and remove the transfer tape. As usual, be careful with the middle bits and take your time on any edges. If you're making several signs, you can keep on using the same piece of transfer tape. With sticky back plastic, the more times you use it, the easier this step seems to become.
Step 5: Step 4: Painting
Once all the vinyl masks are in place you can paint them. I used some black gloss I got from a pound shop for these.
Contrary to the photo, slopping lots of paint on with a paintbrush didn't work very well for me. The paint seeped along the grain of the wood and I got horribly blurry outlines. The gloss I used needed 24 hours to dry so I didn't ffind this out until the next day when I removed the vinyl.
I found it worked out a lot better to use a sponge to rub on a tiny amount of paint on. Just enough to not be streaky.
As the intention for these signs is to stick them in the ground outside, I also gave them a coat of yacht varnish to make them more weather resistant.