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How to Make a Wood Sign Without a Stencil

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Learn how to make a pretty wood sign without a stencil using this simple tutorial. No cutting machines or extra tools are required.

This post is all about making a wood sign without a stencil.  No machines are required for this one.  So, if you are someone who wants a simple craft without needing to purchase a dedicated cutting machine, this post is for you!  Let me walk you through the critical techniques while making a nice, custom, wood sign for my home.

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Do you like making wood signs?  I do!  Make sure to check out my full wood sign series. I walk you through how to build a pallet sign, the best ways to stencil and paint, and even tips for sealing.

You can find a step-by-step guide to this project below as well as a full video tutorial.

Key supplies for a wood sign

Wood Blank For this project you can use any smooth wood blank. Try to avoid rustic or weathered wood, it will be difficult to use this specific technique. This option is one of my favorites. I like the raised frame that can be painted or stained any color to match your decor.

Chalk Paint White chalk paint is ideal for this project. It provides nice even, matte coverage and dries quickly. Brush on a light coat and add 1-2 more coats after each has dried to give you a beautiful white base.

Carbon Paper This tracing paper is a wonderful and inexpensive tool for transferring designs to wood. Pick up a pack and it will last you for years. Use caution when tracing, the carbon will smudge if you press on it with your hand or move it around.

Create a custom design

One perk of making your own signs is that you can customize what they say and how they look.

I recommend Canva, an online design program, to create fun wood sign designs. There is a free version available, but you can unlock more features with the pro version. Both are intuitive and very on-trend.

To start designing, click the custom size icon in the top right corner.  I chose a size that would be easy to print, 8.5 x 11 inches.  This will bring up a blank canvas to work with.

The Text icon on the left hand column is the tool you can use for writing out what you want your sign to say.  I chose Home Sweet Home for my text, with a blocky appearing font for both Homes and script like font for Sweet.  They have many font options.  Make sure to take a thorough look before picking the one that is right for your project.  

I also wanted something on my sign besides just text, so I went to the Elements icon on the left-hand column.  I found a cool looking leaf and played around with size and placement.

When I was happy with my design all on one sheet, I separated them and then printed them. Doing this will allow me to complete the next step easily. You can also print the design as one piece if that works easily for you. Sometimes it depends on the design and the size and shape of your wood sign.

Adding a design to wood

Be sure the paint on the wood blank is completely dry before starting this next step. Make sure to have your printed sheets from Canva, washi tape, scissors, a pencil, and carbon paper nearby. 

Now to walk you through the carbon paper.  It is relatively inexpensive.  You’ll notice there is a tissue paper feel on one side and black carbon on the other side.  This allows you to transfer a design from the paper you just printed to your wood sign.

Depending on the size of your sign, you might need to trim down the papers your design is on. 

Put the carbon paper with the black side facing down onto your sign.  Use the washi tape to stop it from moving around.  Place your design over the top of the carbon paper with the text facing you.  Fashion it in place with washi tape as well.  Now, using the pencil trace over all of the letters.  Be firm, but you do not have to push too hard.

wood sign process

Once you’ve traced over everything, gently pull off your text paper and the carbon paper. I used the same process with carbon paper and the designed leaves using the same sheet of carbon paper.

When everything is traced you will paint over the words and graphics. You can use paint and a brush, or a paint pen like I did here. The pens allow for more control and a smooth look. These come in various sizes and colors to give you the finished look you are going for.

painting a wood sign

I used a chisel, medium, and fine tip.  Shake the pen real well before using it, remember there is paint inside.  Just trace over the lines you made earlier with these thicker paint pens.  I used the chisel tip for the block letters and the medium tip for both the script letters and leaves.  

wood sign without a stencil

How to Make a Wood Sign Without a Stencil

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Learn how to make easy wood signs at home




  1. Start by painting a wood blank with white paint, chalk paint provides a smooth matte finish with full even coverage.
  2. Create a design. The easiest way to do this is to use Canva, a free design program. Type the words and add graphics that will work for your blank.
  3. Print the design onto white copy paper. You may need to cut the design into pieces to fit onto the wood blank.
  4. Lay a piece of carbon paper, black side down, onto the wood blank. Secure with washi tape.
  5. Lay your printed design on top and secure it in place with tape.
  6. Use a pencil to trace the text and graphics, using a medium amount of pressure. This will transfer the carbon to the wood.
  7. When finished, remove both layers of paper to reveal your design on the wood.
  8. Use a black paint pen to trace all the lines.


Carbon paper can leave black smudges on the white paint. Try not to rest your hand on the paper when tracing. If you have smudges, cover them up with a little white paint.

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I hope you enjoyed this craft.  It is a simple craft to start with when you are trying to change your home decor a bit.  You can have a bit of fun and express yourself too with some text that you simply can’t find in a home store.

If you are ready to make your own stencils, start here. Until then, use this technique to create beautiful custom wood signs without a stencil.

Like this project, be sure to pin and share it.

make a wood sign without a stencil

Have you tried projects with carbon paper before?  How did it go?  Share your questions or experiences with me.  I would love to read about what crafts you have been up to.

Thanks for visiting!

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Ronnette Hopgood

Saturday 20th of January 2024

Is the paint pen water proof? Would like to add letters to my welcome sign, the word summer and without carving the words, just something simple. My sign will be for my porch when summer comes. I thought just writing the word out too and just buy carbon paper etc to place in already made sign. Just have to drill two holes in too for string to hang. Thanks


Wednesday 24th of January 2024

If you use this method for an outdoor sign, I would seal it when you're done. Adding a polycrylic sealer made for outdoor use would be best.

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