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How to Seal a Wood Sign + do you really need to?

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I talk a lot about wood signs around here, in fact my most popular posts and videos revolve around them!  Today I’m answering the most asked question I get related to wood signs; how do you seal a wood sign?  The answer depends on a number of factors so I made a video that lays out a few different scenarios and how you should go about sealing your painted wood sign.

This post contains affiliate links, view my full disclosure policy here. 

When I first started making and stenciling wood signs I never thought to seal them. I figured if I used the right stain and paint, and they hung on my wall inside there was no need to stain a wood sign.  But after making videos and writing posts about these signs everyone wanted to know to seal them.  So I did some research, and tested products and came to my own concrete decision.

Ready for it.

I do not recommend sealing decorative painted wood signs that you display indoors. There is just no need.  A sealer is made to protect the wood and your art, but a good stain and paint will hold up for many many years indoors without any sealing.

So, when do you seal a wood sign?

I recommend sealing signs that will be kept outdoors, or exposed to the elements on a regular basis.  Sun, wind, rain and snow will wear down your art and deteriorate the sign.

Now that you know when to seal a sign, let’s talk about how to do it. Be sure to watch the video for all the details, you can find my tips below as well. 

3 ways to seal a wood sign

These are the 3 products I reach for when I need to seal a wood sign.

For all of these products, make sure the stain and paint are completely dry.  Wipe any dust with a soft cloth and apply the sealer with a good quality brush.  Let it dry completely before adding a second coat if you choose. The products come in a variety of finishes from matte to high gloss, each will give your sign a different look.

Polyurethane This oil based sealer is great to use over an oil based stain.  It does have a tendency to yellow the paint a bit which makes it ideal for warm colors and rustic looking signs.

Polycrylic This water based sealer works best over water based stain and any kind of paint.  I like the satin finish and use this on most of my painted outdoor pieces.

Spray Sealer This product comes in a variety of finishes and you can find it water or oil based.  I like to use this type for large outdoor products that are hard to cover with a brush.

Creating wood signs is one of my favorite ways to craft.  If you create a sign that will be outdoors be sure to seal it using one of these methods.

How to seal wood signs

Want more tips for making wood signs?  Check out this playlist for lots more expert tips.

Thanks for visiting!

Mixed Media Spring Floral Sign

Mixed Media Floral Sign

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Friday 8th of December 2023

I just bought a beautiful sign on Etsy but I would like to give it a shine. It’s stenciled and looks like it might be water-based paint but I can’t tell for sure as I know next to nothing about paint or crafting. It seems Etsy won’t let me contact the seller unless there’s a serious problem with the item. Otherwise , I would contact her. Is there a product that would work on either water-based or acrylic painted wood surfaces, preferably spray on to make it easier for me? I don’t want to mess up my sign! It’s just a little duller than I’d prefer.


Sunday 10th of December 2023

If you don't know for sure, opt for a water based spray sealer like Polycrylic. You can find this at your local hardware store.

Linda Ortego

Tuesday 7th of November 2023

This was a perfect and clear video to understand the differences of sealing outdoor signs!


Monday 20th of March 2023

Is it best to pre-coat the outdoor wood sign 3 times with sealant and then decorate with vinyl, or decorate with vinyl followed by 3 coats of polyacyrillic?


Tuesday 21st of March 2023

I would seal after the vinyl, not before. This will allow the vinyl to stick to the wood really well.


Saturday 21st of May 2022

I have a weathered old sign that used to be outdoors but is now inside. The paint is peeling in some places but looks nice that way....I just don't want it to get any worse. Do you think I should seal it with a spray?


Monday 23rd of May 2022

I think a spray sealer would help keep the paint from peeling further.

Jasmine Lee

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

So I made my son a height chart out of a 6 ft plank of wood and I used indoor/outdoor paint from the hardware store. I added some Mickey Mouse wall decals and I was thinking about putting some sort of seal over them to avoid peel off. Anything you recommend?


Wednesday 9th of February 2022

Sealing over the stickers could result in fading or yellowing. As long as this is kept inside, try using Mod Podge that will be your best best.

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