DIY Surf Sign Art

Everybody knows that surfing really doesn’t require a whole lot of equipment, a board, a leash, and some wax. But still, surf shops stay in business because they can be a hangout of sorts. At least in the earlier days, but some can still be found. You could kiss up to the shaper there in hopes of becoming an apprentice of sorts, boast about the waves you caught (that nobody else in there happened to see), and maybe then pick up some some wax as the cover charge for the time spent dawdling in there.
I’ve seen I lot of surfy type of art around, but I thought this would be a fun project to bring back a little nostalgia without shelling out for someone else’s mass produced art.
First, I used a piece of plywood I picked up at the hardware store. For this project, I used a rectangular shape, but of course, the size and shape is up to you. This is just a idea to get you going.

My plywood

Next, I gathered up some acrylic paint, some foam brushes, and a few actual art paintbrushes to do some of the lettering work. A paint pen is also handy if you like to outline, like I do.

Supplies for painting

This part’s kind of fun. Since I wanted my sign to appear a bit weathered, I used layers of alternating green and black. I wasn’t too careful about if one layer streaked into the other, in fact, I didn’t give too much drying time between layers since I wanted a streaky effect. I did this longways down the rectangle.

Painting the background

Once I was finished, I let this dry for at least two hours. The result did come out to be a brighter green, which was OK. My next step was to letter the bottom of the sign. I thought it would be cool to have it say “Surf Shop 2 mi.” with a direction arrow. I did the lettering freehand, but stencils are super cheap to pick up and then you can just use your foam brushes. A stenciled sign would look pretty wicked, too.

Lettering finished

At the top, since I’m a Tom Blake nut, I imagined plank surfboards at the top to add some more surfiness (new word alert!) to the sign. I used a piece of paper to cut out my plank board template until I was happy with the shape, then traced it three times across the top, standing upright.

Template and tracing the outline

From there, I used my paintbrush to fill in the boards with a nice woody color I got from mixing some of my browns, black, reds, and yellows.

Filling in of the surfboards completed

Next, it was time to let the work dry for a couple of hours, only to take some sandpaper to it! At first, I used a high grit to test the look:

First pass with a high grit to test.

Next, I just went buckwild and started using a combo of 120 grit on the face, then sanding the corners down to give it some wear look with some 80 grit.
After doing that for a bit (carefully, but not too daintily) I used my paint pen in gold to give a muted outline to the words and the give the boards a stringer.

Outlining with the paint pen

Once again, I made several passes with the sandpaper to blend this new paint in after it had dried.
Since I was going to hang this inside, I only used two light coats of Mod Podge Matte (NOT glossy!) sealant to keep it protected. If you are handing this outside, spray at least 5 light coats on both sides, including the corners, to keep it from weathering worse!
Next, to hang it, I drilled two 1/4″ holes with a wood bit about an inch down and 3 inches in. Depending on the next step, you may want to use a bigger or smaller bit. I wasn’t too concerned with neatness points on this, since it’s meant to be a bit rustic.

Holes drilled in the top

I used some cotton cord I had around the house, but really, you could use leather cord, fabric strips, nylon boating cord, etc. I thought the cotton cord kind of looked old timey nautical.
Instead of threading the cord from front to back, I threaded it from back to front. You may need an awl or something sharp to help poke it through the hole. I secured it with a simple overhand knot facing out.

One side knotted

I measured out about how much cord I wanted and how low I wanted the sign to hang before cutting the other end to do the same thing and knot it through. Here it is on the wall:


You may want to put little felt squares on the back bottom corners to keep it from messing up the wall or scratching it.
My sign points to the garage. Shorter distance, but sounds about right. Hey, and you gotta buy a bar of wax to hang out there, OK?

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