Ghost Sign How To - a short video

I didn’t plan on making this video, but I thought I could explain what I was doing while doing it, so this is the result. 

A ghost sign is a weathered exterior wall sign that evokes bygone days. The designers here specified the look as a focal point for this restaurant. 

The technique uses oil-based enamel paint so I have a long open time before the paint dries. The paint is applied, then removed. With a rag with (in this case) lacquer thinner I thin and soften the paint and move it around, removing it in areas. (Instead of lacquer thinner I could use be mineral spirits, but the lacquer thinner dried faster to help with getting finished more quickly.)

In my opinion, something to pay attention to on this kind of work is to remember that the sign painter probably cut the edges of the letters with a brush then filled in the center (maybe in the old days with a big brush, or with a roller). That would make the edges more solid since they had a heavier coat of paint, and they would wear off later than the thinner centers. Just a little detail that might help in making more realistic representations of this style of sign.

Looking again at real ghost sign samples, I noticed the mortar areas, between the bricks, tend to look like the paint has worn off. Maybe that’s because the paint soaks into the mortar and by the time we see it it’s long gone. Whatever the reason, if I pay attention to that detail the next one of these I do might be that much more realistic.

For anyone interested in more of this style of sign, there’s a whole bunch of photos at this link:

You might be thinking about getting this kind of project done, Do you know where to start? I can tell you - contact me, Paul Borne (president of Big City Signs) to find out more.

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