A short tutorial on hand painted signs on stucco…



Having just finished the CIF Champions hand painted school mural in the photo, I decided to do what I’ve been meaning to do for a long time — share some lessons and skills learned regarding painting signs on stucco surfaces.

A couple of little details about this sign that might help folks interested in sign painting — the base color was fast-dry white water base paint. After that dried, the patterns (paper template of the full size design with holes perforated along the lines of the design elements) were applied to the wall and charcoal pushed through the holes to transfer the design. (I did a couple of blog posts about other hand painted projects that detail how the pattern is used at this link and this link - also short videos here , here, and here ).

All of the blue was then cut in — meaning the paint was brushed on along the outside of the lettering, leaving the white letters and border. White painted onto the darker color would need to be coated (at least) twice to hide the background color. Time saved is always good. The larger areas were filled in with a 6 inch roller — be careful to not press too hard, though (#lessonlearnedthehardway)!

The wall material is stucco — rough, unyielding stucco! Techniques to paint signs on stucco are very unique. I need to keep the paint consistency at a very high flow — in other words, somewhat thin. Lacquer thinner (at least the California formulation, because it’s milder than other formulations) or One Shot Low Temp Reducer are thinners that flash off quickly, before the paint has a chance to drip if the other techniques are used properly. Seems kind of counter-intuitive, but otherwise the paint drips or sags from the painted lines.

Next thing to pay attention to is to keep the brush moving, and have a light touch. Not doing these things will make sure you are fighting paint drips, going back to touch up your work, and feeling very frustrated. I find I have to talk to myself (mutter?!) to remind myself not to do what comes naturally (slow moving, heavy touch).

Using short, stiff hog hair “angle fitch” brushes, and keeping them moving, works best (in my opinion). If I don’t try to fill in every holiday/skipped spot on the first pass with the brush, I can go back to fill in those little spots without causing drips or sags in either pass.

A sign painter needs to work on their accuracy — eye/hand coordination — to make that work. Learning to look where you want the brush to be while engaging peripheral vision to know where it is at the same time helps a lot. “Watch where you’re going!” is what I tell myself.

I guess it’s an advantage to be working in direct sun in summer, in a way. The oil-based enamel paint dries quickly enough to go back and clean off the layout charcoal. I did this with a spray bottle filled with plain water — the charcoal flowed down until the water flowed clear. This worked here, with a dark background — your results may very.

A few touch-ups of the white areas followed, and the painting portion was complete.

After a week or so of curing, I’m going back to apply a UV resistant clear coating over the whole thing. This will give a longer life to the mural.

The photos below are more examples of work I’ve hand painted on rough stucco surfaces…

Also, I did a blog post on hand painted “ghost sign” techniques at this link.

[…bonus points for the student who thinks through the tips and tricks mentioned above and how they apply to the work shown below!]

Wildcats school mural hand painted on stucco surface
hand painted California Distinguished School logo on stucco
hand painted school mural on stucco
Costco San Diego hand painted monument sign logo