Autumn Sign {Tutorial}

I put a little tutorial together for the “Pumpkins Apples Hayrides” sign that I posted about {here} in “6 DIY Autumn Decorations Under $6.” I took some of the tutorial pictures late in the evening and some in the middle of the night, so you will have to forgive the picture quality.Update 8/14/14: I will have a limited number of these for sale this year {2014).

 If you are interested, you can visit my Etsy shop {HERE} :)

To start, you will need to find some kind of large board. I got mine {2 of them, actually, which appear to be some kind of cupboard doors, maybe?} at a yard sale for free, but you could use whatever you can find. I think that nailing a bunch of boards together would give a similar look to this one. I used the 2nd one in the pictures below to show the painting technique since I painted this sign in the middle of the night.
This painting technique is one that I use when I want to achieve the look of layers of timeworn paint. There is probably a better way to do this, but this is my own little funky way, and it works for me :).
First, mix some homemade chalk like finish paint {that I love} using this recipe {I doubled this}:
1 cup flat latex paint
1 Tbs. unsanded grout
I used my favorite paint color. It is called “Cake Batter” from Lowes… but you can get it mixed anywhere that sells paint. I love this color. It is kind of an antique white, and I have painted many things with it over the years, including most of the furniture in my home.
After making the homemade chalk paint, paint a layer on your board. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and mine certainly wasn’t.
Once you are finished painting your first layer, leave the rest of your chalk paint open to the air so it will thicken up a bit. Let the first layer dry completely.
Next, grab a paint color that you want to layer on your sign. It doesn’t have to be chalk paint, but it can be if you want. I chose this green “oops” paint color, but you can use whatever you want. When I refinished the lamp {here}, I used a taupy brown and a little red to layer. Brush it on {I use sponge brushes, by the way} unevenly all across your board. You want to go heavier in some places and lighter, or no paint at all, in others. With this layer, try not to leave many globs of paint anywhere.
Wait until this layer is completely dry before proceeding.
Next, grab your chalk paint again. By this time, it should have thickened as it sat. For this step, I glob my chalk paint on very generously. It makes it look really pretty when distressed.
First, paint over the areas where the chalk paint is still exposed, overlapping, and semi blending into {green} the areas around it. Leave bits of your second layer {green} showing.
Here is a close up of how I “semi blend.” Notice that the chalk paint is pretty thick, even globby, in some areas. All of this contributes to the patina in the end, so slather away!
This next part is my favorite! I love distressing. And, with this project, it is extra fun because it exposes all of the fun layers.
I use a finer grit sandpaper and a palm sander. Start in the areas where your second layer {green} is exposed and sand, not pushing too hard, and moving your sander in a circular motion outward. This will smooth out some of the top layer and expose more of the second, as well as some of the wood. Just keep sanding in circles until it looks how you want. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect since you will be painting words over the top of it.
Here is a spot before:
And here is the same spot after:
Sand away some of your edges, and corners as well, to mimic aging.
And here is the finished result!
Okay, now that the base painting is out of the way, it is time to paint the words on your sign. If you want to make this particular sign, feel free to use this graphic for your own personal use. It is my gift to you :){This template is for personal use only. Please be respectful of my work. It is not to be sold in any form.}. Just copy and paste it into your own document and adjust the size {by adding as a picture to a document, and pulling the corners to stretch} accordingly.
I wanted my sign to be pretty large so I ended up blowing this up to be pretty big– 9 pages big! Then, just print it off and tape all of the pages together. Center your image on your board, and tape it down to the board.
I don’t remember where I learned this technique, but I have been using it for a long time and it works well. Go over all of the letters with a ballpoint pen, pushing really hard. This makes an indentation in the painted finish underneath.
Go over the indentation with the pen to make an outline that you will be filling in with paint.
Next, just use a small paintbrush to fill in the letters with paint. It doesn’t have to be perfect since you will be distressing it. For my sign, I used red {Ceramcoat, Tomato Spice}, orange {Americana, Georgia Clay}, and brown {Folk Art, Coffee Bean}. Then I highlighted “Pumpkins” and the arrow with a mixture of a yellow with a tiny bit of brown and orange.
When you are finished painting, just take a sanding block and distress your words a bit.
Clean off your dust, and you are finished!
Not too bad, right!?
Let me know if you have any questions.
There will be two more tutorials that I promised that will be coming up this week!
Happy Monday!


  1. says

    I just recently came across your blog and I’m totally smitten! I’m so excited about this tutorial, and I can’t wait to give it a go! I’ll also be waiting patiently to see what beautiful things you come up with next!

  2. says

    This is such a fantastic tutorial, Kristen!

    Thank you so much for all the details (and for going the extra mile painting the sign again to show us the steps) and specifics. I love your colour choices and can’t wait to give the chalk paint technique a try. I attempted painting a chair with the paint/plaster of paris chalk paint recipe and didn’t like the results. I’ll give it another go with the grout alternative.

    This gets me excited for fall decorating!

  3. Anonymous says

    I want to do a sign very similar to yours but just with a quote instead but want to know how you know how big of letters (size font) to make to fit the board properly? Can I just use regular Word ’07? I’d appreciate any guidance you could give me!! Thank you!!

  4. says

    That’s a great tutorial, Kristen. Really well done and thorough. I like the idea of layer the paint on sloppy because even when I know I’m going to be distressing I have a habit of trying to paint it “perfect.” Love it!

  5. Anonymous says

    I love this sign!! Already have my board ready for letters but can’t figure out how to get it all to print. Could you help me? : )

  6. says

    Great tute, Kristen! 😉 I am going to have to find something to paint just so I can try this technique! Thanks for sharing the color white you use! It’s tough to find a good one.

  7. says

    This is a fantastic Tutorial! I love how detailed it is. I can totally do this now. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Have a happy week!


  8. says

    This is totally my mom! She has a huge pumpkin collection for fall and her b-day is in October. I think I’ll make a scaled down version as a gift. Thanks for the tutorial!

  9. Anonymous says

    Love the sign! You did such a great job on this. I am a little unclear about how to print out the words for the sign. How do I print the text out in 9 pages? Once I put it into Pages (I have a MAC) which is like Word to resize it….how do I do this when it will be larger than the page? I apologize if this is a silly question but I can’t imagine how to do this.

    Thanks so much for any help you can provide as I would really like to make this for my granddaughter’s First birthday party coming up in October.

    • says

      What a lovely thing to do for your granddaughter’s party! I don’t have a mac, but I can tell you what I do on my laptop.
      Open word or power point and add the picture as an image. You can copy straight from my blog and paste it into your document. All I did to print it off was drag it to be as big as I wanted (I just eye-balled it using the page dimensions for reference), Printed off the first section (will only be a couple letters), dragged it over to the next area and printed that off… I just repeated this until I printed off the entire image. Then I just taped it all together. Not exactly a very scientific way of doing it, but it is quick! Hope this helps!

  10. says

    I just found this post and instructions via Pinterest! LOVE the sign, this tutorial and now am following your blog! Thanks for sharing all of your fun prettiness. :)

  11. says

    hey Kristen, I am in LOVE with this sign. I originally found you through Whisper wood Cottages Autumn themed contest ( i was the fireplace with the bats flying out of it) I feel in love with your sign and pinned it on my Thanksgiving board. I just finished the sign this morning and love it. I wanted to let you know that I’m doing a 5 day series next week of Fall DIY ideas and I’m featuring your board. Hope you’ll stop by and visit what you’ve inspired me to create. Thanks again for the eye candy!

  12. says

    I love, love this sign. Thank you for sharing the tutorial. I am so glad to have found your blog. I’m a new follower and look forward to your beautiful posts.

  13. says

    Sooo thrilled to run across your blog! Have been wondering what chalk pain is ….now I know. Looking forward to painting a sign…almost threw away a couple old cupboard doors today…that won’t cross my mind again..thanks!

  14. Anonymous says

    I’m very new @ pinterest,and loving your blog. I can’t wait to make a sign. Thank you for your time and sharing with us. <3 it 😉 ~ Vickie x

  15. says

    I have been catching up on your blog and I love it here! I loved this sign, so I gave it a shot, and made one for over my mantle, using your tutorial. You explained the directions so well, and it was very easy to follow. I will be posting my mantle on my blog soon, and will link back to your tutorial. Thanks so much for posting it! Oh, and what font did you use for the “pumpkins”?

  16. says

    I have loved this sign from the moment I saw it in your 6 under $6 post and it just dawned on me as I’m about to begin painting, that I never commented! Hope you have a great weekend! And thanks again for the great tutorial!!

  17. says

    SO CUTE! I found your blog through a link on pinterest and I’m so glad I did! I used your tutorial and made my own sign! I posted today! Hope you’ll stop by and check it out! Thanks for the inspiration!!!

    XOXO, Mallory @ Classy Clutter

  18. Anonymous says

    Fantastic tutorial Kristen! I came across your post through Pinterest and I wanted to say ‘Thank you’ for all the details you have provided. Many thanks! -Jes

  19. says

    Thanks for your tutorial. What font did you use for ‘Pumpkins’? I saw the other two fonts on your favorite font post, but I don’t think the font you used for ‘Pumpkins’ is listed.


  20. says

    Such a cute sign I decided to make one for myself!! Thanks for the wonderful ideas! I had one question for you – when you distress the letters how do you avoid getting colored dust all over the sign? When I sanded mine I got red paint dust all over and it doesn’t wipe off – just sort of smears into the board. Is there a way to prevent that?

  21. says

    I have a quick question for you in regards to your chalk recipe! I was so excited to try it, but when I did it came out very clumpy. The first time I mixed the grout directly with the paint which resulted in gross dry clumpy paint. The second time I tried I mixed the grout with water first, and then paint and at first it was okay, but as it started to dry (very very quickly) it was almost a paste it was so thick. I only used 1tbs of grout! Any ideas? (Ps. I used rustolum painters touch in a dark red, something like this:

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