fab 5 sign : DIY

So today I thought I’d share one of my new fave items in our home.

One of the elements I really love about this space, is the way this room ties in subtle hints of stain with paint, together. The hint of the dark, natural look, contrasting with brighter whites and pops of color kinda float my boat. This artwork was a fun, simple way to bring that same idea to the walls, and serve (bonus round) as a real, personalized piece. No matter what you choose your phrase to be, this project was totally doable. For the cost of wood, stain, and paint…you just can’t beat it.

First things first: this sign was a combination of wood {9 planks, to be precise} of various widths stacked together to provide a great backdrop for this project. You could do whatever size you want. Don’t have a saw? No problem. As usual, the kind people at your local home improvement store can cut these things to size for you. Because I knew I wanted something grandiose on that wall, ours added up to a whopping 47 x 36.

Lining them up straight, if you saw this post, we simply joined them up in the same way with supportive beams in the back. I then went to work staining the pieces of wood, letting a bit of stain fall in between each crack to keep it dark in between. My favorite stain color is Minwax in Early American. Using a foam brush, I covered each piece. Be forewarned: this stain takes at least a good day to dry, so be prepared to cover your wood with a good coat or two, then move on to something else until its ready to be taken to the next step. Otherwise, you’ll literally be watching paint {stain} dry.

I used my handy dandy projector for this, but brought out the simple phrase ‘Mills Fab 5′ on a transparency in the best of fonts: Helvetica. {yes, I am a font snob.} I simply adjusted the 5, after the rest of the letters were traced, by moving it back to enlarge it to a greater size, for composition’s sake.

Let me just say this: If you don’t have a projector…and I know I’m always preaching on its fabulousness, please know this is totally doable with a printer. {and if you need them super large, your local copy shop.} With fonts, for a clean, simple look, I always make sure I “cheat.” It’s just always best to go with a guide when acuracy is called for. Saves lots of time…

You could simply print out your letters needed, to size. Cut each letter, and transfer it to the wood by tracing it. It would be a small extra step, but something that can also be fun for you if you like the challenge. Please know this project required some seemingly tedious steps, But I’m a nerd like that. Sometimes I like the tedious, as a challenge. I guess its the graphic designer within me coming out to play.

Once the letters were traced, I took my exacto, and painter’s tape. Carefully, over each line on the inside of each letter, I established a guide by placing the tape to protect the line of each letter. Sometimes, it was easier to cut the tape after I laid it, along the line. Just do it as you go.

From there, I painted, from the painter’s tape, OUT. I’ll admit, painting over this wood was kind of hard for me to do. I wanted to lay that planked sign directly on the floor, a million different times, and have my hardwoods installed. That finish is beautimous.

Also, just a helpful hint, I was careful around the cracks in between each plank. I kind of painted away from crack, and never over. I really wanted to emphasize the look of separate planks, since that was the entire point, after all.

I then waited until I was finished with the entire sign, and pulled up each piece of tape. Do not wait until it is entirely dry. In fact, semi wet is always better for removing that tape. It will save lots of gnashing of teeth.

It took a while, and a bit of patience to giterdone. {yes, I did just write that.} But as previously established, I’m a big dork, and really enjoyed this part the best. It was all kinds of rewarding.

The edges were not perfection when the tape was removed. I was a bit stressed about it, because the idea of paint over stain seems like an unforgiving medium. But (and I had a “duh” moment, from the furniture dork over here) because the underneath was an oil base, and the top was latex, I went back with my fingernail, and gently scraped away those messy edges. DUH. if that was furniture, and you did the same thing, it wouldn’t stick. That, ladies and gents, is why we use primer. If you’re wondering about the rest of the paint, it’s fine, especially for the wall. Unless it’s severely scraped, it should be fine just where it is.

TADA! I love this look. And I’m kind of itching to make something else with it!

The graphic appeal, pop of texture with color, and simple, personalized touch, is a fun way to add some real art to those walls!

Okay guys. As always, I really want to see if you use this to make something of your own.

I have really loved seeing all the projects y’all have sent in…whether its a great way you’ve used our freebie prints, or an inspiration from something….I’m thinking of having a linkay partay, where we can all see some of the projects you guys have tackled. I love it when we share. Yes, I just wrote that, too. Thoughts?

If you have any questions, as usual, feel free to shoot them below, and I’ll do my best to answer!

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Responses to fab 5 sign : DIY

  1. Julie says:

    Really cute sign :) Your living room looks great!

  2. Catherine says:

    Love all of your redos lately. You guys had a very busy summer. Everything looks amazing!

  3. I have a stack of wood from old pallets in my garage. Maybe I can get the hubs to put it together for me! I know the perfect place to put something like this!

  4. Nicole says:

    How did you hang it?? I absolutely love it and was hoping to do something similar, but I have this horrible feeling within hours of putting it up, I’d hear a huge crash and come out to find a big hole in my wall.

    • Hey Nicole! on the back, where we put the two bars going across the opposite way to support them, we placed two picture hanging kits. we also put the nails inside anchors in the wall for extra insurance. we are now officially pros at potential wall hanging calamities, but so far, so good.

  5. mandy at eight is enough says:

    I love this..I have been begging mg hubby to bring some old pallets from his work…I can’t wait to start making projects similar to this…love the colour too…take care…xxx

  6. Christina says:

    Thanks for showing this- I loved this piece from the moment I laid eyes on it in the reveal! :) I feel like I can totally do this one too… Now I just have to figure out what I want mine to say!

  7. jodi says:

    That’s a great DIY! I love it!

  8. Debbie says:

    I love it, thanks for the tutorial. I’ve gotta make one!

  9. I LOVE this! I adore the rustic element it brings into the space. Great job!

  10. Lesley says:

    Maybe I missed it, but what is the paint color? It looks gray in some pictures, blue-green in others. I love it!

  11. I just LOVE this post! Thank you for sharing!

    Wishing you a wonderful day!

    Anette Willemine

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this! Next on my “to-do” list is making a board like this as a backdrop for some photos of my children. This was so helpful. I love the color of the stain combined with the paint color(s).

    And, I’m definitely down for a linkay partay. I just finished making your vintage chevron sign that I can link up!

  13. Dorothy says:

    I really would love to try this. However, my latest attempt at a hou sehold project involved trying to paint an old dresser on our deck. It ended with me spraining one arm and straining the other arm and a leg and a lovely trip to the ER> It was kind of a (bad) “I Love Lucy” episode. So, I might want t6 stock up on meds and life insurance before I attempt anything new-thus, I’m all the more in awe of you. You do all this and still don’t need a sling and painkillers-WOW!!

  14. This is so cool!!!! I want one :) So many projects in my mind & not enough time to do them! THanks for jamming one more idea in my head :)

  15. Michelle says:


    We did a peace sign before that I put up on my old blog:


    Unfortunately, I have a LONG list of these things. My husband is going to freak out when I add this one to the list!

  16. Mary says:

    I love the stain juxtaposed with the paint! I have a blank wall in my kitchen that this would look great in, anyone have a catchy kitchen type phrase that would work?

  17. Debbie says:

    I love this technique. I make handmade signs and never thought to keep the stained letters and paint background. Gotta try it!

  18. Lisa says:

    I love this. My husband and I have been getting the material together to make it. We can’t find letters big enough. The largest we can find are 6 inch stencils. We aren’t good enough to do it free hand. We think your letters are about 10 inches. Any suggestions?

  19. Jennifer says:

    Hey Ashley,
    What kind of hanger did you use? Just a sawtooth?
    Also, have you had any kind of warping issues with your big pieces? I have…but am wondering if maybe my wood isn’t dry enough….hmmm. Thought I’d see if you’ve faced the same thing. Thanks!

  20. Just discovered your amazing blog via Pinterest! LOVE this sign! I made a DIY Palette Coffee Table and I am going to break down the second pallet to make one of these! http://flutterflutter.ca/2011/12/09/diy-pallet-coffee-table/

  21. Michelle says:

    I love this! I really want to do this project, but one small problem, we’re a family of six! Would you mind helping me come up with something clever for six? How is super six? That’s the best I can come up with so far…hmmm.

  22. Carissa says:

    Hello! I LOVE this idea! I am working on a ginormous one but have a question before I get started..

    Did you do add a top coat to your stain and then prime where you were adding paint?

    Thanks for the idea on fabulous homemade art!! You’re style is fabulous!

    • Nope! The steps included here are what we did. If you add primer, it will be harder to scrape away the paint…and there will be booboos. Don’t prime it! And a top coat isn’t necessary, unless you just want to, over your final product. We’ve had no trouble with ours, whatsoever. If you plan on using it as a table top, you may want to consider using a top coat. other than that, you’re good. ;}

  23. Kristina says:

    I made one kinda like that. After looking at yours I wanted one but I didn’t want to have to buy anything, so I used paint and would around the house. I like it though. Thanks for the great idea :)

  24. Mesina says:

    This is so great!
    I am working on one for my baby’s room and hope that I can be as successful! I have been messing around with paint colors on a practice piece and the colors over the stain are turning out different than my swatches… I’m wondering if you did more than 1 paint coat, or at least a heavier coat on yours? I don’t want to loose the rustic feel… Thanks for your help!

  25. Ashlee says:

    I was wondering what projector you use. I was looking to purchase one for projections like this, any suggestions?

  26. Debbie says:

    I was inspired by this sign and made my own version. Thanks so much for the inspiration! Just posted about it: http://paintedtherapy.blogspot.com/2012/06/be-awesome-today-diy-sign.html

  27. Victoria says:

    Oh I love this!! The colors, the stain, everything!! And your fabulous livingroom is pretty spectacular, too! Thanks for sharing this. I linked it up on my blog: http://www.vixenmade.com/2012/07/10-diy-wall-art-projects.html

  28. stephany says:

    I have admired this for over a year and have some ideas in my head for a couple signs for our home…and our backyard.
    I also want to make one for my cousin and his fiancee…I think it would make a great personalized wedding gift for their new home!

  29. Jennifer says:

    I want to do one of these for my bedroom..do you think I could use stencils? I want to put some of the lyrics to our favorite song on it..that would take forever taping it off. I LOVE your ideas..you are amazing and inspiring!

  30. I love this it’s so simple yet so effective to have the “message” as the base colour – love it

  31. Julie says:

    Hi Ashley,

    I am currently redoing our family room and would love to make something similar to your fabulous sign. I was just wondering if you can remember what size font you printed onto your transparency?

    Thanks for your help;-)

  32. lkb says:

    I love the look of that sign and was hoping to do something similar with our “important family dates”, e.g., birthdays, etc. I just wanted to ask though: you didn’t polyurethane over the stained wood, right? Nor did you put any sort of top layer on once you’d painted? Doesn’t the stain kind of wipe off to some extent for a while then? That doesn’t mess with the painting part of this? Thanks!

  33. Zach says:

    This is such an awesome idea! How heavy was the finished product? I would love to do one similar to this, but about half the size (24″x34″).. I plan to use 1-inch thick spruce-pine furring boards, and was curious what kind of weight you ended up with? Thanks!!

    • Hey Zach – The weight isn’t bad at all. I have no idea the exact poundage, but it’s doable. It’s big, of course, but it sits nicely on our wall, and I lifted it up to our mantel the other day over my head all on my own. And I’m (Ashley) kind of a weakling. ;} I hope that helps

  34. Marci says:

    Hello – What type of paint did you use for the DIY Fab 5 sign?

    Thank you.