DIY A Wooden Sign For Your Garden Using Vector Artwork

15 completed signThis is a really cool and easy DIY project or quick home craft!

For artistic people who like to draw, using traced vectors can help you quickly design a sign with graphics and letterforms easily on just about any surface. (If you don’t draw well you may want to use very simple vectors with thick lines, and larger fonts, as these are simpler to transfer and easier see when done.)

I was inspired to create a garden sign after seeing this gorgeous vector featuring vines and blue flowers.


This DIY sign requires some drawing ability to recreate the flowers once they’re traced onto wood. For easier signs with simpler tracing, select very simple vector graphics and use larger letters.


This sign was easier since it had larger letters, and is all black.

Even the most craft-challenged people will have fun creating distressed-looking signs with vector graphics, a fancy font, and an ink jet printer. It’s easy, fast and looks great when done. (For this tutorial you’ll also need Adobe Illustrator, or a similar program for manipulating the vector graphics.)

These DIY signs are super-fast and easy to make. They’re great for placing in the garden, weddings, showers, directional signs for graduations, addresses and more. The nice thing about using vector images is that you can add swirly or floral embellishments that are already created, which gives the signs a more authentic look, while saving lots of time! I found these vector images on, and there are many more to choose from if you want a different look. I used this image:

^E4A594EDD3FB10748D1ABDBA501A99A0259EEA03F7883864B9^pimgpsh_thumbnail_win_distrUsing an inkjet printer, you can opt to keep the lightly distressed letters for indoor use (see photo near the end to see the the lighter example), or fill in with a Sharpie or permanent marker for outdoor use. The sign above has weathered several thunderstorms this spring, and still looks great!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Adobe Illustrator or other vector editing program
  • a repurposed piece of wood – the smoother the better
  • inkjet printer
  • masking tape
  • paint brush (preferably a wide, flat watercolor brush for easier handling)
  • a black sharpie
  • art markers, such as Prismacolors
  • steel wool
  • a knife (for distressing wood further)

I’ve been aging wood outside for the purpose of making some signs. I saved some planks from an antique dresser. After four seasons they now have a perfect, grey patina.

For the embellishments on either side of the script, I chose this vector graphic from I loved the cheery flowers.

NOTE: The thicker the lines in the graphic you choose, the better your transfer will be. Very light lines might be difficult to see once transferred, depending on the surface and color of your distressed wood.

Also, the graphics must be 100% black. Color printing doesn’t seem to transfer as clearly. While I really loved the original, light transfer made from the inkjet printer, since the ink is water soluble I decided to go over it with a black Sharpie pen.

Here’s how to create the images you’ll need for your sign using the vector above using Adobe Illustrator:

  1. Open the vector file in Adobe Illustrator
  1. Ungroup the image.

1 Open file select all

  1. Select the flowers you want for the sign.

2 select flowers

  1. Measure the wood you’ll be using. In this case, I selected a distressed, but fairly smooth piece of wood that measured 17” x 4.5”. Create a new document at this size and paste the flowers you chose into it. Select the flowers and change the fill to black.

3 Select fill to black

  1. Select a script font you like from your font collection.

4 create layout

  1. Arrange the flowers and text to fit.

5 finish layout

  1. When you have the design and font size you want, select everything and flip the graphic using the Reflect Tool in Illustrator. This will make your artwork print wrong-reading, so when you transfer it to wood the print is ink-side down.

5-5 flip

8. In your Adobe Illustrator file, create 2 letter-sized pages so the graphics can easily print on an inkjet printer, and print.

6 print

Now that the artwork has printed, you’re ready to create your transfer.

7 Print reversed artStep 1: Wash the wood plank with a moist sponge. This will clean it, and moisten it. Dry it off with a towel. The wood can feel damp to the touch, but not soaking wet.


Once the transfer is printed, cut it out, position it, and tape it to the wood plank. The print should be ‘wrong reading’ – that is, backwards.

Step 2: Dip a paintbrush into water and “paint” on the paper over each character. Don’t saturate the paper, and spread water only one character at a time. Once each letter has been covered, take the lid of a sharpie pen, end of the paintbrush, or other rounded tool to carefully burnish over the area you just applied the painted-on water. It’s best to do this lightly at first, since wet paper will easily tear. (However, if it tears you can always print another, position it over where you started, and begin again.)

9 using water wet and burnish paper onto wood

Don’t peek! You could smear your work. Don’t remove the paper or tape until you’re completely done. Work in sections.

Step 3: After all letters and characters are completely painted with water and burnished, you can remove the paper and tape. This creates a faded and truly distressed, ancient-looking sign!

10 inkjet transfer

Step 4: Leave it as is, or trace and fill in with a Sharpie.

I wanted my sign to be outside it needs to be brighter and not water soluble (as inkjet ink will run when in contact with too much water). So, I decided to carefully trace and fill in the letters and vector artwork with a Sharpie pen.

11 completed transfer

12 trace with a sharpie

13 fill in with color

Step 5: After getting done with the black, I decided to add more color using Prismacolor markers.

14 distress with scissors and sandpaper

Step 6: Distress your work to make it look aged. Unfortunately that made the writing much too bright and new looking, so I distressed it with scissors and light sand paper. It’s important to make sure the sign is completely dry before using sandpaper or you will smear the ink.

Done! Now you have a fabulous looking sign for your or for a gift! Here’s a close up of the vector image I used for embellishment. This beats trying to pencil in a design! I had exactly what I wanted, and even ad-libbed a bit to get the look I wanted.

The final sign is ready to go outside on my porch, just in time for Spring! These signs also work well for weddings, gifts, positive sayings and more.

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