An interactive section of

Topics include: Sign Making, Design, Fabrication, Letterheads, Sign Books.

Off Topic Posts may be deleted at the discretion of the web hosts. ABSOLUTELY NO SHARING OF COPYRIGHTED FONTS, CLIP ART, or VIDEOS!

Please take social chit-chat elsewhere!

Moderators: Danny Baronian, Mike Jackson, Ron Percell

Post Reply
Lee Jones
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:04 am
Location: Bournemouth, UK.


Post by Lee Jones » Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:44 am

Okay, this might be more relevant to UK signwriters but I'm open to all thoughts and opinions. Just wanted to get some idea on the current health of the hand-painted sign trade really.

I work for a small family company that's involved in most areas of the sign trade. My dad is a traditional signwriter and he's training me up before he retires so I can continue with this side of the business. Ideally, in the future I'd like to work solely in hand-painted signs as there are very few people doing this work now in our area and there's definitely been more demand over the past five years or so. However I know I need to be realistic about this and I don't know if this is a practical option to try and survive on hand-painted work alone. So I thought I'd run this past the forum to get some feedback and hopefully begin formulating some plans for the future.

So if you're a signpainter / signwriter let me know your thoughts on the matter: are you making a living working exclusively in hand-painted work or do you still keep a hand in with vinyls / plastics etc in order to make a living? Also I'd be interested to know the nature of the painted sign work you do - most of ours currently consists of shop fascia work (recently we've had a lot of vintage clothes shops and cafe's that are keen to get away from generic vinyls and are after a more "lived in" look), and we do a lot of sports club honours boards and occasional pub work. We haven't signwritten many vans of late except, once again, for old vintage trucks or camper vans, that kind of thing.

All feedback would be appreciated.


Terry Colley
Posts: 57
Joined: Sat Apr 24, 2004 2:26 am
Location: Stockport England

Re: Question!

Post by Terry Colley » Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:44 am

Hello Lee
Well I have done 35 years in the trade and a lot has changed started hand painting everything including the backgrounds, computers arrived and I did a lot of that stuff, got the vinyl cutter ,got the cnc router farmed out the print work. The last 5 years has seen a move back to hand painted work although in different individual markets , Pubs seem to have a lot of handwritten walls and the blackboards, there is work on canal boats and lining etc on horse drawn and vintage vehicles. Also some gilding work . all in all i seem to be doing more of the hand crafted stuff than anything else, it's just changed in that I don't write many vans or shop fascias like in times past. My hope is that I can keep on with it for a few more years. I am based in South Manchester
Hope that is a help Terry
Terry Colley
Stockport, England

Wayne Osborne
Posts: 155
Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2004 2:03 am
Location: West Sussex.England

Re: Question!

Post by Wayne Osborne » Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:56 pm

Hi Lee
As you know I don't do anything other than hand work so I can't really give you an objective view but
I would say there will will always be work for good brushmen, but its only a job for those who really enjoy and have a passion for the work and are prepared, like yourself, to take the rough with the smooth and knuckle down and practice and learn from others to make every job the very best it can be.

As your Dad will tell you- in the UK when vinyl came along, people either retired out of it, or bought the new machines to compete-If like us you stuck to traditional signwriting, Every letter had to be as quick ,as solid , as straight and as font perfect as the computer stuff was, and it was a really hard way to make a living.
It seems to me now though that traditional work, has become a trade again in its own right ( as separate as thatching is to roofing for example)- rather than the poor cousin to the computer.- and as such, good work can command better prices.

There are many ( just like Terry) who do very well at both mediums and mix them up with excellent and creative work.

You know where to find me if I can help out,
all the best Wayne

Lee Jones
Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 7:04 am
Location: Bournemouth, UK.

Re: Question!

Post by Lee Jones » Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:27 am

Thanks both for your responses.

Obviously I have our own work experiences to draw upon but I'm very keen to hear different perspectives on this and I appreciate you taking time to write down your thoughts on the matter.

We are very busy with the painted sign work at the moment but it's very difficult to predict where things will be a few years down the line. But I agree with what you said Wayne, about it becoming a trade in its own right, and hopefully this means there will always be a demand for it.

Bill Riedel
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu Jul 08, 2004 9:03 am
Location: 15 Warren St Little Ferry, NJ 07643

Re: Question!

Post by Bill Riedel » Fri Jun 14, 2013 9:14 am

Lee, I have been lettering for a very long time and was pleased to be one of the first in this area to get a computer to cut vinly letters. It was like having another business taking care of the work that took time away from the nice jobs.
Now with so many other shops in the area, it is a necessity.
It is sad to see that a craft was dying, and there was less demand for the hand lettering. The only saving grace is that we hand letter people become scarce and are able to demand a higher price for hand work.
I had to watch the hand carved wood sign business go the same way, along with hand painted pictorials go to the digital printers.
As long as there is a demand for your work, keep it up and keep it better than average. A vinly shop will not be a problem as long as you can produce superior work. There will always be the customer who is only interested in cheap. Send them to the vinly shop.
Bill Riedel
Bill Riedel

Joe Morreale
Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:32 am

Re: Question!

Post by Joe Morreale » Fri Jun 14, 2013 10:26 am

Having started hand lettering over 35 years ago I remember when the Gerber machine came out and dreaded it. I knew that it would eventually ruin our business. I adapted to computer exclusively about 1992.

Now, or should I say about 2 years ago I started to practice daily with the brush again. Hand lettering has become an unusual art sought out by few. Those who see hand lettered work, if it is done nicely will want to have their work done this way. Develop a small group of client base and they will grow. People want our work, they just don't know what it is. The beauty of a hand lettered script or a speed stroke looks artificial when compared to computer work.

The computerized sign industry in my area has become one of shoddy materials, horrendous layout and ridiculous low prices. Don't sell yourself short in any of these areas, use the computer when it's necessary, push for hand lettering. You'll be surprised. Everybody from Bubba with the pickup truck to the professional will want a custom hand painted work of art.

Bob Sauls
Posts: 61
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 4:10 pm

Re: Question!

Post by Bob Sauls » Fri Jun 14, 2013 4:13 pm

I started with All painted in 1980. was slow to go to vinyl but did. I never let my layouts become cookie cutter.
For many years we mixed handpainted with vinyl on the same signs to great success. Now at 53 we are still doing a good bit of hand work.
Folks are coming back for repaints and just plain seeking us out because so few can or will do it. I am trying to find the balance between being artistically satisfied ( creative hand work) and profitability(the speed of vinyl). Please do not let your skills wither at some level you will regret it and the world will have lost one more good thing.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 3 guests