I usually thin my paint in a paper cup, then letter using a mahlstick and holding my paint and palette as you see here.
In this sequence of photos, you can see how I “spotted in” the orange, blue and yellow lettering on the white panel, then “cut in” the black. The white background behind the lighter colors gives added brilliance for maximum readability. The dark background easily covers the light colors in one coat.
I added a little black to the 1 Shot white enamel on the secondary copy on this show sign. It helps coverage greatly yet it still looks like pure white.
This is a classic layout from a sketch done at Chicago’s Beverly Signs in the late 50s or early 60s.

Tips from 55 years of sign painting

A few trade secrets to help paint handle better and get great coverage

By Bob Behounek

Posted on Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

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Back when every sign was hand painted every day, sign painters were expected to do a job right the first time, as efficiently as possible. You couldn’t make a career out of each project. That meant you had to know every shortcut in the book that would give you good results and keep your time on the job to a minimum.

Besides having the ability to do interesting, legible layouts quickly, you had to know how to get the most out of the paint. You needed ways to avoid or minimize double-coating, make your paint flow out with few visible brush strokes and to have it work well in the brush.

For much of my career, I had the opportunity to letter 300 to 400 vehicles per year. I was fortunate to have mentors who taught me how to maximize my results while minimizing the time I spent on each job. Letter it once, make it opaque for maximum visibility, and get it out the door and on to the next truck! I thought I’d pass along a few of the things I learned along the way about getting the most out of lettering enamel.

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Bob Behounek has spent over 40 years as a sign artist and pinstriper in the Chicago, Illinois, area.

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