The brushstrokes of a ghost sign show the signpainter at work

By Mike Jackson

Posted on Sunday, June 11th, 2023

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In most cases, brush strokes do not show up in a newly lettered sign. But over the years, the rays of the sun and effects of weather slowly reveal the skills and craftsmanship of the lettering artist that painted them.

Without fresh coats of new paint, old hand-lettered signs transform into “ghost signs”. They were common for close to 80 of the first years of the 20th century, but are unfortunately seen less and less nowadays.

The photos you see here reveal a lot of information on the skills and techniques used many years ago. For example, you can tell how large the brush was that stroked the lettering and how efficient the sign painter was. It’s possible to tell if the person used tape at the tops and bottoms of the squared-off letters. On some signs, you might be able to see tell-tale evidence of a pounce pattern, while others might reveal the underlying charcoal layout lines that were embedded in the paint for decades.

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Mike and Darla Jackson operate Golden Studios in Loveland, Colorado, and do a variety of sign-related projects. Mike’s website is His email address is You can see more of Mike’s photos at and