Painting stacked text

How do you go about painting (or staining) stacked text signs? I am always impressed when I see them online. I know how to make one in CC, but then I butcher it with my lack of painting skills. Any tutorials or videos that explain this?

Paint them before stacking

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I am carving the sign from one piece of wood. They are not separate pieces that I am glueing together, but maybe I should do it in multiple pieces.

I had decent results with carving the sign, then hitting it with spray paint, and then sanding the surface once the spray paint dried. This was my first try, turned out okay. Would have been better had I run the board through the planner first, but didn’t think that far ahead.


Easiest way is:

  • paint/finish top surface — apply a layer of mask
  • cut first level
  • apply paint to revealed surface
  • cut final level

when you remove the mask you should have 4 levels:

  • initial paint/finish
  • raw wood
  • paint for second level
  • raw wood

This is what I mean by stacked text. There are words on top of words.

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I am giving that a try today. I painted the top surface last night. Going to mask it and start carving later today. Thanks!

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Some good comments about what individuals thought you meant and not sure mine are any better. First, Will Adams made a suggestion to both of us, seal the surface first and it worked well for what I was doing.

While I do not do exactly what you are after, it is similar. I seal the surface with polyurethane or some similar clear material in the workshop. I have found that brush work does better than spraying it.

Then I put the first color I want in the results, again, I have found brushing or rollers work better than spray paint and enamels and latex paints work better than acrylics. Once dry, cover it with masking tape, not blue painter’s tape which does not hold up as well due to reduced adhesion.

First carving work. Leave the first tape in place and repair / replace as necessary.

Reseal and next color gets applied. This is fun since you need to retape it. I found a trick somewhere. I place tracing paper, transfer side up on the project, then paper and fix them in place. Then rub over for transfer. Then an X-Acto knife to cut the stencil out. I put the masking tape LIGHTLY on clean plastic, use the stencil to cut it out of the tape. Using that tape I retape the project and carve the second layer. Somewhere, somehow, I acquired a roll of 6” wide masking tape.

Back to sealing, painting, and using your first stencil to add the newest carving to it. I always end up with slightly out of alignment stencils but they are close.

I do a lot of my work on paper long before I even approach the computer. One of the issues many do not know is there is “ledger” or “tabloid paper” available. This paper is 11x17” so it reduces the need for taped seams in projects greater than 8 ½” x 11” letter or 8 ½” x 14” legal paper.

Most of my work is done with simple highlights, attached. Which is multiple layers of paint to give profiling effect. Acrylic does not stick well in multiple layers in my experience.

The photo is one clear coat followed by two coats of red, two coats of white, and finally two coats of blue with “scratches” between each coat for adhesion…

Good luck,



I bet they used an orbital sander to get the top layer look clear :wink:

at least that’s how I would do it


before cutting, use poly to put a thin coat down everywhere

cut the layers

paint the inside

the poly should keep any overpaint from seeping into the wood

then use an orbital sander to sand away the poly/overpaint


Lots of good advice given here, just dropping some links to more info:
Staining and carving
Best Masking Material?
Speeding up workflow for painted and clear coated engrave projects
A lot of info (if you don’t mind digging) in my gallery post


Thanks for everyone’s input. I have some touch-up work and then sealing to do before sending it off.


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