sign painting

Doorway to type nirvana?

I love this close up of a mural by Colossal Media, in Williamsburg, New York. The sign painters are well-known for their enormous outdoor murals, art projects and advertising images. Always hand-painted and often hundreds of feet off of the ground.

This is photo is from their Big Brush Project, a public art initiative showcasing their work. It was produced in collaboration with NYC-based lettering artist Greg Lamarche and reads Sky High Murals.

“Greg’s technique of hand-cutting found letters was a perfect compliment to the precision-based, hand-paint production method. This piece speaks greatly to the evolution of this community, the art world, and the hand-paint story.”


Sign Painting in Sydney (and somewhere near you!)

This week I went along to Mike Meyer’s Hand-Lettering Workshop in Sydney. I’d met Mike in London earlier this year during the opening of the Sign Painters film he starred in and was keep learn more about the construction of various letter styles.

Billed as “Two days of paint, brushes, lettering and laughs” it’s a fitting description. The stories and banter mixed with insightful lessons and techniques builds a very relaxed and creative atmosphere. Aimed at beginners and those wishing to improve their basic skills, the two day workshop is split roughly into learning four styles of lettering; Gothic (simple block letters), Thicks & thins (a slab serif), Causal (fluid and bouncy) and Script.

It starts with a pencil, drawing out a proportional grid for each letter (we were shown some fast tricks for doing this) and developing an understanding of the basic structure and spacing of letterforms.

After running through the different brush types and brush care, we moved onto painting basics; how to hold the brush, it’s position against the surface, loading the brush with paint and achieving a chisel edge to allow for sharp corners.

Then we were also shown various techniques for steadying your painting hand while holding it away from the surface to avoid smudging wet paint; using a Mahl stick, hand over hand and ‘Pinky down’ options. 

As we practiced twisting the brush to achieve a chiselled terminal at the end of certain strokes or the visual rhythm of script letters, Mike moved around the class steering us along with tips and an anecdote or two.

I’ve added some short gifs above. As with all type and lettering it’s about looking, examining and lot’s of practice. Closely watching Mike paint was one of the best learning experiences. With ‘Casual’ style particularly I would watch the first few strokes go down, say the upright stem of an ‘R’ then its bowl, I would quickly imagine the next step of where I would paint the leg. Then as Mike adds it in I see just how far off the mark I was.

To really see what was going on with those subtle brush twists a piece of tape was added to the end of Mike’s brush handle so you could see it twirl. This style and scale of lettering bares much more resemblance to calligraphy: using single, very precise strokes for the letterforms, rather than building them up by refining their shape multiple times. It’s an amazing skill to practice.

Whether you’re interested in becoming a sign painter or not the course would definitely be useful to anyone interested in the construction of letterforms and building their drawing/painting skills

Get you name down for one of the upcoming workshops that Mike is running around the world, or contact the organisers to run a workshop where you are.

Here’s the confirmed dates and a link to the mailing list to keep up-to-date with future events.


Nice Sign Painting work from Cyla Costa