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 Wall Signs - A Weathering How-to
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Premium Member

Posted - 12/03/2012 :  11:36:13 PM  Show Profile  Visit CN6401's Homepage  Reply with Quote

Getting that Old Weathered look for your Posters & Wall Signs

When you want to add some old signs or posters to the walls of your buildings, are you satisfied with using pre-manufactured signs or even some that you may have printed out with your printer?
Are you satisfied with just cut and paste giving your signs or poster a scale thickness of about 2.5 to 3 inches thick? Thatís in HO imagine how out of scale it would be in N scale.

If you answered yes to either of these questions then donít read any further.

I realize that a lot of the building kits we get nowadays have signs included but most of us have printers that have built in scanners and if not you probably know someone who does. So scan the kit signs to a digital image.

If you want get better looking signs and posters, read on.

In the following pages Iím going to show you how simple it is and how realistic the results will be. If youíre like me you have been saving signs and posters for your models for a while, so you should have a nice selection of signs. Below are the signs I chose for this tutorial.

Country: Canada | Posts: 1503


Premium Member

Posted - 12/03/2012 :  11:51:29 PM  Show Profile  Visit CN6401's Homepage  Reply with Quote


The tools you will need are,
- Colour inkjet or colour laser printer
- Hobby knife with a new blade
- Straight edge for cutting
- 3M mending tape (the one that looks frosted)
- Tape measure or ruler
- Regular printer paper
- White glue or Matte Media (either one mixed 50/50 with wet water)
- Lint free cloth (an old T-shirt)
- Airbrush
- 50/50 mix of Testers Dullcote
- Tissue paper, the type used for gift wrap.
- Artists tracing paper or Architectural tracing paper

OK, Letís get started

This modeling hobby is supposed to fun, so letís get started and have some fun.
The process Iím about to explain is not written in stone, itís a process I stumbled upon and it works for me. If you feel you can improve on it, please feel free to do so.

OK, here we go!
So you want to put some posters on a wall or even better yet you want to simulate an old painted sign on a wall. Well Iíve got news for you, itís easy. I think once you try this you may not go back to your old way.

Step 1 - Identify an area on a wall where you want the sign.

The ďXĒ marks the areas I chose. Iím not going to go into great detail regarding the mortar between the bricks. Plain and simple I used artistís oil paints and mineral spirits to make a light wash and let it flow into the joints. You may have a different method and thatís fine but it should be done and allowed to dry thoroughly before you go any further.

Step 2 - Measure the area so that you can resize the digital image.

The areas marked above are the maximum size that I want the sign to be. Above is the first digital sign image that I want to use.

Step 3 - Choose a digital image from the internet or your personal files

Here are the images I chose for this clinic.

Step 4 Ė Resizing the image for the available space on the wall.

I used the word processor on my computer to resize the image. I this case itís Microsoft Word.
1)In the paragraph formatting section center the image on the page horizontally.
2)Make sure the page ruler is turned on to help you calculate the image size.

3)When you left click on the image a thin lined box will circle the image. On each side you will see little circles or button.

4)Left click and hold the bottom right button and move it in towards the image. This will force the image to get smaller. Keep an eye on the image and the ruler above to make sure your image is smaller than the available wall space.

5) Once you figure youíve got the size you need, make a print of your work but not just any print.
6)Left click on ĎFileí and select ĎPrintí
7)When the print window opens select the print ĎPropertiesí. When the properties window opens up there should be three tabs, General, Layout and Advanced.
8)In the General tab you need to change the Print Quality to ĎDraftí, as for the Page Orientation, it really doesnít matter if the printed page is Portrait or Landscape.

9)There is no point in wasting your coloured ink so in the Advanced tab you will need to change from Colour to Black and White. Once youíve made the changes, go ahead and make a print youíll need it for the next step.

Step 5 - Once you have your black and white print you will have to draw a line all the way around the image keeping about one inch from the image on all four sides.

1)The next thing to do is to take a straight edge and you hobby knife with a new blade and cut along the line you drew around the image.

2)Now comes the Tracing Paper, there are two types or maybe more but the two that I used were Artists Tracing Paper and Architectural Tracing Paper.
The Artists paper is more on the opaque side and the Architectural paper is super transparent. Both are very thin and delicate. So here you will have to make a decision.
Do I want the sign just to look old and weathered or do I want it to look like its fading away? Here is where you have to make a decision. How transparent or opaque do you want your sign to be.

Step 6 - Whichever one you choose you need to cut a piece to replace the what you cut out. To hold it in place used the 3M Tape on the back side, and put it back in the paper supply tray and print the image again, but this time in colour and draft mode.

Now the issue comes up and I should point out that our printers DO NOT PRINT WHITE, they count on the white paper to fill the white.

So here is another choice you have to make based on the age and condition you want your sign to be in.

1)If you want to be able to read your sign completely and be not so old you will have to make a mask in order to spray a whitish background the exact size of your sign. I used the cut out from my black and white print, cutting along the edge of the sign leaving a hole where the sign used to be. Take this cut out with the hole in it and tape it so the hole is in the position you want your sign to be in.
I use an airbrush to spray a mixture of thinned acrylic paint, white or beige, through the opening.
This mixture is 10% acrylic to 90% acrylic thinner. You will have to spay multiple coats depending on how bright you want your sign.

2)If you want the sign to be old and fading away then do nothing or at the very least one coat of the above mixture.

Here is the cut out from the black and white print and I cut out half of the image diagonally
and used it as a mask to spray a beige background and allow it to dry overnight.

In hind sight I should have sprayed more than one coat.

Here is the Artist Tracing Paper,

the White Glue

and the Dullcote.

Step 7 Ė Now comes the true test if youíve done everything else right, adding your sign to the wall.

This sign is done with Artistís Tracing Paper. The sign was fixed with a spray of 50/50 mix of Testerís Dullcote and lacquer thinner to both sides to stop the ink from running when you apply the water based glue.

The Dutchman and the Pepsi signs are on Architectural Tracing Paper. They both got a very light coat of beige background colour on the wall before the signs were applied. Again before the application of the signs, a coat of Dullcote was applied front and back to seal the ink. Once the signs were applied they were allowed to dry overnight. The next morning I took a piece of emery paper and sanded all the signs lightly to affect some of the detail.

You be the judge, If you like how it looks or you feel you can use this process, feel free to use it or improve it.

Note: Keep this in mind, if you do improve on this process you have to tell me what you did so I can use it.

Notice in the photo above how transparent the spare Pepsi sign is, it was done on Architectural Tracing paper

One final coat of Dullcote and then the only thing left to do is to weather my wall and Iíll bet every one of you have your own way of weathering masonry walls so I wonít go into that.

So! I hope this was INFORMATIVE and FUN.

Edited by - CN6401 on 08/03/2017 12:29:02 AM

Country: Canada | Posts: 1503 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/04/2012 :  05:54:33 AM  Show Profile  Visit AVRR-PA's Homepage  Reply with Quote
This is great, and a valuable addition to the forum. Thanks so much for taking the time to do it!


Country: USA | Posts: 5005 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/04/2012 :  07:25:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very informative. Thank you.

Country: USA | Posts: 1538 Go to Top of Page

Mike Hamer

Posted - 12/04/2012 :  07:51:08 AM  Show Profile  Visit Mike Hamer's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Hi Ralph, Wow! What a great tutorial! Thanks so much for taking the time to show the steps in detail with photographic evidence. This thread is a real keeper! The fun aspect about incorporating signs on your walls is the research that goes in to getting just the right sign. Check out the sign thread here at the forum or simply google your own! I'm really looking forward to meeting you again at the Ottawa Train Expo!

Mike Hamer
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Edited by - Mike Hamer on 12/04/2012 07:52:33 AM

Country: | Posts: 11492 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 12/04/2012 :  08:32:05 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Ralph
Fantastic. Thank you for taking the effort to give it to us.
Chuck Faist

Chuck Faist
Burlington, Ontario
Enjoy yourself it is later than you think!

Country: Canada | Posts: 3489 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 12/04/2012 :  11:25:56 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ralph thanks, for sharing. I was looking for some paper like that. I used to have old Air Mail paper that I copied signs onto but that's all gone for some time now. I trust they have that paper around here somewhere. Nice job!

Pacific Northwest Logging in the East Coast
Post count: 5000 posts added to below count.

Country: USA | Posts: 16011 Go to Top of Page

Section Hand

Posted - 12/04/2012 :  11:40:58 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

One question - Do you use the white glue full strength or diluted? Well, maybe two questions - How do you get the print to settle into the brick? Finger, soft sponge, . . .

Bob Dye

Country: USA | Posts: 94 Go to Top of Page

Martin Welberg

Posted - 12/04/2012 :  12:08:46 PM  Show Profile  Visit Martin Welberg's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Great tutorial Ralph !! But eh one of the signs looks quit familiar

Country: Netherlands | Posts: 6736 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/04/2012 :  1:18:51 PM  Show Profile  Visit CN6401's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks guys,

Louis, try your local artist supplier you may find both types of paper. Being that it's Christmas Season you should be able to get a bunch of gift wrap tissue paper.

Bob, I use 50/50 mix of glue and water and note it does not have to be the glue I used. Any white wood glue will work. As for getting it to settle down into the cracks and crevasses I used my thumb and pressed down working from the center outward.

Martin, I couldn't resist.


Country: Canada | Posts: 1503 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 12/05/2012 :  11:34:21 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great help for my tired plain walls,
David Stickney

A Maine Expatriate living in the valley of Northern California - Modeling in HO.
David Stickney

Country: USA | Posts: 472 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/05/2012 :  12:28:31 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
A big thanks.

-- KP --
Life is to short to build all of the models I want to.

Country: USA | Posts: 7237 Go to Top of Page

Martin Welberg

Posted - 12/05/2012 :  12:48:35 PM  Show Profile  Visit Martin Welberg's Homepage  Reply with Quote
No problem Ralph...................Geezers gonna be famous

Country: Netherlands | Posts: 6736 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/07/2012 :  4:03:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That is a great tutorial, Ralph.

Now I know why the sales of Dutchman Ale began to spike this week!


Country: USA | Posts: 32666 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 12/10/2012 :  01:50:30 AM  Show Profile  Visit CN6401's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Bruce I couldn't resist, what was it they used to say, 'The Devil made me do it'.
The sales team actually thanked me for the free advertizing your ale on my layout and in my clinics.

I'm a little concerned though, there's been no contact with the Geezer's Grog ad team except for Martin, he seems to think Geezer is going to be famous.

I'm a little puzzled though, there has been over 570 views of this tutorial and only 11 comments, the regular guys must be asleep or haven't logged on in a while.
Oh well!

Edited by - CN6401 on 06/25/2015 10:28:35 PM

Country: Canada | Posts: 1503 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 12/10/2012 :  10:32:32 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Ralph, great tutorial! Thanks very much for taking the time to photograph all of your steps for us to clearly see.I will gives this method a try sometime in the near future.

Greg Shinnie

Country: Canada | Posts: 8807 Go to Top of Page
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