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DIY Vintage Sign: How To Get The Authentic Old Advertising Look With Paint

DIY Vintage Sign: How To Get The Old Advertising Look With Paint

Last Winter, we were asked to take part in our neighborhood’s Annual Home Tour. Since we’d only been in our bungalow for a few months and weren’t planning to renovate, the interior wasn’t much to look at. To make up for our home’s lackluster appearance, I decided to go all out on the front porch holiday decor.

I built the theme around a vintage-looking lodge sign I DIYed with some paint and a piece of MDF. Here’s how I did it…

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Easy DIY: Vintage Sign - How to get the authentic chippy paint look of an old advertising sign from store fronts and lodges of the 1920s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s

By the time winter rolled around last year, our 1920s bungalow was looking a little sad and neglected out front. I knew I could make the front porch look more authentic and vintage by adding lots of greenery and Christmas decorations.

Once I added plush fabrics and vintage-style Edison cafe lights, here’s how the final Holiday Porch looked:

Vintage Winter Lodge Front Porch Decor

Our little bungalow looked even more charming at night –

A Historic Christmas Porch Decor at Night

You can see the full reveal with every little detail here: A Tennessee Christmas Porch: Decorations For Winter That Play Up The Nostalgia


Since I’m a Tennessee Native, I wanted to really honor all that my state has to offer in the Winter. In order to do this, I decided to incorporate an old sign I remember seeing in my childhood on trips through the Chattanooga mountains into my porch decor. It took some google investigating but I finally found a picture of the sign online:

Vintage Roadside Sign - Lookout Mountain Chattanooga TN - Get The Look

This sign was a lot more intricate – and racially insensitive – than I’d remembered but I knew I could get the general look and feel of a roadside lodge sign for my front porch if I just incorporated a few of the details without trying to entirely replicate the entire thing.

If you’re looking for DIY vintage sign inspiration, I recommend a Google image search that includes the following: Your Locale + Roadside Lodge + Vintage. Here are some of the image results I got when I used this method:

Vintage Roadside Attraction and Lodge Signs

Your vintage sign doesn’t have to be a lodge either. You can Google literally anything that matches your theme. For instance, here’s the search “Tennessee Vintage Candy Store Sign”:

Vintage Candy Shop Sign

And if I ever decided to do a Vintage Toy Shop theme for Christmas, I would absolutely style my sign after Nashville’s oldest and best toy store, Phillip’s Toy Mart. Their sign is so adorable:

Phillips+Toy+Mart+Storefront_Old School Sign

Once you’ve landed on your theme and old sign inspiration, here’s how you can get your DIY sign to look authentic and old:



artist’s paint brush set
putty knife

1/8” thick piece of MDF, cut to desired size
acrylic craft paints in desired colors
painter’s tape

STEP ONE: Base Layer
Paint a base layer over the entire MDF board in white. This will act as a primer so your additional layers of paint will be vibrant and the MDF doesn’t soak them up. Allow to dry completely.


STEP TWO: Accent Color Layer
Next, paint the entire board in the color you want to be exposed during the chipping process. Choose this color by considering what colors would have been popular at the time of your sign’s original creation. You want this color to be in stark contrast with the rest of the sign. So if you plan to add black accents around your lettering, use a color that is bright. If you’re planning a red sign, you may want to consider using white or blue during this phase.

For information on historically accurate color ways, you can refer to Sherwin William’s Historic Collection.


STEP THREE: Base Lettering and Outline
Add your first layer of lettering to the sign by freehand or using stencils with a pencil. Then go over the pencil with a contrasting acrylic paint color. This color will be prominent in your sign so make sure it’s one you want to highlight.

I chose blue and then outlined the letters of “LODGE” in black for additional contrast.


STEP FOUR: Remove Random Layers of Paint
Once your paint has dried, cover the entire board with strips of painter’s tape. Press the tape firmly in place and then remove it all in one strip. This technique will allow for further weathering in the next step.

weathering new paint for a vintage look

STEP FIVE: Faux Weathered Effect
Use a putty knife to chip away additional pieces of the accent layer. Press lightly and move the knife against the grain of the exposed paint stripes created by the previous step. This technique should remove your accent layer of paint in a way that looks like it’s been chipped off over time. Remember to remove some of the paint on the lettering as well in order to create additional weathered effect.

chippy paint look for an old sign diy

STEP SIX: Final Background Color
Carefully paint the entire sign with the color you wish to use as your background. Use caution to paint around your lettering so as to not cover it entirely. You can leave portions around your lettering exposed to the accent color for a more realistic look.

DIY Vintage Sign

STEP SEVEN: Accent Lettering Base
Using a pencil, sketch your lettering by freehand. This will give a more authentic look. Then trace your sketch with your final accent color for contrast. I used red in order to contrast against both the blue and the yellow.

vintage motel sign diy

STEP EIGHT: Dimension
Add dimension to your accent lettering by painting a shadow in black around the bottom and left sides of the lettering. This will make your sign legible from farther away which is particularly important if you plan to use this as porch decor.

DIY Vintage Motel Sign


I installed my sign on the front porch with a piece of chain. In order to do this, I drilled a small pilot hole in the top of the sign with a 3/16 drill bit. Then I placed a bead of gorilla glue into the hole and screwed the cup hooks in place before it dried.

Hanging an MDF sign with cup hooks

The result was a sturdy sign that stayed in place on my porch all winter long!

DIY Vintage Sign Tutorial: How to get the look of chippy, layered paint

Since the decor wasn’t overtly Christmas-themed, I left my porch decor in place until February.

How to Make a DIY Vintage Front Porch Sign for The Holidays

I hope this helps inspire you to make your own Vintage Sign. Remember to pin this post on Pinterest so you can refer to it later. Just hover over the image below and click the little red P button.

The trick to getting that chippy paint look on new wood

I’ll be back soon with more ideas for decorating for the holidays. Until then, stay safe and sane. xoxo


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