Should I Paint a Protective Coating on My Sign?

Hello . . .

Sign arrived this afternoon and is everything we had hoped for.  Great work! Question: Would you recommend using an automotive type wax on the sign? Any other form of applied protection?  I live in the northern part of the U.S. with snow, sleet, freezing rain added to summer sun, etc.


Dear Customer,

Glad you like your new sign! To answer your question about a protective coating:  Unless you are in an area prone to the work of graffiti ‘artists’, we recommend that you do not try to ‘protect’ the sign with wax or any other clear-coat finish.

Your sign looks like wood, but is actually a weatherproof HDU/PVC laminate covered with a coat of Resene Primer and three coats of Dulux Weathershield Acrylic paint. Dulux paint uses color-fast mineral pigments. When cured, it remains very flexible. The rubbery finish stands up well against wind-borne sand, dust, snow, sleet, hail or freezing rain. And – developed and extensively tested here in sunny Australia – the UV resistance is second to none.

Painting a Sign Panel | Danthonia Designs Blog

Applying a coat of Dulux paint to a sign panel

If you happen to live in an area prone to tagging, we do offer a solvent-proof graffiti coating. On the one hand, it gives the whole sign a very glossy finish and it’s not compatible with gilding. On the other, it’s a tough coating, and it does what it’s designed for very well. I’ll also mention that very few of our signs get vandalised. Probably about one-in-a-thousand on average. The ones that do tend to be school signs. That’s why we recommend a graffiti coating on signs for educational institutions. That said, even the vast majority of our school signs remain unharmed.

Palladium-Leafing a Sign | Danthonia Designs Blog

Graffiti coating can’t be applied to a sign with gold, palladium, copper, or any other metal-leaf.

In general, our signs require minimal maintenance. Gently rinse your sign with warm soapy water twice each year or whenever tree sap, bird droppings, dust storms or volcanic eruptions leave their mark. If one side faces south (or north if you’re in Australia) and gets significantly more direct sunlight, you can open the Quick-Links and turn the sign around once a year. If cared for like this, your sign will not show any significant fading or weathering for eight to ten years. The scroll is rust-proof, powder-coated marine-grade aluminium, so it will hold up for decades.

Folk Art House Sign | Danthonia Designs Blog

This sign has lasted for centuries! Just kidding, we made it about twelve years ago.

Hope that helps!

P.S. We’d love to see a nice photo of the sign once it is installed!

Posted in Q&A

Merry Christmas!

Business? Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! – Charles Dickens

With Christmas just a few days away, these words of Marley’s Ghost, from A Christmas Carol, are a good reminder to those of us involved in selling things, that our business is so much bigger than rushing those last orders out the door. The dealings of our trade are but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of our business!

Even in our business dealings, a bit of extra care, friendliness and personal touch can go a long way. Last year, we enjoyed getting a hand-lettered card in the mail from sign-painter Brett Piva, of Pocket Design in Newcastle:

Hand-Lettered Christmas Card | Danthonia Designs Blog

Hand-Lettered Christmas Card by Brett Piva

I found the concept of a painted card very appealing and determined to hand-letter a few Christmas cards this year.

After many hours of practice, I got my script lettering to a level acceptable for Christmas cards (although still a far cry from Brett’s crisp letters). Here are a few photos of the process.

Design Pencil Sketch | Danthonia Designs Blog

Hand-Lettering | Danthonia Designs Blog

Hand-Lettering | Danthonia Designs Blog

Hand-Lettering | Danthonia Desdigns Blog

Merry Christmas! | Danthonia Designs Blog

Hand-Lettered Christmas Cards | Danthonia Designs Blog

We would have loved to send you each a hand-lettered card, but by its nature this project had a very small ‘run size’. We mailed the cards to sixteen people who we’ve had the great pleasure of working with in the past year. For those of you who didn’t get one, we’ll take this chance to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy and productive new year!

A Chat with Louise Fili

Louise Fili | Danthonia Designs Blog

Louise Fili (image courtesy of Uppercase Magazine)

As designers and sign-makers, we are fascinated by the work of those craftsmen (and sometimes women) who preceded us, adorning shopfronts, walls and windows with their finely-crafted specimens of sign-artistry. And we’re not alone in this fascination. Graphic designer Louise Fili, of New York, often photographs old signage in her travels. She recently put together a book full of beautiful images of Italian shopfront signs. Today, she tells us a little about her career as a graphic designer and sign photographer:

I was always fascinated with typography. I remember being four or five years old and carving letterforms into the wall above my bed, even though I didn’t yet have the ability to form them into words. When I was in high school, graphic design was called commercial art, which was a pretty unsexy term. During those years, I sent away for an Osmiroid pen, which I had found advertised in the back of the New Yorker magazine. With that, I taught myself calligraphy, still not understanding that this would have any relation to what I’d be doing later in life. It was only when I got to college that I discovered that all the things I loved – letterforms, calligraphy, and books – were appealing to me because I loved graphic design.

Louise Fili Logo | Danthonia Designs

My studio is a walk-in archive of all the restaurant menus, business cards, matchbooks, specialty food packages and wines that I have designed, interspersed with vintage posters and flea market finds from decades of traveling in Italy and France. And at any given time, the freezer is always filled with gelato.

Louise FIli's Studio | Danthopnia Designs Blog

Louise FIli’s Studio (image courtesy of From Your Desks)

I approach logo design in much the same way that I designed book jackets for so many years. After discussions with the client and extensive research on the subject, I sit down with a tracing pad and I start sketching. I will write the name over and over, letting it speak to me, going from an amorphous jumble of letters to a more precise design. At that point I will most likely have a typeface that does not exist, and it will have to be hand lettered. I will gather specific reference, make a more informed sketch, and off it goes to be transformed on the computer.

Louise FIli Sketch | Danthonia Designs Blog

Having grown up in an Italian-American household, I was steeped in the culture (and especially the food) even before my first visit to Italy as a teenager.

Juliana's Pizza Sign | Danthonia Designs Blog

Sign for Juliana’s Pizza, Logo designed by Louise Fili (image courtesy of John Passafiume)

I don’t know that old signage inspires me directly, but it gives me immense pleasure to find these signs and then, back in New York, look through the photos on a regular basis. It’s not just the typography itself, but the context – the beautiful colors of stucco backgrounds, the painted wooden shutters, and the jasmine or ivy framing the signs – that gives me great delight.

Sign Photos by Louise Fili | Danthonia Designs Blog

Sign Photos by Louise Fili (image courtesy of Shelley Davies)

I’m inspired by any of the Italian and French poster designers of the 1930s, and all of the anonymous designers who made the packaging and signage that I love to collect/document.

Louise Fili's Vintage Italian Tin | Danthonia Designs Blog

Part of Louise Fili’s Vintage Italian Tin Collection. To see more, take a look at this page on Design Observer.

Recently, I’ve noticed a definite shift towards ‘craft’ in design. I think that the loss of tactility in our tech-driven lives has fostered an interest in craft. Designers crave the use of their hands.

Perfetto Pencils by Louise Fili | Danthonia Designs Blog

Perfetto Pencils by Louise Fili – an excuse for designers to use their hands!

I remember exactly when I first became interested in Italian typography: I was 16 and on my first trip to Italy when I spotted a billboard for Baci Perugina chocolates. In the years that followed, Italian designs would have a profound influence on my aesthetic — and I remained particularly fascinated by the country’s elegant signage. Grafica della Strada: The Signs of Italy documents my obsession with Italian lettering, with photographs I have taken of restaurant, shop, hotel, and street signs from all over the country. The collection spans three decades and countless materials and styles, from classical to futurist and gold leaf to neon.

Grafica della Strada  | Danthonia Designs Blog

A Spread from Grafica della Strada (image courtesy of Coolhunting)

A few more of Louise’s designs:

Label by Louise FIli | Danthonia Designs Blog Louise Fili Logo | Danthonia Designs Blog Labels by Louise FIli | Danthonia Designs Blog

Gilding Two Signs for Tanglewood Farm

A rather unusual project presented itself a few weeks ago. Jim Green, of Tanglewood Farm near Tamworth, had purchased a large timber sign from a local cabinet-shop. It was a little over three meters long, and the letters had been routed into the panel, which consisted of a solid piece of Merbau. A smaller sign of the same construction displayed the address number of the farm – 388. Both signs had been stained in a deep brown hue, and certainly held a rustic and understated beauty. But just as Jim was about to install them at the front gate, he noticed that the lettering was not as readable as he had imagined it would be. The sign needed to catch the attention of passing motorists.

Jim tried applying gold paint to the numerals on the smaller sign, but was still unhappy with the result. He knew that the sign would need gilded text. He loaded both signs onto his truck, and drove three hours north to drop them off at our shop.

The following photo series shows the steps which we took to gild the letters on the signs:

Sign for Tanglewood Farm

Jim holds up his timber sign.

Carved Wooden Sign

On a table in our shop

Gold Painted Letters

The Gold Painted Letters: Not as Shiny as Jim had Hoped

Gold Carved Letter

Furthermore, the woodgrain looked a little rough.

Masking the Wooden Sign

We first covered the sign with stencil mask.

Carbon Paper

Then, I rubbed the surface with carbon paper, which brought out the shapes of the carved letter.

Cutting out Letters

Next, I cut each letter out of the stencil, with a razor blade.

Wooden Sign in Process

Here’s the sign, with all the letters cut out.

Sealing the Stencil Edge

Then, I sealed the stencil edge with water-based clearcoat.


A coat of primer next.

Sanding Carved Letters on Wooden Sign

Sand & repeat (three times over).

three hour size

Next came a coat of three-hour size (glue), for a smooth surface.

Lefranc's Twelve-Hour Size

Once the three–hour size was dry, I applied a coat of twelve-hour size.

Gilding a Wooden Sign

After leaving the sign overnight, I gilded it in the morning.


The Finished Piece!

The Finished Piece!

Carved & Gilded Wooden Sign

And the smaller sign, this time with gilded letters.

Sign on ute

All loaded up & bound for Tamworth!