Painting Wood Letters is Mess Free & Gives You the Perfect Color Match
In this easy beginner’s tutorial you’ll learn how SIMPLE and mess-free painting wood letters and other wooden decor can be!
When we were expecting the arrival of our 3rd child this past May, I was so excited to decorate another nursery!
One thing I knew I wanted over his crib was his first and middle name (Clark Hudson) in wooden letters.
I found the perfect wooden name letters on Etsy, and they even came with the option to come painted with a color from their limited selection.
Here was my dilemma:
I had madeover and painted his dresser/changing table this beautiful hunter green color, and I wanted the wooden letters above his crib to match.
One of the color options from this Etsy shop looked kind of close to the color of the dresser, but I wanted an exact color match.
So instead, I ordered the wooden letters unpainted and decided I would use the leftover paint from his dresser to paint the letters myself.
You guys: It was so easy!
And I’m so happy I decided to paint the letters myself so I could be in total control of the paint color.
In this tutorial, I’ll give you a step-by-step guide (with pictures) on how to paint wood letters in a simple, no-mess way.
- What type of paint to use
- What painting tool to use
- How to match a paint color
- How to paint the letters
Why Do I Need to Know How to Paint Wood Letters?
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Name signs and other wooden name decor is really popular right now! There are so many talented Etsy shops that custom make beautiful wooden letters in a variety of fonts and styles. They make great decor for nurseries, playrooms, kids’ rooms, and more.
While many small shops will offer to stain or paint your wooden letters (usually a pretty limited selection of paint colors or stains), you can also order your wood letters unfinished….which is what I prefer.
Why would you want to order unfinished wooden letters?
Because then you can paint (or stain, if you prefer) them any color you want!
I’ve written this tutorial to show how you can paint wooden letters any color or to match a specific color you already have.
Maybe you’re trying to match the color of your wood letters to a specific color you’ve used to decorate a nursery, kid’s room, playroom, bedroom etc.
As I said earlier, I wanted my son’s name sign to match the color I painted his changing table.
Or maybe you have a very distinct color you’d like to paint your wood letters that you can’t find in a spray paint can (more on this below).
What Type of Paint Do I Use?
Ok, so there are so many different types of paints: spray paint, acrylic paint, latex paint, chalk paint, etc.
Which one do you use??
Well the truth is, you could use any of these paints to transform your unfinished wooden letters into beautiful colored decor.
But for this tutorial, I’m going to tell you why I think using latex paint is best.
Using Latex Paint
If you’re not sure what latex paint is, just think of the wall of paint color chips at your local home improvement store.
Here are 3 reasons why I think using latex paint is the best paint for painting wood letters:
- There are so many color options! You are limited to fewer colors if you choose to use spray paint or acrylic paint. With latex paint, there are hundreds of color options for you to choose from so you can paint your wood letters the perfect color.
- All you need is a paint sample! Latex paint samples come in half pints, and that’s more than enough paint you would need to paint your wood letters. Just choose the paint color chip you’d like, and tell the employee at the paint counter that you’d just like a sample. Most samples are anywhere from $2-$5 depending on the brand and finish you choose (just go for the cheapest, in my opinion).
- Latex paint is a lot thinner than other paints. Acrylic and chalk paints can be pretty thick, making them more difficult paints to work with for this type of project. Latex paint is somewhat thinner and will go on much more smoothly.
What Painting Tool is the Best?
Now that you know what type of paint you’re using, what painting tool should you use?
When painting, there’s two main painting tools to choose between: a paint brush or a paint roller.
For this tutorial, I’ll be using a paint roller.
For my wooden letters, I only wanted the top surface painted. Meaning, I wanted the edges of the letters to still show their natural wood color.
I like the contrast this creates, and it’s pretty much the sole reason I chose a paint roller rather than a paint brush.
Using a roller (the right way) ensures that I can easily roll the paint just along the top surface of the letters, without getting paint along the edges.
If you’re wanting to paint the entire surface of your wood letters (edges and all), then using a paint brush (or a mix of a paint brush/roller) might make more sense for you.
What if I Want to Match a Paint Color, but I Don’t Know the Name of that Color?
One more thing to address: if you want to match the color of your wood letters to a specific color of something in that room, but you have no idea how to find a latex paint that matches perfectly….don’t worry!
You can grab this nifty tool that will color match exactly!
No guessing or trying to compare different shades of paint to try and get the exact color!
Now, let’s get to the good stuff! Below you’ll find my supply list, cost, and simple tutorial for how to paint wood letters.
Supplies and Costs
For this project, here are the supplies you will need:
- Wood letters. (prices vary) Mine were from this Etsy shop to put in my son’s nursery.
- Latex paint. ($2-$5) You can use leftover paint, like I did. But if you’re buying paint, a 1/2 pint paint sample is all you need.
- Small paint roller with handle. ($3) The smaller the better. Mine came in a kit…*see below for details.
- Small paint tray. *
- Trash bags or newspaper. This will be used to place your letters on as they dry.
I picked up this small touch-up kit from Home Depot that had all the tools that I needed for less than $3.
1. Prep Workspace and Supplies
The first thing you want to do before actually painting your letters is to prep your workspace.
For me, it looked something like this:
- Lay out trash bags (or newspaper) on a surface to place drying letters.
- Lay out trash bag (or newspaper) where you will actually be painting.
- Pour paint in your paint tray.
If you’re not going to be painting on a table or other hard surface, I suggest finding something solid you can place your letters on while you paint. Make sure it’s something you don’t mind getting paint on, like an old Amazon box or something.
2. Paint 1st Coat & Let Dry
Ok, you’re ready to start your first coat!
I’m going to say this first because I believe this is the key to making sure your painted wooden letters turn out beautifully:
Use light coats!
Your goal is not full coverage for your first coat!
If you try to cover the whole area during the first coat, you’re going to end up with a lot of drips running down the side of your letters.
So, for your first coat:
- Lightly roll your paint roller in your paint-filled tray. Get off as much excess as you can.
- Lightly roll your roller over your first letter. Are you sensing a theme here? Do everything lightly! Do not push your roller down hard thinking you’ll get more paint onto the letters. This will cause the paint to run over the sides. Roll the roller up and down over your letters a couple of times very lightly until most of the paint is off of your roller. You may need to repeat this one more time depending on how large your letters are. But, all of your letter will not, and should not, be covered during the first coat.
When you’re done, it may look similar to this.
Don’t worry…your wooden letters will be beautifully covered once you’re done with all the coats.
Once you’ve painted your first coat, place the letter on the surface you’ve prepped for drying.
Repeat this process for each letter.
3. Paint Additional Coats
Once the first coat is dry (it shouldn’t take too long since you used light coats), you’re ready to start on the next coat.
You’ll repeat the exact same process as you did when painting your first coat.
- Lightly roll your paint roller in your paint-filled tray.
- Lightly roll your roller over your first letter. You still need to roll back and forth very lightly, but this time you’ll start to see more of the surface of your wooden letters covered with paint.
For the rest of this project, it’s literally:
Paint, dry, repeat.
The number of coats you need will depend on how light each coat is.
My wooden name letters took about 4 light coats of paint, and this is what they looked like after the final coat.
Final Thoughts on Painting Wood Letters
I hope this tutorial gives you the confidence to get started painting your own wooden letters!
Not only is it easy, but it gives you the freedom to control the color of your name decor.
Remember these pointers:
- Use latex paint.
- Use a paint roller.
- Paint multiple light coats.
As always, I love to see your finished products! You can leave me a comment, email me, or find me on Instagram!
If you enjoyed this easy DIY, check out these related articles:
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- $5 DIY Chalkboard Sign
- DIY Bathtub Tray Using Scrap Wood
- DIY Yarn Wall Hanging
- DIY Wooden Bead Wreath