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TT 360 




isj r> 




A Complete Course of Self -Instruction 



Also chapters on How to Mix Paints, ( W 
Gilding, Tricks of the Trade, and 
Commercial Art Work. 








Copyright, 1920, by 
J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company 


J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company 
57 Rose Street 




Introduction . . >- . . ... 3 

Alphabets . . . . . 


1 : 

« I 

»■ r « 


Composition . M • • :■ 

} f« 

! . 


»i r« 


Color Combinations 


How to Mix Paints 

. • 

, 22 

Show Cards . > r . . ■« 



Window Signs r.i . . 



Banners . .... 


Board and Wall Signs 


Ready Made Letters . 


Gilding . . . . > L , 



Commercial Art 

. 58 

Tricks of the Trade 


. 63 

There are many sign painters' books on the 
market to-day, but no one of them covers all prac- 
tical work in a brief, understandable way. 

That is just what this book is intended for. 

Sign painting is an art, but anyone who can 
read and write may learn to paint passably good 
signs within a reasonable length of time by fol- 
lowing the directions given herein. 

A good sign painter is often referred to as a 
genius ; genius is nine-tenths hard work. 

Anyone who finds joy in creating and can stick 
to his work can be a genius. 

The so-called "born artists" are no more born 
with the ability to paint than men are born with 
the ability to read and write, you must study and 

Some people learn more rapidly than others, 
but anyone can learn who wills to do it. 

It was almost ten years ago when I made my 
first attempt at sign painting. I tried to get a 
boy's job in a regular shop but was unable to get 
on, so I started out to be a self-made painter. 

I could not draw any one alphabet correctly and 
was one of the fools who drew letters out of his 

Ye Gods what a headache I should have had! 
After a few months I grew discouraged and gave 
it up. 

Then after a couple of years of other work the 
bug 'Came back and I tried it again and stuck for 
almost three months. 



I am merely telling this in order that other 
beginners may avoid my mistakes. 

The eanse of both those failures was wrong 
materials, lack of lettering knowledge, and a touch 
of plain indolence. Even if I had worked harder 
I could not have overcome the handcap of wrong 
material and lack of information. 

Then for two years I dropped sign painting and 
followed other work, but most of my spare time 
was spent studying drawing. 

When I made my third attempt I was able to 
draw the Egyptian and Roman alphabets fairly 
well, and could draw pictures better than the 
average sign painter. Also I was fortunate in 
getting some personal instruction in the kinds of 
brushes and paints to use for different kinds of 

My first attempts were very crude and my brush 
strokes were very crooked and ragged, but I was 
on the right track at last, and in less than one 
year (please excuse the egotism) I was able to 
paint better signs than some other men I have 
met who have been making a living and passing 
as sign painters for ten or twenty years. 

Now I cannot give you the "sticktoitiveness" 
which you will need. That's up to you, but I shall 
be very careful to give you the right idea in re- 
gard to material, and methods of working. 

Take this warning and don't try to paint signs 
with brushes and paints from the ten cent stores. 

A long, limber camel's hair lettering pencil may 
seem clumsy when you attempt to paint on glass, 
but it is the proper tool and you will soon get 
used to using it. 

I have met many self-made sign painters who 
were splendid artists and they invariably agreed 



with me that the worst mistake an amateur makes 
is in his selection of material. 

Carefully study the lists of things you will 
need, mentioned in the following chapters, and 
you may save yourself many dollars and many 
discouraging failures. 

There are hundreds of things on the market in 
the way of art materials which are absolutely 
worthless to the practical sign painter. 

A good workman needs few tools and when a 
man has learned to keep his brushes perfectly 
clean, and to keep his material in good order, he 
has already made a good start toward learning 
the trade. 

The methods described in this book are not in- 
tended to cover shop practice in the large shops, 
but are intended for the man who works in a 
smaller way. 

There are several larger and more elaborate 
books on the market which are intended for the 
more professional workman, and as you progress 
with your work I advise you to buy and study all 
of them. 

The author has been a " rolling stone" for some 
years past and he wishes to thank the sign paint- 
ers whom he has met in his travels, and also the 
authors of many contemporary books, for things 
they have contributed to this book; 

The beginner at sign painting, show card writ- 
ing, or commercial art, should learn to draw a few 
standard alphabets perfectly before he tries to 
sell his work. You may use a blackboard and 
chalk, wrapping paper and charcoal sticks, or a 
tablet and lead pencil in learning to draw the 

Bule a line for the top and one for the bottom 
of your line of letters. Draw the letters care- 
fully, giving close attention to every detail, be 
careful to keep the letters in proper proportion 
to each other, thus — the letter A is much wider 
than the letter L, etc. 

I advise you to begin with the Egyptian alpha- 
bet and master this so that you can make any com- 
bination of words fit into any reasonable shape 
or size of space. 

Be careful to make your letters perfectly per- 
pendicular, make the straight lines perfectly 
straight, and make the curved parts curve per- 
fectly in one unbroken curve. 

Keep the body of the letters all of one width; 
'be careful of this ; if your letter I is heavier than 
the curved stroke of the round letters it immedi- 
ately stands out as amateur work. 

You will learn to judge and criticize your own 
work in a short time, which is better for you than 
to have others show you your mistakes. 



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Keep the space between letters well balanced, 
that is, make the amount of white space between 
letters about the same all the way through every 
line of lettering. Usually the white space appear- 
ing inside of the round letters 0, D, etc., should 
be greater than the white space between letters. 
Avoid making the inside space and space between 
letters equal, as it will make the lettering look 

Round letters, such as C, 0, G, etc., should be 
spaced closer together than square letters such as 
H and I. 

The letters A and T may lap over each other 
a little, while M and N need to be set further 
apart; the idea is to keep an equal amount of 
white between letters rather than to keep the 
letters a certain distance apart. See Fig. 9. 

The standard Egyptian capital letter is about 
four-fifths as wide as it is high. The letters E, F, 
J and L should not be quite so wide, while the 
letters A, M, V, W and Y are wider than the 
other letters. In some modified and modern 
alphabets the round letters 0, C and G are made 
wider than any of the other letters. These sizes 
are only approximate, the experienced sign painter 
or lettering artist does not need to measure his 
letters or spaces with a rule, but gets more pleas- 
ing results by lettering free hand and leaving 
the spacing to the judgment of his eye. 

In lettering any large amount of reading matter 
it is better to use the lower case or small Egyptian 
letters in preference to the capital or upper case 
letters, because they are easier to read. Our eyes 
are trained to read lower case letters a word at 
a time while the capitals are more likely to be 
spelled out or read a letter at a time* 










The beauty of the Egyptian alphabet is in the 
grace of the lower case letters, while the beauty 
of Roman lettering is best shown in the capitals. 

The Egyptian letter being very plain can be 
modified and stretched into many different shapes 
withont becoming illegible. This and the fact 
that it can be made more rapidly than the spurred 
letters has made it a favorite style among sign 
painters and commercial artists. 

When yon have fully mastered the Egyptian 
alphabet, the Roman should be your next study. 

The shapes are practically the same only the 
Roman is a thick and thin letter and has spurs at 
the points. 

The Roman capital letters were brought to a 
state of perfection about two thousand years ago, 
and have not been improved upon since. 

The lower case letters were not introduced until 
some centuries later, and were brought to their 
present standard shape by the Italians in the fif- 
teenth century. 

In drawing the Roman letters make all the heavy 
lines of one width throughout the line of lettering 
and all the light lines must be of one width. 

Be especially careful to put the heavy stroke 
of all letters in the proper place. Don't put the 
heavy stroke of the A and V on the same side of 
the letter. Remember this rule for thick and thin 
letters. — 

All lines which slant down and to the left are 
light and all lines which slant down and to the 
right are heavy. See Fig. 8. 

The letter Z is the only possible exception to 
this rule, it is drawn with the slanting line either 
light or heavy, according to the alphabet you are 







Sharp pointed and rounded letters should be 
slightly higher than the others. The points of the 
Eoman A and V should extend slightly through 
the guide lines you have ruled on your paper. 
Also the 0, C, G-, Q and S should extend a little 
through the line. These letters should be only 
slightly larger and the difference will not be ap- 
parent. If these letters were kept inside of the 
guide lines they would look smaller than the 
square letters. 

The Eoman letters can be modified to suit spe- 
cial occasions with very pleasing effects, but don't 
attempt modifications until you can draw the 
standard forms perfectly without the alphabet 
plate before you to copy from. 

The Eoman alphabet is suitable for practically 
all work, and if you are ever in doubt as to what 
alphabet is most appropriate for your purpose 
use the Eoman. 

After mastering the two alphabets just de- 
scribed, the next standard letter is the Script. 

In copying the Script alphabet make your let- 
ters quite large at first as you can see your mis- 
takes easier in that way. 

Try always to make your script lettering look 
like one continuous flow of harmonious curves; 
make every curve smooth and graceful without 
sudden breaks or clumsy shapes. 

The Script alphabet is easier to draw and 
usually looks better when set at a slant, and you 
should be careful to keep your letters at the same 
slant throughout the composition, — usually 30 or 
35 degrees. 

If you are using a drawing board and T square 
you can buy a 30 x 60 degree triangle at any art 



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Store and it will be a great help in making slant 

The light Script is a dainty letter and may be 
used to the best advantage on signs of a dainty, 
character such as for millinery or candy stores. 

Old English is a beautiful alphabet but is little 
used because it is hard to read. And it should 
only be used where it is especially appropriate. 

The four alphabets just described are the base 
of all other alphabets now used, and if you master 
them you have practically mastered all existing 
English alphabets, and you should be able to orig- 
inate styles of lettering for all classes of work. 

The Italic letters are a sort of combination of 
Roman and Script forms, and are supposed to 
have been originated by Petrarch, an Italian poet 
of the fourteenth century. They were originally 
used as lower case letters only in combination 
with Roman capitals ; they will also combine well 
with Script capitals. 

Italics harmonize with Roman letters and may 
be used for the text matter where Roman letters 
are used for the display or headings. 

Like the Script, the Italics should be used upper 
and lower case only, that is, never use a whole 
word or line of Italic capitals. Use a capital for 
the starting letter and use small (lower case) let- 
ters for the balance of the word or sentence. 

This also applies to the Old English, Bradley 
Text or any extremely decorative letter. 

The Italics should be drawn at a slant and the 
same slant should be maintained throughout the 
line or layout of letteriing. 

The Bradley Text, and other text capitals, are 
modifications of the Old English. 

The heavy plug letter is a cross between Roman 







and Egyptian forms. It is very good wherever a 
heavy letter is wanted and looks best when 
stretched out qnite wide. 

The Spur Egyptian (Fig. 34) is a modification 
of the plain Egyptian, and when once you have 
mastered the standard alphabets you will need no 
instruction on the others. 

The Cartoon Poster alphabet is good for humor- 
ous story headings, etc. 

The Japanese Novelty alphabet is good for 
Chop Suey signs, or in hand lettered headings for 
Chinese and Japanese stories. 

The Tuscan and Round full block letters are 
good for heavy display lines. They can be formed 
as single stroke letters and may be spread very 
wide and modified in many pleasing ways. 

The Novelty letters shown on the page of modi- 
fications (Figs. 34 to 41) are suggestions to give 
you an idea of forms you can originate for special 

The half block letters are used mostly for "Cut 
5n" work, that is, where you paint around the 
letters, leaving the wording in white. 

The standard proportion is to make the letters 
about four-fifths as wide as they are tall. 

The letters A, M and Y should just fill the 
square, the W is still wider, and the letters G and 
y are slightly wider than the standard four-fifths. 

The letters F, J and L should not be so wide. 
The width of the letter faces should be the same 
as the letter I, which is about one-fifth as wide as 
it is tall. 

You should draw this alphabet carefully and 
memorize the proportions of the letters; it will 
help you with all the other alphabets, as they 
don't vary much from these rules. 



Close Shade. Cast 5Wow. ~> Split 5 We. Relief Shades 
Relief Shade. Rilling Shadoyy.Wron^Side.TooCbe.diK. 










You should know what correct proportions are, 
so measure your letters at nYst until your eyes 
become trained to judge correctly. 

To the average person the art of hand lettering 
looks like a dry study, and they regard the work 
as a mechanical accomplishment. Nothing could 
be further from the truth. "When once you have 
mastered the theory and practice of lettering, it 
becomes an art and is no longer mechanical. You 
can express just as much originality and person- 
ality in lettering as you can in pictorial work. 
The human figure has a skeleton and the artist 
must observe certain rules and proportions, else 
his work will look like a monstrosity instead of a 
thing of beauty. 

So it is with the lettering artist ; but when once 
he has the fundamentals of lettering he will find it 
possible to make hundreds of pleasing modifica- 
tions ; in fact, he adopts letter forms to suit every 
purpose and occasion, and his possibilities are as 
unlimited as in any art. 

The Chapter headings in this book are examples 
of modified lettering. It is usually customary to 
keep such headings in harmony with each other; 
however, I have purposely neglected that in order 
to show many different styles of lettering. These 
were hurriedly sketched and are not perfect, but 
will give you some idea of the possibilities along 
this line. 


Composition is as important in sign work as it 
is in landscape painting. 

Good lettering doesn't make a good sign nnless 
the layont or arrangement of the lettering is good. 

A good composition usnally contains an ele- 
ment of squareness, curvature and radiation. 

The straight and curved forms of the letters 
may give the squareness and curvature while a bit 
of scroll work or a line of lettering arranged in a* 
semicircle may add the touch of radiation to your 

Mechanical perfection in composition is not 
pleasing. A perfectly square sign is not as pleas- 
ing to the eye as an oblong. 

A perfect circle is not as beautiful as an oval 
form or a circle broken by other lines. 

The principal line of lettering should not come 
exactly in the center of a sign, measuring up and 
down, but usually would look far better if placed 
well above the center. 

Your design should show harmony in its rela- 
tionship. Block letters are appropriate for a 
hardware store or an ice and coal sign, and a 
light Script or other dainty letter should be used 
on the window of a lace and fancywork store. 

Don't use Heavy Plug letters on a milliner's 
sign and Old English on the smoke stack of an 
iron foundry. 



A good sign must contain contrast as well as 
harmony. There shonld be contrast in the size of 
lettering, and the color of the letter shonld con- 
trast as much as possible with the background. 
Wherever possible nse at least two different sizes 
of lettering. Bring ont the line of most im- 
portance larger than the remainder of the let- 

Don't use too many styles of lettering on one 
sign, one or two styles is usually enough. And 
these different styles should harmonize. Koman 
harmonizes with Italic or Egyptian, but Full 
Block doesn 't harmonize with light Script. 

Full Block letters are very appropriate for a 
bank sign, because they look substantial. Where 
they are used for the display line Egyptian or 
Half Block is good for the small lettering. 

When Bound Full Block or Heavy Plug letters 
are used for display lines, plain Egyptian is good 
for the less important wording. 

Roman letters harmonize with the straight lines 
of architecture, while Italics harmonize best with 
Scroll designs. 

Now and then a line of lettering on the slant 
will kill the monotony of a "layout," but don't 
overdo it. 

Try to keep your designs well balanced, don't 
crowd your words or make your letters too large 
for the space. A well-arranged layout of small 
lettering is easier to read than a crowded sign of 
large lettering. 

Underlining a line or two of lettering will some- 
times improve a sign, and it helps to "tie" the 
design together. 

A touch of scroll work or a fancy initial will 
often improve a sign fifty per cent, but don't 




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carry the decorative idea too far. Scrolls and 
other decorations should be in a subdued color or 
they may stand out stronger than the lettering 
and spoil the sign. A plain neat sign is better 
than one which is over-decorated. 

" Distance lends enchantment" in sign composi- 
tion as well as in life. By using a shade under the 
letter or some other touch of perspective you can 
suggest the distance. 

The shade should fall downward and to the left 
and usually should be set entirely away from the 
letter and not connected to it. See Fig. 7. 

The reason for shading letters to the left is that 
it takes less time, as fewer brush strokes are re- 
quired than for a right-hand shade. 

A highlight will often improve the appearance 
of a letter also. 

The highlight should be on the face of the letter 
and at the upper right-hand edge directly oppo- 
site the shade. 

Where both highlight and shade are used the 
highlight should usually be lighter than the face 
of the letter, while the shade should be darker. 

Display letters should usually be improved by 
outlining ; for instance, if you were to paint a black 
letter on a green wall a line of white around the 
letter would be a great improvement. 

An outline of blue, red or green is often used on 
aluminum window signs. 

Face decoration is another method of improving 
plain letters. For painting face decorations use 
a color which contrasts with the background 
more than the letter itself does. 

White paint is the best material for face deco- 
ration or highlights on an aluminum window sign. 


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In making a gold window sign with face decora- 
tion, two colors of gold leaf arfe nsnally used. The 
outline and face decoration is laid with deep gold, 
then backed up and the surplus gold removed 
before the body color of lemon gold is laid. 

If you paint plain black letters on a white back- 
ground, a drop shade of light gray will greatly 
improve the appearance of the letters. 

Letters possess character, and as the portrait 
painter strives to bring out the character of his 
model, so the sign painter should try to bring out 
the peculiar characteristics of the letter which 
he uses. 

The plain Egyptian, Bradley Text and light 
Script letters are tall and may be made taller 
than standard proportions and still give a very 
pleasing effect. 

If you want to make a living from sign painting 
within a short time, I advise you to give your en- 
tire attention to the Eoman and Egyptian alpha- 
bets, and learn to make one good single stroke 
alphabet, say the Modern Text. The heavy Bul- 
letin Eoman is good for all-around work. 

Stick to the three above alphabets and let the 
others alone for the first year or so ; you can han- 
dle all classes of work and your lettering will 
develop character, while if you try to use all the 
different alphabets you will only confuse your- 
self, and will be unable to do anything well. 

One of the best sign painters I have ever met 
used three alphabets exclusively on nine-tenths of 
his work. He used the plain Egyptian, Heavy 
Plug, and single stroke Italic. He was an un- 
usually fast workman and his signs always looked 
snappy and full of character. 

I have also known several fairly good painters 








who used only two alphabets, usually Egyptian and 
Script. It is far better to do two alphabets well 
than twenty in a slipshod manner. Whatever 
alphabets you may select, strive to draw perfect 
letters, make the straight lines straight, the curves 
smooth, and the spurs sharp, and keep the letters 
in proper proportion to each other. 

Speed is a thing which will eventually come to 
a good workman, but work for perfection rather 
than speed until you can really do good work. 

Here are a few suggestions for making modi- 
fied alphabets. 

Never mix alphabets, that is, don't use Koman 
and Egyptian, or Poster and Half Block letters in 
the same word. 

When you use a letter with spurs (Spurs are 
shown in black in Fig. 18), all the letters of the 
word or line should be spurred. 

Or if you use a top-heavy S, the other letters 
which will permit should be top-heavy. See Fig. 

These modified forms may be used and the re- 
maining letters made just as they are in the alpha- 
bet, plate No. 4. 

Notice the ends of the letters C and S in Fig. 
34; they are straight up and down instead of at 
an angle, as in alphabet No. 4. Therefore the 
ends of G and J would be made the same way to 
follow out the modification. 




The three primary colors are Red, Blue and 

Purple, Green and Orange are the secondary 

Purple is made of red and blue. 

Green is made of yellow and blue. 

Orange is made of yellow and red. 

Given the primary colors an artist can mix any 
other color for himself. However, most painters 
buy the colors they want to use and mix colors 
only in emergencies. 

When two primary colors are combined the 
third primary will be the contrast for the mixed 
color. Thus, if you mix red and blue you get pur- 
ple, and yellow will make the strongest contrast 
for purple. Red contrasts with green, and blue 
is a contrast for orange. 

Another thing to remember in color composi- 
tion is that yellow has the appearance of coming 
toward the observer. Red stands still; and blue 

Different shades and tints of color may be made 
toy adding black and white. By adding a small 
amount of black to blue you get an indigo color, 
or by adding a large amount of white you get a 
sky blue. 



Black is very strong and should be added to 
other colors very sparingly or yon will get them 
too dark. 

Sign painters use colors which are already 
ground in oil or Japan and seldom mix dry colors. 

Colors in oil or Japan are in a heavy paste form 
and are thinned as used. 

For work on glass, the color is mixed with var- 
nish. For muslin, the color is mixed with gaso- 
line and varnish. For wood, with oil and turpen- 
tine, and for brick walls, the color is thinned with 
oil and gasoline. 

Where colors dry too slow, Japan drier is 

Sign painters use the strong pure colors for 
most work, while house painters use softer tints 
which are made by mixing colors with a large per- 
centage of white lead. 

Tint is the proper word to express very light 
colors, or colors mixed with a large amount of 

Shades are dark colors made by adding black 
to other colors. 

Hue means a particular tone of any color, such 
as orange-yellow, or purple-blue. 

The following primaries are most used by sign 
painters : 

Vermilion and Para reds are used because they 
are more brilliant, opaque and durable than most 
other reds. Para reds are not durable if mixed 
with white lead, — this is usually mentioned on the 

When necessary to add white to such reds, zinc 
white should be used. 

Prussian blue is the standard sign painter's 
blue; it is semi-transparent, but being a very 



strong color it can be mixed with white to make it 
opaque and still retain a very dark blue. 

Chrome is the sign painter's yellow; it comes in 
three shades: 

No. 1 Chrome, or Liemon; 
No. 2, or medium Chrome ; and 
No. 3, or Chrome Orange. 

The following list may be referred to for mixing 
colors : The amount of each color required is not 
always given because that depends altogether on 
the tint, shade or hue desired. But usually you 
should use more of the light colors than the dark 

Use a larger portion of the first color mentioned 
where exact proportions are not given. 

Brewster Greene — Green, black and a touch <bf 

Brown — Yellow, red and black. 
Buff — "White and yellow. 
Canary — White and No. 2 Chrome Yellow. 
Chestnut — White and brown. 
Chocolate — White, burnt umber and yellow, Or 

red, black and yellow. 
Citron — 3 parts red, 2 parts yellow, 1 part blue. 
Coral Pink — White lead 10 parts, Vermilion 3 

parts, Orange Chrome, 2 parts. 
Cream — Add small quantity of yellow and drop 

of red to white. 
Drab — White lead 9 parts, Ochre 1 part, a drop 

of lamp black. 
Flesh — White with a small amount of red and a 

drop of yellow. 

For a sallow complexion add umber or olive 

green, very sparingly. 
Gray— White and Black. 



Green — Yellow and bine. 

Lavender— Add white to violet, or mix white, 

black and red. 
Maroon — Red and black. 
Neutral Gray— Yellow, blue and red. Add white 

for lighter tints. 
Old Ivory— "White lead tinted with a few drops 

of raw sienna. 
Old Rose — Carmine, white and a drop of black. 
Olive Green — White, yellow, green and black. 
Orange — Yellow and red. 
Peacock Blue-^-3 parts white, 1 part light Chrome 

green, 1 part ultramarine blue, a drop of 

Pea Green — White and green. 
Pearl Gray — White lead and a very small quan- 
tity of red, blue and black in equal propor- 
Pink — White and red. 
Pink Shell — White 50 parts, vermilion 2 parts, 

orange chrome 1 part, burnt sienna 1 part 8 
Purple — Red and blue. 
Purple Lake — Vermilion and a little ultramarine 

Rose — Tint white with carmine. 
Scarlet — Vermilion 8 parts, carmine 1 part, zine 

white 1 part. 
Sepia Color — Burnt sienna, small quantity of 

lamp black and Indian red. 
Sky Blue — White tinted with blue. 
Straw Color — White 8 parts, medium chrome 1 

Tan — White, burnt sienna, chrome yellow and raw 

Terra Cotta — White and a small quantity of 

burnt sienna, drop of black. 


Violet — Blue and red. 

Wine Color — Three parts carmine, 2 parts ultra- 
marine blue. 

How to Mix Paints 

To break white lead properly for flat work you 
should stir in a small amount of turpentine and 
let it stand over night. In the morning pour off 
the milky liquid and stir in fresh turpentine. Re- 
peat the above operation until the liquid is abso- 
lutely clear after standing. Then mix with 
turpentine and rubbing varnish. 

To make white paint of the white lead, add 
linseed oil in the proportion of 5 gallons to 100 
pounds of white lead. A pint of Drier may also 
be added. Or in winter time use iy 2 gallons of 
linseed oil, l / 2 gallon of turpentine and a pint of 
Japan drier to 100 pounds of white lead. 

For Primer, or first coat on new buildings, most 
house painters use 6y 2 gallons of raw linseed oil 
and y 2 gallon of turpentine to 100 pounds of white 

White lead should be purchased already ground 
in oil, but red lead should be purchased in the fine 
ground dry state, and mixed as used. 

Red lead is used for prime coat on iron work 
or where the finishing coat is to be red. 

Red lead is considered much better than white 
lead for painting iron, or for boats and other sur- 
faces submerged in water. 

Gasoline is used for thinning white lead for 
brick wall or bulletin signs. Bulletins are not 
usually expected to last over six months. 

But for house painting gasoline should never be 



used, and turpentine Should be used sparingly on 
exterior work, or the paint will become chalky and 
rub off. 

Paint peeling is usually caused by applying the 
paint too thick; by painting a second coat before 
the first coat is dry, or by painting on damp wood. 

Colored paints are made by grinding the dry 
color in linseed oil and then thinning with oil 
and turps. Usually white lead is added to make 
the paint cover better. 

(In mixing blacks and greens more driers are 
necessary tha^i with most other colors. One of 
my first mistakes in sign painting was to mix lamp 
black with raw linseed oil. That was ten years 
ago, and I doubt if the black is dry yet. It wasn't 
the last time I saw it.) 

To give you an idea of how much white lead is 
used in colored paints I am giving you the proper 
proportions of ingredients for a chocolate brown 
paint : 

One hundred pounds white lead, 25 pounds of 
burnt umber, 10 pounds of burnt sienna, 4 pounds 
Chrome yellow, 5y 2 gallons of linseed oil, y 2 gal- 
lon of turpentine, 1 pint of Japan drier. 

This would make over ten gallons of very good 
paint, much better than any ready mixed house 

White lead is added to most other colors in 
about the above proportions, unless a very bril- 
liant color is wanted, then less white is used. 

For interior or fiat coat work the paint is 
thinned with turpentine and very little oil is used. 

Some pigments require a great deal more oil 
than others when grinding to paste form ; for in- 
stance, 25 pounds of white lead will only absorb 
about 3 pounds of oil in grinding, while 25 pounds 



>s 5 
















of burnt sienna would require almost 45 pounds 
of oil. 

The following table gives approximately the 
amount of oil required in grinding raw pigments 
to paste form : 

25 lbs. chrome yellow requires 5 lbs. oil. 

25 lbs. vermilion 

25 lbs. chrome green 

25 lbs. yellow ochre 

x 25 lbs. ivory black 

25 lbs. cobalt blue 

25 lbs. raw sienna 

25 lbs. Florentine brown 

Other colors require somewhat similar propor- 
tions; for instance, light red, light ochre, and zinc 
white require just a little more oil respectively 
than vermilion, yellow ochre and white lead. 

This table is given for painters who use large 
quantities of paint and should not confuse the 
amateur sign painter, who is seldom, if ever, re- 
quired to grind his own colors. 

White is not strong but has the good quality of 
being opaque (that is, not transparent), and is 
frequently mixed with other colors which are 
somewhat transparent, such as Prussian blue, to 
make the color more opaque. Prussian blue, red 
and other dark colors are so strong that a small 
quantity of white doesn't materially change their 
appearance. But a very small quantity of color, 
such as might be in an uncleaned brush, would be 
sufficient to tint a whole can of white and spoil it 
for use as white paint. 

Warm colors harmonize with each other. Eed, 
yellow and orange are warm colors. 



Blue is a cold color and harmonizes best with 
other shales or tints of blue. 

Black harmonizes with warm colors, and warm 
colors are used more than cold ones in sign paint- 

To mix a warm gray to harmonize with other 
warm colors add a small amount of red and black 
to a larger quantity of white. 

For a cold gray mix in blue instead of red. 

Black and white make a very strong contrast 
and such signs are therefore easiest to read. 

The eye sees white objects. If all the world 
were black we would be blind. When you read the 
newspaper you don't see the black lettering so 
much as you see the white blackground behind it, 
this enables you to read the paper; therefore, if 
the paper was black and the lettering white it 
would be easier to read. 

I believe that white letters on a black back- 
ground form the most readable sign that can be 

Personally I think green and red are the best 
colors to use on an aluminum window sign, and 
they may both be used on the same sign for con- 

Thus, if the lettering is shaded with red the 
scroll work should be green. Or if the display 
line is outlined with red the small lettering might 
be outlined in green, etc. 

For transparencies I prefer black and white. 
A line of gold and red along the bottom will make 
the sign look richer. 

For gold leaf shades and outlines, black is the 
old standby, but other colors are used a great deal. 
In New York, blue is used almost altogether with 



Green and red are beautiful contrasts for gold, 
and small touches of these colors may be used to 
very good advantage in decorative work. 

Black is the best color to use in combination 
with silver leaf. 

Where red and blue are used on the same sign, 
they should not usually come in contact with each 
other, but should be separated by white. Notice 
how a barber pole is striped so that these colors 
are always separated by white. 

When colors are used in making show cards 
you can usually get more pleasing results by using 
subdued or soft colors; that is, mix white with 
your colors instead of using them all as brilliant 
as they are when you buy them. 

Bright colors are made more brilliant by sur- 
rounding them with subdued tints. 

A sign must have contrast to be readable, don't 
try to letter on a dark background with a dark 
color. If the surface is dark the lettering should 
be white or a very light color; or if the back- 
ground is white the lettering should be dark. 

Red, Black, Blue and deep Green are the prin- 
cipal dark colors used. White, Chrome Yellow, 
Aluminum or Gold lettering shows up well on 
dark backgrounds and vice versa. 

Where it is necessary to letter on a medium 
shade of Gray, Green, Brown or other background 
where neither light nor dark colors show up very 
well, you can get the necessary contrast by paint- 
ing a dark letter with a white outline, or a white 
letter with a dark outline. 

One thing which every amateur should avoid is 
the use of too many colors. Don't try to use all 
the colors you have on one sign. Simple color 
combinations are the best. 



It takes a man with a good knowledge of color 
and years of experience to combine many colors 
in one composition and get pleasing results. 

Watch the good color combinations you see in 
show cards and otEer signs and try to adopt the 
best of them. 

Following are a few good color combinations 
for signs and show cards. 

The first four are harmonious combinations, and 
the last three are good examples of strong con- 

The contrasts -are best, especially for most be- 
ginners ' work. 

Background! Lettering 

[ Shade 





Dark gray 

Dark gray 


Light gray 



Dark gray 

Dark gray 







Dark blue 

Light blue 

Dark blue 

Light blue 

Light green 









White or green 

White IRed and black 


Light green 

Green or gra> 

In the last combination the large lettering would 
be red and the small lettering black. 

Where white lettering is called for aluminum 
may be used if desired. 

Experimenting with color combinations for 
practice is all right, but when you are painting 
signs for customers, use color combinations which 
you have already tried out and found satisfac- 

In different parts of the country I find many 
kinds of signs and different methods of working; 
for instance : In Washington, D. C, almost all the 
gold-leaf window signs are one color leaf with a 
varnish outline under the leaf ; while in St. Louis 
that kind of work is never seen. In New York 



most of the cheap window signs are tin foil on 
ready-made metallic letters. In fact, there is a 
greater quantity and variety of ready-made letters 
there than in all the other large cities combined. 
"Cut In" mnslin signs are quite common, and 
transparency signs are painted in every imagin- 
able color. 

In St. Louis things are quite different. "Cut 
in" muslin is almost unknown. Black and white 
is popular for window transparencies, and many 
of these have gold leaf outlines around the letters. 
Also some of the best shops in town frequently 
do aluminum window signs. 

Chicago and Los Angeles are reputed to be the 
sign centers of the country; Chicago is there for 
quantity, but for class the Pacific coast is in the 

There Is more of a tendency toward illustrated 
signs in some communities than in others. In 
Mexico most signs are illustrated, probably be- 
cause there are so many people who cannot read. 
In most of our cities, illustrated window work is 
quite rare; but I have been called upon to paint 
pictures of almost everything imaginable, and a 
collection of good scrap pictures has proved very 

Let simplicity be your guiding star in sign 
painting. There is a rich dignity about a good 
black and white sign which cannot be surpassed 
by anything but gold leaf. 

Do not paint window lettering on the outside 
of the glass with dark red, blue or black as it will 
not show up unless it has a white background. 


Show cards are classed as temporary signs and 
are made in an entirely different way from per- 
manent signs. 

Show card colors are ready mixed and are not 
waterproof. These colors come in glass jars and 
cost abont twenty cents per jar. You can buy 
them from art stores or at most stationers. 

BisselPs Velvet Black is exceptionally good. 
For most of the other colors I use Devoe brand; 
Carter's white and green are very good. These 
are the three principal makes; you can try them 
all and select the ones you like Best. 

If your color gets too thick thin it with wafer. 
A drop of glycerine added makes it work better. 
If the color has a tendency to rub off, mix a little 
mucilage with it. 

Do not try to use writing ink, cake or tube 
colors, pointed brushes, or any cheap camel hair 
or bristle brushes for making show cards. Such 
materials mean wasted money and wasted time in 
trying to use them. 

Show card brushes are round and made of Eed 
Sable hair and are trimmed square at the end. 
Flat brushes may be used for very large work. 

You should have about three round show card 
brushes to start, sizes 6, 9 and 12 make a good set. 




Dip the brush in the color and then work it ont 
flat by pulling back and forth over a piece of glass 
or cardboard before yon try to letter with it. 

The brushes are round but you should always 
try to keep the hair worked out flat, and every 
time the brush is dipped in the color it should be 
worked flat before you start to letter with it. 

Show cards are sold for a very moderate price 
and consequently must be made more rapidly than 
permanent signs. 

Alphabets known as single stroke should be 
used almost exclusively. Single stroke doesn't 
mean that each letter is formed with a single brush 
stroke, but each letter is formed with the fewest 
possible srokes. For instance, the letter S can 
be made by the single stroke method with three 
strokes, while a finished Eoman S would require 
a great many strokes. 

The Modern Text, Bradley Text and single 
stroke Italics are all good alphabets for single 
stroke work and can be executed with either a 
brush or square point lettering pen. 

The speed pen poster alphabet can be made quite 
rapidly as a single stroke letter by using a style 
B Speed Ball pen. 

One line of finished lettering on a show card 
is enough, this of course should be the most im- 
portant word or words on the card. The balance 
of the lettering should be single stroke. Many 
cards can be lettered altogether with single stroke 
letters, but learn to do them well. 

Before you can master show card writing or 
any kind of brush lettering, you must learn to exe- 
cute the practice strokes with a brush, see Fig. 6. 
When you can make these strokes free-hand in all 
sizes and positions, the lettering will be easy, that 


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is, if yon have already learned to draw the plain 
alphabets with a pencil. 

Hold yonr brush lightly between the thnmb and 
fingers, as yon would a pen or pencil, or a little 
nearer perpendicular is better, roll the brush be- 
tween your fingers as you make a curved line so 
as to keep it flat on the paper. 

It is easier to work on a board or table which 
slants slightly than on a flat table. 

Some card writers do all large work on an easel 
with the board standing almost straight up in 
front of them. 

Always wash your brush carefully when yon 
change from one color to another, as a drop of 
dark color will change the shade of a lighter color. 
Wash these brushes in cold water only. Also 
wash your brushes carefully before laying them 
away, if the color dries in the brush it may be 

Lay your brushes in a place where the hair 
will not be bent or warped out of shape. Red 
Sable brushes are expensive but with care they 
may last two or three years. 

Most small show card lettering is done with a 
pen. I use a Sonnecken pen with an ink retainer 
or a Speed Ball pen for some purposes. 

Use waterproof drawing ink in these pens, then 
clean them well after using and they will give per- 
fect satisfaction. 

For Script lettering use a small pointed Red 
Sable brush and outline the letters, then fill in. 

A few years ago the shading pen was popular, 
but now very few card writers will use it. Also 
the air pencil and several other tools for freak 
lettering are not used by up-to-date card writers. 

" Signs of the Times" is a magazine for sign 



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painters ; it sells for twenty-five cents per copy, or 
$2 per year. It is published at Cincinnati, Ohio. 
It carries "ads" of all the sign painters' supply 
houses. If you get catalogs from these houses 
you can learn a great deal about paints, brushes, 
etc., from them. 

In making show cards the lettering should be 
laid out in a small space, leaving a wide margin 
all around. 

For making the layout, use a piece of soft char- 
coal stick and the lines can be dusted off when 
the work is finished. 

Some card writers use a very hard lead pencil 
and the light lines can be left on the card. 

If you live in a large city study the styles of 
cards in the downtown store windows; you can 
learn more about styles of layout and color com- 
binations by observing the work of others than 
could be put into a book. 

An air brush is an instrument for spraying 
color and is used by many card writers for ob- 
taining artistic effects. It is usually used with 
a stencil, that is, the part of the card not to be 
tinted is covered up with a pattern cut from card- 
board or heavy paper. A complete air brush out- 
fit costs from $25 up. You can imitate airbrush 
effects with a tin fixatif sprayer which can be pur- 
chased at an art store for about twenty cents. Or 
you can use a perfume atomizer. The color used 
for this purpose must be mixed very thin. 

Dry color can be rubbed into a card with a piece 
of cotton, and many beautiful blended effects can 
be obtained. 

For novelty effects a piece of wall paper can 
be cut out, pasted on the card and outlined as a 



panel, then yon can letter on the wall paper with 
white or some other suitable color. 

Seasonable cards, style cards, etc., should be 
decorated to suit the season. Following are a few 
suggestions : 

Winter scenes for January. 

Washington and Lincoln pictures, hatchets, 
cherries, etc., for February. 

Easter lilies, rabbits, and scenes showing wind 
and rain or spring blossoms for March and April. 

Flowers and flags for May. 

Roses, brides and commencement scenes for 

Flags and firecrackers for July. 

Vacation scenes for July and August. 

School scenes for September. 

Autumn scenes with autumn leaves and colors 
for September and October. 

Turkeys, pumpkins and corn shocks for No- 

Holly, mistletoe, poinsetta, Santa Claus and 
snow scenes for December. 

You can often cut suitable colored scenes from 
magazines and paste them on, then by outlining 
the edge of the panel with a light color the pic- 
ture will appear to be painted right on the card. 
Diamond dust or flitter brocades make beautiful 
effects for some classes of show cards. You can 
buy it in packages for about twenty cents an 
ounce. An ounce will decorate a great many 
cards. To apply the flitter you should purchase 
a bottle of mucilage and a small camel hair brush 
(don't use your Red Sable brush for this). Paint 
on any form of decoration you prefer with the 
mucilage and sprinkle the flitter on while the 
mucilage is wet. After it has set and dried a few 



minutes you can shake off the loose flitter and put 
it back into the package. 

Don't try to sell your work until you can do 
it well, then charge twenty-five cents and up for 
each card you make. 

Show card board usually comes in sheets 22 x 28 
inches and costs from four to eight dollars per 
hundred sheets. You can purchase it from a 
printer, or better still from a wholesale paper 

Simple, full sheet cards bring from one dollar 
up. A Bill of Fare or other card containing a 
large amount * of lettering should bring about 
twice as much. 

Half sheet cards, 14 x 22 inches, sell for 50 cents 
and up; a card bearing an illustration should 
bring more than a plain lettered card. Charge 
for your time. 

Quarter sheets, 11 x 14 inches, or smaller cards, 
sell for 25 cents and up, according to the amount 
of lettering. Air brushed cards are worth about 
fifty per cent more than plain cards. 

Price tickets are worth from 30 cents to $3 per 
dozen, according to style, etc. 


Single Stroke &alic -53 







"Window work can be divided into four prin- 
cipal classes : 

Painted or Bronzed Signs, 

Transparency Signs, 

Gold Leaf Work, and 

Eeady Made Letters. 

In this chapter I shall describe the first two 
classes of work, the other two will be treated in 
later chapters. 

"Window signs are classed as permanent work 
and are painted with colors ground in oil or 

Do not buy ready mixed paints for sign paint- 
ing, but bny colors ground in oil or Japan. They 
come in one-pound cans and you can obtain them 
at any good paint store. The difference between 
oil and Japan colors is that Japan colors dry very 
rapidly ; Japan colors are also called coach colors. 

Colors ground in oil dry slowly, but they have 
more gloss and are more durable than Japan 
colors. Japan driers may be added to oil color 
to hasten drying. Linseed oil is added to slow 
the drying process. 

To do aluminum bronze and transparency signs 
you should have the following materials: 

1 lb. Vermilion in oil, 

1 lb. Medium Chrome Green in oil, 

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1 lb. French (or Zinc) White in oil, 

2 lbs. White Lead in oil, 

1 lb. Coach Black (Japan Color), 

1 oz. Aluminum Bronze Powder. 

Several camel hair lettering brushes in quills, 
usually called lettering pencils, sizes 4, 6, 8 and 
10, are convenient. They cost from 10 to 40 cents 

One-half pint of Nonpareil Japan (this is manu- 
factured by the Chicago Varnish Co.), other makes 
of quick gold size or coach Japan may be use3, 
or, if you can't obtain this, a good grade of House 
painter's Japan will do. 

One-half pint of Exterior Spar Varnish. A 
putty knife or paring knife, or both. Some tur- 
pentine, a chalk line, some chalk, yard stick and 
some old safety razor blades. The blades are 
used for cutting off old window signs and straight- 
ening out bad places in your lettering. 

This selection of material will cost about five 
dollars. You should also have some kind of a box 
or carrying case for the outfit. Later you may 
add yellow and blue color, some linseed oil, a mahl 
stick, etc., to your outfit. 

Now, if you have learned to draw the alphabets 
and make show cards you will have very little 
trouble in making a passable window sign. You 
will probably have some trouble in getting your 
colors and brushes to work right at first, but a 
little practice will overcome that. 

First chalk your layout on the window, snapping 
the straight lines for top and bottom of each line 
of lettering with your chalk line. Then draw the 
letters lightly with chalk. This is done to be sure 
to get the spacing and balance right, and as you 
become more experienced you will not need to 



draw the letters in detail for this, kind of work. 

If your chalk doesn't mark well on the glass, 
hold it to your month and breathe on it, this will 
cause it to adhere better. 

Be very eareful to have the layout well balanced 
before you start to paint. 

Aluminum is the most popular material for 
cheap window signs, it has an attractive appear- 
ance and will often last for years. Aluminum 
signs are painted on the outside of the ^ window 
while transparency work is done on the inside. 

Now to start your aluminum sign. Take an 
empty can or small cup and pour a small quantity 
of the Nonpareil Japan in it and add about one- 
half as much Spar Varnish as you have Japan 
and then mix in a small quantity of the zinc white, 
chrome yellow, or other light color, just enough to 
color it so that your brush strokes will show 
plainly on the glass. 

(Different men have different ways of mixing 
"size," some use Japan only, others Varnish 
only, but I prefer a mixture.) 

Now take your camel hair lettering pencil, No, 
6 or 8 is a good size, dip it in the color and work 
it out flat on the side of the can, or on your putty 
knife, just as you work the show card brushes flat 
on the glass slab. 

Now you can use your yard stick, or mahl stick, 
for a rest. Hold the lower end of the stick and 
the paint can in the left hand and rest the other 
end of the stick on the window. Now rest your 
right hand across the stick to steady it while you" 
paint the letters. You can tie a small piece of 
chamois skin or cloth around the ball of the mahl 
stick to keep it from sliding. 

If you have an opportunity to watch a good sign 



painter at work it will help you a great deal to 
observe how he uses the mahl stick and brush. 

Try to keep your brush strokes straight and 
emooth and make the body of the letters all the 
Bame width. Amateurs usually have a tendency 
to make each succeeding letter a little lighter or 
a little heavier than the ones before. 

If the sign is small you may be able to do all 
the lettering before you will need to rub on the 

lYou should empty the aluminum powder into a 
tin can with a tight lid and carry it that way. 

Now take a piece of cotton cloth and fold it up 
\o make a buff, then while the paint on the window 
is still tacky dip the cloth in the aluminum pow- 
der and rub it lightly over the lettering. (If you 
wait too long the powder won't stick good, and if 
you rub it on too soon you may smear the paint ; 
after a few trials you will be able to tell when the 
size is just right.) 

' The aluminum will adhere to the size, and the 
yellow or other color will be entirely covered, the 
Result will be a bright silver-colored sign which 
will never tarnish. 

Some painters use gold bronze on the outside 
the same as aluminum, but I advise you not to do 
it. The bronze is merely fine ground brass and 
will soon tarnish or turn black when exposed, while 
aluminum, on the other hand, will remain white 
for years. 

Now, when the aluminum is on, you may pro- 
ceed to outline or shade the letters, whichever you 
prefer to do. Outlining is more difficult, so a be- 
ginner might use a shade instead. 

Mix a small quantity of the color ground in oil, 
with Spar Varnish, and keep your brush worked 





out flat as before ; if the paint is too stiff to work 
well you may add a few drops of linseed oil, turps, 
or Japan. 

If you outline the letters use a small brush and 
keep the outline narrow; but if you shade them 
you may use a larger brush, No. 8 or 10, and make 
the shade quite wide. See Fig, 7 for shade ex- 

Bed and green may both be used on an aluminum 
sign with pleasing results if you follow directions 
given in the chapter on color combinations. 

The price of an aluminum window sign ranges 
from three dollars for a small job to $10 for a 
large job. 

Transparency signs are worth twice as much 
for the same amount of lettering. 

When you are able to put on a good aluminum 
job you will have but little trouble in doing a 
transparency sign. 

Transparency signs are usually ma3e along the 
upper or lower edge of the window, and a solid 
background is painted around them. 

Black and white are the easiest colors to apply, 
so I shall describe the procedure for painting a 
black background with white lettering. When you 
can do this properly other colors will give you 
no trouble. 

First mark out the sign very carefully on the 
outside of the glass. The half block alphabet is 
easiest to handle here at first as the letters are 
made up entirely of straight lines. Use chalk or 
keremic crayon for making the layout. 

Now mix some coach black with varnish and tur- 
pentine, keeping the color thick so it will be opaque 
(meaning solid, not transparent). 




Now yon are working on the inside of the glass 
and the lettering will appear backwards to yon. 
Take a camel hair pencil as before, only you must 
paint around the letter instead of on it. Cut in 
all the letters and paint everything but the letters 
solid black to the line you have made on the win- 
dow for the edge of the sign. If you use coach 
color it will only take a few hours for the black 
to dry thoroughly; but if you should use oil color 
it should be mixed with Japan dryer and you will 
have to wait till the following day for it to dry. 

When the black is thoroughly dry mix some 
white lead with varnish and linseed oil and paint 
the back of the sign white, lettering and all. Use 
a large brush and paint only a small part at a 
time ; then take a piece of folded cloth formed into 
a ball or buff: and pounce it up and down on the 
fresh white paint, then paint another portion and 
pounce it. The paint must be stippled in this way 
immediately after it is brushed on and before it 
has time to set. This will give the paint a stipple 
finish and no brush marks will show. 

The white letters will show up well from the 
outside and they will be transparent enough for 
the light to shine through. 

If you wish to put a gold stripe along the edge 
of the sign this should be done first. 

Mix a little gold bronze (striping bronze is 
best) with Nonpareil Japan and draw the stripe 
with a striping pencil, which has longer hair than 
a lettering pencil. Then rub more of the dry 
bronze on it, just as you rub aluminum on outside 
work. This is not as good as gold leaf but it will 
not tarnish on the inside of the glass. 

There are some ready mixed, and ready to mix, 
gold compositions on the market, but I have never 



found them as satisfactory as dry striping bronze 
and Japan. 

A transparency sign will last longer if it is var- 
nished after the paint is dry. 

One of the great accomplishments of sign paint- 
ing is to pull your brush with a smooth, confident 
stroke, and get away from dabbling or hesitating 
work. Always wash lettering brushes in kerosene 
or gasoline before and after using, and keep them 
greased with lard or vaseline when not in use. 

Some of the instructions given for show cards 
and window work will also apply to paper, muslin 
and oil cloth signs. 

Oil colors can be used for banners, but Japan 
colors are better for the purpose. 

In either case the colors should be mixed with 
varnish and benzine and kept fairly thin. 

The paper or cloth should be tacked on the wall 
at the proper height to work conveniently and 
the guide lines can be snapped on with a chalk line 
and blue chalk, and the lettering laid out with a 
stick of soft charcoal. 

Most men work freehand on this kind of work. 
You may use your left hand for a rest, but it is 
not customary to use a mahl stick. 

Before you snap the lines on an oil cloth sign 
take a cloth saturated with gasoline or turpentine 
and rub the cloth all over to kill the oily glaze 
which would keep the paint from adhering prop- 



Oil cloth comes in 48 and 52 inch widths, and the 
signs sell from $2 to $3 per yard. 

Sign painter's muslin costs about 25 cents per 
yard; it is 36 inches wide and comes in rolls of 
60 to 100 yards, or you can purchase it in smaller 
quantities at department stores. You can put a 
small shelf on the wall at the proper height, and 
by putting a piece of gas pipe inside the roll of 
muslin you can unwind the cloth and use it as 
needed, and by marking off the wall in feet and 
yards you can save time in measuring the cloth. 

Poster paper for sign purposes is like white 
wrapping paper and comes in widths from 30 to 
48 inches wide. 

Muslin signs are worth from $1.35 per yard on 
up. A mounted muslin sign is worth $2 a yard 
and up. Cut-in work and signs with pictures or 
a great deal of lettering are worth considerably 

Frames for muslin and oil cloth signs are made 
of 2-inch strips of lumber laid flat and fastened 
together at the corners with strips of tin or light 
iron and blocks of wood. 

Camel hair lettering pencils can be used on 
muslin, oil cloth or paper, but there is a special 
flat muslin brush on the market which is far su- 
perior for the purpose. 

Absorene or other wall paper cleaner can be 
used when it is necessary to remove the charcoal 
and chalk lines from a sign. 

When you desire to make a long curved line 
on a sign you can drive a tack at each end of the 
line, then tie a piece of string to the tacks and 
let it sag to make the proper curve. Now make 
a mark along the string with a stick of charcoal 








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and yon have it. (Yon can bny prepared char- 
coal sticks from paint houses and art stores.) 

Smaller curves can be made by tacking down 
one end of the string and tying a piece of crayon 
at the proper place to make the curve when pulled 
around the circle with the tack as the center. 

Here is a good color suggestion for plain muslin 
signs : Large lettering red with light green cast 
shadow, small lettering dark blue ; scroll or border, 
if used, light green. The green should be very 
light in color, about one part green to six or more 
of white. 

For painting on canvas awnings use a stiffer 
brush than on muslin. Use Japan color thinned 
with benzine and varnish and the color won't 

If it is necessary to paint canvas with oil color, 
stretch the cloth and wet it, thin the color with 
linseed oil and paint while the cloth is damp. 

Varnish is a very important article to the sign 
painter, and it might be well to give a brief 
description of the different kinds which are used 

The most perfect varnish known was a Chinese 
secret preparation, used by them for thousands 
of years ; it was as transparent as glass and prac- 
tically indestructable ; unfortunately, even the 
Chinese have lost the formula and modern chem- 
istry seems unable to find the secret. 

It was customary not many generations ago for 
painters to mix their own varnish, but it is now 
more convenient to buy the prepared article. Var- 
nishes are mostly made from vegetable gums with 
a base solvent of volatile oils (turpentine, etc.), 
alcohol, or a fixed oil base solvent. 

There is an almost unlimited number of dif- 






ferent varnishes, and usually each kind is espe- 
cially suitable for certain purposes. 

Following is a brief description of the best 
known and most useful varnishes for sign paint- 
ers' use. 

Outside Spar or other good Spar varnish is the 
best all-around article; it is quite durable and is 
used for varnishing over gold leaf or other inside 
window signs, or it may be mixed with colors for 
outside window work, and is used for practically 
all outside varnishing. 

Quick Rubbing Varnish is also much used by 
sign painters; it is frequently mixed with colors 
because it works easier with a brush than Spar 

Copal is a high-grade varnish. The base sol- 
vent is mostly linseed oil, which makes it very 
durable. The light colored grades are best and 
most expensive in this and other gum varnishes. 
Some Copal dries brittle and should be mixed with 
a more elastic varnish. 

Damar is a colorless, elastic varnish, very good 
for stipple center gold work, etc. It is quick dry- 
ing but too soft for most purposes. Don't use it 
for furniture or exterior work. 

Hard oil varnish is quick drying and is prin- 
cipally used for cheap interior woodwork. In 
emergencies it can be used for backing up gold or 
for other purposes where a quick drying varnish 
is required. 

Floor varnish is very hard and durable and can 
be used same as Spar Varnish. Varnish should 
not be thinned as a usual thing, but if it becomes 
necessary you may warm the varnish and stir in 
turpentine. Let the varnish set for at least an 
hour and stir it several times before using. 



Varnishes and paints should be kept in tight- 
cans and instead of using direct from the can pour 
out the desired quantity into another can and use 
it, thus keeping the original can closed and in 
good condition. 

Shellac is a gum soluble in alcohol only. It is 
very quick drying, and is used for stopping suc- 
tion before gilding on wood, for covering up red 
and other colors to prevent bleeding when repaint- 
ing, and also for finishing some kinds of wood- 
work. It should be kept thin with alcohol. 

Asphaltum is a varnish made of mineral gum. 
It is black and semi-transparent and dries very 
fast. It has many small uses for the sign painter, 
but its chief use is for painting iron. There are 
two grades, T and B. T is mixed with turpentine 
and B with benzine. T is the best grade. 

Asphaltum should be thinned with turpentine 
or gasoline. 

For glazing, where a very hard finish is neces- 
sary, a little quick rubbing varnish should be 

Never mix it with oil as it won't dry.. 

( The painting of boards or brick walls is vastly 
different from sign work on glass, and entirely 
different brushes are used. 



Bristle and fitch brushes are usually used for 
walls, and colors are mixed with turps and lin- 
seed oil instead of varnish. 

Before painting a wall be sure just what letter- 
ing is to be on the sign, and decide just what space 
each line is to fill, and just how the lettering is to 
be arranged to give the best effect. 

Different men often make different layouts. 
The principal point is to make the part of the sign 
which is most important in large letters, and keep 
the sign well balanced. 

By counting the bricks it is easy to decide just 
how wide to make your letters. 

You can usually make your line of lettering fol- 
low along the brick courses, and save marking top 
and bottom lines. 

"Wall signs usually have cut-in lettering. The 
wall is first given a coat of white, then the letters 
are "spotted in" or painted roughly with white 
or other light color, then they are cut in with the 
dark color and the background is filled in. 

Black and white are usually used on plain, small 
or cheap signs. 

Use white lead ground in oil for the white, and 
lamp black ground in oil for the black. 

For cheap work the first coat of white can be 
omitted and the letters spotted on the wall with 
white and cut in with black. 

The average sign requires at least several times 
as much white as black paint, because the white 
doesn't cover as well. White lead comes in kegs 
of 12y 2 pounds or more. 

On cheap walls the paints are thinned with ben- 
zine instead of oil and turpentine. 

Benzine and gasoline are often referred to by 
painters as "benny" or "gas;" they are used for 


Movie title Aephkbet. 





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the same purpose, and either one can be nsed. 
They are used as a cheaper substitute for turpen- 
tine — often referred to as "turps." 

In painting a raw wall the first coat of white 
lead it is usually thinned with half boiled oil and 
half gas, and the second coat with gas only. 

On repaint jobs don't use linseed oil but thin 
both coats with gasoline. 

Plain work on brick walls is worth 10 cents per 
square foot and up, while colored pictorial work 
is worth two or three times as much. 

Most painters refuse to paint any kind of a wall 
sign even frofn a ladder for less than five or ten 
dollars, no matter how small it may be. 

"Falls" hanging from the top of the building 
are used for large or high wall signs, but the 
smaller signs near the ground may be painted 
from a ladder. 

Always use your white brushes for white only, 
as black cannot be removed from a brush so thor- 
oughly that it won 't discolor the white. 

A bulletin painter doesn't dip his brush in the 
paint and drag it across the edge of the bucket, 
but taps the brush back and forth on the inside of 
the bucket to get rid of any overcharge of color. 

Always keep your letters close enough together 
to avoid a scattered appearance, and leave enough 
margin or border around the outside of the sign 
to prevent a crowded appearance. 

Never paint brick walls with color ground in 

Sable, camel hair, badger, or ox hair brushes 
may be used for lettering on wood. 

In painting raw boards, the first coat should be 
boiled linseed oil with a small amount of white 
lead added, second coat white lead thinned with 



turpentine and oil, and third coat of color thinned 
with turps only. This gives a good flat surface 
for lettering. 

On repaint jobs the first coat may he omitted 
and other two coats given as prescribed above. 

For a cheap board sign some painters mix var- 
nish with the last coat of paint, then when the 
lettering is on and dry, rub the board with some 
furniture polish in a cloth and it will have a var- 
nished appearance. 

In lettering on a varnished surface if the paint 
won't adhere properly, rub the surface with a 
cloth dampened with turpentine or gasoline to kill 
the glaze. 

In applying aluminum bronze to size on a 
painted or varnished surface, it is usually best 
to apply the powder with a soft brush instead of 
a cloth, otherwise the aluminum is likely to adhere 
to the background and make the sign look cloudy. 

Or where the surface is very tacky, mix alumi- 
num powder with zinc white ground in oil and 
rubbing varnish. Thin with turpentine if neces- 
sary and apply as a paint, instead of lettering 
with the Japan size and rubbing the aluminum on 

You can mix aluminum with bronzing liquid or 
Japan dryer and letter with it, but the paint de- 
scribed above will cover better. 

Where board signs are to be varnished, they 
can be painted with Japan or coach color. 

Good board signs should be given a coat of fin- 
ishing or spar varnish. 


Following is a description of the principal 
kinds of ready made sign letters. 

Wood letters for fastening on boards or wire 
screen come in perhaps a dozen different sizes 
and in many different styles. 

The face of the letter is usually gilded with gold 
leaf when used. You can get price lists on these 
letters from Spanger Bros., Newark, N. J. 

The gold and silver colored ready made foil 
letters are used on glass only. They come in sizes 
from 2 to 12 inches high, but the smaller sizes, 6 
inches or smaller are used almost exclusively. 

The lines for the lettering should be chalked 
on the outside of the glass and the letters applied 
on the inside of the window. 

They are applied with a mixture of kerosene or 
gasoline and varnish. Different men prefer dif- 
ferent mixtures, some use 4 parts kerosene to 1 
part Spar varnish ; but I prefer 2 parts of gaso- 
line to 1 part varnish. 

Great care should be taken to squeeze out all 
the air bubbles from under the letters before they 
tare dry. 

These letters can be purchased from The 
Metallic Letter Co., 412 N. Clark St., Chicago, HI., 
or the Detroit Sign Letter Co., Detroit, Mich. 
Most of the painters ' supply houses in New York 



carry the letters in stock, but they don't do a mail 
order business. 

Delcalcomanie letters are often used for making 
auto monograms, and many large companies fur- 
nish Delcalcomanie window signs to retail deal- 
ers; directions for applying are printed on the 
back of the sign. The monogram letters may be 
purchased from the Globe Delcalcomanie Co., Jer- 
sey City, N. J.; full directions accompany the 

The other two principal kinds of ready made 
letters are white enamel and gold glass window 
letters. These are made in many sizes, but the 
2 to 6 inch letters are used most. 

Practically all ready made letters come in upper 
case or capitals only. 

Gold glass and enamel letters are applied on 
the outside of the window with a cement made of 
dry powdered white lead, white lead ground in 
oil, and Spar varnish. 

Mix the cement well by kneading and keep it 
very thick and the letters won't slide down the 

Arrange your letters on the floor or table and 
see how much space they will require, then make 
lines on the window and apply the cement around 
the edge on the back of the letters with a paring 
knife. Have a perpendicular chalk mark through 
the center of the window or the center of the sign. 

Now begin applying the letters in their proper 
places, putting on the center letters first and work- 
ing out both ways, keeping the space between let- 
ers well balanced. 

Now when the letters are all on, wipe off the 
surplus cement and the chalk lines and the result 
will be an attractive and well balanced sign. 



Old letters can be removed from the window 
with a paring knife or a thin .flexible putty knife. 

Sometimes the cement gets so hard that it is 
almost impossible to take gold glass letters off 
without breaking them. In this case take a small 
bottle of sulphuric acid and a glass rod or foun- 
tain pen filler and place a few drops of the acid 
on top of the cement behind the letter; this will 
eat down through the cement and soften it. 

Be very careful not to get the acid on yourself 
or your clothes as it will eat there also. 

Do not try to use the acid on white enamel let- 
ters as it will* act on the copper and the heat 
might crack the windows 

Plain white enamel window signs sell for six 
cents an inch and up. Thus you would charge 
your customer 30 cents each, for 5 inch white 
enamel letters. This is the minimum price ; many 
shops charge more, and prices on the letters are 
still advancing. Script enamel signs are made up 
to order and cost several times as much as the 
block letters. 

Gold glass letters sell for twelve and one-half 
or fifteen cents an inch. Thus 6 inch letters sell 
for 75 to 90 cents each, or 2 inch letters 25 to 
30 cents each. 

You can get wholesale prices on enamel letters 
from the Manhattan Dial Mfg. Co., 38-42 Lexing- 
ton Ave.. Brooklyn, New York. 


Applying gold leaf to glass, wood or metal is 
known as gilding. It is the highest branch of the 
sign painter's art and should not be attempted 
until yon have mastered the other branches. 

But when you are able to do a good job on other 
kinds of window signs, gilding will prove easier 
than you probably expect. 

Following is the list of materials you will need 
beside the list given under window signs. 

Gold Leaf : This comes in books of 25 leaves, 
3V4 inches square with sheets of tissue paper be- 
tween the leaves. It costs about 75 cents per book. 

The gold is much thinner than tissue and it 
would take thousands of leaves of the gold alone 
to make a pile one inch high. It is very delicate 
and cannot be handled with the fingers. Handle 
the books carefully and do not allow anything 
oily to touch the gold. 

Next you will need a gilder's tip for handling 
the gold. These are thin camel hair brushes 
mounted in cardboard ; they are about four inches 
wide and the hair is about two inches long. 

Handle the tip carefully and keep it away from 
your paints. It costs about 35 cents. 

A water size brush V/ 2 or 2 inches wide is made 



of soft camel hair in wood handle ; costs about one 
dollar. Never use this brush in paint. 

Now the remaining list of necessary material 
can be purchased at any drug store. 

No. 0, or four grain, empty gelatin capsules, 
10 cents. 

Absorbent cotton, 10 cents. 

Powdered whiting, 10 cents. 

Some grain alcohol. 

(Avoid the use of wood alcohol as it is likely to 
cause blindness.) 

Most painters use an alcohol heater for boiling 
water size, or' you can boil it on a stove. 

Now this is the way to proceed on your first 
window job in gold. 

Draw your entire design carefully on the out- 
side of the window with chalk or Keremic crayon. 
For very small designs draw the layout on a piece 
of paper and make a pounce pattern of it. 

Wash the inside of the window well with whiting 
and water, then when this is rubbed off go over 
the part where the sign is to be with a cloth satu- 
rated in alcohol, and polish the glass with tissue 
paper; now be very careful to keep the window 
clean and don't touch it with your ringers. 

Next take a perfectly clean vessel and put in 
one pint of clean water — distilled water is best — 
then put in four No. size gelatine capsules, or 
a piece of fish glue the size of a nickel coin, and 
put the can on stove to heat, allow water to come 
to a boil and boil for five minutes, then strain 
through clean cheese cloth. 

Now apply this freely to the window with your 
size brush, beginning at the upper left hand cor- 
ner (if you are right handed) of the layout and 
size only a part of the design at a time. 



Take a piece of stiff cardboard slightly larger 
than the hook of gold and lay the book on top of it. 
Hold this in your left hand. 

It is hard to lay whole leaves of gold, so fold 
the tissue paper cover back half way and cut the 
gold leaf in two with the nail of your little finger 
along the fold of the paper. 

This is done with the right hand which also 
carries the gilding tip. 

Now rub the gilding tip across the hair of your 
head and pick up the gold with it, then carry the 
gold to the wet window and as soon as the gold 
touches the size it will jump from the tip to the 
glass. Don't allow the tip to touch the glass. 

Leaf the window solid where the design is to 
be. Keep the window wet ahead of your work, 
but don't allow the water size to flow over the 
gold which has just been laid or you will wash it 

Allow the leaves of gold to lap about a quarter 
of an inch over each other. Don't be stingy with 
your gold but allow a margin around the space 
where the design is to be. 

Now when the gold has dried good and bright, 
which may take less than an hour or maybe even 
longer, depending on the weather, etc., you should 
take a piece of soft absorbent cotton and brush 
off the loose gold, then burnish by rubbing the gold 
briskly but very lightly with a clean wad of cot- 

Now you will see many holes and imperfections 
in your gild, so give the whole design another coat 
of water size; don't brush it too much this time 
or you may rub off the gold. 

Now apply small pieces of gold to the holes or 
"holidays" and allow the gold to dry again, then 



brush off loose gold and burnish as before. Some- 
times even a third gild is necessary. 

After the holes are patched and everything is 
dry go over the back of the gold with hot water 
or hot size ; this is called washing and it gives the 
gold a high burnish. 

Now when the gold is dry again, back up or 
paint the back of the letters with black in Japan 
and thinned with Nonpareil Japan, and a little 
turps if necessary. 

You can use a yard stick and a hard lead pen- 
cil to cut the bottom and top lines of your letter- 
ing straight. Just lay the rule against the glass 
and scratch a light line in the gold. 

When your back up color is dry take a piece of 
cotton and breathe on it to keep it slightly damp, 
then rub it on the window to clean off all the sur- 
plus gold which is not painted under. 

When this is all cleaned, take a safety razor 
blade to straighten up any ragged places, then out- 
line or shade your letters with black or other suit- 
table color. 

When this is dry the sign should be varnished 
with good Spar varnish, allowing the varnish to 
extend slightly beyond the plate all around the 

A few drops of fat oil, or even raw oil, added 
to your varnish will make it more elastic and less 
likely to crack and peel. 

Gold leaf signs on windows are worth $2 per 
foot and up. That is, two dollars for each lineal 
foot of lettering under five inches high. Scrolls 
are measured also, and fractions of feet are 
counted as full feet. No matter how small the 
job may be, it is not worth while to do a gold win- 
dow sign for less than six dollars. 



Silver leaf may be used the same as gold leaf, 
only your water size should contain about fifty 
per cent more gelatine and you must use a badger 
or ox hair tip instead of the camel hair. 

Never use silver leaf on wood or exterior signs. 
It will turn black. 

And don't attempt to lay aluminum leaf with 
water size. Aluminum leaf is intended for sur- 
face gilding or outside work. 

You can make a nice effect in one color gold 
work by outlining the letters with Mastic varnish 
or gold size Japan mixed with a very little lemon 
yellow, then lay the leaf on top of this and back 
up same as ordinary one color gold. 

Or to make a dead center effect go over the in- 
side of the window with whiting and water; this 
will leave a thin film of white on the glass. The 
layout should be carefully drawn on the outside 
of the window with a red Keremic crayon ; if you 
can't get that, ordinary chalk or black crayon will 

Now take clear, quick gold size and paint a 
center in every letter, the strokes will show plainly 
in the white. When this is dry rub the whiting 
off of the window and lay the leaf as described 
for one color work. 

This gives a very good two color or dead center 
effect; at present two-thirds of the gold work in 
New York is done in this way. 

Some painters use yellow color mixed with 
Japan for backup; thus no pin holes in the gold 
will show. In painting the shade or outline, go 
over the letters again with the dark color. 

Prussian blue mixed with varnish is used al- 
most altogether for outline and gold shades in 



New York. It is semi-transparent and gives a 
rich, glazed effect. 

To make a good opaque black for shades, mix 
half lamp black and half Japan drop black and 
thin with Nonpareil Japan. 

Asphaltum can be used to back up gold for a 
quick job. 

For colored gold jobs, first lay leaf as for ordi- 
nary job, then back up an outline around the 
letters and clean off the surplus gold. Then fill 
centers with mastic varnish tinted with desired 
transparent color. When dry gild with lemon 
gold leaf using* water size and back up same as 
ordinary job. 

When backup color dries too slow you can rub 
over it with bronze powder and save a lot of time. 

For gilding on wood or metal or on the outside 
of windows, mix Nonpareil Japan with just a little 
yellow color and letter in the regular way; when 
this has dried until it has only a very slight tack, 
apply patent gold leaf, rubbing it on lightly 
through the tissue. 

Patent gold is mounted on tissue paper for gild- 
ing in the wind. 

After the sign is gilded burnish the letters 
lightly with a wad of cotton and outline with color. 

Ordinary loose gold leaf can also be used for 
surface gilding, but it takes more practice to lay 
it properly. 

In making large smalted gold signs the letter- 
ing should be marked out on the board and given 
a coat of shellac, to stop suction. Then the letters 
are sized with quick size or fat oil size. 

Fat oil size is specially prepared from aged 
linseed oil and dries to gild in from 12 to 48 hours. 

After the letters are sized and gilded they are 


cut in with lamp black in oil mixed with about 
one-third white lead and thinned with boiled lin- 
seed oil. Then lay the board flat and sprinkle the 
smalts on while the paint is wet. Smalt should be 
a quarter inch deep. 

In throwing off surplus smalts do it with a quick 
toss of the board. If the board is tipped up and 
the smalts allowed to slide over the gold it will 
scratch it and spoil the appearance of the sign. 

To paint auto monograms, first make a pounce 
pattern of the design, then rub a raw cut potato 
on the place to be lettered to prevent the gold 
from sticking to the varnish. 

Now pounce the pattern on both sides of the 
car. Mix a small quantity of tube yellow with 
Nonpareil and paint the monograms. When the 
size gets well set with just a little tack, apply the 
gold leaf. Brush off loose gold and outline with 
color. Charge $3 and up for monograms. 

Line drawings are the principal form of 
Commercial Art work. They are cheaper to 



reproduce than any other kind of art work. 

Such drawings must be made pure black and 
white with no gray tones or colors. 

The different shades and tones are represented 
with combinations of black and white lines or dots. 

Such drawings are made with pen and ink and 
are usually made a good deal larger than you see 
printed and are reduced by photography when 
the printing cut is made. 

The original designs and alphabet plates for 
this book were mostly 2y 2 times as large as they 
are printed, for instance, the alphabet cuts are 
3% x 5 inches face measurement, while the orig- 
inal drawings were 8% x 12% inches. 

The chapter headings in this book are some- 
thing like the ordinary run of pen and ink work ; 
they were hastily drawn, but most commercial 
work must be dashed off on short notice. 

If you should copy any of these for practice 
work make your drawings about three times as 
wide as the prints. 

Now regarding materials. Here is exactly what 
you will need : 

Drawing Paper : — There are many good makes ; 
an ordinary linen tablet is good for pencil sketch- 
ing. For pen work I prefer high finish two-ply 
Strathmore or Bainbridge Bristol Board. 

Waterproof Black Drawing Ink: — Higgins' is 
considered the standard make. 

Drawing Pens : — Here are the ones used by all 
the leading pen artists: Crow quill, Gillott's No. 
170, 290, 303 or 404. Spencerian No. 5 or No. 12. 
Try them all and select the ones you like best. 
Gillott's 303 is used more than any one kind and 
I consider it best for general work. They sell for 
about 15 cents per dozen and can be used in an 



ordinary pen holder. Gillott's 1068 is a rigid pen 
of the same size and price and is good for fine 

Yon should also have a drawing board, T 
square, 30 x 60 degrees, and 45 degree triangle, 
several lead pencils, a dozen thumb tacks and a 
piece of art gum for erasing pencil lines. 

A compass with pen and pencil points and a 
ruling pen will also be useful. The ruling pen is 
not filled by dipping in the ink but by dropping 
a drop of ink between the blades from the quill of 
the ink bottle .stopper or from a common pen. 
The ruling pen is not used free hand but alongside 
a ruler or irregular curve for making smooth 

Chinese white is used with a small red sable 
brush for painting under mistakes or otherwise 
improving pen and ink drawings. 

The jar white is most convenient; Devoe's per- 
manent white, Holme's white and Semple's white 
are all good. 

The above material can all be obtained at any 
art store, or you can order by mail from the Devoe 
and Raynolds Co., New York or Chicago, or F. 
Weber and Co., Philadelphia. 

Lead pencil drawings do not reproduce well, 
but a drawing made on rough paper with a Kere- 
mic or black grease crayon will reproduce nicely 
as a line cut. 

You can enlarge pictures by marking them off 
in one inch squares and then ruling two inch or 
other size squares on your drawing paper. 

The Pantograph is an instrument for enlarg- 
ing pictures also, but I strongly advise you not to 
waste time with such mechanical means of draw- 
ing. Practice will enable you lo draw correct 



proportions free hand, but mechanical methods of 
copying will never help you to become an artist. 

In former years drawings were marked for y 2 
reduction, 1/3 reduction, etc. But it is better to 
mark them to reduce to four inches face measure- 
ment or whatever the size may be. When draw- 
ings are used in newspapers they are usually 
marked to reduce to 1 Column, 2 Col's, or what- 
ever number of columns they are to occupy. 

All writing on face of drawings should be done 
with a blue pencil. Blue does not photograph and 
the writing will not show on the cut. 

In making pen drawings for printing purposes 
make your lines heavy enough to show up well 
when reduced, they need not be extremely heavy, 
simply avoid scratchy hair lines and keep the lines 
far enough apart so they will not run together 
when reduced. 

One of the most important things in pen ren- 
dering is to make the lines follow the form. 

Your paper is perfectly flat but you can sug- 
gest distance and form by the proper handling 
of lines and treatment of light and shade effects. 

In making a drawing always consider what 
direction the light is supposed to come from and 
arrange your highlights and shadows accordingly. 

Many artists make the first pencil sketch on a 
thin piece of paper, then when it has been altered 
and rearranged until the entire design is satis- 
factory the artist rubs a blue pencil, or even a soft 
lead pencil, all over the back of the sketch, and 
then transfers the drawing to a clean cardboard 
by going over the lines with a hard pencil. 

After you have finished inking in the pencil 
sketch and it is dry, erase all the lead pencil lines 
with a piece of art gum. 



The decorative figures shown are rearranged 
from half-tone drawings by Mucha. 

This is very good practice to render photos or 
half-tone pictures in pen lines. Your first prac- 
tice, however, should be straight pen and ink 

Pen drawings are sometimes made directly over 
a silver print photo with waterproof ink, and then 
the photo is faded out with chemicals. 

In doing pen lettering for reproduction use the 
ruling pen as much as possible as it will help you 
in making smooth lines. 

Moving picture titles are lettered on dark photo- 
graphs or dark cardboard with white ink or show 
card color. 

The artist must be careful to avoid fine hair 
lines or fine pointed spurs on his lettering as they 
will show up gray instead of white when the title 
is photographed and thrown on the screen. 

Some artists are using a brush instead of a 
pen for line drawings. Small sizes of pointed Eed 
Sable brushes are good, and some artists use Jap 
art brushes. 

Don't try to sell your work until it is good 
enough to be really salable. 

Don't do careless work; draw carefully, lov- 
ingly and with feeling, and remember that nothing 
is beautiful in art unless it has character. 

Whatever you draw look for the character of 
the thing and try to make every line a harmonious 
part of that particular object. This applies to 
everything, from the letters of the alphabet to the 
most elaborate painting. 

A good artist is never fully satisfied with his 
work but is always striving for something better. 

Lettering is the most important branch of Com- 


mercial Art and good lettering artists are always 
in demand. 

If you live in a large city it will pay you to 
attend night art classes and study figure drawing. 

Nude figures are little used in practical work, 
but if you can sketch a nude figure in any posi- 
tion and then put the clothes on it, it is more cer- 
tain to look natural and well posed. 

The human figure is the most graceful form 
imaginable, and when you can really draw it well, 
other things will be comparatively easy. 

Make careful enlarged copies of the shoes and 
index hand, Figs. 46, 47 and 48, on fairly heavy 
paper, then go over all the lines with a tracing 
wheel, or punch holes along the lines about every 
sixth of an inch with a carpet tack. Then sand- 
paper the projections from the opposite side and 
you have a good pounce pattern for windows or 
boards. By turning the paper over you can make 
the hand point either to the left or to the right. 

Select some suitable scrolls from the samples 
shown herein and make enlarged copies of them. 



In scrolls wliere the two ends are alike as Nos. 75, 
77, 105, etc., you should make a careful drawing of 
half the scroll, then fold your paper in the middle, 
where the center of the scroll is to be, and trace 
the pattern through the paper, thus your design 
will balance exactly. 

Such scrolls for window work should usually be 
about six times as large as they are in these prints. 
If the design measures 2% inches wide your pat- 
tern should be about 15 inches wide. 

"When your drawing is complete, make a pounce 
pattern of it, as described above. 

For windows take about an ounce of talcum 
powder, whiting, or powdered chalk and tie it in 
a small bag of cotton cloth, an empty Bull Dur- 
ham tobacco bag is very good. 

Now hold or fasten your paper pattern in the 
proper place on the window and pounce the bag 
of powder on it. The powder will go through the 
holes and leave a perfect outline of the design on 
the glass. 

For white boards you can use dry red color in 
the pounce. 

If your scroll is to be painted on the outside of 
the glass you can pounce the design on the inside 
if you wish and then rub it off after the scroll 
is painted. 

After you have painted a scroll five or ten times 
you may be able to dispense with the pattern and 
do the scroll free hand. 

You can use a small lettering brush to paint 
scrolls, but you can do it easier with No. 3 and 
No. 6 pointed camel hair scrolling pencils. If 
you can't obtain these at home, send to The Geo. 
E. Watson Co., 62 W. Lake St., Chicago, 111., for 
a catalogue of painters' supplies. You can learn 



a great deal about materials and their uses from 

such a catalogue. 

* * # 

When you have an old board sign to repaint 
you can trace around the letters with an indelible 
pencil. Then paint the board with white lead and 
the pencil marks will " bleed through" so that 

you can easily repaint the old sign. 

• # # 

Kerosene is better than gas or turps for clean- 
ing brushes or taking paint off of your hands. 

# # # 

Save all old muslin signs and send them to the 
laundry ; they make the finest wiping cloths to be 
had, and it only costs a few cents a pound to have 

them washed. 

• • » 

"Taxtite," made by the Sherwin-Williams Co., 
is a paint remover which is unusually good for 

removing old window signs. 

# * * 

Turpentine flattens color or makes it dull ; var- 
nish mixed with color brightens it and preserves 
the brilliancy. Boiled oil dries quicker than raw 
linseed oil, and is therefore used mone in sign 


# # * 

Signs should be very briefly worded ; four well 
selected words can often do the business better 

than forty. 

* # * 

For painting inside of windows plain black a 
mixture of two parts asphaltum to one part coach 
black is good, thin with turpentine when necessary. 

No varnish is required. 

• # # 



Japan color is used for show cards which are 
exposed to the weather; letter with camel hair 


* • • 

To keep paint from peeling on galvanized iron, 
mix one pound each of Sal Ammoniac, Nitrate of 
Copper and Chloride of Copper in six gallons of 
water, when everything has dissolved add a pound 
of crude hydrochloric acid, then use a wide kal- 
somine brush and go over the iron with this prepa- 

After twelve hours rub the iron clean with a 

piece of burla*p and it is ready to paint. 

# # # 

Don't paint on the inside of a window when it 
is steaming or damp, even if you get the paint to 

stick it will soon turn white and peel off, 

• # m 

If you have trouble with an old color " bleeding 
through' ' when repainting a sign, put on a thin 
coat of shellac, which will dry almost instantly 

and stop the bleeding. 

• • • 

Gold leaf sometimes sticks to the leaves of the 
book in damp or cold weather; warm it before 
using. (Don't confuse this with patent gold which 

is made that way for gilding in the wind.) 

• # * 

The Tuscan Block letters, as shown in the word 
"Letters," Fig. 63, are drawn about the same as 
the round full block alphabet, Fig. 61, the only 
difference being in the formation of the block 


# * # 

Chrome yellow will show up some surfaces 
where no other color will. 



Good material is less expensive in the end. A 
pound of good color ground in oil costs about 
twice as much as a pound of mixed paint, but it 
will paint four times as much surface and produce 

better work. 

# * # 

In buying camel hair lettering pencils be sure 
you get the best grade. They have long even hair 
cut perfectly square at the end and are firmly 
fastened in good quills with a piece of wire or a 
heavy indentation. You can fit wood handles in 
them to suit yourself. The regular sign painters' 
supply houses carry the good grade brushes, but 
many common paint stores sell a very inferior 


# # # 

Linseed oil will curdle Japan color if you at- 
tempt to mix them ; they must be ground together 

to combine properly. 

# # # 

The Jewish sign shown in Fig. 49 is a meat mar- 
ket sign, sometimes the left half of the sign is 

used alone on restaurants, etc. 

# # # 

Large bulletins and brick wall signs are usually 
drawn to scale. That is, a small sketch is made 
of the proposed sign on a scale of about one inch 
to the foot. The sketch is drawn in perfect de- 
tail, showing styles of lettering, and picture well 
worked out. Also an explanation of the color 
scheme, or in some cases the sketch is worked up 
in full color. When this sketch has been approved, 
it is marked into one inch squares and the 
large sign is first given two coats of white 
lead and then marked into squares of one or two 
feet square to correspond with the sketch. This 



makes it easy to keep everything in exact pro- 
portion to the original sketch. 

# • * 

Mammoth mnslin signs, theatrical backgrounds, 
etc., are usually painted in distemper color. 

Distemper color can be prepared as follows : 

Put one pound of Kalsominer's glue in one gal- 
lon of cold water and allow it to soak over night. 
Next morning put this preparation on the stove 
and bring it to a boil and add a few drops of car- 
bolic acid and a tablespoonful of powdered alum, 
mix well and then gradually stir in dry color. 
Keep this on a low fire while using. Use fresco 
bristle brushes for detail or cutting in and large 
flat bristle brushes for "filling in." 

Remember this paint must be used hot. 

# « « 

Printers 9 ink thinned with gasoline is good for 
paper or muslin signs, varnish can also be added 

if desired. 

« « « 

To prevent window sweating and frost on show 
windows in winter add two ounces of glycerine 
to one quart of 62 per cent grain alcohol and one 
drachm oil of amber ; let stand until it clears and 
rub on inside of window. 

« « « 

When a varnish surface is too tacky to permit 
laying gold leaf or rubbing on aluminum bronze, 
you may overcome the trouble by mixing the white 
of an egg with two-thirds of a cupful of cider 
vinegar, give the surface two coats of this prepa- 
ration and then you can do your lettering with 
quick size and apply the gold leaf or aluminum. 
It will stick to the surface but when dry the egg 



size can be washed off and you will have a clean 


# * * 

In painting a script sign first draw the top and 
bottom guide lines, then draw slanting lines across 
these every few inches to give the proper slant 
to the letters, now sketch out the lettering with a 
pencil or crayon, then outline the letters with a 
small brush and afterward fill them in. See Al- 
phabet plate No. 16. 

# # * 

Never use your show card or distemper brushes 
in oil or japan colors. And don't put your oil 

color brushes in water. 

# * # 

To test dry vermillion, to detect adulteration, 
pour a small quantity of Muriatic Acid on some 

dry color ; if adulterated the pigment will fade. 

# # * 

You can make your own academy boards for 
painting oil color pictures by giving any heavy 
cardboard a coat of shellac, and later a coat of 
flat light cream color, stipple with a wad of cloth 
while paint is wet. This gives the board a sur- 
face resembling canvas. 

# # # 

And now for a few parting words of advice to 
the amateur sign painter. 

Read this book over several times, as you are 
almost certain to skip or misunderstand some im- 
portant points during the first reading ; also care- 
fully study every illustration and make several 
carefully enlarged copies of the alphabets you in- 
tend to use. 

Until very recently all sign painters' trade 
secrets were jealously guarded and a man had to 



work for many years to acquire even a fair knowl- 
edge of the art. 

The secrets are no longer withheld and by refer- 
ring to this book yon can find the proper method 
of doing every kind of work now done by the 

With this nrach in your favor yon should be able 
by observation and diligent practice to equal and 
even surpass the work of many old-timers within 
a very few years. 

Keep your eyes open and observe all the dif- 
ferent signs you see. Make notes of all the pleas- 
ing color combinations and notice how the pro- 
fessionals arrange the reading matter to make it 
attractive and legible. 

You will soon learn to judge the different classes 
of work and even to tell one man's work from an- 
other. Apply all the knowledge thus gained to 
your own work. 



Materials which yon cannot obtain from your 
local paint store may be purchased by mail from 
the following dealers who specialize in sign paint- 
ers ' supplies: 

Wallbrun, Kling and Co., 
327 43. Clark St., Chicago, 111. 

Geo. E. Watson Co., 
62 W. Lake St., Chicago, 111. 

Geo. Steere, 
434 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, 111, 

Bert L. Daily, 

126 E. Third St., Dayton, 0. 

Detroit School of Lettering, 
Detroit, Mich. 

N. Glantz, 
31 Spring St., New York City. 

J. F. Eberhard and Son, 
298 Pearl St., New York City. 

F. Weber and Co., 
Philadelphia, Pa, 

0013 963 950 9# 
= AND §H. vm 



An up-to-date book containing a complete course of 
instruction. Illustrated with over 100 alphabets and 
designs, and written in plain English that everyone can 
understand and thus learn to paint good signs. Also 
suitable for commercial artists or anyone who has occa- 
sion to do hand lettering. 


1 — Introduction; 2 — Alphabets; Rules for drawing and spacing 
letters explained with simple diagrams. Contains fourteen hand let- 
tered full page alphabet plates, including Modern Egyptian, Modern 
Roman, Bulletin Roman, Light Script, Heavy Script, Old English, Half 
Block, Round Full Block, Movie Title Alphabet, Heavy Plug, several 
"Single Stroke" Show Card Alphabets, and two Modern Poster Alpha- 
bets. Also many smaller examples, and rules for originating and 
modifying letters. 

3 — Composition; "Layouts" fully explained and illustrated. 

4 — Color Combinations: including chart. 

5 — How to "Mix Paints; Full instructions regarding materials, 
quantities, qualities, and combinations. 

6 — Show Cards; What brushes, pens and other materials to buy 
and how to use t,hem. Seasonable suggestions. Prices to charge, and 
some valuable "Stunts." 

1 — Windows Signs; A list of brushes, paints, and other material 
is given and the use of each explained. How to paint an aluminum, 
bronze, or transparency job. 

8 — Banners; How to paint paper, muslin, oilcloth and canvas signs. 
Varnishes and the composition and uses of each explained. 

9 — Board and Wall Signs. 

10 — Ready Made Letters; How to make a Cement for Gold, Glass, 
and Knamel Letters. To remove old letters without breaking, etc. 

11 — Gilding; Color Glazing, Dead Center, Smalted Signs, and 
making Auto Monograms. 

12 — Commereial Art; Pen and Ink Drawing for reproduction. 
Decorative female figures. 

13 — Tricks of the Trade; Useful and unusual "Short Cuts." The 
secret of Scrolling fully explained. Forty examples shown. * Simple 
formula to keep show windows from steaming and freezing in winter. 
How to keep old color from "bleeding through." To make distemper 
color for Theatrical Curtains, etc. 

This book contains 96 pages with 100 illustrations, including 23 
full pages, is bound in cloth, with jacket printed in two colors. Sent 
postpaid to any address on receipt of Price, $1.50 



013 963 950 9