How to Make a Sandblasted Sign

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Sandblasted Signs have been a popular choice for years for most any application, including but not limited to subdivision entrances, park way finding signs, resort signs, and business signs. Offering a great alternative to vinyl signs, sandblasted signs are more of an architectural element, which adds to the overall design and feel of the location, rather than just getting the job done with a flat, printed sign. First impressions are important, typically the first thing people see is your sign, and a sandblasted sign will go far in helping you make a great first impression and giving you the opportunity to stand out from the start.

How do you make a sandblasted sign?

Choose a substrate. Originally the substrate of choice was cedar planks. Cedar is a great sign building material because of its resistance to bugs and rot. Cedar is easily sandblasted and the resulting signs can last many years. The downside is that cedar is a natural product and no matter how much care is used in the fabrication of the cedar sign the wood is still (eventually) subject to decay. Cedar is also becoming harder to come by.

HDU (High Density Urethane) is the most popular choice of substrate for sandblasted signs today and it’s the material we use for the majority of our signs. It is impervious to insects and rot and unaffected by temperature changes. Unlike cedar, HDU is readily available, is stable, carves easily, and paints beautifully. It also looks just like wood when painted.

Cut and apply sandblast mask. Once the substrate is chosen the sign blank is cut to shape on one of our CNC tables and is prepped for the sandblast mask. Using a vinyl plotter the artwork for the sign is cut from a rubber stencil material called sandblast mask. This mask is then applied to the face of the sign blank. The areas to be sandblasted are removed exposing the raw substrate. The exposed areas are blasted down to depth of 1/4 inch to 3/8 of an inch leaving the graphics and borders raised. This give the sign its dimensional look.

Prime and Prime again. The sandblasted sign is primed by hand, allowed to dry, sanded, then primed again. Priming is an important step and it’s important that shortcuts are not taken with this step. An even, smooth coat of high build primer will give you the base you need for laying your color in. Once priming is complete, dry, and well sanded, the sign is cleaned of any dust and is then ready to paint.

Paint with commercial grade enamels. 1Shot paint is applied to the background of the sign by hand and allowed to dry for 24 hours. We use Spraylat’s 1Shot Lettering Enamels for all of our sandblasted signs because they dry hard, have a beautiful gloss and smooth finish, and last a very long time. After the background color is completely dry the graphics and borders are painted. Painting the text and graphics of the sign is called “Lettering” the sign. The paint is usually applied with a brush but rather than painting the color on by using brush strokes the paint is gently laid on the top of the letter with the brush. Because of 1Shot’s good flow, the paint evens out leaving a smooth finish with little or no brush marks.

– By Larry Holbrook

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Artisan Graphics has been a locally owned and operated company servicing the greater Charlotte, Lake Norman and Triad areas since 1993.  Artisan’s focus has always been on branding companies through in-house manufacturing and printing of logos on all types of products, from large outdoor signage to paper printing to apparel decorating, such as screenprint and embroidery.