**Update! For video instruction on working with wood boards, including oversized seating charts, check out our video tutorial here.**

Wood boards can be a beautiful addition to any wedding or event, but they definitely take a considerable amount of preparation, set up and then of course the lettering itself. This can lead to a potentially tricky conversation with clients who might think “it’s just writing on wood, right?”. Wrong. As anyone who has attempted to work on wood boards knows, it’s never that simple. But there are some key tips that will help you with your board preparation and also making your lettering look like a pro!

First we will cover the tools you need:

  • Wood board in the size desired – these can either be purchased {raw} pre-cut at craft stores such as Michael’s & Hobby Lobby or you can custom cut them out of plywood from home improvement stores. Given how much we value her hand, Laura isn’t “allowed” to handle any cutting, but our team does produce all of our boards in-house.
  • Wood stain – we prefer this stain but there are other options, too
  • Latex gloves
  • Painter mixing stick {usually free in the paint section}
  • Sand paper or power sander for the especially bold {please abide by all safety precautions!}
  • Clean, soft, cotton cloth {we buy packs at home improvement stores – here are some from Amazon}
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Medium point white paint pen – we prefer these water based Sharpie paint markers

The first step is to prep your wood by thoroughly sanding the entire surface. This means all sides, edges, corners. You don’t have to sand the backside, but we do.

Once sanded, it’s time to stain the wood. Wearing latex gloves open the can of stain and make sure you thoroughly mix it with a paint mixing stick or other stirring utensil. Dip the cloth into the stain and smudge stain evenly over the surface of the wood. We like to stain the back side first, let it dry, turn it over and stain the front. We only apply a single coat to the board.

Now here is what we think is absolutely KEY. Allow your board to completely dry. We let our boards dry at least overnight, but usually longer – days or even weeks. We prep boards in our most commonly ordered sizes and keep them on hand, allowing them to dry for an extended period of time. This is a very important step and can mean the difference between crisp sharp edges with your ink versus bleeding and feathering at the edges. Your stain must absolutely be fully dried. This means same-day prep is out. Again, this is just how we do it, but it has worked well for us.

After you have allowed adequate time for the stain to dry, physically touch the board to determine if it feels damp or tacky at all. Again, if it is not 100% dry, you need to allow more time.

Consider what you would like your board to say and measure out the lines. Laura likes to use removeable blue painters tape to mark where her writing lines will be – this is one of our preferred tips! Just be sure that after you {oh-so-easily} remove your “lines,” that you remember to go back and finish your descenders.

This portion of the process does take a considerable amount of time as you have to calculate spacing, count characters, etc. It can take a couple hours when working on a large seating board, and you want to be sure to account for this timing when you are quoting a product.

Now it’s time to letter! With experience, you will find it easier to gauge how much space your wording will take, but until then you can pencil out your art first. If it’s not covered perfectly, you can erase after the board is finished…and fully dried of course!

Using the paint marker, write out your wording in monoline first, then go back in and fill the thicker areas. This will give your lettering the look of calligraphy. You only want to fill in where the thicker lines would go in pointed-pen calligraphy. Remember, this is for the downstrokes only! Be sure not to fill in your entry or exit strokes with thickness.

If you need help working on your basic lettering, we offer an alphabet exemplar here!

Allow time to dry and give your work a final once-over. Remove your painter’s tape, erase any pencil marks, and voila!

Have other tips for lettering on wood or what us to cover another topic? Let us know in this comments below!