How to make a DIY Wood Sign with a Vinyl Stencil

Our Happy Place DIY Wood Sign with pink tulips on black tray

Today I’m continuing a series of posts on how to make DIY wood signs. The first post in the series was how to paint DIY wood signs and the next step is transferring the design onto wood! One of my favorite ways to do this is by making DIY wood sign stencils with vinyl!

I used vinyl to make my DIY wood sign with Calligraphy Quote and it made the process so much easier, faster, and more professional looking! It’s also a great option if you are making wooden signs to sell and want a more professional look!

A vinyl stencil on a DIY wood sign

Create the Things you Wish Existed Large Wood Sign on wall

Note, this post contains some affiliate links. For more info see my disclosures here.

Today I’m sharing a step by step tutorial on how to make wood signs with vinyl. The most important tool you need to create a vinyl stencil is a vinyl cutting machine, such as a Silhouette Cameo (used in this tutorial) or Cricut. These crafting machines are a small investment up front, but they have the ability to create so many cool things!

Side note, if you don’t have a vinyl machine, you can still create the below sign by transferring the design onto wood with this wood transfer method using a pencil.

Also, this tutorial post is long, but I really want to show all the steps with details and lots of photos so you feel like you can totally do this too! It really isn’t hard once you get the hang of it 🙂


I’m sharing a free 12″x12″ printable of this sign design featuring my own hand lettering, so you can create this exact same sign! You can get your free printable here!

How to make DIY wood sign stencils with vinyl

Supplies Needed:

*Make sure you have a wood sign backing piece that is painted and ready to go. For this tutorial, I used a 1×12 pine board (actual width of 11.75″) and I cut it to a length of 11.75″ so the final wood sign backing size is 11.75″x11.75″. Your local home improvement store can cut the wood for you if needed. For details on wood sign backing types and how to paint them, see how to paint DIY wood signs.*

Part 1: Create Vinyl Decal Stencil in Silhouette Studio

1.  Open the “Our Happy Place -12×12” free printable JPEG file (available at the bottom of this post) in Silhouette Studio, which is the software that comes with the Silhouette Cameo.

Note, the file is actually 11.75″ x11.75″ (rather than 12×12) so it’s a perfect fit for the wood base I’m using).

Then, open the trace window and click on “Select Trace Area”

Open JPEG design file in Silhouette Studio

2. Use your mouse to draw a large tracing box around the design. Sometimes, I will do just one word at a time if necessary to get a cleaner cut, but I didn’t need to with this design.

Next, deselect “High Pass Filter” and then select “Low Pass Filter”. Change the Threshold percentage to around 86%. You can experiment adjusting the threshold percentage rate, but essentially you want to ensure the yellow tracing highlights are filling in all the letters to the edges and that there are no tiny gaps not highlighted to ensure a clean cut of your vinyl stencil for your DIY wood sign! Also, it helps to zoom in for this step!

trace wood sign design in Silhouette Studio

3. Select “Trace” and then move the printable image out of the way to reveal your tracing outline. Zoom in to make sure you have clean cut lines of the design. If not, you can go to “Edit” then “undo” and adjust the threshold to get better cut lines.

trace wood sign design in Silhouette Studio

Once your image has been traced, go ahead and delete the black and white printable image so that just your traced design with the red lines remains.

Note, this design is sized already exactly for a 12×12 sign, but, the cool thing about Silhouette Studio and vinyl decals is that you can resize the design and or the artboard to any size you need.

To change the design size, click on the traced outline, open the “Scale” window, check the “Lock Aspect” box, then change the width or height to your desired size settings, and click on “Apply”.  And to change the artboard setting, open the “Design Page Settings” window and adjust the page size as needed.

How to resize decal design in Silhouette Studio

4. Next, we need to create a square cut line around our design, this will be helpful later when we apply the vinyl stencil to our sign.

Open the “Scale” window, then select the rectangle tool from the left toolbar, and draw a box around the design. With the box selected, in the scale window options under “specify dimensions”, resize the box into a 10″ x 10″ square.

Add a square cut trace line around design in Silhouette Studio

Then, center the square cut line on the page. To do this, open the “Align” window, make sure the square is still selected, and click on “center to page”.

center square trace line around design in Silhouette Studio

5. Your vinyl stencil outline is ready to cut, send it to the Silhouette machine and cut your vinyl! I always use Oracal 631 vinyl for any vinyl stencils or decals because it is a high quality indoor/outdoor vinyl and is easy to apply and remove.

Also, I plan on adding a separate tutorial on how to set up vinyl settings on a Silhouette soon if that’s something you need a tutorial for? Here are some directions from Silhouette if you need them for loading/cutting vinyl with the machine.

Part 2: Make Vinyl Stencil and Apply to Wood Sign Backing

1. Weed your vinyl

Weed your vinyl decal using a vinyl weeding tool or something with a pin end. Because we are using the vinyl to create a stencil, we want to weed (remove) the positive space or the lettering/design that we are transferring to our wood sign backing. This results in a vinyl stencil! Also, remove the excess vinyl around the outside of the square vinyl stencil box.

Weed vinyl to create a vinyl stencil

Weed vinyl to create a vinyl stencil

2. Apply transfer tape to your vinyl stencil

I use Oratape HT55 transfer tape, which is made specifically for Oracal 631 vinyl. I buy it in bulk (it lasts a really long time) and it works great. But, any other medium to high tack transfer tape should work fine for this project.

There are several ways to apply transfer tape to vinyl and I will share two methods here. First, is my favorite method using a Transfer Tape Roller. If you make vinyl decals or vinyl stencils often, I highly recommend this tool as it makes applying transfer tape really easy!

Use painter’s tape or masking tape and tape the corners of your vinyl stencil down to the left of the Transfer Tape Roller. Make sure the transfer tape is loaded on the roller as shown in the photo. Then, pull the transfer tape over the vinyl stencil and press the end of it down on the work surface as shown.

Apply transfer tape to vinyl stencil

Use a Vinyl Squeegee or old credit card and smooth out the transfer tape over the vinyl stencil. It works best to start towards the center and smooth out to the edges. Use scissors or a razor blade to cut the vinyl stencil off from the transfer tape roller.

Apply transfer tape to vinyl stencil using tape roller and Squeegee

Also, it takes some practice getting use to applying transfer tape. If you get a few crinkles in your tape, don’t worry, it usually doesn’t wrinkle the vinyl stencil part.

The second way to apply transfer tape, which works fine for smaller vinyl stencils or decals like this sign, is to cut a piece of transfer tape that is a little bigger than the vinyl decal. Then, slowly apply it over the vinyl (which should be taped down to the work surface) with a Vinyl Squeegee or old credit card. I used this method on my DIY pantry label decals.

How to make pantry label decals

How to make pantry label decals

Next, cut around the vinyl stencil box so that only a small white edge remains.

Trim edge around vinyl stencil

3. Apply vinyl stencil to wood sign backing

Center the vinyl stencil on the wood sign backing. You can either eye it or use a ruler. If using a ruler, measure from the edge of the vinyl stencil box to the edge of the sign on all sides to make sure it’s centered. Then, use painter’s tape or masking tape and tape it down to the wood sign.

Center vinyl stencil on wood backing using a ruler

Center vinyl stencil on wood backing and tape down

Start at one corner and slowly peel off the white backing paper from the transfer tape until it reaches close to the tape in the middle. Make sure as you peel back, the vinyl is stuck to the clear transfer tape. Cut with scissors the loose white backing paper. Then, secure vinyl stencil to wood sign by smoothing down the cut side with a squeegee.

apply vinyl stencil to wood sign

apply vinyl stencil to wood sign

apply vinyl stencil to wood sign

Now that part of the vinyl stencil is attached to the sign backing, remove the rest of the white backing paper and attach the other half. Use a squeegee and rub against the vinyl stencil a few times to make sure your decal is attached to the wood sign backing.

apply vinyl stencil to wood sign

Remove bubbles from transfer tape over vinyl with a squeegee

4. Remove transfer tape from vinyl stencil and wood sign

Slowly peel off the transfer tape at a 45 degree angle. If any part of the vinyl starts to come up off the wood sign with the transfer tape, firmly run over that part of the vinyl with a squeegee and peel back the transfer tape again.

remove transfer tape from vinyl and wood sign

Part 3: Paint over vinyl stencil to transfer design to wood sign

1. Tape exposed edges of wood sign

Use painter’s tape and cover the edges of the sign that are exposed. Make sure to tape as close as you can to the letters of the design.

wood sign with taped edge

2. Paint over vinyl stencil to transfer design to wood sign

It’s time to paint over our stencil and transfer our design! There are several painting methods to use for this step. Check out my post on how to paint DIY wood signs for more methods. I usually prefer to spray paint, so that’s what I did with this DIY sign. I used a black flat finish spray paint by Valspar.  Try to avoid really cheap spray paint.

The key when using spray paint (or any paint) is to do multiple light coats, making sure to wait a few minutes between each coat. If it gets sprayed on too heavy or too close it can cause paint to seep under the vinyl stencil.

spray paint over vinyl stencil onto wood sign

3. Remove tape and stencil from wood sign

Allow paint to dry for at least 1 hour before removing the tape and vinyl stencil.

Remove the painter’s tape from the wood sign edges. Then, remove the vinyl stencil from the wood sign by peeling it back at an angle. Use the vinyl weeding tool to remove the floating parts of the letters.

Remove vinyl stencil from wood sign with fingers

Remove vinyl stencil from wood sign with a pin edge

Note, if paint seeped under any part of your stencil, just touch it up with a small paint brush and the white paint you used for the sign backing.

Part 4: Attach Wood Frame to DIY Wood Sign

Now that we’ve transferred our design onto our DIY wood sign, it’s time to add the wood sign framing! I briefly showed how to do this with my DIY wood sign with Calligraphy Quote. But, to learn three, easy, different ways how to frame a wood sign, check out my post on how to frame wood signs.

How to make a DIY Wood Sign with Vinyl Stencil

Free “Our Happy Place” Calligraphy Printable

Our Happy Place DIY Wood Sign with pink tulips on black side table

Click the pink button below to subscribe and get the free Our Happy Place printable which is available in the library of free printables for the home! If you are already subscribed to the newsletter, the printable is now available for download in the free printable library!

(Printables are for personal use only, no commercial use is allowed, thanks!)


Woo, I know that was a long post! I hope it has been helpful in learning how to make DIY wood sign stencils with vinyl!

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21 thoughts on “How to make a DIY Wood Sign with a Vinyl Stencil

        1. For the hand lettering, I used the Apple pencil on an iPad pro in the procreate app. Then, I sent it to Adobe Illustrator to digitize it and create the final design and save it as a JPEG. Finally, I traced the design in Silhouette studio (shown in the above tutorial) to create the vinyl stencil.

  1. Hi! Do you have any advice for how to lightly distress a sign like this, but without the spray painted letters discoloring the white paint around it? I followed all the steps, and let my spray paint dry over night, but when I tried to do a little light distressing the next day with fine sandpaper, it smeared black onto the white paint.
    Any help you have would be really appreciated! Thanks!!!

    1. If you want to distress both the white backing paint and the black lettering, you could try using a black chalk spray paint instead of regular spray paint, which distresses easier. Or if you don’t want distressed lettering, just a distressed white background, you could distress the white paint on the backing before adding the lettering. It might be helpful to test it out first on some scrap wood.

  2. Hi, are these vinyl stencils reusable or you have to remake them every time to do multiple ones? Do you have any advice or know what the route to go with stencils if you are going to be making multiples and to save time as well…

    1. The vinyl ones are not reusable and have to be remade each time. If you want to make a reusable stencil, there is actual stencil material you can purchase. Both Cricut and Silhouette make stencil material. Also, Greenstar and Oracal make reusable stencil material as well which can be used with professional cutting machines (like Roland and Graphtec cutting machines) as well as the cricut/silhouette machines. Another way to do multiple signs with the same design is making a screen print of the design and doing a screen print transfer method. These are just a few of the methods I know of, I’m sure there are some more ways though!

  3. Very helpful post!
    I’m stuck on Part one, step 3–You say “Once your image has been traced, go ahead and delete the black and white printable image so that just your traced design with the red lines remains.”
    My problem is that I never get a black and white printable image over the red (choosing trace, trace outer edge, or trace and detach?). I have a yellow one that I can move off of the page, or when i click trace, it goes red with a lot more lines?


    1. Thanks Hailey! So, the black and white image should just be the original image that you are tracing from and should be under the red trace lines after selecting just “trace”. And the yellow should go away once you select trace. As long as a red trace line of the design remains, that’s all that matters! Does that help?

  4. Hi! Thanks for the tutorial! Why do you transfer the stencil on to transfer tape and then on to the sign? My stencils come out of my cricut sticky so I just affix them to the sign.. wondering if it’s better to then use transfer tape even though the stencil is sticky? Thanks!

    1. It’s to keep the pieces that aren’t attached to anything in place. For example, for the letter “o” the inside vinyl part of “o” isn’t connected to the larger outside part of the vinyl. So, if you tried to transfer it to the sign that piece wouldn’t be attached to anything and wouldn’t transfer. The transfer tape allows the entire design to be transferred without losing any of those non connected pieces. Also, it allows the stencil to easily be lined up exactly where I need it on the sign. I hope that all makes sense!

    1. Hi Robyn, Did you try checking your email? An email titled “Welcome to Angela Marie Made & Free Printable Library!” should have been sent to you. Sometimes it ends up in spam, so I’d try checking there too!

  5. When you remove your stencil, does the paint for the lettering ever get stuck to the stencil and peel up some of your letters? This always happens to me when I use latex paint! Where am I going wrong?! I’m tired of using chalk paint because then i have to put a sealing layer over it!

    1. I haven’t had this happen yet. Maybe try doing multiple, lighter coats of paint? I usually use spray paint for the lettering which I think helps avoid this!

  6. Hi! Thank you for your tutorial! I’ve gone through all the steps and it looks great! However, I have some “sticky” parts on the wood from the vinyl after I leaked it off. Do you have any suggestions on how to remove it or prevent from happening again?

    1. You’re welcome! To remove it, I would try lightly hand sanding the area with some 120 or 220 grit sandpaper. Or I’ve heard a pink or white eraser may help with removing it (but I haven’t tried that out before). What type of vinyl and paint are you using? I haven’t had any sticky residue with the Oracal 631 and latex paint as my base paint. But, to prevent it in the future, I’d recommend avoiding working in really humid areas, so stick to AC if it’s hot/humid out (except for when you’re spray painting/painting). And also, make sure your base coat of paint has dried and cured for at least 24 hours before applying the vinyl. Let me know if that helps!

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