My first Brush Strokes

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Signwriting course

I'm taking part in a series of 3 virtual signwriting courses with Joby Carter from Carters Steam Fair.

I wrote about Why I'm learning about traditional signwriting this June.

Part two: "Brush Strokes" ran from 14th to 17th June 2021. Read about part one here.


Using a signwriting brush is new to me. Using brushes is something I approach with hesitation and difficulty. These signwriting brushes hold lots of paint, so I'm eager to see how they might change my approach to painting.

I'm not expecting to become an expert with brushes in a week. I'm hoping to find that moment where something clicks into place and more in control of what I want to do.



I have pulled together a basic signwriting kit. Mainly this set from Craftmaster. My honest review is it's not a great set. However, it is getting me going without worrying about destroying expensive brushes. The colour choices for the kit are questionable, given most surfaces are white. I'm longing for a bright colour in my kit.

Alongside this, I have offcut Dibond panels (kindly donated by my work Art Machine), white spirit, and the drawing supplies from last week.

I have my eye on this starter kit from AS Handover and still plan to buy when it is back in stock. It covers all the little extras that would have been handy during this course.



Joby started by going over brush care. The process of cleaning and greasing increases the life of the brush.

The main thing to take from this week is the practice exercises that Joby showed us on the first night. The advice is to keep doing these, they may not be the most exciting thing, but it means that you're not worried about messing up, and they only need 10 minutes.


The technique of rotating the brush and moving down at the same time is challenging. It is going to take time and practice to figure it out. My lines are a bit blobby and wobbly. There's a long way to go.

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My approach to this is to do some practice then 'treat' myself with painting some lettering. I don't want to run before I can walk, but I'm itching to explore lettering. It is another form of learning.


I threw together a makeshift mahlstick using a chopstick and some masking tape. It's rubbish! Something is better than nothing. A mahlstick, some bright paint colours, and Joby's book are on the shopping list this payday.

My makeshift tools continue with pouncing. I wanted to try pouncing a design from paper to the board. However, I only had Crayola chalk which is not ideal.

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I've been surprised about how much I can get done in just over an hour. That gives me the motivation to keep up the momentum, especially during summer.

I've been getting a great reaction to what I've learned in the course so far. I'm usually one for keeping work under wraps until it is perfect, but my reason to hand paint is not for perfection.

At work, I've been speaking to Brett, who was a sign painter in the 70s & 80s. He showed me his brush set, some photographs, and an old newspaper clipping featuring him painting signs in Birmingham. It was interesting. Good to have some first-hand advice, and noted his point that my new brushes will take some work to settle.

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I also had a conversation with Emma from the Peerie Shop, turns out she has been to an in-person course at Carters, which was very unexpected! It was good to compare notes. Emma handpaints all the signs for her shop, and there is just something unique that makes them iconic here in Shetland. It's handy to have so many people locally to soak up knowledge from.

Watching Joby painting does inspire me to keep going with the brush techniques. I am a little bit hard on myself when things don't go perfectly. It is a difficult skill to practice and learn, but the great thing is that I will see the progression over time.

Next week's class is about Fancy Letters - this is where some of the exciting stuff happens!