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DIY Project: Vintage Bus Sign!

I’m in love with vintage bus signs. What is there not to love? Bold typography and some of my favorite streets? Love it. But unfortunately a real vintage sign costs mucho dinero (like the one pictured below via 1st Dibs), so when I woke up on Saturday morning to MORE snow, I knew that making my own DIY bus sign was in my future…


1st Dibs

I’ve lived in Chicago for the past 7 years (eek, has it been that long??), so there are many street names that trigger warm and fuzzy memories. When I was designing my bus sign, I knew that I would use some of the street names that had good memories for me.  I also wanted to sneak a few of the streets that my hubs and I lived on together…it’s funny how seeing these street names triggers such good memories. :)

1. Paint for canvas (traditionally bus signs have a black background but I wanted to paint to background a charcoal gray which I had left over from another projecct) 2. Canvas – I used a 24″w X 48″h canvas 3. Paint brushes/pencil 4. Tape (blue painters tape would be ideal) 5. Ruler 6. (4″) Letter Stencils (I got mine from Dick Blick) 7. White paint for letters

1. Paint canvas. (I used a paint roller to speed up this process.) You may need to paint a few coats to coat entire canvas.

2. Measure out and tape a guideline to place the letter stencils. (It helps to do a quick placement of letters in order to figure out spacing between each line of text…for example, since my letters were 4″ tall, I measured 5″ from the top of the canvas in order to place my first guideline.)

3. Layout street name and tape each letter to the next in order for it to stay in place. Tape word to canvas so it won’t move when you start painting.

4. Start painting! I used a foam brush and stippled the paint to avoid brush marks. I also needed to paint two coats per letter…

5. Keep on painting! Finish the first line and allow it to dry…

6. Remove the stencils when the paint has dried…you may find that some paint has leaked through the stencil or that the edges may be a little uneven (see below). Since the letters need to be fully painted (to remove the “bridge” section of each letter), I used a small paint brush on the edges of the letters to fill in the uneven edges.

7. Repeat, repeat, repeat…until you’ve completed the piece! I loved how this piece turned out…I’m putting it at the end of a dark hallway so I’m excited to see the how it brighten the space! Enjoy!


  • This looks so cool! Thanks for posting step by step, it is making me think of the street names that mean most to me….humm… maybe I'll have to make one for my new aparto….

  • You should Bergerler! Easy project with a lot of punch! :)

  • Brilliant! That is so cool.

  • This is fabulous! Subway art has been on my craft to-do list for a while now and I can't wait to try one of my own! I just discovered your lovely shop and blog (we were featured in the same treasury) and I ADORE your style! Not sure if you do any blog sponsorships, but if you'd ever be interested in advertising on burlap+blue, I'd love to have you-my readers would flip for your designs! xoxo

  • Thank you burlap+blue! Love your items as well! I actually haven't ventured into blog sponsorships yet, but once I do you're blog will be high on my list! Thanks for commenting and reaching out!!

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