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Painting a Picture of Quality

Planning and preparation is everything

By Staff

After the initial construction of your signs comes the crucial process of decoration. With the variety of materials offered-ranging from vinyl to three-dimensional lettering, and various electronic devices-the decision can often be difficult. However, there is always the simple solution of paint.

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  • Paint, although it sounds like a more base form of sign décor, is actually a substance that's used in many forms and in many ways. Application techniques, base coats, finishing coats, and durability come into play when opting for this method of furnishing your sign.

    There are choices as to what types of enamel, stain, epoxy, and shellac. Plus there is the choice between water-based and oil-based paints. Clearly it's good to have some background information on how paints work and on which type or combination of types works what way on each type of surface. Then you can decide what is best suited for your sign.

    After selecting which combination of paint you will be using on your sign, you begin preparing the sign's surface-creating a solid foundation. Primer prepares the sign for the paint, eliminating any unwanted rust, oil, wax, dust, or silicone that may be present. It also provides you with a clean surface to begin your work on. Bear in mind, however, primer only functions as a foundation. The application of only primer with no paint over it makes for a poor outcome.

    Primers usually contain solids that work to seal wood-especially wood lacking in density-and eliminate the need for multiple finish coatings. Therefore, primers extend the life of the finish after applied. Primer is also convenient for the worker. Primer tends to dry quickly and evenly. It is relatively painless to put on several coats. Multiple coats are recommended for the primer to be most effective.

    You will have a flat finish for an easier paint job. Any type of paint put on primer will cover and also adhere to the primer.. Specialized primers also exist to rid the sign's surface of small problems such as nicks and scratches.

    To begin with the basics, you should consider beginning with water-based paint. It is often a good place to start. Due to the blended solvents found in it, water-based paint is recommended for those sign professionals with concerns about drying time and even color. The mixture of solvents in this water-based paint allows for better scattering of pigment and therefore ensures an even toned finish.

    Water based paints also include a latex formula. Primarily made of rubber, latex is usually also used in house paints. Latex is also the base chemical in acrylic latex and pure acrylic paints-other forms of water-based paint. Innovations in urethane coating are even being made with this water and latex chemical foundation.

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    In these types of paint, the pigments are minute particles of plastic. This composition provides clean, saturated colors that do not lose their sheen over time. One concern with acrylics-as is with all paints-however, is quality. The reliability of the product usually directly correlates to the price. Yes, the old platitude about getting what you pay for. Although it may seem costly at first, the long lasting graphics on your sign will make it well worth the money.

    Another somewhat popular type of paint is spray paint. Aerosol cans are health hazards and deplete the environment's ozone. But airless guns work just as well, if not better-especially when painting houses or large billboards. Although it's effective, however, many choose to stay away from this industrial technique of application. When dealing with specified spaces to paint, those workers spray painting tend to over spray-putting the painter and the materials at risk.

    Also an option for decorating blank signs is stain. Although some sign workers today regard staining as outdated by the evolution of paint, many still rely on it in their shops or on the job. Like paint, stain can be either water-based or oil-based. Stains come in semi-transparent and solid colors. Sign makers often turn to stain because of its gentle chemical makeup which allows wooden signs to receive air. Being porous essentially erases the problem of blistering due to trapped water. Stain also comes in an array of qualities. However, the premium brands have the advantage of oil and nutrients that preserve the life of the wood even longer.

    After the application of paint or stain, sign workers must decide whether or not to apply varnish to the sign. Varnishes add gloss to the surface of the sign and prevent the chipping and wearing away of paint. Depending on the quality of the paint used on the sign prior to the varnishing stage, varnish is sometimes imperative. The better the paint used the lower the pressure to take that extra step-and cost-to varnish.

    Although, many acrylic-based ultraviolet inhibitors are increasing the longevity of varnish, the standard types only last for approximately one year in an outdoor environment. Varnish may need to be applied on more than one occasion. These clear layers are chemically composed of solvents that are found in paint and stain, mixed with resins derived from tree sap. This mixture of ingredients is responsible for the decomposition of varnish in outside weather.

    When deciding how to paint your sign, remember that the quality of the work is the key. A timely application of each layer of paint, primer, and varnish is necessary for a smooth, clear result. Although a little more time and money may be required when doing a thorough job, the extra efforts pay off when your sign outlasts the rain, sun, and snow that most sign's surfaces are subjected to when displayed outside in the weather.

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