Dry Transfer of Signs

edited June 2015 in Techniques
I have been looking for a "better and faster" way of printing signs onto clapboard siding. The traditional method is to sand off the back of the paper sign until it is transparent, then glue it to the siding. This method works well, but is time consuming and you can never get the paper thin enough to really look like a painted sign.

After some research while framing some pictures, I noticed the technique of printing a photograph on paper and then directly transferring it to a canvas of wooden board. I have experimented with using this technique using this series of steps. Follow along and see if you can apply this to your models.

First you have to find a image you would like to use and then flip it horizontally using your favourite photo editing tool.


Then lay the siding on a flat surface. I am using 6" clapboard siding for the experiment.


Go get some Artist Regular Gel (matte is preferred) and a foam brush. I'm sure you can use Mod Podge also.


Coat the siding, or the back of the sign, with a liberal even layer of the Regular Gel.


You will need some sort of burnishing tools. Your finger is a good substitute initially, but some round smooth object like a back of pen cap, match stick, etc. Anything that will NOT scratch the paper.


The press the sign facedown into the Regular Gel and lightly begin the process of smoothing it out with your finger.


Then start to work the paper into the cracks and crevices of the siding. Avoid scratching the paper like I did in this experiment. Let it dry overnight, or until there the paper is dry and the gel is not tacky. When it has dried, then brush some plain old water onto the paper backing and let it soak in for a minute.


Then using your finger, start rubbing the paper off the siding. Be patient and avoid pressing too hard. The pape will start rolling off the siding leaving the painted wood.


When all is said and done, all that should be left is the ink from the ink-jet printer.


This technique is a great self-weathering method for putting faded signs on structures. Give it a try and you will be surprised how easy it is to do.



  • Thanks. I'm going to give it a try.
  • Make sure do it on a test piece before you do it on a model.
  • Hi Marty,

    When you coat the siding it seems like you have to mask off the area outside where the sign goes. Otherwise you will have the gel on the wall outside the sign to deal with. Is that the case?

    Best regards,

  • You noticed the "overspray". In this experiment, I coated the siding, if I coated the paper instead there would be less of the overflow. it can be cleaned up with a bit of water after you have burnished the paper.
  • Marty,

    You keep teaching me things. Another good technique to add to my repertoire.

    David U
  • edited June 2015
    David, I was so excited I had to share it.

    Btw: if you look at the second last photo...the one with it partially exposed. yes, that one. If that was a billboard and you had two workpersons putting up the sign, or covering up the sign; it would look cool. Yes, one holding the roll of paper another pasting it up. Just saying.

  • Very cool ...
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