How a Sign is Painted (Oct, 1946)

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How a Sign is Painted

A water-color drawing, scaled one inch to the foot, is squared off by the pictorial painter for his own guidance in putting such outsize art work on a board with raw paint. This is shown below, overlaid on an outline sketch of picture and lettering that is keyed to serve as a color chart.

Neck-craners who watch skyscraper artists often wonder how they work out the big painted boards. These pictures of the jumbo sign above Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street show the successive steps. (1) First, the old sign is blocked out. This is done by a crew (five men) that puts up the scaffolding and gives the entire area one heavy coat of gray paint or, in the case of a rush job, a coat of quick-drying white. This crew also delivers in a metal box all the cans of colored paints needed for the new sign. (2) Then a pictorial painter and a helper, who does the lettering, take over. They square off the board and, with chalk and indelible pencil, sketch the picture and lettering of the new sign. (3) These scaffold Rembrandts carry only their brushes and a few tubes of paste colors that the pictorial man may need to bring out highlights in the art. (4) The 41-by-51-foot sign (below), completed in four days, will retain high visibility for at least six months. Arrow points to the box of paints.

3 comments
  1. Hirudinea says: January 11, 20126:00 pm

    I wanted to paint somthing on my garage door but I’m not that great a drawer, mabye I’ll apply this technique.

  2. Toronto says: January 11, 20129:20 pm

    A neighbor once used a slide projector to help sketch in a picture on his garage door. Computer projectors are in everyone’s office these days, though whether someone could “check one out overnight” varies with different companies.

  3. G. L. Tyrebyter says: January 12, 20121:28 am

    The new billboards today are LED displays. Just giant computer screens.

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