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Modeling old painted-on signs

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  • Member since
    July 2004
  • From: Spartanburg, SC
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Modeling old painted-on signs
Posted by GP-9_Man11786 on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 7:14 PM

I saw this building yesterday in Campobello, SC and realy liked the old weather-beaten lettering.

How does one model that type of lettering?

Modeling the Pennsylvania Railroad in N Scale.

www.prr-nscale.blogspot.com 

  • Member since
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  • From: Canada
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Posted by FastTracks on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 7:42 PM

I wrote a post about it on one of my blogs and thought I would share it here.

 

Hope you find it helpful...

Tim Warris

 

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Weber sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

The (blue) sign on the side of this building is a bit of an illusion. It looks like a painted on, faded sign, but it is neither painted on, nor faded.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Weber sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

This sign was made by scanning the fully painted and weathered wall, drawing the sign in CorelDraw, combining the two images and then adding a fading effect to the sign allowing the brickwork to show through the sign.

The sign is then printed out, cut from the paper, and glued back onto the wall in exactly the same location as it was drawn in the software.

What you are seeing is not a faded sign, but a picture of a faded sign on the same wall.

I will outline how this process works with this post.

This building looks like a good candidate for a new old sign.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Downtown Deco building waiting for a sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

This Downtown Deco building has a couple signs on it already, but I have never been too happy with them, they look good from far, but they are far from good. The Coke sign is simply glued onto the bricks and the Nehi sign is printed onto tissue paper and glued to the wall. The tissue paper method works fairly well, but could be better, I would like to see the bricks show through the sign a bit more.

I found a good sign to use on the Railroad Line forum, which has a good collection of signs.

A sign could also be drawn using CorelDraw. Both methods will work equally well for this.

The first step in this procedure, once the wall is painted and weathered to your tastes, is to scan the wall onto which the sign is to be added.

This is done by laying the entire building onto the scanner and scanning the side into Coreldraw. (Or any bitmap editing software that allows the control of "opacity" or transparency).

Building on scanner
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Some cropping will need to be done to isolate only the wall from the entire scanned image.

Only the area where the sign is to be added needs to be kept. Be sure it is larger than the sign. Here, I have the entire wall scanned and ready to receive the sign.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Wall scan
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

With the wall scan open, import the sign into the same page. The sign may need to be re-sized to fit the wall.

Making the sign smaller is not a problem, but be careful to not try and make the sign much larger, as a bitmap will become "pixelated" when scaled up too much.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Scale sign to fit
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Drag the sign onto the wall. If it goes in behind the wall it need to be brought up to the top layer. In Coreldraw this can be done by pressing "Ctrl PgUp"

I drew a black rectangle around the sign to help define it a bit.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Drag sign onto wall
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Now the neat part. With the sign selected, select the "Transparency tool" from the toolbar. Select "Uniform" from the first drop down box and move the slider to increase how transparent the sign will become. I have set it to 74% here.

This allows the image below the sign to show through by increasing how transparent the sign is. This creates a "faded" look to the sign.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Fading the sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

I find the sign is still a bit too clean looking, fortunately there is a tool that can take care of that.

Included in CorelDraw are several bitmap editing tools. Select Bitmaps from the top tool bar, then Art Strokes>Cubist.

Play around with the settings to create a more faded effect to the sign. The setting I used can be seen in the image below.

I used the eyedropper tool to select the "paper" color from the brickwork.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Cubist tool
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

I didn't think the sign was faded enough, so I selected the transparency tool again, and bumped up the transparency value to 82.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Adding more transparency
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Now that the editing on the sign is complete, it has to be printed out in color. Use high quality paper, and the highest quality settings on the print.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Printing sign

Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

There will always be a bit of a color difference between the original wall and the printout. Don't worry about that, it won't show in the end. Trying to match a printed image to an original is almost impossible, you can drive yourself nuts trying.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Wall and printed sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Only the sign is needed from the printout, carefully cut it out with a straight edge.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Cut out sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Using a emery board, sand the back of the paper, removing most of the paper, leaving only a thin layer. This is easily done, but be careful not to tear the sign. If you do, simply print out another one and try again.

Sanding sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

The final sign is a bit on the bright side, so I dulled it down by brushing on a wash of leather dye diluted with alcohol.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Staining sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

The sign is glued to the wall with ordinary carpenters glue. Spreading a layer of glue on the back of the sign will make it very pliable, and allow it to be worked into the mortar lines of the wall, creating the illusion that the sign is painted onto the wall.

Be careful not to tear the sign when applying it, as it is very delicate at this stage.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Apply glue
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

I work the paper into the bricks with my finger nail.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Working into mortar lines
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Once the sign is glued onto the building, I brush on another layer of the stain, this helps blend it all together. Adding some streaks on the wall below the sign will simulate the colors running over the years.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Weathering sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

The edges of the sign show a bit in this picture, because it is such a close up shot, but from a normal viewing distance they are invisible.

The bricks show through the sign, and create a well weathered look to this ad, like it has been on the building for some time. By adjusting the amount of "transparency" in the sign, you can vary how old the sign will look.

What makes this work, is that the brickwork that is showing through the sign, is the acutal brickwork that is on the wall. Its a perfect match because it is the same wall.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Final sign
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Here is a couple more signs done using the same techniques. These signs were drawn from scatch in Coreldraw, then converted to bitmaps, also in Coreldraw.

Click on the picture for a larger version...
Another example
Image Copyright (c) 2006 Tim Warris

Cheers! Tim Warris CNJ Bronx Terminal
  • Member since
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  • From: Westcentral Pennsylvania (Johnstown)
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Posted by tgindy on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 8:11 PM

Wink Perhaps you could you be a little more specific?

P.S.:  Nice Presentation!

Conemaugh Road & Traction circa 1956

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 7:58 AM

I use home-made decals.  I scan or download the art work, and then print it on clear decal paper using an inkjet printer.  Your normal computer printer assumes you're printing on white paper, which naturally leaves a semi-transparent decal.

For this one, I painted a white rectangle on the building with acrylic craft paint.  I wanted a white background to match the original artwork, and printers don't do white, so this technique not only provides the background but also color-corrects the rest of the image.  Like Tim, I add a border.  This helps define the image better, and (in my case) covers up the fact that I can't paint a straight line with acrylic craft paint.

You don't have to feel constrained to brick walls.  I put these signs on a wood plank fence I built using coffee stirrers "liberated" from work.

 The rough surfaces that the decal goes on helps create the "weathered" effect.  Brick walls and rough wood work well for this.  Normally, you want a smooth, even finish for decal application, but this is one case where a rough finish is actually better.  The brick walls had already received a layer of Dul-Coat, and another layer was applied to seal the decal in place and flatten down the finish.  I also used Micro-Sol to settle the decals into the mortar grooves.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 8:36 AM

tgindy

Wink Perhaps you could you be a little more specific?

P.S.:  Nice Presentation!

LOL yeah Tim be more clear and complete -- as if that was possible.

One effect you see here on some old brick buildings in Milwaukee is that different generations of painted signs are visible on top of each other so to speak.  That would be a challenging effect to capture.

What is interesting is that even today when old buildings get torn down, often a painted sign on an adjacent building wall is surprisingly clear and distinct, at least for a while.  And I can recall in the 1960s seeing a very clear and distinct sign on a local tavern in my home down that was clearly more than 30 years old yet seemed clear as a bell.  How did I know how old it was?  Because it said "Schlitz -- The Drink that Made Milwaukee Famous."  During prohibition Schlitz made no beer but rather a non alcohol malt beverage, so during Prohibition they changed their slogan from The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous to The Drink That Made Milwaukee Famous.  

A few years ago a self styled local historian pointed out a number of old advertising signs on some Milwaukee structures -- such as one for Sen Sen, a product I actually remember -- and suggested that they needed to be preserved because some clearly involved products before World War One.   Then an even better local historian recollected that actually all those signs were painted in 1968 when a film called Gaily Gaily was made here in Milwaukee, and the Third Ward was used as a stand in for circa 1910 Chicago where the famous Ben Hecht was a reporter. 

Dave Nelson

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Posted by tomkat-13 on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 2:13 PM

Here is a link to my sign tread. You can make decals or print on paper to sand down and apply to brick walls.

http://cs.trains.com/TRCCS/forums/t/162879.aspx

I model MKT & CB&Q in Missouri. A MUST SEE LINK: Great photographs from glassplate negatives of St Louis 1914-1917!!!! http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/kempland/glassplate.htm Boeing Employee RR Club-St Louis http://www.berrc-stl.com/
  • Member since
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Posted by tomkat-13 on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 4:33 PM

I model MKT & CB&Q in Missouri. A MUST SEE LINK: Great photographs from glassplate negatives of St Louis 1914-1917!!!! http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/kempland/glassplate.htm Boeing Employee RR Club-St Louis http://www.berrc-stl.com/
  • Member since
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  • From: Eastern Shore Virginia
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Posted by gandydancer19 on Thursday, May 3, 2012 9:53 AM

You can also get ready made decals that look like old signs from this eBay seller:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/thorn14141/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p3686

(I'm not associated with them in any way.)

Elmer.

The above is my opinion, from an active and experienced Model Railroader in N scale and HO since 1961.

(Modeling Freelance, Eastern US, HO scale, in 1962, with NCE DCC for locomotive control and a stand alone LocoNet for block detection and signals.) http://waynes-trains.com/ at home, and N scale at the Club.

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Posted by tatans on Friday, May 4, 2012 12:14 PM

What a great article, truly adds a great bit of realism to old buildings, well done and thanks for the thread on those old signs.

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