The Sign Painters

It’s easy to take for granted that the existence of digital tools for creating graphics is a purely good thing. But for many people who made a living hand painting signs, the advent of cheap and fast computer graphics in the 1980s was bad news indeed. Jobs were lost and the craft went into decline. Happily, some are now seeing a rebound, as more people appreciate the value of the unique and durable designs hand painted signs offer.

The art of sign painting, and the people who create it is the subject of Sign Painters, a documentary film, book, and accompanying blog.

At the blog, you can learn about the film and find out where it’s being screened. Also, the Resources and Inspiration page is worth checking out for even more great examples of hand painted signs.

Here’s the film trailer:

SIGN PAINTERS (OFFICIAL TRAILER) from samuel j macon on Vimeo.

And info from the official press release:

There was a time, as recently as the 1980s, when storefronts, murals, banners, barn signs, billboards, and even street signs were all hand-lettered with brush and paint. But, like many skilled trades, the sign industry has been overrun by the techno-fueled promise of quicker and cheaper. The resulting proliferation of computer-designed, die-cut vinyl lettering and inkjet printers has ushered a creeping sameness into our landscape. Fortunately, there is a growing trend to seek out traditional sign painters and a renaissance in the trade.

In 2010 filmmakers Faythe Levine and Sam Macon began documenting these dedicated practitioners, their time-honored methods, and their appreciation for quality and craftsmanship. Sign Painters, the first anecdotal history of the craft, features the stories of more than two dozen sign painters working in cities throughout the United States. The documentary and book profiles sign painters young and old, from the new vanguard working solo to collaborative shops such as San Francisco’s New Bohemia Signs and New York’s Colossal Media’s Sky High Murals.

Posted on: March 13, 2013

Mike Rankin

Mike is the Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and He is also the author of several video training series, including Font Management Essential Training, InDesign FX, and InDesign CC: Interactive Document Fundamentals.

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