Free Printables, Houseware Crafts, Tutorials

Hot Cocoa Sign with a Free Printable

With winter’s chill blast upon me….it’s 55 degrees in Los Angeles – bring on the (decorative) scarves!….. it’s time for a little hot cocoa.

Actually it’s time for the annual Dessert Party and the hot cocoa bar.

The bar was a new idea and a big hit last year so it’s definitely happening again but, of course, to really make it sing what it needs is a vintagy sign!*

*(my apologies to those of you who have been reading along regularly and are now thinking, dryly, to yourselves “oh joy, another sign.  Will he use image transfer?….my heart is just absolutely racing with excitement…..” 

In my defense, I actually did this project after Christmas last year in a burst of “Oh my god I never want to be this swamped again! I’m gonna get prepared for next Christmas now!” enthusiasm.  However I didn’t know then that old-sign-image-transfer was going to be such a big part of my 2018.  Please bear with me ((bare?, that can’t be right it just sounds lascivious)) I promise I have other, non-sign projects coming).

First, I came up with the design for the sign – something simple but festive was the goal

If you like the look of this here is the free, downloadable PDF version:  Hot Cocoa Master Print Version .  It’s quite large but you should be able to resize it to suit your needs.

To make the sign itself I just took some random width pieces of 1/2″ plywood, cut them all to the same length (36″) and applied a quick, light, coat of stain (color doesn’t really matter, I just grabbed whatever I had on the shelf).

After letting the stain dry I gave the boards another, somewhat lazy, coat of leftover, white latex paint and allowed it to dry (I never imagined that I would spend so many hours of my mid-life years literally waiting for paint to dry…. not sure how I feel about that…..).

I quick run with my sander and some 220 grit sandpaper smoothed out the wood and gave it the distressed look I was going for.

I connected all the boards together on the back just using a couple of pieces of scrap-wood and some screws – nothing fancy – and I was ready for the transfer.

The graphic itself was too big to print out all at once on my printer so I printed sections of it on plain, legal sized paper and laid them out (and screwed up!…more on that later).

I used my Polycrylic transfer method Simply lay down a good layer of Minwax Polycrylic then place your graphic face down on it, smooth it out and allow to dry overnight.

Once dry (so much drying!!!) I used a very damp rag to remove the paper

I’ve found that you can – and sometimes need- to be pretty aggressive with the wet-rag-rubbing if you’re going for a vintagy look.

There is some distress built into the design but the aggressive rubbing takes it to the next, beat up, level.  You can see more of it in this close-up.

I sealed the whole thing with a coat of satin polycrylic, added some hangers on the back and….propped it up against the wall (I’ll hang it later – I just needed to get the photo done)…. and only then realized I had goofed up.

I’m pretty sure that “hot” and “cocoa” are actually two separate words (downside of having to break up the graphic into pieces).

Ah well I think my dessert party guests will still be able to figure it out. I’ll just tell them that in the 1940s they spelled it that way.  They’ll be high as a kit on sugar so they’ll buy it I’m sure.

And at least I spelled both words correctly so, you know, big step-up for me!

Actually the great thing about this technique is, that if I weren’t kinda lazy, it is pretty simple to fix a mistake like that by just going back in and sanding off the text and trying again.  I may do that yet but, in the meantime -Happy December everyone!  Stay warm – it’s only going to make it to 65 today!


(EDIT) sorry, I realized I should have just provided a breakdown of the steps to make this.

  1. cut boards to desired length
  2. lightly stain boards
  3. paint boards with any latex paint (flat it perfect)
  4. sand boards to reveal stain and raw wood for distressed look
  5. connect boards together on the back using scrap wood strips and screws
  6. reverse the graphic and print.  I use a laser printer but others report success with ink-jet printers.  You can print it in it’s entirety or break it up into printable sized pieces
  7. lay down a layer of Minwax Polycrylic
  8. lay your graphic, face down, in the Poly, smooth out and go over it with a roller or your hands just making sure you get good contact between the paper and the poly
  9. allow to dry overnight
  10. using a wet rag rub away the paper to reveal the image.  This may take a couple of rounds.  You can rub pretty hard if you’re going for a vintage look
  11. when satisfied with the look seal with a coat of Mod Podge, Poly or whatever you’d like.



15 thoughts on “Hot Cocoa Sign with a Free Printable”

  1. I think that this sign is so cute. I am going to make a smaller version to go in my kitchen. (RV kitchens are small!) It is only suppose to be in the 60’s today here in Quartzsite, AZ. BRR! Stay warm! Wish I was one of your lucky friends. These dessert parties sound awesome!

    1. Okay. I actually had precut some little boards this fall in case I found any signs that I wanted to make this winter. I also had some white acrylic paint and some polycrylic finish on hand. (What are the odds?) I printed out the hot cocoa master print and painted my little board. And now I wait for the paint to dry!

      1. The sign is done! Looks great! Showed it to one of my neighbors and she thought that I had bought it somewhere. David, you ROCK!

    1. When I made my sign, I just used an inkjet printer and it turned out fine. The only thing that David didn’t mention was to make sure and reverse your image or the printing will be backwards.

      1. Oh wow! That’s really good to know. I’ve never actually tried it using an ink jet and just kinda assumed it would smear. (also thanks for the reminder, I meant to go back in and emphasize the backwards part of the printing)

      2. It did smear a little but I wiped the letters while they were still wet and it was fine.

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