Inspired by the film, Signpainters, I journeyed to San Francisco to learn the art of signpainting from legendary studio, New Bohemians. Sign painting is the art of painting on buildings, billboards or signboards for the purpose of announcing or advertising products, services and events.
Sign painting is a learned craft with a long history. Historically artisans acquired the craft through apprenticeship, although many early sign painters were self-taught. An apprenticeship could last for years, depending on the skill of the apprentice and the knowledge of the master. The skills learned were varied, and some were complex. At the core of the training was proficiency in the manipulation of a lettering brush: this alone could take years to develop. A number of associated skills and techniques were also taught, such as gold leafing (surface and glass), carving (in various mediums), glue-glass chipping, stencilling, and silk-screening.
With the advent of computer software, sign painting has been displaced by computer controlled sign-making machines. The craft has all but disappeared, and is now only still taught in a few technical schools or specialty schools.
Old painted signs which fade but remain visible are known as ghost signs.