DIY: Industrial “Brushed Metal” Letter Sign

One of my long-term home projects is incorporating lettering throughout the space. When I stumbled upon Life as a Thrifter’s “Knock-Off Anthropologie Letters” tutorial, I decided to do something similar for my son’s room.


  • Dropcloth: A broken-down cardboard box works. Cost: free.
  • Lightweight wood or paper composite letters: I used Hobby Lobby 8" papier maché letters. They are surprisingly sturdy, stylish, and inexpensive. Cost: $2.50/each.
  • A can of metallic spray paint: I used Krylon Premium Metallic in Original Chrome after debating between that color and Sterling Silver for way too long. Cost: $5.99.
  • Aluminum foil
  • Black acrylic paint: For easy cleanup, be sure to use water-soluble acrylic. I used Anita’s brand. This project requires very little paint. Cost: about $1.00.
  • 1/2" paintbrush: The size isn’t too important. In a pinch, a cheapy sponge brush, paper towel, or even finger works. Cost: about $1.00.
  • 3M Command strips: Cost: about $4.00 for 8.


Space the letters a couple of inches apart on the dropcloth. 

Lightly spray-paint the letters. Let dry for about 10-15 minutes, depending on your climate, and spray again for better coverage. Let dry completely and repeat with the backs if desired.

Crumple up a bit of aluminum foil and scuff the painted surfaces. You can lightly scrape in one consistent direction for a brushed-metal look or go all over the place like I did for a more distressed feel.

Dry-brush a bit of black paint onto each letter. The best look is achieved by “staining” areas that normally would wear or get dirty with age--grime accumulates in corners and on edges.

Be sure to compare the letters side-by-side to maintain a consistent look.

Once dry, place the letters on a bookshelf or another home spot and walk away from them for a bit. Come back with fresh eyes and make any desired adjustments.

To hang vertically stacked like I did: Estimate the height of the sign. Level the bottommost letter and adhere to wall with 3M Command strips. Once the first character has been hung, stack and stick the rest. Voilà!

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