Guest Post: Rachel's Typography Door Makeover

Squeezing in another guest post from my summer stash today. Welcome the amazing Rachel of Pencil Shavings - graphic designer, mother, and all around interesting person. I'm not quite sure how I stumbled on her blog but I'm a fan. She was kind enough to write up a little home project that adds style and personality to her front door. Its the kind of simple project that we can all use in one way or another. (How did I go my whole life not knowing you could transfer pencil drawings this way???)

Thank you to Stefanie for inviting me to be a guest blogger here! I've long been a fan of the darling Mrs. Limestone and her fabulous taste.

As a graphic designer, I'm terribly in love with typefaces, and I am always looking for new ways to add charm and interest to our home. Inspired by photos seen around various design blogs, I challenged myself to take on a hand-lettering project for our front door that I hadn't done since my design school days. An inexpensive, and only semi-time-consuming project, I am really pleased with the way it turned out. And it's so much chicer than the spray-painted-on-the-curb numbers that are the norm.

Let me say that if you are at all inclined to perfectionism and/or OCDness, this may not be the project for you. More on that in a bit. In the end, I spent $0 on it because I already had all of the supplies. Here's what you'll need if you want to do this project too:

  • a printout of your numbers/letters/whatever to transfer onto the desired surface

  • a ruler

  • a fairly soft pencil -- no harder than a #2/2B. Ideally, I'd probably go with a 4B.

  • a variety of fine-tipped paintbrushes

  • painter's tape

  • a cup of water for your paintbrushes and a surface for your paint. I used a styrofoam container

  • paint of your choice (I used artist's acrylic in white; any interior latex would work just as fine)

1. I laid out the numbers in Adobe Illustrator although I suppose you could do this also in a program like Word (ick). I had measured the size of my door space, and knew that I needed the letters and numbers to fit within an 18.25"x6.25" space. I printed them on two 8.5x11 sheets of paper and then trimmed them down.

2. Now for the transfer. To transfer these to the door, I traced the reverse of the image (aka, the back of the paper) to have a perfect mirror image of the letters & numbers with my soft pencil (once again, nothing harder than a #2. You want to be darn sure you get that lead to transfer to your surface). I then taped them to the door, making sure it was even and straight, and scribbled over the edges of each to achieve the transfer of the tracing. Simple! And kinda fun.

3. If you're the mother of a small child like I am, give your screaming toddler who just woke up too early from his nap (because you kept running upstairs to get all your supplies in order - ugh) something to do so you can finish your project. Ring the doorbell over and over again to pique his curiosity and bring him into eyesight to make sure he isn't running amuck with rolls of toilet paper.

4. Depending on what letters and numbers you're using, use as much painters' tape as possible to help keep your lines crisp. Here's where you'll run into problems if you're a perfectionist or uptight. It is really really difficult to freehand these, especially if you have a lot of curved letters. Zeros, fives, threes -- really anything other than a 1, 4, or 7 is going to be tricky. I'm just warning you. You're just going to have to let go. And don't look too close at my front door when you come by, mkay? Because it is not perfect.

5. Use teeny tiny little brushes to get your details right. I mean itty bitty little brushes. I used a range of four different brushes I had. Also, it required several coats of the white acrylic to really look right. Be sure to use a lot of water with your acrylic; it will help you substantially and keep from looking gloppy.

6. Ring your own doorbell for the billionth time to lure your child into view to make sure he isn't totally tearing your house apart. Watch as a myriad of books and trains come flying down the stairs. Discover later that your brilliant offspring has located his own diaper bag and disemboweled it of all the snacks you've been hiding in it and has strewn them about the living room.

7. And voila! Remove your tape and you have your numbers painted! Chase the toddler as he makes a break out the front door for your paint brushes and catch a glimpse of your handiwork as you drag him back inside.

We are so happy with the result! When my husband Simon came home from running errands, he commented on seeing it from the street. Later, when we left for my parents' house, I made him drive really slowly so I could get a good look at it. And Nicole, I owe you big time - it was because of your blog that I caught on to this idea! Thanks, friend!


  1. reminds me of the first ever issue of Blueprint. I've been thinking about doing something like this for a few years! Looks great and love that brick floor!

  2. Very cute idea, the baby is adorable!

  3. Very cool look! I'd like to try this with my last name on the door above the mail slot. Hope my hand could stay steady though--even w/o toddlers running around!

  4. Rachel, I love it!! Don't you wish your address was 1?? ;-)

    I love the look numbers & letters used as artwork, so of course now you've got me contemplating doing this on my front door...

    I did something similar in my home office, and I can totally vouch for the fact that painting curved letters freehand isn't easy and IS very time-consuming!! But so worth the result in the end :-) If you'd like to see it, I posted about it here:

    Kelly @ DesignTies

  5. That's so great. I can't believe your freehand '0' looks so good.


  6. such a great idea and not toooo hard! :) thanks for sharing!

  7. love it! we did the same thing on our door but we used exterior grade (like for car windows) vinyl and just rubbed it on! Still only couple $$ and 5 minutes!

  8. I did this too! I love how the white looks on the black. I ordered my No.806 from a friend who sells UpperCase Living. I ordered the set for some of my planters out back as well. It all looks so good!
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Anonymous12:44 PM

    I don't know how you did this detailed work, kept an eye on your toddler and stayed sane - all at the same time... well done!

  10. Thanks you guys!

    Tricia Rose, my secret is to do the majority of my toddler-appealing projects (read: where he'd drive me crazy as I'm trying to work) while he's napping. Otherwise I'd go bonkers.

    I love the idea from Liz Bradley about doing it on your planters. I just saw the cutest photo in Martha Stewart this past month that did that very thing. I honestly could put numbers and words on everything I own. I blame the graphic designer in me.

    Thanks again to Mrs Limestone for having me today!

  11. What a cute idea! I wonder if my landlord would be mad if I did this on my apartment door? hmmmmm

  12. Love this! Too bad our door doesn't face the street because of the way our porch is shaped!

    The graphic designer in me wants to put numbers and letters on everything, too.

  13. Anonymous11:10 AM

    That is so darling!

  14. I love it! I'm reminded of that Blueprint issue as well. How lovely! Thanks so much for this, I'll be linking. Off to check out the Pencil Shavings blog!


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