gallery notes | vinyl lettering

we all have "a thing" right? a thing that gets us excited, makes us loopy with joy and turns us in to total dorks. mine is vinyl lettering. when i worked at a gallery in ontario, i helped out with exhibition installations here and there. mostly, it was my job to take the vinyl lettering down. few else had the patience that it takes to scrape those letters off of the wall. then one day the curatorial assistant asked me if i wanted to put the vinyl lettering up. did i ever! she showed me all of the tricks and techniques and over the years i have enjoyed practicing them. 

i love how putting up this lettering gives the exhibition its finishing touch. there's a sense of finality that the installation is done, but the show is just beginning. there's something so magical about pulling away the wax paper and revealing the words beneath - so shiny and new. in fact, it's downright sexy.

you begin with wax paper, adhered to a sticker like paper - with the vinyl lettering in between. generally the text will come in the shape you ordered it in, but if it is too long horizontally, or vertically, it has to be cut into smaller chunks.

you then lay each section on the wall, taped along the top of each sheet (horizontally taped is better as it makes for a smoother pull later - it doesn't get stuck on the vertical strips of tape.) using a level, adjust the sections until the text is perfectly straight (depending on the font, you can place the level at the bottoms of n's or the top or middle of t's. personally, if the text isn't in italics, i love using e's to level the piece because there are lots of them and they have a nice long straight line in the center.) don't assume that the top or bottom of the paper is straight - it's not (especially if you've cut it!)

when the sheets of paper are perfectly leveled, lift up the first section (since it's only taped horizontally on the top) and peel off the underside of wax paper. hold the sticky side right in the middle against the wall. since your other hand is peeling off the paper, you only have one hand and you don't want it to fall back down against the wall just yet. after the wax paper has dropped off completely, use two hands to steady the sticky strip and then let it fall very gently. take your plastic scraper and brush the sticky sheet down in the absolute center. brush out out from there, moving evenly left and right until all of the paper is sticking to the wall.

use the scraper to brush harder now, so that the vinyl letters underneath adhere to the wall. you can pretty much scrape the paper as hard as you want. don't forget to brush the dots over the i's!

when it's all scraped, begin pulling from one corner - very slowly to check if the letters are staying on the wall. this is very similar to doing iron on t-shirt transfers (but not nearly as cool).

repeat these steps for each chunk of text until you are done. re-check the straightness with your level in between just to be sure. don't forget to check the straightness vertically too, especially where the text begins on the left.

and voila! super chic, super sexy vinyl lettering. gosh, its beauty just gets me every time!*

*this lettering depicts a quote by renowned canadian poet, robert service. the artist i work for illustrated the book that this quote came from - "the cremation of sam mcgee."


  1. awh this is great, i can tell you are excited about this.

    I get very excited about every sort of colour tools...i get way too excited going into a art and hobby shop

  2. How easy is it to use vinyl lettering in your home?

  3. hey there 'unknown'!

    vinyl lettering for the home is certainly easy. they actually have a special kind - you'll see decorative images such as city skylines and fake 2d lamps, as well as tons of uplifting quotes at various home decor stores etc.

    they are much less sticky than regular gallery type vinyl. what that means is that they come off with more of a simple peel, rather than using a paint scraper. they probably imply more than one use but not really. though they can be lifted once or twice while positioning for the first time.

    quotes etc will be like the text above in that you should probably use a level, and the types i provided. it's much harder to reposition text because each letter is separate.

    oh, last thing, the home decor vinyl will come with some sort of popsicle stick but a wide ended putty knife will work better.


thanks for your comment, i love hearing your thoughts!