I have a piece of wood with an engraved logo and text. Both the wood and the engraving are painted. The engraving is gold and in great conditions; not very deep (perhaps 1/32" or even less). The rest of the paint is not great, so I am planning to sand it and repaint (black, compared to the current brown). The whole piece is large and complicated, so rebuilding it completely is out of the question, also because it is in great shape (besides the paint damage).

I could just paint everything black and keep the engraving the same color as the rest, which would be ok, but not great.

My preferred outcome would be the existing golden letters with black getting right around them. The problem is that it would be extremely tedious, time consuming and error prone to paint the area around the logo, which has fairly complicated letters, so I am not going to do that.

Alternatively, I could leave the existing brown paint around the logo (which is not ruined in that area) and perhaps build a small frame with some small moulding to make it look like a picture "hanged" in there. This might be nice, depending on how nicely I could build and paint the frame, but again, not my preference.

I could achieve my preferred outcome if I could prevent the black paint from sticking on the existing engraved letters. I can think of two options to do so:

  1. Use some kind of filling which I could use to relatively easily fill the engraving, then paint everything and then remove the filling. I guess I can experiment myself with something like playdoh or similar toy product on scrap wood of similar quality, but perhaps something commercial for this application already exist? Would non-hardening wood putty work for this purpose?
  2. Apply an an anti-graffiti permanent coat, or some kind of wax in the area. Then sand with a block making sure to remove it all from the "higher" part and none from the engraving. Then paint and hopefully the paint will not stick in (or will be easily removed from) the engraving.

Of course I will also need to make sure that the paint does not peel from the nearby areas when removed from the engraving. Before engaging in a futile exercise of frustration, let me ask: has anybody tried something like this, and if so with success or not?


  • 1
    Hi, welcome to Woodworking. As always, we could do with a photo to better assess what you're dealing with. But regardless of the style of the engraving (V-groove or square profile) I don't think there's any sure-fire way of doing this, but this first brought to mind someone inking a printing plate. So I think your best chance of success might be to use a hard roller (nothing softer than hard rubber) to apply the paint, after you've prepped the surface. A traditional enamel or oil paint is probably a must here, nothing that dries faster than this, to help give time for the inevitable touch-ups.
    – Graphus
    Oct 7 at 9:05
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    I’m voting to close this question because it's not intrinsically about woodworking — what will or will not work would be the same if the piece were 3D printed plastic, or engraved metal.
    – Graphus
    Oct 7 at 9:09
  • What you describe is what used to be commonly known as "sign painting", at least the part where you use paint to decorate a carved logo or words. I'm not 100% convinced this isn't suitable for WW.SE, as chip-carving and engraving is definitely in our wheelhouse, But a question about refinishing and restoring in the style of sign painters of old is probably not. But, yes, you would not automate this; you would, with steady hand and concentration, paint the engraving so the lettering and features popped. Often with multiple passes of contrasting colours.
    – jdv
    Oct 7 at 14:16
  • @Graphus: thanks I'll experiment with a hard roller, I had not thought of that! In fact I am using enamel
    – Davide
    Oct 7 at 14:39
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    @Davide Sign painting was once part of business that included all aspects of signage such as logo creation, reproduction, and construction. A painter would have had many opportunities to highlight and decorate carved logos and lettering in wood (or metal, for that matter).
    – jdv
    Oct 7 at 14:42

When I was into model railroading as a kid, we used what was called "liquid mask" to paint onto areas that we didn't want a new coat/color of paint to adhere to. The liquid mask went on clear, so you could see what you were doing. It was very thin and would adhere to all sorts of fine details that would, literally, be impossible to mask with any sort of tape.

Once the mask was dry, you could brush or spray paint to your heart's content, knowing that the mask was there protecting "lower" layers.

When you were done painting, you could simply scrape the liquid mask off, taking any over spray with it. It would come off cleanly and leave as crisp a line as you'd created when painting it on in the first place.

The liquid mask I was familiar with (30+ years ago) was designed for plastics and modeling paint, but I cannot see any reason why it wouldn't work on any paint. I don't think you'd be able to find it in a "regular" paint store or big-box store paint departments. You'll probably have to go to a hobby store to find it. Once there, you could ask about how it would adhere to various different paints (everything I used in modeling was oil based, I don't know what your sign is painted with), and if they think it would work well in your situation.

You may have to buy a couple of bottles, depending on how much lettering you have, but it should work.

Of note: I don't know if they still make the stuff, or what it might be called these days. As I said, I last used it more than 30 years ago.

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