Two questions:

1) What Base-Coat do you recommend

2) What Cristal Clear top coat do you recommend

Background: I was at a craft show, and a guy that made wood signs for outdoor patios was there. He had very nice signs. He said he could make a custom sign for me. It's been over three weeks, and a few emails/calls... he has disappeared from the face of the earth... so I am going to tackle the job myself.

I recall he described using Auto paints, then coating with an Automotive Clear Coat... and his signs really "popped!" I mean his geckos’, Bird, they had a great shinny Depth to them.

SO, I want to make a "Campsite Sign." It will be on a wooden post, outside for one or two weeks every few months. So not too much weathering. But, will get moderate rain & Sun.

I intend to:

  • use a marine grade 2ft x 2ft finished top-grade plywood

  • bevel the edges for better/even coating

  • sand all smooth

  • apply a Base or Sealer coat (U recommend which?)

  • brush paint with Rustoleum Gloss paints

  • apply a "Cristal Clear top-coat" that will give a rich/pop look (U recommend which?)

I'd prefer base/primer and Clear top-coat to be buyable local, (Depot, Lowes, etc) but ordering is okay if needed.

I will be using Brushes, as I don't have a sprayer, and don't do this enough to invest in one now.

Any other Tips-n-Hints gladly accepted.

Thanks for your imput.

Paul L.


Pic of how I envision my sign to look like

  • 1
    The paint side of this is easy, you can use nearly anything and get away with it and you've already decided on using Rust-Oleum brushable paints anyway. The main hurdle is the clear coat — if the guy used an automotive clearcoat then that's pretty much what you'd have to use to get similar results and durability. And I don't think there's anything you can get at Lowe's or HD or the like that will give you exactly equivalent results.
    – Graphus
    Mar 5, 2017 at 22:37
  • Having the last clear coat be gloss (as opposed to flat or satin) will give the shininess that caught your eye. As Graphus mentioned, any paints you like will work. Arts and crafts stores sell cheap acrylic paint for a dollar or less for a small bottle per color. The clear coat(s) will protect the paint. You may wish to look into boat varnish or exterior polyurethane, depending on what is available to you.
    – ewm
    Apr 5, 2017 at 18:36
  • 1
    I have no personal experience but Bob Flexner, who's work is considered highly, says that automotive finished are generally made harder and less flexible than wood finishes (since metal does not move as much as wood). You might therefore find that an automotive finish used on wood will develop cracks after a while, especially on a sign which is left outdoors.
    – Jambo
    Apr 9, 2017 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


Rustoleum Clear Gloss Enamel spray is excellent stuff. Do a test run on a board and see if you like the results.

I don't know about the automotive clear, bit if it's like their automotive black, I can say it's durable stuff. GF did her rims with it last year. Just one coat (should have been more but wtv) and it lasted a year in WI.

I say give the clear Rustoleum auto a shot. Heck I might even do that for high wear projects if it's not much pricier than the standard spray enamel (didn't occur to me is all).

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