Signwriters (or signmakers) design and make signs and write the lettering for them. They may also install them on the fronts of shops, offices, restaurants, pubs, hotels, on the sides of vehicles and by the sides of roads.
Most signs are now designed on computer and made by machine. There is less demand for traditional hand painted signs.
You could be:
designing and making signs on a computer, using signmaking computer-aided design (CAD) software
taking designs printed on vinyl and applying them to vehicles, known as vinyl wrapping
making 3D letters from moulds or cutting them out from materials such as vinyl, perspex, plastic, metal, wood and glass fibre
using solvent-based inks, paints and adhesives
writing signs by hand, measuring and calculating the letter size, preparing the background and writing the lettering by way of hand painting, engraving, screen printing and spray painting
meeting clients to discuss their needs, working out costs and measurements, preparing planning application forms and drafting contracts
cutting glass neon tubes and carrying out minor electrical work if the sign is illuminated
installing, repainting or repairing signs on location, in line with health and safety and planning regulations.
Pay rates vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting pay is often based on the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or the National Living Wage (NLW).
As of 1 April 2022 the National Minimum Wage is £4.81 an hour for workers aged 16 to 17, £6.83 an hour for workers aged 18 to 20 and £9.18 an hour for workers aged 21 to 22. The National Living Wage is £9.50 for workers aged 23 and over.
After a year or two of experience you might earn between £16,000 and £18,000 a year, rising to around £20,000 to £25,000 a year or more. Some signwriters run their own business. They charge a fee for each sign they make and their income can be irregular and variable.
You would work in a factory or workshop.
You may have to travel to different sites, to install or repair signs.
You might have to work at heights on a ladder or on scaffolding.
You may have to work outdoors in all weather.
There could be heavy lifting and a lot of standing.
You might wear protective clothing such as a hard hat, face mask and overalls.
You do not always need formal qualifications but some employers prefer you to have English and Art and Design at National 4 or 5.
You could take a full time course such as art and design before applying for a job.
You may need a portfolio of artwork.
You may be able to get in through a Modern Apprenticeship.
You usually need a driving licence.
You should be fit as you would have to lift heavy signs.
You may find jobs advertised through your local Jobcentre Plus office or on the Find a Job website.
willing to follow instructions from clients or supervisors
accurate at spelling and punctuation
good with numbers, for calculating spacing
interested in technical processes
adaptable, to keep up with changing methods
able to work in a team.
If you have no signwork qualifications, training is on the job, with part time study for an (SVQ) in Signmaking at SCQF Levels 5 and 6.
Modern Apprenticeships normally lead to an SVQ.
If you are installing signs on site you might need to hold a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Card (either Sign Installer – Illuminated or Sign Installer – Non-illuminated). You may also need to obtain working at height qualifications.
You could work for a large or small signwriting company.
In larger companies, you would probably be able to specialise, perhaps as a sign designer, manufacturing technician or site surveyor.
You might get a supervisory job or become a manager.
With experience you might set up your own business, perhaps taking up a franchise for making signs.