Signs with paint look unique.
At one time most signs were painted. Skilled craftsmen used only a brush and paint to reproduce messages on stores, trucks, fences, boats and just about anything that would stand still long enough to paint.
Many trade secrets come from the traditional sign shop. Most sign writers would tell you "it's not the exactness of each letter that makes a great looking sign, but the overall layout is what is important." If not originally, then during painting, layout skills or "tricks of the trade" were the responsibility of the sign painter. Many layout skills were dependent on the ability to transfer designs to a substrate. Some jobs a sign painter could quickly paint lettering and only use a grease pencil for some quick lines of letters, done in a few minutes. Other jobs commanded a more lenghtly process of paper patterns. The sign painter would layout or draw the design on paper and use a perforating wheel to follow the image, then use powder chalk to create the image on any surface. Even projectors were used.
As brand awareness became more important in later years the sign painter was forced to draw time consuming patterns to match a corporate logos. Copies of existing signs could be traced with a pencil when paper was soaked in varsol, making it somewhat transparent.
Those trade secrets were also applied to the cutting of stencils for silk screen printing. The sign painter would use pencil , paper and ruler for layout, then hand cut a stencil on top of the layout work. A pen knife was used to hand cut lacquer stencils which adhered to silk fabric, stretched on a wood frame.
Today sign painters enjoy those tasks in a plotter. With good knowledge of vector graphics signs can be designed on paper by the plotter in minutes. Layouts for pounce patterns are perfect and exact with the aid of a plotter. Those old time "standardized sign shop procedures" can be reproduced on the computer. Once a sign painters has the chalked pattern on the surface, their paint gives it a unique appearance.
Sign painting can still be a viable sign procedure. Given the right circumstances and conditions it can well compete with any vinyl, not only durability but also cost.