Sign painting is the act of taking a specific kind of brush, and with various kinds of paint, and applying it to a 2 or 3 dimensional surfaces creating letters, forms and/or symbols.
Sign painting was/is a learned craft. It has a very long history within the realm of “artisans-crafts”. Historically, apprenticeships were the means of learning the craft. Though many, in the earlier history of the craft were self taught. An apprenticeship could last for years, depending on the skill of the apprentice and the knowledge of the “master”. The skills learned were varied and some quite complex. Basically, learning to manipulate a lettering brush was the core of the learning process. This skill alone could take years to master. There were a number of associated skills and techniques also taught, such as: gold leafing (surface and glass), carving (in various mediums), glue-glass chipping, stencilling, silk-screening.
With the advent of the computer and various kinds of software now available the sign painting craft has been displaced with computer driven sign making machines. The “craft” has all but disappeared, and in only a few “technical schools” or specialty schools is the craft still taught.
Sign painters are usually self-taught and/or taught by mentors in the business. This is because Sign Painting is rarely offered in schools/universities, which in turn is the reason it could considered a dying trade. However, most professional Sign Painters are quite passionate about their work: computer-generated signs are both a blessing and a curse.