Decorating With Safety (Tutorial)

A good post-apocalyptic wife will need to have safety in the forefront of her mind in all situations– even decorating.

Decorating is a great excuse for employing idle hands and filling empty walls. In the past I’ve created Space Invaders and Transformers inspired wall art, science fiction coasters, and video game themed shot glasses. This week though, I went with something even more practical: Decorative Safety Signage.

Husband is used to my projects and is really just happy when they’re finished and off the coffee table. So, when he saw me start on this project he merely nodded with approval at its simplicity and scowled at the spray paint. Apparently, some humans find toxic fumes irritating…

Another thing humans find irritating: Fire. Because of this, every home should be equipped with an easy to find fire extinguisher. Every adult in your home should also read and understand the usage directions for your fire extinguisher; not all extinguishers can be used on all fire types. But once you have the right fire extinguisher for your room is its helpful, directional signage going to clash with the rest of your hard decorating work?

Not if you make the sign yourself. (Also, the sign could go anywhere and just be a decorative misdirection.)

If you’re interested in making similar safety signage for your home, follow the tutorial below.

Decorating With Safety Tutorial



  1. Acrylic paint or spray paint
  2. File folder
  3. Sponge paint brush
  4. X-acto knife (or similar tool)
  5. Printer
  6. Tape
  7. Desired safety sign symbol
  8. 12×12 metal square (or other surface that you choose to use as a sign)
  9. Optional – spray on clear coat

Step 1: Print your symbol

fire-extinguisherI believe the symbol I used was about 8×8. I used Photoshop to stretch it as big as the page would hold, lighten the red so as not to waste ink, and to be sure it to fit on one sheet of paper and the file folder.

Step 2: Affix your printout to the file folder

This doesn’t need to look good it just needs to be attached. Remember you’re making a stencil, don’t line up edges that will be cut out (notice the straight edge on some of the flames the right side of the image) with edges of the folder. You want holes in the center of the folder while still keeping it intact.

Step 3: Cut your stencil

Using your x-acto knife, carefully cut the outline of the symbol out pressing hard enough to go through the folder. You want to leave a negative where the symbol was.

Step 4: Tape your stencil to the metal square in the desired position045

You can center your image, as though replicating the original. Or, you can position it any way you like, including only partially on the surface in a kind of exaggeratedly cropped way.

I chose to place my stencil in the bottom right corner, because I like the way it looked and I plan for it to be placed relatively low with the the extinguisher possibly obscuring part of it. I also lined up those straight edges of the flames with the edge of the metal so they didn’t look so abrupt.

Step 4.5: If you use spray paint, cover the parts of your surface that the stencil doesn’t cover

I had planned to use spray paint but then I realized I didn’t want the slightly increased effort it takes and the whining it causes in Husband. “I can’t breath,” He says. “Please, open a window,” He moans. “That stuff is toxic,” He chides. (All these things are true and other people shouldn’t actually ignore them like I do – wear a mask, only use spray paint in well ventilated or outdoor areas, and don’t inflict toxic fumes on others against their will.)

Also, sometimes when you use spray paint with stencils you get a bit of lift form the air and the lines aren’t the crispest. I wanted crisp lines so I used acrylic paint in a tube instead.

Step 5: Paint inside the lines


With acrylic paint:

Do not use gobs of paint. When you push gobs of paint around, you’ll likely end up pushing it under the stencil in some spots as it’s just resting on top of the surface in most places

Do not use sweeping motions. This will not only create an odd looking texture but it will also get paint under your stencil. Just tap lightly with the tip of the brush all over the open are an along the edges.

With spray paint:

Do not spray at an angle. If you can, place your surface with the stencil affixed upright and spray with the can held parallel

Do not spray heavily. A heave coat of spray paint will create drips and seepage. Drips with spray art should be controlled and intentional; seepage with stencil art is when the excess paint goes under the stencil and spreads in an ugly blobby way.

Step 5.5: After about 15 minutes, paint again

I mentioned painting lightly, this is because you can go over your stencil with a couple of light coats to assure complete coverage without globbage, seepage, or drippage.

Step 5.75 (or 9.5*): If you have the means and feel the desire, spray a clear coat over the paint before removing the stencil.

Honestly, I’m not even super sure what Clear Coat does. I could Google it… Anyway. My sign will be in my kitchen so I figure the increased coverage can’t hurt because I’m going to have to wipe it down at least once.

Step 6: Let dry for a bit but not completely

Why not completely? Because if you do have seepage, the paint will act like glue once it’s dry and it’ll hold tight on that stencil, then you’ll have to deal with having paper stuck on your surface and that’s a whole ‘nother post. Just expect there was some seepage and be super pleased with yourself if there wasn’t.

Step 7: Carefully remove stencil

Start with a corner. Remove your tape first and then ease your stencil up . It might stick in spots or have stray paint underneath that will spread if you just pull it in any which direction.

Also, if you’re careful, you can reuse your stencil and be the crazy relative who makes homemade safety signs as Holiday gifts (If this happens, let me know so we can start a club).

Step 8: Let dry completely

It’s wet paint, don’t go poking at it. Check the container the paint came out of to know how long to wait, then wait a bit longer because you, if you followed the instructions, applied multiple coats.

Step 9: Touch up if you can

I don’t actually know for sure what to use to touch up stray paint. I’ll admit, I globed in a spot and I had some paint seepage. Husband thought I’d cut myself on the metal when I let out a scream about it.

How’d I touch up my stray paint?

I used q-tips and gel hand sanitizer. It was what I had and it worked surprisingly well with a bit of control and attention to detail.

Step 10: You’re done with your piece and ready to start Decorating With Safety.


(It’s not on my wall, because my kitchen is currently mid-renovation…)

*I actually did my touching up and then put the stencil back over the piece and then sprayed the clear coat

3 thoughts on “Decorating With Safety (Tutorial)

    1. Oh, I’d love to see it if you make your own. And it doesn’t need to even be for the extinguisher. you could just make a decorative piece inspired by your favorite warning.

  1. This is great. I love it. We totally need to think decorating for the apocalypse and a safety tile would be EXCELLENT.

    This is such a great reminder for me. I don’t even know where my extinguisher is. Oh wait, it’s in the pantry. Phew. Now I just need to figure out how to use it.

    So consider yourself stalked! I will be back 🙂

    ~Angela Scott

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