Signmakers make signs using a variety of materials such as plastics, metal, wood, and glass. They may use computer software to design and print the sign.
Video: - Andrew: Signmaker
As a Signmaker, you will paint or make signs that can be found inside and outside shops, pubs, hotels, restaurants, petrol stations, railway stations, airports and businesses, and on vehicles and boats.
Signmakers use a variety of techniques. These include:
- making three-dimensional lettering using metal, wood, plastic or glass
- screen printing (ink is forced through some areas of a fine mesh screen to form a pattern on the paper or board beneath)
- bending glass to make illuminated signs
Signmakers first find out what type of sign the client requires. You plan your work in advance. It's very important that you work out the size of the lettering and of the finished sign correctly. You also make sure that the signs are in keeping with the surrounding area.
Sometimes you design the signs yourself. In other cases, you follow the client's design, or the brief. The work also involves putting up the finished signs.
Signmakers use computer-aided design and digital technology in their work.
When you have finished a design, Signwriters and Signmakers often photograph their work so that you have a record of it, which can also be used as a basis for other work.
Signmakers may also need to be aware of issues such as copyright, where signs can and can't be placed due to health and safety reasons, and disability discrimination.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Signmaker, you need:
- good drawing ability
- creative skills (if you're involved with the design of signs)
- to measure and calculate letter size accurately
- to be able to spell correctly and make sure that words are used in the right way
- physical fitness (for carrying ladders and equipment, and putting up larger signs)
- a good head for heights (you might have to climb ladders to put a sign up)
- to enjoy working outdoors and in all weathers
- IT skills
Business and marketing skills may be required to help promote your work to clients. A driving licence may also be useful.
Your colour vision may be tested.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £19,000 - £21,000
- With experience: £22,500 - £26,500
- Senior Signmakers earn £27,500
Hours of work
Signmakers usually work 39 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, late finishes and weekend work may be required, especially as deadlines approach.
Where could I work?
Employers are sign manufacturing companies. These vary in size from large firms employing hundreds of people to small companies that employ only half a dozen staff.
Opportunities for Signmakers occur in factories in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Opportunities occur for Signmakers to become self-employed. You gain your work from a range of firms, for example, advertising agencies, design studios and consultancies, exhibition companies and various manufacturers and retailers.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on all the major job boards, on Universal Jobmatch, and at Jobcentre Plus.
Entry Routes and Training
An Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship is a great place to start.
You could train to become a Signwriter or Signmaker either through a full-time college course or a combination of employment and part-time study.
Some people go into this career after higher education courses. Subjects like graphic design or graphic/visual communication are useful.
Training will mainly be on-the-job.
NVQ diplomas in signmaking are available at levels 2 and 3.
Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS)
You need a CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card to work on site. These cards show that you are qualified to do the work you've been employed for.
CSCS cards will cost around £30 and you will have to pass the appropriate Construction Industry Training Board health, safety and environmental test. You will then complete an application form.
The CSCS application form has four sections that you will have to complete:
- section A: This section is where you complete your personal details and attach a passport photo or your Health, Safety & Environment Test photo.
- section B: This is where you fill in your occupation details and state which card you need. The different cards are skilled, craft and operative cards.
- section C: This a declaration section where your current employer, previous employer or a CSCS card holder will declare that you meet the requirements of the card.
- section D: This is the details of your card requirements and what evidence you need to get a CSCS card.
Skills gained in a related area are useful, such as graphic design or calligraphy would be really helpful for you to get into this career.
Many Signmakers become self-employed.
With training and experience, it may be possible to move into managerial positions within an organisation.
You don't always need educational qualifications to become a Signmaker, but GCSEs in art, design and technology, maths and English are useful.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.
For higher education courses, you'll usually need 1 or 2 A levels plus GCSEs in 4 or 5 subjects. For your A levels, subjects like art will be useful. In your GCSE passes, many courses ask that you have subjects like English, maths, art, and design and technology.
Acceptable alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC diploma in fine art, or related courses
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma
- an Advanced Level Apprenticeship
Many other qualifications are also accepted so check prospectuses for more details.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Skills gained in a related area are useful, such as graphic design or calligraphy.
Having a good portfolio showing the range of your creative design work is also very important. However, entry to this work is very competitive.
Colleges will usually consider applications from candidates who don't meet their usual entry requirements, especially those with skills gained in arts, crafts or design. You should check the admissions policy of individual colleges.
Many people enter this career via a Signmaking Intermediate Level Apprenticeships or Advanced Level Apprenticeship.
- 68% of people in occupations such as Signmaker are self-employed.
- 6% work part-time.
- 3% have flexible hours.
- 10% work on a temporary basis.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
British Sign and Graphics Association (BSGA)
Address: Northgate Business Centre, Northgate, Newark, Notts NG24 1EZ
Tel: 0845 3383016
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844