Making a Simple Protest Sign: The Personal is Political

Yours truly at the Capitol

Yesterday, I attended the Women’s March on Washington with a group of friends from Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. We had quite an amazing day of early morning bus rides, waiting in lines, singing and coming together.

From the Homeland Security vegetable calendar

I’m originally from Burlington, VT and have a lot of childhood memories of protest art being displayed around my hometown. I especially remember the signs for the Bread and Puppet theater which were simply made and memorable.  Bread and Puppet was one of my first introductions to DIY art for the people.

For the March, I really wanted to make a sign that would represent something meaningful to carry with me, but didn’t have a huge amount of time to spend on the project. I love hand-lettering, but am a novice at it. I own Joanna Sharpe’s book on hand lettering and have started the lettering journal that she suggested in the book, but have been a little intimidated to pursue making any hand-made cards with lettering on them. Since this poster wasn’t intended to be something for sale or a work of fine art, it seemed like a good time to experiment!

Some of you may already know this about me – but I am a little bit obsessed with women being superheroines. I wanted to express a positive message about women uniting together as a force for good. Based on these, I ended up making my own sign, inspired by a vintage Wonder Woman comic book logo that I found on line.

You don’t have to be a genius artist in order to make a good protest sign that’s also meaningful. However, there are a few simple items that came in handy to make one:

  • Posterboard or recyclable cardboard for the sign
  • Sharpies or other waterproof markers
  • Duct tape or packing tape
  • Additional pieces of cardboard to make the sign holder
  • A ruler (to draw a grid)
  • Tracing paper
  • A mechanical pencil
  • A big eraser
  • Creative quotes or thoughts about what you might want to express
Tracing paper taped to the computer and a mechanical pencil were all that I needed!

All that I did was put the Wonder Woman logo up on my computer screen, enlarged it, and traced it with pencil onto a sheet of tracing paper taped to my screen.

You can see the grid lines I drew in pencil in this photo to make it easier to evenly space the letters.

I figured out that I wanted three horizontal lines for my poster, and wanted the letters to be evenly spaced. I measured this out on posterboard using a large ruler and a mechanical pencil so that it would be easier for me to draw the letters. I later erased the grid once the letters had been drawn on permanently so it wouldn’t be as visible.

A big eraser came in handy for erasing grid lines and for re-drawing the right size letters

I free-hand drew the letters onto the posterboard, using the tracing paper as a guideline. This was the trickiest part, as I had to make a lot of erasures in order to get the letters to be the same size.

Final product

I first traced the outlines of the letters in black, then colored in the yellow portion. I did the red highlighted parts last.

For future reference: It’s a good idea to plan both sides of the poster, not just one, before sticking on any kind of handle or post. Since our March did not allow any kind of sticks or wooden handles to be used, the handle for my poster was made of a cardboard scrap from a Priority mail box and a whole lot of clear packing tape.

Part of our group at the March

There are some additional ideas that may come in handy about how to make a great protest poster out there on line. The most important thing in political art is to pick something that resonates with you, find some interesting visual way to display it, and make it into your own personal work of art to share. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate for people to get the message.

Did you go to the March? Did you make any posters for the event? What were your favorites? What are your thoughts on political protest art? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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About The Paper Pinup

Hello, I'm Laurel! I live in upstate Manhattan with my boyfriend Charles. I'm passionate about papercrafts, art journaling and sewing as "craft therapy" and bring a fresh and irreverent approach to my projects. I'm also a swing dancer and love vintage style from the 1920s through the 1950s.