Signmakers design, print and install signs in a range of materials, for indoor and outdoor use.
Experienced signmakers usually earn
$47K-$70K per year
Source: Trade Me and Competenz, 2018.
Pay for signmakers varies depending on experience.
- New signmakers usually earn minimum wage or a little above.
- Signmakers with one to five years' experience usually earn up to $50,000.
- Signmakers with more than five years' experience can earn between $50,000 and $70,000.
Sources: Trade Me, 'Trade Me Salary Guide', 2018; and Competenz, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Signmakers may do some or all of the following:
- discuss design ideas with clients
- create designs, lettering and layouts using a computer or by hand
- make neon or illuminated (LED) signs
- put signs onto a variety of surfaces, including billboards, vehicles and buildings
- seal finished surfaces with a chemical spray and clear vinyl
- clean and maintain equipment
- prepare quotes.
Skills and knowledge
Signmakers need to have knowledge of:
- art, design and layout techniques
- computer graphic design programmes
- hand-lettering techniques for traditional signmaking
- paints and solvents, and how they react on different surfaces
- techniques for applying vinyl signs
- how to put up scaffolding and signs.
Signmakers who run their own companies also need business and marketing skills.
- usually work regular office hours, with some early mornings, evenings or weekends
- work in workshops and studios, and may work indoors or outdoors erecting signs
- work in all weather conditions, and work around chemicals such as paints and sprays.
What's the job really like?
Danielle Gamo talks about life as a signmaker – 2.06 mins.
We do a little bit of everything in here. Vehicle graphics, cut-out letters,
internal signage, external signage.
Every day is different. So today I will be wrapping this car bumper.
The process of wrapping a bumper is cleaning it first,
keeping it smooth and prepping it for the vinyl.
I do computer graphics,
meaning setting up graphics in Adobe Illustrator.
This is my desk right here and I'm currently working for the
display in the airport.
This column is already built and all we have to do is clad it with graphics.
We print out this self-adhesive vinyl and we go out there and install
them and make sure they look good. So I actually studied creative technology,
but I personally don't think that you need that degree to be able to get into sign writing.
When I finished my university degree, I was looking for a job,
anything creative. I didn't wanna stay in the office,
so I wanted something a little bit more hands-on,
and that's where I found signwriting. A really good thing about this industry is
that they offer a lot of apprenticeships and courses,
so you can start with no experience and no skills at all,
and learn everything from a job.
People look at signage as like the bigger picture, but for us,
we have to think about like, is it gonna be readable from afar?
What is it gonna look like during daytime or nighttime? Is the spelling correct?
You have to be sharp, very sharp.
I find it very rewarding that I
get to see it in person, that I get to touch it.
It's something physical and something that I take pride on.
To become a signmaker you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Signmaking (Level 4).
Competenz oversees signmaker apprenticeships.
A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include English, design and visual communication (graphics), design (practical art), digital technologies, maths, and painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking combined.
For Year 11 to 13 learners, trades academies and the STAR and Gateway programmes are good ways to gain relevant experience and skills.
These programmes may help you gain an apprenticeship, but do not reduce the amount of time it takes to complete it.
Signmakers need to be:
- creative, and good at layout and design
- good at communicating with clients and interpreting their design briefs
- able to work to deadlines
- good at working in a team environment
- practical, with a hands-on approach to their work
- accurate and detailed.
Useful experience for signmakers includes:
- carpentry, fabrication, electrical or metal work
- graphic or CAD design.
Signmakers need to have good hand-eye co-ordination, normal colour vision and a reasonable level of fitness as some jobs require climbing and balancing to erect a sign.
Signmakers who erect signs on high billboards or buildings must be comfortable working at heights.
Find out more about training
- 0800 526 1800 - www.competenz.org.nz
Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of experienced signmakers
Chances of getting a job as a signmaker are best if you have experience and have completed an apprenticeship.
Qualified signmakers are in demand as there is a nationwide shortage of experienced signmakers.
According to a New Zealand Sign and Display Association survey, 98% of employers said they would hire someone as a signmaker once they completed an apprenticeship.
According to the Census, 1,524 signmakers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Signmakers work for:
- sign companies
- printing companies
- automotive workshops
- visual display companies
- graphic design companies.
Some signmakers are self-employed and may work freelance or run a local franchise.
- Birchfield, D, 'Signs of Success Evident', 23 June 2018, (www.odt.co.nz).
- Competenz website, accessed September 2018, (www.competenz.org.nz).
- Coutts, M, secretary and marketing co-ordinator, New Zealand Sign and Display Association (Inc.), careers.govt.nz interview, 24 October 2018.
- New Zealand Sign and Display Association (NZSDA) website, accessed September 2018, (nzsda.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Signmakers may progress to set up their own signmaking business.
Last updated 28 July 2023