Signmaker Kaihanga Tohu

Signmakers design, print and install signs in a range of materials, for indoor and outdoor use.

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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.

Physical Requirements

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.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for signmakers includes:

  • painting
  • printing
  • carpentry, fabrication, electrical or metal work
  • graphic or CAD design.

Personal Qualities

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.


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.

Subject Recommendations

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 can earn around $47K-$70K per year.

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.

Signmakers may progress to set up their own signmaking business.

Years Of Training

4 years of training required.

To become a signmaker you need to complete an apprenticeship and gain a New Zealand Certificate in Signmaking (Level 4). 

Competenz oversees signmaker apprenticeships.