Signmakers design, print and install signs in a range of materials, for indoor and outdoor use.
New signmakers usually earn
$39K-$40K per year
Experienced signmakers usually earn
$40K-$70K per year
Source: Trade Me and Competenz, 2018.
Pay for signmakers varies depending on experience.
- New signmakers usually earn between minimum wage and $40,000 a year.
- Signmakers with one to five years' experience usually earn between $40,000 and $50,000.
- Signmakers with more than five years' experience can earn between $50,000 and $70,000.
Sources: Trade Me, 'Trade Me Salary Guide'; 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?
Dion talks about life as a signmaker - 2.30 mins. (Video courtesy of Got a Trade? Got it Made!)
Smudge Signs, well basically this is my family away from home. We help each other, I’ve learnt a lot of skills from my supervisor, also my boss, and also my peers here.
Corey: Smudge Signs was started six and a half years ago. We’re a sign manufacturing company with extensive in-house sign manufacturing equipment. So, pretty much a one-stop shop really.
We believe it’s important having apprentices on board to upskill and bring through the next generation of sign writers.
Kylie: Coming from someone who wasn’t in the industry, didn’t know it at all, I love it. And the reasons I love it are because it’s so varied, no day’s the same.
Steven: The variety in the job is pretty awesome.
Peter: It’s always challenging, it’s always something fresh and new, new ideas.
Dion: It’s using my mind now instead of just physical labour. I have learnt a lot of things, a lot of skills, which is quite hard at times but that’s why the boys, they’re all here to help. From window frosting all the way to –
Steven: – CNC cutting 3D letters –
Dion: – welding –
Steven: – vinyls that’ll wrap around cars, that’s another highlight for me, love that –
Peter: – company signage, building signage, big pylon prints –
Dion: – also there is a bit of electronics involved as well –
Steven: – when all that comes together it’s amazing.
Corey: You need to have a passion in something regardless of what type of business or what type of trade that you decide to do, I think if you don’t have a passion in something I don’t think you’ll go far.
Dion: I can basically use these life skills to apply in everyday life. Whether I want to build something at home which makes my partner feel a lot better.
Peter: Whatever I learn here I can definitely apply in any other area wherever my career path will take me after this. I do recommend signwriting to anyone who’s interested.
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), 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 18 October 2020