Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Takin' It to the Street!

With less than three weeks to the election (and absentee ballots already coming in), there is a quick, easy way that everyone can help get the word out: let your car's rear window do the talking.

It's a simple matter of buying some very inexpensive supplies, printing the template (provided here), and doing the painting.

Read on for more detailed instructions:

Supplies: You will need to purchase a bottle of white or yellow tempera paint (around $2) and some small brushes (around $2-4, depending on what you get).
  • Make sure you buy tempera paint (not latex or acrylic). Even when dry, tempera dissolves in water and is easy to remove.
  • Get smaller brushes than you think you'll need--the bristles will spread as you apply the paint. We used a 1/8" and a 1/4" brush.
Local sources for the paint and brushes:

Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts
1410 East Plaza Blvd
National City CA 91950
(619) 477-2230

Michaels Arts & Crafts
1242 Broadway
Chula Vista CA 91911

(619) 425-0209

and Walmart. (Note: Target does not carry tempera)

We splurged and bought a four-pack of brushes for $3.99 (at right). Keep in mind that one bottle of paint can do a lot of windows: share with your friends! For around $6 (paint and brushes), you can easily paint ten cars--a cost of 60 cents per car.

Templates: Because tempera dissolves in water (and also provides a tempting surface for initial-carving), you want to paint your sign on the inside of your back window. As a result, you'll be writing your message backwards from the inside so that it appears correctly from the outside. Using a template makes this task much easier.

Your end result will look like this (but window-sized):

When you print out the templates, they'll look weird! Text will be backward and cut off at strange places. That's okay! Once you cut out the lines of text and tape them together, you'll end up with something like this (but window-sized):

There are four different templates (ignore the "parent directory" link but click the others):

Each template consists of four different files: one for the top line (broken into two-three pieces for that file); two for the candidates' names (split down the middle); and one for the closing line (split into three pieces).

With files 1 and 4, cut out each piece. (Leave the lines in files 2 and 3 intact.) To match up lines, refer to the image above, and cut white space as needed. As you tape the parts together, you'll end up with three different chunks (lead line, candidates' names, and closing line).

Application of template: First, clean the back window inside and out! Some window cleaner, or even just plain water, will do the job fine.

To use the template, you will tape each "chunk" face down on the rear window from the outside. (As you do this, the strategy will make more sense: through the paper, you'll see how the print will appear for viewers.) Since there are three different "chunks," you can adjust spacing as needed. (The original template is based on an average rear window size of about 40" X 20".)

Painting: Now all you have to do is follow the template. Climb into the back of the car, and using a small brush with paint (you can work from the container or a small cup), trace the letters. Don't worry about getting everything perfect! Remember, drivers will be seeing your sign on the run; they won't be scrutinizing details. The message is the important part!

  • Trace the letters from top to bottom. If you are right-handed, work from left to right to avoid smudging paint. If you are left-handed, work from right to left.
  • Don't worry about little mistakes. Big ones can easily be cleaned up with a moistened paper towel.
  • As you move down the window, painting may become more difficult. Again, remember it's the message that's important; don't sweat the small stuff.
  • Depending on the quality of your paint, you may want to do a second coat. The image at the beginning of this post shows a one-coat job with cheap paint. Still, the message would be readily visible to other drivers. We'll do a touch-up tomorrow and post new pics. Note: let the first coat dry (might take an hour) before attempting a second.
  • Remember to wash your brushes with some warm water and a little dish soap afterward. In the meantime, you can let them soak in a cup of water.
This is an easy way to contribute to SWC; reading the directions will probably take you more time than to do the job. Speak up. Be heard. Make a difference.

Save Our Southwestern College!


  1. The instructions appear to be complicated, but I think most people will be able to figure out what to do from the templates. Good job!

  2. For the record: you're a genius. :-)

  3. This concept is great! Would this be any easier: I see cars with white hand-written lettering to sell a car, announce a marriage, announce a kid's sport team, etc. For my youngest's last prom she and her friends used our big beater van (now rotationally parked with campaign signs on busy streets) and they got paint that rolls on for the car. These kids found out what to use and it was brightly on our car for months until I made our son scrub it off.

    I don't know what they used, but it is used on the outside and seems to last. Whadaya think?

    Let's hear from other concern citizens and see how we can take this simple idea and get it on our cars quickly.

  4. Anon: Thank you for reminding us--while researching this project, we came across references to car window paint markers. Since we wanted to keep supplies cheap and easily accessible, we went with tempera. But you're right--they'd make the job much easier! They might be available at auto supply stores? (We didn't see any at the craft places.)