Tips for Left-Handed Sign Painters from Larry Stammers

Being left-handed is no barrier to becoming a sign painter, and these tips will help you get going.

Instruction poster for casual sign painter lettering.
Strokes for left- and right-handers on the 'Larry's Quickstyle' alphabet poster.

Instructional books for sign painters are almost exclusively written from the perspective of right-handers. This isn't surprising given that they hold a big majority in the human population. However, there are many 'lefties' that have made it to the top of the trade, and it should not prevent anyone from pursuing sign painting as a career. Here, Melbourne's Larry Stammers (@signvision_melbourne), signwriter, instructor, and left-hander, offers his tips and advice.

“Hey mate, you're using the wrong hand!” has been a common cry heard over my many decades painting signs around Melbourne. Maybe they're right (no pun intended) but I take it in my stride and know that being left-handed in this business doesn't have to be a curse. That might not be true of other things—some studies have shown that us 'Southpaws' may be more prone to ADHD, dyslexia, mood disorders, and are more likely to die earlier than right-handers. So I hope that brightens your day!

I want to explain some of the quirks, difficulties and advantages of being a lefty. But I don't want the right-handers (about 90% of you) to feel left out, and so I should confess that my right side is actually more dominant—I play all sport right-handed and right-footed, so I guess I have a foot in both camps. I'm on your side, whichever that is!

Growing Up on the Left Side

When I was at primary (elementary) school in the late-1950s, writing with the left hand was considered a no-no. We were perceived to be different, awkward, and there were few if any utensils/tools made for left-handers. (Of course we now have left-handed screwdrivers, so thank you Ned Flanders for your wonderful 'Leftorium' shop!)

We mostly used a pen and ink, and even with the help of blotting paper it was impossible to avoid the smudging (more on that later). Teachers would snatch the pen from my left hand and place it in my right. I think in the end they gave up, and thank goodness attitudes have changed since then.

Brush painting the words Mollydooker and Cackhanded.
Two of the slang terms used to describe left-handers in Australia.

Having said that, pretty much all the slang words for lefties around the world are derogatory, or derived from derogatory terms. In Australia these include 'Cackhander' (cack meaning shit) and Mollydooker (from molly meaning an effeminate man, and dook meaning fist or hand). I've never taken any of this to heart, and I certainly don't believe the rumour that these terms were concocted by a bunch of right-handers!

Lefties on the Brush

As before, being a leftie shouldn't deter you from being a sign painter. Yes, there are some pitfalls to look out for, but these can be compensated for with basic adjustments. There are also some benefits that will always be the envy of our right-handed colleagues.