Outside the Lines: Manual Road Lettering & Symbol Painting Gone Wrong

A man in China was fined for adding a 'forward' arrow to a turn lane to speed up his commute

There are tons of talented street-marking professionals in this world, able to work freehand or with limited tools or operate purpose-built painting machines. And then there are others with a lot left to learn.

In seeking out prime examples of the former — for instance, the rather compelling symbol maker shown above — a lot of the latter (somewhat less-talented) folks can be found as well.

Freehand drawing isn’t for everyone. It can help to use a template, hire a professional or, at the very least: have a reference image on hand.

Even with a stencil set, mistakes can be made. Maybe there is a lesson here about relying too much on tools for assistance.

On the plus side, a three-piece stencil set can only be arranged in so many ways. Unfortunately, this is fairly far from the right way.

This could be the work of clever vandals or another failure to employ the proper letter stencils in the right places. Either way, it seems cleap that some kind of IRL autocorrect could help keer this from happening.

When in doubt: look for the octagonal red sign with white lettering located at the intersection and put the letters in that order.

As attempts go, this childlike drawing of a bicycle comes across as surprisingly legible, appearing almost artistically abstract.

And while many of these are well-intended guerrilla interventions, not all are quite so selfless. A Chinese man was fined recently after repainting lane arrows to make his commute go faster.

For those craving a bit of balance for these off-kilter examples, check out these mesmerizing manual road lettering gifs and this collection of videos showing machine-aided road marking experts.

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