wood treatment prior to painting

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I want to paint my house name on a piece of stained wood to hang outside. If I paint it as it is, there's a risk that the paint with leach into the wood grain. I want to seal the wood with a clear sealer and then paint the name. Are there any recommendations for a clear treatment?
 
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I used to make house signs from recycled timber and my wife would do the art work on them. She would get me to sand them smooth and then she would give them one coat of clear outdoor varnish and allow to fully dry before painting. This stopped the paint leaching into the wood and going all fuzzy around the edges.
If you have a scrap piece of the wood you are using try it on there first.
 
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