Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations
list an event      1 million Australian readers every month      facebook

How To Paint A Traffic Signal Box

Home > Brisbane > Art | Community Events | Free | Fun Things To Do | Unusual Things to do
by Jane Street (subscribe)
Check out my creative activity ideas for kids at
Published September 11th 2013
Leave your mark on the City
TSB box, grafitti TSB box, TSB box ready to paint
Painted TSB box

Most visitors to Brisbane are impressed by the unique traffic signal boxes (TSBs) painted with bright artwork. Each one is hand-painted by a Brisbane resident and reflects the community and environment in which it is located. The initiative is a fantastic anti-graffiti project funded by Brisbane City Council and managed by Urban Smart Projects. The idea is that boxes painted with real artwork are less likely to be tagged.

tsb box collage
Collage of artwork from various TSB boxes in our neighbourhood

My husband made me a a photo collage picture of various boxes in our neighbourhood one Christmas . With the picture was an envelope with instructions on how to apply to paint a box. I never thought I would actually really do it. But, three years on I have finally painted my own.

If you're also interested to brighten up a corner of the City, here's how:

Step 1: Register your interest with Urban Smart Projects.
I originally signed up in April but the box quota for the funding year was already full. However I was then on the mailing list to be notified as soon as the new allocation became available in July.

Step 2: Reserve your box.
As soon as you get the notification of new boxes being released, jump on your computer and reserve a box. There is a map showing all of the boxes available so you just need to pick one in an area that appeals to you. This year, all 68 boxes were snapped up in less than two days, so you have to reserve one quickly.

TSB box, graffitti TSB box, TSB box ready to paint
My box on the corner of Lisburn Road and Vulture Street

Step 3: Design approval.
Once you have reserved you box, you have one month to submit your design for approval. You need to visit your box to check if it's a low box or has an extra top section. You need to get a feel of the area and think about creating a design that will be relevant.

The design needs to reflect one of the following:

The immediate environment

The character or culture of the suburb

The history of the area

Community pride

My box was on the junction of Woolloongabba and Mowbray Park, where my kids often play in the excellent pirate ship playground. I learned that one meaning of Woolloongabba is "whirling waters". I decided to do a pirate ship design on a whirling sea, with handprint fish by my kids and their group of friends from different parts of the city who regularly meet in the nearby playground.

Once you have your idea, you need to draw a full colour design for each side of the box and submit online. You may need to make design modifications. My initial submission had too many blocks of open colour which would be more likely to be graffitied so I needed to go back to add some extra pattern elements to ensure there were fewer 'tagable' areas.

pirate ship, parrot, drawing, sea
My first submission had too many blocks of colour which could be tagged with graffiti so I needed to add some more design elements

Step 4: Pick your dates and collect your supplies
Urban Smart Projects provides a crate of supplies, including traffic cones, high viz vests, paint, colour mixing chart and protective covers for the box identification plates and key holes. Artists just need to provide their own brushes.

tsb crate, urban smart projects crate, painting crate
The crate - packed with safety items and painting supplies

Step 5: Painting the box
Now you get to do the fun (but daunting) part - painting the box! I am not an artist so I was very slow and had to learn a lot as I went along. It took me a full two days to paint, from first thing in the morning until dusk. Lots of passers-by stopped to talk along the way and offer very welcome encouragement. One guy was keen to know if I was a "guerilla artist" painting with cones and high viz vest to appear official. He was very disappointed to learn that I was doing an authorised project!

traffic signal box, painting a street box
Ready to paint!

painting a traffic box, TSB, TSB painting, street painting
Part way through Day 1

TSB box, painted TSB Brisbane, painted box Brisbane, art boxes
The finished box

TSB box, Woolloongabba, Mowbray Park, traffic box, Urban Smart Projects box
The finished box

Overall it's a fantastic, well run initiative which I feel really proud to be part of. My kids enjoy waving to their fish as we drive by.

TSB, handprint fish, TSB box fish handprints
Handprint fish on the box

Check out the Urban Smart Projects website or Facebook page for more information and gallery of boxes.
Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  338
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Why? Brighten up a corner of the City
Where: Brisbane City Council area
Your Comment
This is simply brilliant: a great program and a fantastic finished artwork. Well done! Your kids must be thrilled to be immortalised in art.
by Shannon Meyerkort (score: 3|1828) 3006 days ago
For someone who is not an artist, I think you did a brilliant job. This sounds like n excellent scheme, and I love that anyone can apply.
by Bastion Harrison (score: 4|12626) 3006 days ago
What a thoughtful husband... that's a great gift. And the end result is great too!
by bellc (score: 1|19) 3005 days ago
Very nice work, Jane :) Love it!
by Pauline (score: 2|112) 3006 days ago
We moved here 2 years ago, I've been wondering how all this happened! Thanks for solving that mystery! I love your design, especially with the idea of including the children!
by Linds (score: 0|4) 3005 days ago
excellent idea Jane...ditto wish we had it here in Sydney!
by glenop (score: 2|823) 3006 days ago
What a wonderful idea! Very cool that they include the community in beautifying the public space. Also, I love the idea of the handprinted fish - it's so cute! I think your design is lovely. :)
by Sara Ikmal (score: 2|457) 3006 days ago
That is so fantastic. You did a great job. Thanks for giving all the info on how to do it. You've got me to sign up too now.
by Daniel (score: 1|35) 3006 days ago
Wow - awesome idea - I wish we had that in Sydney!
by ROF (score: 2|313) 3006 days ago
Thank you for this Jane. I've been taking my own photos of these boxes for a while now when I see something unique. I love them. Good to know how to do it and can tell others now.
by Barb Jeffs (score: 2|102) 3004 days ago
Great design. I would not say you're not an artist! (I myself have painted several and it is very hard work -- well done.) For those commenting about photos, you can see a collection of TSB photos (posted by various people) on flickr: and of course you can visit the gallery on the official website,
by Jaguarish (score: 0|3) 2944 days ago
Awesome artwork! What a great Initiative. My son thought it was fantastic and wants me to enquire about Gold Coast. Angela
by Angela Lindsay (score: 1|63) 2881 days ago
Ooh I love this! Just applied. Thanks for sharing :)
by Shannon Stone (score: 1|22) 2358 days ago
Articles from other cities
Top Events
Popular Articles