Painting Tips & Techniques

Painting 101

  • Squeeze small amounts of paint onto palette as needed
  • Paint all surfaces, unless otherwise noted
  • Use as many coats as needed for good coverage
  • Let dry between coats and color changes
  • Clean brushes or sponges thoroughly before each color change
  • Erase remaining graphite lines before applying varnish
  • Completion time does not include drying time

How to Transfer Patterns

  • Use tracing paper to trace patterns.
  • Place transfer paper or graphite paper shiny side down onto surface. Note: Use dark transfer paper for light surfaces and light transfer paper for dark surfaces.
  • Place pattern on top of transfer paper and trace pattern lines with stylus. Remove pattern and transfer paper.

Glossary of Terms

Antique: Apply watered-down application of paint or gel stain to surface. Wipe color off with soft cloth before stain dries, leaving more in recessed areas.
Back-to-back: Used to add light or dark values in the center of an object; float paint down center, flip brush, and repeat along opposite side.
Basecoat: Apply a smooth application of paint to cover surface. Allow paint to dry thoroughly between coats.
Brush mix: Dip brush into first color then second color; blend together on palette.
Dry brush: Touch tip of bristle brush into paint and wipe excess color off onto paper towel. Use very light pressure to skim brush over surface, building color gradually. Do not rinse brush in water until dry brushing is completed.
Dots: Dip paintbrush handle into paint, then touch to surface. For same size dots, reload with paint after each application. Use toothpick for tiny dots.
Double-Loading: Dip one side edge of brush into first paint color, and other into second paint color. Stroke back and forth across paper plate to blend.
Floating Color: Dip brush in water and blot excess on paper towel, leaving some water in bristles. Dip one corner of brush into paint. Turn brush so bristles are flat against palette. Stroke brush back and forth to move paint 1/2 to 3/4 of the way across bristles. Paint should be vibrant on edge of brush and fade to "nothing".
Glazing: Use less paint than washing. Apply very little paint to brush for just a hint of color; color should be very sheer.
Highlighting: Add reflected light areas to design with lighter paint tones.
Layering Colors: The process of building values on top of another to create form. Each time a light or dark color is added, center new value within a smaller area of previous color.
Shading: Add shadow areas to design with darker paint tones.
Sideloading: Similar to floating color, except less water and more paint are combined on brush for a stronger line of color.
Spatter: Dip stiff-bristled brush, or old toothbrush, into water-thinned paint. Holding brush 4"-5" from surface, drag thumbnail or knife across bristles. Paint consistency determines spatter size. Thinner paint makes larger spatters. Practice on paper before painting on project. Protect surrounding area with newspapers or drop cloth.
Sponge Painting: Wet sponge; squeeze out excess water. Sponge should be damp, not wet. Dip into paint, then dab on paper towel to remove excess.
Stenciling: Load sponge or brush, dab excess onto paper towel. It's always better to use too little paint than too much. More paint can always be added.
Stippling: Using stipple brush or stencil brush, lightly "tap" surface with pouncing motion. Very little paint should be used.
Wash: Thin or dilute paint with equal parts water to make a transparent mixture.
Wet into wet: Base-paint an area and while it is still wet, apply another color next to or on top of the base color. Lightly blend the two colors together.

Simple Strokes

  • Float/Side-Load: Dip flat or angular brush into clear water or extender. Lightly press on paper towel until sheen leaves bristles. Dip one corner of brush into paint. Stroke brush back and forth on palette, blending until color spreads evenly halfway across width of brush.
  • Double-Load: Dip flat or angular brush in clear water, lightly press on paper towel only until sheen leaves bristles. Two different colors of paint are loaded onto brush, one color on each corner. Stroke brush back and forth on palette, blending paint until color gradually blends in middle.
  • Shade: Apply shading using floating method; shading object with darker color adds dimension and makes object recede.
  • Highlight: Highlighting can be applied using floating method or dry-brushing. Highlight using a lighter color. Outline: Thin paint with water and fully load liner brush to outline object. Line work can be used to define an area or add finishing techniques. (Note: Permanent ink pen can also be used to outline objects.)
  • Stroke Painting: Strokes can be made with round, flat or filbert brush. Fully load brush with paint, touch to surface, apply pressure then release to create a comma-shaped stroke. Strokes are used for borders, flowers, etc.