Paint Perfection: The final Class

As promised, the long overdue last class in my Paint Perfection is finally ready. Funny fact: the forces that be REALLY didn't want this class to happen. First time I typed it out my computer died, second time Blogger ate it in their transition to the new layout and then this week Photobucket has been giving me error messages like there's no tomorrow. I had to go old fashioned and upload straight to blogger to make it happen but I am happy to say we are finally in business!

Our final class covers the last step I do with all my furniture: sealing it up. It is a step that is so simple but can make the difference between getting a year of use out of something or 10+ years. There are not a lot of secrets to sealing but there are a few things that I think are crucial to getting that perfect finish.

If you are just tuning in, here are our previous Paint Perfection Classes that work on everything up to this step.

To go over everything briefly I have a couple pieces we'll be sealing up together. The first is this little desk that I found at goodwill. It was already painted a cute greeny-grey but I wanted to make sure that it would stand the test of time by sealing it up.

The other is this old waterfall dresser that I have had sitting around for quite some time. It has beautiful brass art deco hardware and I think it will be lovely all revamped. Let's start from the top and cover everything quickly up to the sealing step.

We took off the hardware, gave it a quick sanding (not stripping it), and put a good coat of Kilz on it to prime. It is soooooo crucial that you prime pieces first like this because sometimes you won't see any discoloration aka bleed through until you start sealing it up. But trust me, they can and will bleed through making your beautiful new paint all dotted with orange/brown/red blotches. It is worth the extra work to prime!

All painted in a soft pink.
Ready for distressing!

Now comes the final portion of our project: sealing our furniture.
I am very specific on this step because I have tried a few products and have come to heavily rely on Varathane brand interior sealers. If you have worked with something else and it is a product you trust please do share because I have had American readers tell me they have had troubles finding Varathane. There are different kinds of Varathane, but look closely at the labels and buy only the Interior, water-based formula. You might be wondering what could possibly go wrong if you buy something else? Well the answer is that your paint job will yellow and discolor over time. I have made this mistake, trust me!! Just go with the good stuff in the first place and you will have no problems.

Many of you have asked if I use Varathane in my paint sprayer and the answer is yes! I love the finish I get doing that way but it can be tricky. I will go over the technique in a moment, but first let's talk other applications. If you don't spray your furniture you can get the same finish by buying your sealer in a spray can, it can be a little more pricey this way because I often need a can or two for an average sized dresser. You can still get a smooth, professional finish without spraying as well. In my experience the best way to manually apply sealer is with a foam brush. Rollers and brushes leave a small amount of texture and I like that you can simply toss the foam brush into your eco-station pile after only one use.

Now is the difficult part, getting an even, smooth surface. The issue many have with spraying on their sealer is that they are too light with the application and then it has a different smoothness in different areas. The other issue is that some people go too heavy and get drips. This is a very common issue, mainly because it goes on so thin that it doesn't feel like you are getting enough coverage. Then you come out a half hour later and your furniture looks like it is melting!

After using Varathane for so long I have come to get a good feel for it's consistancy. I set my sprayer on a very wide radius and have minimal fluid flow. It is so thin that it almost looks like you are spraying water so do some test sprays until you feel like you have a good feel for it as well. This dresser is a good example of how it should look as it dries. You can see it is unevenly drying (it was like a million degrees the day I shot it) but where it is wet it does not seem too 'wet'. I slowly build up a couple coats like this.

If you are working on a piece that will see A LOT of use and wear (like a kitchen table) or something that has some unevenness to the surface (like the brush strokes the last owner left on this desk) there is a little trick that I do. On the flat, horizontal surfaces I apply the sealant in a thicker coat. Not near the edges where it could possibly drip down, but on the bulk of the surface. Do this in a spot that is a little cooler so your sealant doesn't dry too fast, and after a few minutes your sealer will 'self level', filling and evening everything out. 

Right after applying and starting to level out. The back is where I started to work and you can already see it is smoother than the front which was just applied just seconds after going on. It won't perfect the surface but will make it really durable and easier to clean, etc.

All in a days work!

All finished up and ready to write a love letter. 

Protected and able to withstand years and years of use.

I think that covers everything, but please don't hesitate to ask any questions below and I'll do my best to answer!

Have a great weekend lovelies and thanks for your patience~

Paint Perfection {Class 3: Aging through glazes}

Thanks so much for your patience! Life got a little crazy this weekend and I had a few small touches to add to this post. You'll notice this is a really photo heavy post, but as the saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words so I figure I just saved myself roughly a week worth of typing~

We are going to pick up where we left off after Class 2, with a freshly painted piece! Today's class as well as next week's will cover optional treatments like distressing and glazing. I rarely use more than one of those techniques on any single piece but of course the fun part is trying new things and taking chances so make it how you love it! Next week will be our final class and will cover distressing as well as the final steps of sealing things up nicely, but this week we will be chatting about glazing.

Some people use special waxes or products for glazing but make no mistake, things don't have to be as complicated as they look! My "glazes" are simply watered down paints, in any paint color. So put your thinking caps on because glazes don't just have to be used to make things look old!

Our first project is going to be taking this antique dresser and giving a rustic grey finish.

To get it looking like this!

It's not hard, but it does add nice dimension to a piece. I tend to be pretty light handed with glazes but again, make it as dark or dirty looking as you like!

Our dresser after last week's class.

The tools are simple and cheap. An old bowl with water, a brush, a rag and some dark paint. For this dresser I used a dark mocha brown to give it some real patina.

The real skill is knowing how and where to apply the glazes realistically. For the most part real dingy pieces collect the most grime in indentations. So I like to take my brush, dip it in water then take a quick dip in paint. Then I messily get into all the corner and crevices. I like to hit these spots first then leave them just like this while we go work on smooth surfaces. Don't worry, we won't be leaving it like this for good!

After getting all the corner areas I dry my brush off on the rag. For our smooth surfaces we will be dry brushing. It is a pretty standard technique but can take a little practice. You gently dip just the tip of your brush in undiluted paint then tap off the excess on the rag. This leaves very little color on the brush as you can see.

I recommend brushing along with the grain of the wood for the most realistic finish. I like to dry brush then wipe with another dry rag, repeating as necessary to layer the effect.

After a few passes with the brush, then rag.

Keep working over your surface, creating an even finish. I do like to build up and work the finish further along areas that would naturally see the most use or see the least cleaning. After building up the finish you can still work with it if you aren't happy. I felt that it was just a smidge too dark for me here.

So I simply made the rag a little damp and gently wiped.

Much better now!

Once you feel like you are happy with all your smooth surfaces take a lightly damp rag and wipe with the grain on your corners, etc. that we first applied the paint to. Since the paint was diluted it should still be somewhat wet, if you are working on the smooth surfaces and start to see it dry too quickly then take a little break to wipe down these areas before they dry.

Hardware back on and all sealed up!

The grey and brown tones compliment the brass nicely.

A successful glaze in my opinion.

The other type of glazing I occasionally do is directly on wood. This table is both glazed on the painted legs as well as the wood top.

I like glazing wood with grey/white for a soft finish, but love the warmth that wood grain offers.

Glazing directly to wood is fairly time consuming due to the fact that we need to completely strip any paint/lacquer on the wood. This table was about 16 hours of stripping. You can sand or use chemical strippers, but I prefer sanding for the smoother finish.

Stripped on the left, lacquered on the right.

All stripped, and legs have been painted a soft teal.

For this glaze we will approach it the same as we did with the dresser but instead of dark brown we will alternate layers of white and very very light grey. Alternating colors in layers gives real tone and depth to your final finish.

We want the wood to absorb the paint quickly so I dip the brush in paint then quickly in water. This also helps it brush on smoothly in large areas.

Again, work with the grain of the wood.

After a pass with the brush let it set (I usually just move on to another area while it soaks up)

After a layer of white, then grey I wipe every thing down with a damp rag to help blend.

I still like the warmth that is visible, but you can build it up as much or little as you like.
For the light teal legs I wanted the glaze to compliment the surface.

So we used a darker grey in the same color family as the light grey we used on the surface.

Again, we apply liberally in recessed areas.

Then wipe away.

I prefer working up with the finish, building in layers over applying in thicker layers initially. It is more time intensive but so much more realistic and subtle in the end.

How are all your Paint Perfection projects coming along? Don't forget we will be having our link party in just under 2 weeks!!!

Paint Perfection {Class 2: Transformation Basics}

Welcome back to our second session in this series! Today we are going to get started on our transformation, covering everything up until the last coat of paint (Hint: that isn't the last step for me). This step by step process is my ritual for every single thing that passes through my workshop, and as I've said there are probably many, many variations and opinions on this. But it's worked well for me for the last 3 years on hundreds of items so I think it will probably work for you.

So get your brushes out and let's get rolling!

We've covered the tools and what to look for when hunting down your next transformation and now we are going to take that old furniture and give it new life (missed last week's class? Catch up here!). For today's class I am going to take this little wood cupboard from this:

To this:

As well as cover how this:

Became this:

Let's start at the very top! You've brought home your furniture, now what? The first step is to find a workspace. It can be inside your garage, out in your yard or on the drive way. The only things that are completely necessary are that it is warmer than 4 degrees C or 40 degrees F, and that you have good ventilation. The reason that the temperature matters is that paint needs to be at that temperature to cure properly. If it is too cold then it may flake, bubble, etc.

Once you've settled into a good spot here is what our steps are.

1. Check the piece over to see if any small damage needs to be repaired such as loose hinges, door catches or drawer glides. These are easy and quick problems to solve with a screw driver, fix as necessary. If your piece is in good condition the first thing I do is remove the old hardware. If you like it then store it in a bag or somewhere it will stay clean until we're done. If you don't like it then we will give ourselves a clean slate to choose new hardware by filling all old holes with wood filler/putty.

It is important to slather it on with a putty knife pretty generously. Why? depending on the temperature you apply it at and how long it takes to dry you can get a little shrinkage. Here you can see where the old holes were and that the putty has sort of bubbled out then shrunk in. If I didn't apply a lot of putty the shrinkage would have required another application otherwise the holes would still be visible.

I don't usually worry about filling holes on the inside of drawers since sanding can be awkward and dust from putty is very fine and would make a lot of clean up work inside the drawers.

Often it will take a full day for the putty to fully harden, even when the outside feels dry. So just be patient! I find that when I rush things it usually causes more work in the end so it is best to just do it right.

Once the putty is fully dry it is time to sand it down. Using our electric sander and some fine, 320 grit sand paper we will gently sand it.

You can see that we went very gently because it didn't wear down the wood all that much and our hole is nice and flush with the wood now! Don't worry about how much putty is left behind as long as it feels nice and smooth/even.

Often old hardware can leave many indentations besides just the holes so it helps to always get coverage on the areas surrounding it as well.

All the white spots were dents left behind from hardware.

Step 2.
Now that our holes are filled we are going to get the rest of the piece ready for paint! Using 220 grit sand paper we are going to use the electric sander to scuff up the rest of the furniture. If you are working on a piece of furniture that is unfinished already (like many pine pieces are) then you do not have to worry about this step. This is just for those items that have already had lacquer or a finished surface.

Many people spend A LOT of time stripping down the old finish and this is absolutely not necessary for painted furniture. If you are going to attempt a bleached wood finished or some other raw wood look then you will have to dedicate yourself to stripping it (which we will cover in week 4), but for simple paint finishes you are just wasting your valueble time.

We just want to create a rough surface for the primer to adhere nicely to! I always sand the entire piece, but focus specifically in making the upper surface and all edges/corners good and rough.

The reason I recommend using 220 grit instead of a lower, rougher sandpaper is that we want our final product to have a soft, smooth finish and sometimes rougher papers leave very fine but noticeable swirls after a pass with the electric sander. So it may take a little longer with the finer paper but the final product is worth it.

I would recommend spending a solid 20 to 30 minutes on this step for a piece this size and probably 30 -40 minutes for most dressers.

Step 3.
Give your piece a good cleaning after all that sanding. I usually take a damp cloth and do 2 wipe downs then let it dry. It is important to clean well in all the corners and along any ledges. Over time little spills that have accumulated may not be that visible but once your paint is on every so often an old soda spill may seep through and stain your beautiful finished product. So take a few extra minutes to get it squeaky clean now!

Step 4.
We've brought our ugly furniture home, made it even uglier over the last few steps, and now it is time to see it get pretty! Our next step is to prime it.

I am a huge fan of Kilz primer and strictly use the cans. But you can use any primer. The only requirements that I have of my primers are that they are oil based. There are a lot of good water or latex based primers out there but I like to feel confident that I am getting the best possible blockage of stains.

"What stains?" you ask? For the most part it is keeping all old stains and smells from years of use inside (a big bonus when you have an item formerly owned by smokers) but wood also has a lot of oil in it and over time it can potential stain your paint finish from the inside out. So oil based primer is just good insurance that your hard work won't be compromised later. If you are working on unfinished wood this is doubly important and in these cases I usually prefer using a shelac finish to keep the oil contained (which I did for each and every plank of our pine ceiling in the kitchen, a solid weeks worth of painting!).

Keep in mind that when you prime with white it doesn't really matter when you are also painting with white or if you are painting a color but not planning on distressing . But if you are planning on painting with another color than white and also distressing you will see the white primer as you sand down. It is just a personal preferance, but I like the white showing through.

IF YOU DON'T want white showing through your distressing then you need purchase canned primer and have it tinted the same color as your paint!

Similar to the sanding step, don't feel like you need to get 100% even coverage and a perfect finish.

I like to prime and paint the inside of cupboards as well, but usually leave the inside of drawers as is.

Our old holes turned out great! No bumps, cracks or unevenness.

Step 5.

Up until now we have all used the same products and followed the same process. Here is where we can take 2 different roads. I like to personally spray my furniture with a spray gun attachment for an air compressor. The only real benefit to this route is that it saves me time. Many people assume that it also gives you a much smoother finish but in reality it isn't the case and doesn't save any time in that department because we will ensure it is smooth after the paint is dry (we'll cover that in next weeks class). Obviously spraying can seem like an intimidating project if you don't have experience with it and I could easily spend a whole class just on tools and techniques for that (which I may if there seems to be demand) so we will cover this step as if we all had a brush and roller in hand.

BIG WhiteBerry misconception: Everything I paint is white or grey.

Client projects are almost always colorful! I prefer to use flat latex paint but really any type of latex paint will work nicely.

In a small tub or bowl I recommend pouring your paint then watering it down slightly in a mix of 1 part water per 6 parts paint. The end result is that it may take an extra coat of paint because your coats are thinner, but you also will not be leaving a noticeable brush strokes or roller dimples.

This is where it can be time intensive, and a lot of time is spent waiting for paint to dry but if you do multiple light/thin coats your final product will feel much more even and you will not have to worry about pesky drip marks and runs.

Final coat done! Of course this isn't where the transformation ends, but it is already looking like a new piece of furniture.

Next week we are going to cover the finishing steps, including distressing and sealing it up. If you are not planning on distressing your item there will still be lots of tips on getting that silky finish and how to seal it up with different finishes (satin, gloss, etc.)

Until next Friday!