There are many uses for both reversible and non-reversible mediums in decorative painting. A reversible medium can be taken back to a glaze with water (or alcohol like shellac). Non-reversible mediums are far more common and are permanent (unless a solvent is used to remove).
- Gouache Glaze = Gum Arabic + H2O + Pigment (a watercolor effect)
- Beer Glaze = Dark Beer (Binder+H2O) + Pigment
- Fast-dry acrylic glaze =1/2 Fast-dry Medium +1/2 Water + Fluid Acrylic Color
- Medium slow-dry acrylic glaze = 80% Artist Grade Glaze + 20% H2O + Fluid Acrylic Color
- Slow-dry acrylic glaze = Slow-dry Glaze + Slow-dry Colors
- Oil glaze= [3 parts Distilled Turpentine +1 part Refined Linseed Oil + Japan Drier (5%)— more info] +Artist Oil Color in tubes — to adjust the open time, use less linseed oil for a faster dry time.
- Paint and varnishes (non-shellac based)
Here is the color palette for the decorative painter that we use at GIDP to create most of our finishes. Based on my experience in business and teaching, I’ve found these colors to be essential for creating most finishes (with an emphasis on faux marble and woodgraining). See previous posts on our job site kits.
We will be breaking down each color in future posts along with posts on our mixing methods. There are many books on the subject of color in general. So, keep in mind, this palette of colors is for the decorative painter.
Also, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our color abbreviations that are (will be) used in future posts.
Palette of colors for the deco painter
*** I recommend that you find a manufacturer that you like and stick with them as colors vary from company to company. We use fast-dry, slow-dry acrylic colors and mediums by Golden Artist Colors, so their color names are most often listed first. We use Sennelier (from California based, Savoir Faire) for oil colors and those are listed as secondary color options.
Classified as “non-colors” that are not used to mix a hue, but to change the intensity and opacity (typically the last step of mixing).
W Titanium White, Zinc White
B Carbon Black, Lamp Black
TB Titan Buff (has a slight earthy tonality off white)
These colors actually come from the earth.
YO Yellow Ochre, Yellow Oxide
RO Red Ochre, Red Oxide
RS Raw Sienna
BS Burnt Sienna
RU Raw Umber
BU Burnt Umber
VDB VanDykeBrown, Cassel Earth
Generally yellow, orange, red, and purple — although some tones are cool.
HY Hansa Yellow, Lemon Yellow (cool)
NY Naples Yellow
NA Nickel Azo Yellow (Very transparent and greenish)
DY Diarylide Yellow, Cadmium Yellow
O Orange, Cadmium Orange
PR Pyrolle Red, Cadmium Red, Napthol Red
AC Alizarin Crimson, Carmine Lake, Crimson Lake, Magenta
TRIO Transparent Red Iron Oxide (transparent warm red)
P Dioxazine Purple, Violet (cool purple)
Generally blue and green — although some tones are cool
PB Prussian Blue
UB Ultramarine Blue
PhB Phthalo Blue
CB Cerulean Blue (warm)
CT Cobalt Teal (warm)
PhG Phthalo Green
G Permanent Green (medium green)
GG Green Gold (transparent yellow-green)
COX Chromium Oxide (warm)
JG Jenkins Green
PG Paynes Gray
This is a 2-step, Satin wood faux bois. Even though some of the movements take practice to master, the process is very fast and it only needs 1 glaze color.
Below is a step-by-step explanation of how it was done on a baseboard sample.
Stretch the glaze with a spalter. First against the grain, then with the grain to finish. Use a very light hand so you don’t wipe off the glaze.
With this small sample, a round softener was used to stipple the glaze. This may not be realistic when graining a large space. In that case, a large or small codtail brush would stipple nicely. The goal is to stabalize the glaze while trying not to remove it.
Have a slightly damp spalter (size 100) and a slightly damp, clean sea sponge ready for the graining marks of the first step. Moire’s are made by clamping the spalter so the fingertips are aligned to control the bristles. It’s a pull, drag, release pressure motion all while zig-zagging across the grain of the wood (how-to post here). It’s important to wipe the accumulating glaze off tips of the brush with the damp sponge.
Keep the rhythm random but consistent. Work in overlapping columns to complete the entire area.
Soften gently in direction of moire, using the tips of the badger softener. Side to side and then a final pass from the bottom up (in the direction of the wood grain). Don’t over soften. Let dry.
With tooth veinette dipped in same glaze as moire, use a comb to open up the hair. Finely and gently vein in parallel columns, reloading the brush as needed (always run through a comb). Follow the movement of the moire (darker areas of the moire would warrant a bigger movement). Giggle up and down like a motor cycle riding over bumps.
It’s very important not to cross over previous veins.
Varnish as needed.
Here is a how-to for Ebony woodgrain. It is a 3-step process to create this rich and heavily-grained wood. If you use a fast drying medium like matte medium, it’s possible to do all 3 steps in one day — or at least 2.
The example in this post had an satin oil basecoat. However an eggshell latex (like BM Aura) is perfectly fine. Sand and dust before glazing. The first step is in this particular wood is the flogging. We’re missing pictures, but check out this flogging video for a tutorial. This step adds the look of wood pores which instantly gives a “woodsy” appearance. The whipping motion of the flogging brush is the only tool that can achieve this background. Mix a glaze: fast dry matte medium plus colors; raw umber, black, and touch hansa yellow to brighten.
Once dry, the major grains are painted (wet-on-dry application) with a heavily pigmented glaze mixture: slow dry low-viscosity medium plus colors; black, vandyke brown, and touch trio (transparent iron oxide) to brighten. The applied grain must be parallel lines (but not perfectly straight) and the grains should be varied in size and distance between. A brush like the tooth veinette with a sparse amount of long, stiff hair is the best tool. For a better visual on this technique, see this veinette video to see how the tooth veinette brush makes this prominent but delicate print. It is important to fully load the brush for such a large print.
Soften the grains with a badger softener. It is very important to soften in a thoughtful manner. Soften in one direction at a 70 degree angel to get the desired effect. Don’t over-soften.
Pass over the surface with the same brush one more time using less of the same glaze. The goal is to create finer (double) veins within the first pass and with a slightly different angle. Soften these veins lightly.
Once completely dry, apply a transparent overglaze to the surface with a glazing brush. Glaze contents: slow dry low-viscosity medium plus colors; burnt umber, vandyke brown, touch trio and black. Looking for a warm and deep transparent tone. Stretch (even out) the glaze with a spalter.
Let dry and varnish (dark woods look better with a glossy finish). I’ve added a trompe l’oeil effect on this baseboard-sized sample. See this post for a how-to on trompe l’oeil molding over a dark wood.
This a real faux stone because it mimics cut stone and not just a textured surface, which is a common mistake when creating faux stone. This may look ok, but it isn’t realistic. Real, cut stone would be smooth to the touch but pitted (recesses).
To start, a tinted (off-white) primer was applied.
The texture coat consisted of a mixture of SAT (Proceed smooth absorbent texture), RRT (Proceed Rough Regular Texture), and a matte base coat for a chalky, texture.
Apply the texture with a domed glazing brush.
Stipple with a refined tool like a badger 2-header for a small area.
A standard stippler could be used with a light touch, but the smaller brush allows for excellent control over the texture.
Sand with a 220 grit to flatten the peaks so it looks like it has pits and feels smooth to the touch. Don’t over sand. Dust.
A mother glaze was mixed for a cool grey tonality (RawUm, PaynesG, WHITE). The glazing liquid was a mixture of 50% low viscosity glaze, 30% matte medium, and 20% glazing acrylic liquid. The small baseboard sample did not require a glaze with a long open time. Decrease the amount of matte medium or acrylic glazing liquid for a longer open time.
Glaze the surface generously but evenly with a pointed glazing brush.
With a 2 headed flat badger brush, stipple, with enough pressure to melt the tonalities together.
Using a samina chiqueteur, loaded with only water and rung out, texture the surface which will dilute the glaze and create texture by removing the glaze.
Using a spatter brush and a palette knife to create a spatter. Start with RU plus water, then switch to BU, and then an off-white.
Paint grout line with an off white, generally.
Create an illusion of more pits by using a pointed brush with a transparent mix of RU, UB, and white for a cool grey.
Within the pits, add a darker tonality for the shadow on the top part.
Varnish with dead flat.
Once again I return inspired from the annual Salon, held in Lecce, Italy. Salon is an annual, international event for decorative painters and this year, we celebrated our 20th year. I’ve been lucky enough to attend every one.
Here is the group photo.
I showed some wood, and Gert A champagne toast to celebrate the event.
These next 3 pictures are of Paolo Bellow’s great work. He is a local participant. He uses dry pigments – amazing.
Sean, Pierre, and Stefano.
We’re looking forward to next year in St. Petersburg, Russia
Shellac is a very useful tool in the decorative painter’s toolkit. It is one of the most versatile and yet under utilized medium. We have a small jar on every job because of it’s many uses (see below). Shellac is one of the oldest paint mediums, used in Ancient Egyptian and Roman times as a fixative and varnish. It has excellent durability and dries fast and hard.
Shellac’s origins begin with a female lac bug, who secretes a resin meant as a protective cocoon for their larvae. The resin is scraped off trees, placed in a straining mechanism and heated. The resin liquifies and drains (leaving impurities behind) onto a flat sheet. When dry, it is broken into flakes and sold in that form.
These resin flakes are used in many industries including culinary (yes it’s edible), cosmetic, textile, and the painting industry. The flakes are dissolved in alcohol (ethanol) to make liquid shellac.
There are three different types of shellac: amber (natural), clear (refined), and white (opaque).
The amber is faster drying, more potent and is most commonly used in our shop. Clear shellac is great as a varnish and surgical touch-ups. White is used as an opaque primer. The alcohol in the shellac evaporates very fast, forcing the mixture to thicken rapidly, and therefore making the shellac very difficult to brush. When applying a second coat, the first coat is reactivated – an additional challenge. These hurdles can be discouraging, but it’s worth mastering application techniques (confidence and speed are key). We always thin shellac from a can with 20% denatured alcohol – to give more open time.
Important qualities and uses for shellac (for the decorative painter):
* Reversible – once dry can be reactivated with alcohol to revert back to liquid
* Performance primer – it levels well (few brush marks), sands easily and provides a shiny surface, perfect for receiving paint
* Seals very porous surfaces – wood, raw plaster (see post: plaster repair)
* Isolation coat to prevent bleeding of resin (wood knots), pigments or odors from escaping
* Isolation coat to start fresh from impure or questionable surfaces – such as an unknown treatment or wax residue (if a waxed surface needs to be painted over/changed, clean the surface with Naptha to remove the wax, since there’s always a residue remaining, seal the surface with a coat of shellac to insure a strong bond to the paint)
* Used in French Polish technique
* Gilding: super smooth and isolate surface before using oil size in preparation for gilding
* Wood inlay and other paint techniques using Gouache (reversible medium with water) – seal the finished wood inlay “pieces” that are finished and wipe off areas with water that remain unfinished (this eliminates the need for tape)
* Furniture touch-up – mix shellac with powdered pigment
* Overall problem-solver – great with a wide variety of touch-ups (see post: plaster touch-up, and patch a hole)
With a this missing piece of the ceiling, this post shows how to make a plaster mold. We don’t make a habit out of fixing plaster or making molds, but for small, spot repairs, it makes sense that we do it. It’s always good to have skills that expand beyond painting.
A small ornament was destroyed when it fell from the ceiling. It would have to be re-created using a mold. See previous related posts: Part 1: Frick Collection Ceiling Repair and Part 2:Plaster Repair.
A putty was made out of a dental-like mold (fast-drying) and thoroughly pressed onto the model. We just followed the instructions on the box — mixing the 2 ingredients together which makes a pliable elastic mold that dries fast.
Freshly pulled out of the mold.
Let the mold dry completely. At the museum, we had the convenience of this kiln to assist with drying (at low temperature). Otherwise, be sure to dry to cure (6-12 hours).
Using a marker, signify extra areas to cut off.
Use extra plaster to filling the gaps on the surface.
Shellac was used on the surface to seal the plaster.
Finish the ornament with base paint, decorative finish as further explained in post: Ceiling repair at Frick Collection.
A large ornament fell from the ceiling in the gallery at the Frick Collection, requiring a plaster molding ceiling repair. This is PART 2 – how we affixed the ornament back in place. See the related posts: PART 1- Ceiling repair at Frick Collection and upcoming PART 3 – How to make a plaster mold.
The pieces were delivered to the shop so they could be studied.
We ordered from a specialty sculpture store, a strong casting plaster (almost too strong and set too fast). Casting plaster is stronger than plaster of paris. When mixed with water, it hardens very quickly to be cement-like. We used wellbond to glue the smaller pieces together.
Using a Dremel tool, the backside was etched for better adhesion of the glue.
The application is finished and ready for paint. See PART 1 for painting the ornament.
Part 1 of 3
We had one day to complete this ceiling repair at The Frick Collection (1 E 70th St in Manhattan). We received a call about a piece of plaster that had fallen from the 90 year-old ceiling in the main gallery. Apparently, there was water damage from the roof that had left the medallion just hanging on and it eventually fell (nobody was hurt, luckily).
Being able to complete a job like this from start to finish, shows versatility. There’s so many techniques in this “small touch-up” that we had to break it up in 3 posts: upcoming plaster repair and making a plaster mold.
In this post, we’re focusing on the job as a whole and the decorative painting.
The hole.The museum gathered all of the pieces. Luckily the main medallion was in good shape.
They were sent to our shop, where we looked at them closely. For the sake of preservation, we did a color analysis to establish the 3 main colors used, the glazing, and the gilding.
To save time, we pre-mixed the values of colors and selected the gold leaf that would match.Our supplies were delivered by messenger service. In NYC, it pays to pack efficiently. The shop. Not too shabby. Under the watchful eye of the old masters – Franz Haltz, Turner, Vermeer, Rembrandt, etc.
The area was protected. The museum provided the work lift. This is the hole from above.The pieces were affixed and filled with a casting plaster and secured to the ceiling. See upcoming post: Plaster ceiling repairFor a missing smaller ornament, a cast (purple area) was formed and we later made a mold. See post: How to make a moldOnce the ceiling was ready for paint, a coat of natural amber shellac was applied. This is an essential step to seal the raw plaster.Finished painting shellac.A moisture meter was used to be sure the surface was dry enough to continue painting due to the fresh plaster repair.This is a good reading. At 22% moisture, it is just on the cusp. Because the roof is open (unsealed), the moisture can continue to escape from the backside. It was OK to continue painting.The base paint that was pre-mixed in the shop was applied with a detail brush (long or short pointed).
The final decorative layer is gilding. In this case, I used a patent 22.5K surface leafing (slightly heavier weight than regular leaf).Water size was applied to the tips with a sable pointed brush. The leaf was applied once the size had dried to tacky. Rondin brushes are excellent for transferring gold leaf to a sized surface as well as applying the size.Finished touch-up.