Tips for Using Decorative Paint, Glazes and Waxes
Chalk-like paint, glazes, soft waxes and sealants
View our tips on how to use decorative paint, glazes and waxes. Chalk paint or chalk-like paint is a name used by many different brand names and is generally a water-based decorative paint. Many brands have a beautiful velvety finish but can also be used in a way similar to the very well known ‘chalkboard’ paint. It is generally a highly pigmented paint in clear rich colours made with little or no black in many instances, and as such can be easily mixed and layered without the colours becoming dull or dirty.
One of the unique and attractive benefits of chalk-like paint is that it can be applied to almost any surface with little preparation, and it dries very quickly compared to oil-based or acrylic paints. It can be painted onto furniture, walls, floors, concrete, wood, ceramics, metal, glass, fabric – just about anything you can think of…
There are numerous colours available that are pre-mixed, and these can very often be mixed to create your own special colour. Everything from soft pastels and beautiful neutrals to bright and strongly coloured combinations.
Items decorated with chalk-like paint are sealed by waxing, applying a glaze and/or a sealant which is either glossy, satin or matt and can be used either indoors or out, depending on your unique requirements. The trick is to use the right sealant that is non-yellowing, hard-wearing and designed for hard-wearing surfaces such as tabletops, kitchen counters, kick-plates and outdoor furniture.
Many of the paint and sealants are water-based which makes cleaning of brushes, hands and spills simple and quick to clean up. Brushes used for waxing can be cleaned using a detergent such as Sunlight Liquid in warm water. Very seldom is there a need for a stronger, non-water based sealant to be used.
Tips for using chalk-like paint:
Most surfaces need no preparation. There are a few exceptions:
- Varnished furniture and/or knots in the wood. The colour of the varnish, pieces from the ’30s and ’40s, or items with natural oils and tannins from the knots in the wood, can cause ‘bleed-through’, a tea-like stain which will not go away even with multiple layers of paint. Prepare the surface with a coat of universal primer or knot sealer. You may find references in literature to the use of shellac, but we have found that apart from its very limited availability in South Africa it is very expensive and difficult to work with. We believe it is quicker and easier to use more modern alternatives.
- Rusted metal. Sand off any loose flakes beforehand as the paint will get under them and it will flake off again. It may be necessary to use a run-converter to get rid of bleed through.
- Ultra-smooth Melamine. Sand lightly and apply a universal primer or a watered-down coat of chalk-like paint. Allow drying overnight. By doing this, you have now created ‘tooth’ in the surface which is a primer for the paint to adhere to. Now you can paint as usual. You can also use a melamine primer specific primer that can be obtained from any hardware store.
- For removing grime from the surface, wipe the piece down with a mild solution of Sunlight Liquid or alternatively use sugar soap (available from any hardware store or even some grocery stores). Please read the instructions carefully. Wear gloves when working with sugar soap.
- For stubborn oily/grimy surfaces, wipe down with benzine which will also help to remove the oils.
- Once your chalk-like paint has dried, it should be sealed with a wax or other sealant designed for your product.
- If you are going to layer different colours, allow at least 4 hours for each coat of paint to dry completely as there is a risk of strong colours bleeding through when applying the second colour (unless that is the effect you want).
- For large surfaces, a sponge roller may be used. Do not use a sheepskin roller as it may absorb too much paint!
- The paint may also be applied using a spray gun, but needs to be diluted to prevent the nozzle from getting clogged and should be cleaned with water before it is allowed to dry. As a rule of thumb, a dilution of 50-60% paint to water should do the job. It is not always necessary to hire an industrial sprayer: a smaller hobby-style sprayer can be purchased for a few hundred rands from most hardware stores.
- Where dilution is required, use water. Some of the paints are thicker than others so you will have to experiment. A rule of thumb is that the paint should have the consistency of pouring the cream (start off with about a 1 in 10 dilution of water to paint). If you have over-diluted, just leave the container open and the water will evaporate. You can also put it into the fridge to thicken it.
- The paint may settle out on standing. This is normal. Simply stir well to re-constitute.
- The shelf-life of the paint is practically indefinite when stored in a sealed container at ambient temperature although it will dry out if there is a lot of air in the container.
If you treat your painted furniture as you would any other piece, ie. with respect, you will get many years of pleasure out of it.
Tips for using wax:
- Apply wax with a brush or a soft cloth (mutton cloth or old T-shirts are ideal).
- Apply enough wax to bring out the colour of the paint. Wipe excess wax off immediately. Applying too much wax will result in the top layer hardening while the bottom layer remains soft. This results in a tacky surface that is easily scratched.
- Allow 3 days for the wax to dry to a hard surface, and note that it takes about 21 days to cure completely in many cases. ‘Curing’ means the evaporation of all the solvents in the wax.
- Wax is water-resistant but not waterproof. If the wax gets scratched or water-marked, simply re-wax.
- Do not leave a waxed piece in the sun, and the wax itself should also not be left in a hot car for example. The wax will melt!
- It is possible in many instances to paint over wax. However, the wax must be allowed to cure first (21 days). Alternatively, you can wipe the wax off with a cloth soaked in benzine. Read the instructions carefully.
- Once dried and cured (21 days), most wax is non-toxic and completely safe.
- Coloured waxes. Many coloured waxes are very dark and might stain the surface of your piece, hence you should apply a layer of clear wax first. If you have added too much-coloured wax but have applied clear was first, you will be able to rub the excess off with clear wax (as though it were an eraser).
- When it comes to antique crackling, the coloured wax may be applied straight onto the crackled surface and the excess rubbed off to make the cracks appear and then waxed with clear wax to seal if necessary.
- Numerous sealants are clear, water-based, UV resistant and will not yellow over time.
- Sealants are recommended for use on surfaces which are subject to wear and tear, or harsh conditions such as experienced outside.
- Many water-based sealants are non-toxic and water-resistant, with the more heavy-duty polyurethane sealants being water-proof.
- Read the instructions carefully and enjoy your finished product!
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