Acrylics over a Primer for Wood Carving

Solid Acrylic Colors over a Primer – Cheat Painting

How to use primers when painting your wood carving.To insure a strong, solid, smooth covering with acrylic craft colors a primer is first applied to seal the raw wood, taught by Lora S Irish of Art Designs Studio.  Primers are often white but using a neutral mid-toned color can be a benefit when your acrylic painting will be done with pure hues as red, yellow, or ultramarine blue.


2″ x 2″ x 1″ basswood blank
bench knife
large round gouge

Acrylic Paints:
Apple Barrel
20590 Cardinal Crimson – red
Americana Craft Colors
DA163 Honey Brown
DA179 Alizarin Crimson – maroon

transparent tape
fine point permanent marking pen
large flat shader
small #1 liner

How to use primers when painting your wood carving.Step 1: Whittle a small, smooth sided decoy fish using your bench knife. Up-end a large round gouge to create the eye area then cut an indented circle with the bench knife around the eye.

Sand this project well using 220-grit sandpaper. Wipe any excess dust from the carving. Wash the carving using water and dish washing detergent, rinse well. Let this dry overnight. For fast drying nuke it in the microwave for 15 seconds, allow it to cool completely then repeat for a second microwave session.

How to use primers when painting your wood carving.Step 2: Pretreatment Primer coats
There are premixed primers available. They have little or no shine which allows to paint to adhere well. However most primers are pure white and have a gritty finish. If you are using a premix primer thin it on a palette with 2 parts primer to 1 part water. Apply one light, well brushed out coat and allow to dry completely. Using 320-grit sandpaper lightly sand the primer to remove the grit finish. Repeat this step several times until you have a uniform coating to the entire carving.
I prefer to use a craft acrylic paint as my primer base coat as it allows me to use a colored primer that will strengthen my final coloring in that area. You can spot prime, where you do a base coating of primer to individual areas using primer colors that work best for the final coloring of just that area.

Craft paints are seldom pure colors – they have a tonal value that contains some content of white, grey, or black. Artist quality acrylics do come in pure hues with almost no tonal value content. So primer coats become very important for solid coverage of artist acrylics.  If my final coloring will be in the red, orange, or yellow hues I use a pale grey to medium brown primer color.  If my final coloring will be in the blue, green, or purple hues I use a blue-grey or medium grey primer.

For our project I have chosen to use a medium golden brown for the primer coat. That coloring was made by mixing 1 part honey brown with 1 part titanium white. The photo for this mix is very color accurate.

After the mix was complete I added several drops of water to thin the paint. Load the large flat shader with your paint-water mix then brush off any excessive color from the brush tip on your palette. Apply two light coats to the entire fish body, allowing a few moments of drying time between coats. Now allow 15 minutes of drying time.

How to use primers when painting your wood carving.Step 3: Because I sanded this carving, these two coats of primer paint will raise some fine fibers of the wood, giving the painted surface a rough feeling. If I simply go on and continue adding more paint that roughness can build up to give an uneven, ridged finish.

To prevent that build-up and even out the primer finish I polish the carving by rubbing it briskly in a soft, clean cloth. The polishing will leave your primer coat with a satin finish and a smooth feel.

You can use polishing as a finishing step for any acrylic painting. While it does not keep off the dirt of constant handling it does seal the painting and give it a soft sheen.



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