Steps to Success, Painting Your Wood Carving

Any painting session combines several factors that lead to success.  Lora S. Irish, of Art Designs Studio,  takes you through the simple step by step techniques to insecure each of your wood carvings, wood burning, and craft projects receives the very best painting and coloring possible in this free carving project.

How to paint your wood carving by Lora S. IrishHow you prepare the wood.

The woods that we paint tend to be very porous; they absorb water, oils, and colors quickly  Basswood, the most common wood for character carving and fish decoys, is extremely absorbent and will need some pre-treatment before any painting steps to create the smoothest paint finish possible. Each project here will look at a specific pre-treatment process.

Pre-treatments for wood.

1. Flat plane carving or fine shaved carving.
2. Sanding with 220- to 32-grit sandpaper.
3. Two light coats of sanding sealer.
4. Two light coats of 1/2 linseed oil mixed with 1/2 turpentine.
5. Two light coats of spray sealer or brush-on polyurethane.
6. Hand buffing with a soft cloth.
7. Burnishing.

How you prepare the paint.

All paints are color pigment mixed with a float media. The float can be water, acrylic base, or oil. If you are using colored pencils the base or float is clear wax for artist quality pencils or a white clay for student quality. As we work through the coloring each paint type will be mixed on the tile with its appropriate float.

How to paint your wood carving by Lora S. IrishHow you combine sealing steps with painting steps.

Any pre-treatment for the wood can be used with any paint type. This means you can use acrylic craft paints over a linseed oil finish, oil paints over an acrylic antiquing, and even oil paints over a spray sealed colored pencil base.

What final finish you use.

Both your wood and paint will need a final sealer or finishing coat to protect it from the environment and from UV rays. We will look at several choices you can use.

Final finishes.

1. Spray or brush-on polyurethane sealer.
2. Linseed oil mixed with turpentine.
3. Tung oil or Danish oil.
4. Brush-on acrylic sealer.
5. Hand buffing with a soft cloth.
6. Rub and buff wax finish – I use TreWax Clear Paste Wax

How to paint your wood carving by Lora S. IrishHow the wood will ages.

Wood develops a patina with age, it is unavoidable and any painting you place over that wood will be affected by that aging. A classic example is a white pine chest. Its called white pine because when fresh cut the wood has a very white coloring. Within a few years that chest will be a light golden yellow, add a few more years and it will turn a golden-orange. In a decade that chest can look have a dark maple tone.

Any paint that you apply over that wood is affected by the chemical changes that patina the wood. So time is darkening everything behind the painting.

Light fades any coloring that we use. The UV rays break some colors down faster than other, some paint manufacturer’s do provide a UV listing for their color lines. Each time you clean a painted carving you remove just a very little bit of paint. Over time our painting is getting thinner and paler.

Eventually you end up with an antique carving that has become black with age with just a hint of paint on its surface, a beautiful effect that only comes with time.

So, whatever you do today will not be what it looks like ten years from now. Don’t hesitate to be a little bolder, a little braver with your color choices as those may be the very colors that survive the aging process.


Basics to Painting:  More free pyrography and wood carving projects by Lora S. Irish

Scroll Saw Fretwork Butterfly Patterns by Lora S. IrishFretwork Scroll Saw Butterfly Pattern Package by Lora S. Irish.  Twenty scroll saw cut-out patterns for butterflies, dragonflies, and bumble bees are waiting for you to create your own patio wind chimes. Each pattern is offered as a line art pattern and with a light grey fill for the cut-out areas of the design.  Exclusive patterns available only at


Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: