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How To - Decorative Surface Techniques

Utrecht

The decorative arts have always included techniques for giving interesting surfaces to common materials. Whether mimicking a precious substance, imitating the patina of great age or simply using paints to the best advantage, art materials can give glamour and richness to otherwise ordinary objects and surfaces.

Using acrylic paint for wall decoration.

Artists’ acrylics offer the broadest range of possibilities for creating interesting surfaces. Their rapid drying rate, longevity and good sticking power combined with an impressive assortment of colors and mediums available make acrylics the best choice for most decorative processes. Acrylic gesso can prepare walls, wood, cloth and bisque-fired ceramic to accept paint; really, any porous surface will take a gesso layer. While wet, inclusions can be pressed into gesso for texture or decorative effect- old postcards, leaves, scraps of cloth, for example. If bright white gesso is not appropriate for the project, acrylic matte medium is a clear coating that will work for the same purpose, and will seal inclusions for later overpainting.

Artists’ acrylics offer the broadest range of possibilities for creating interesting surfaces. Their rapid drying rate, longevity and good sticking power combined with an impressive assortment of colors and mediums available make acrylics the best choice for most decorative processes. Acrylic gesso can prepare walls, wood, cloth and bisque-fired ceramic to accept paint; really, any porous surface will take a gesso layer. While wet, inclusions can be pressed into gesso for texture or decorative effect- old postcards, leaves, scraps of cloth, for example. If bright white gesso is not appropriate for the project, acrylic matte medium is a clear coating that will work for the same purpose, and will seal inclusions for later overpainting.

Glazing techniques with acrylic paints work much faster than with oil-based compounds. Acrylic Matte and Gloss Mediums mixed with a tiny amount of color, modified with a small amount of retarder gel to slow drying, can be applied over a dry layer of color for an illusion of depth. Still-wet glazes can be manipulated by wiping with a rag or rubber graining comb for dramatic effects. Milky, slightly opaque glazes over darker hues create color effects impossible to achieve in single layers.

Textures created with Acrylic Modeling Paste and Pumice Medium can evoke the look of ancient fresco. These can be mixed with paint or gesso, or applied alone and painted over. Glazes applied over deep textures sink into crevices and highlight peaks. Try glazing over a pumice-gesso mixture, and wipe away the half-dry glaze with a damp sponge leaving only the color in the cracks and holes.

For successful decorative surface techniques, practice on a small test patch before committing to a large project- that way, your technique at the beginning of the project will already be somewhat rehearsed, and can look the same from start to finish. Generally, all these techniques work better if executed quickly and deliberately, rather than getting bogged down in small areas.

Decorating Frames and Furniture with Paint

Plain wood frames and old furniture can be custom-finished with a number of processes. Utrecht’s natural ash picture frames are unsealed, bare wood that is ready to accept paint. After removing glass and backing, lightly sand the wood frame. Previously-finished furniture should be sanded lightly to help paint stick. After sanding, the object can be finished according to the following techniques.

Oil Stain (bare wood only)

1. Dilute Utrecht Oil Colors (Raw Umber or Burnt Sienna) with odorless mineral spirits to a thin, milky consistency.

2. On a covered surface in a well-ventilated area, apply a thin coat of paint using a 1 inch bristle brush.

3. Allow to set until solvents have evaporated, about 1 hour.

4. Rub excess off with rags. Allow to dry several days.

5. Seal with Utrecht Clear Acrylic Spray.

Antique Gold Surfaces

1. Dilute Utrecht Permanent Gold Acrylic with water to a thick cream consistency.

2. On a covered surface, apply color thinly to frame using a 1 inch soft nylon brush, making sure to use long strokes parallel with the grain of wood. Allow to dry several hours.

3. Finish by applying an even coat of Utrecht Burnt Umber Oil Color using a rag. Rub off excess with a clean rag, leaving just enough to deepen color.

4. Allow to dry 1 week, then seal with Utrecht Clear Acrylic Spray.

5. (Variations: For an Italian Gilt Gesso look, first apply Utrecht Acrylic Gesso beneath gold acrylic, and finish as before; substitute Utrecht Permanent Silver for gold, and finish with Payne’s Gray Oil in place of Umber for an antique pewter effect; for a lighter, faster drying burnt umber, dilute with a small amount of Utrecht Alkyd Glazing Medium.)

Shabby Bohemian Surfaces

1. Apply Utrecht Acrylic Gesso in a thick coat; allow to dry, and sand smooth.

2. Drybrush a thin application of Utrecht Unbleached Titanium Acrylic using a stiff bristle brush, leaving a good deal of gesso visible. Allow to dry.

3. Mix a glaze of Utrecht Acrylic Matte Medium and a small amount of Chromium Oxide Green Acrylic.

4. Apply an even coating to entire surface; wipe thin at edges and corners. Allow to dry.

5. Seal with Utrecht Gloss Acrylic Spray.

6. (Variations: Substitute Utrecht Titanium White Acrylic for green in the glaze to achieve a lighter color.)

Old Venetian Surfaces

1. Completely cover with Utrecht Venetian Red Acrylic. Allow to dry completely.

2. Sand smooth with extra fine sandpaper.

3. Dilute Utrecht Permanent Gold Acrylic to a thin cream consistency. Apply an even coat of gold, allowing a small amount of red to show through. Allow to dry.

4. Finish by rubbing on an extra-thin coat of Utrecht Raw Umber Oil Color using a rag.

5. Buff off excess with a clean rag.

6. Allow to dry 1 week, and seal with Utrecht Clear Acrylic Spray.

Inventing variations of the suggested techniques is an enjoyable way to learn new techniques and create decorative objects that look great with your paintings. Alternating opaque and transparent applications and layering complementary colors in glazes are guiding principles that can be the basis for hundreds of distinct looks.

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