Many craft stores and hardware stores sell natural wood items that you can paint yourself. You can just paint straight away, but if you want to work properly and achieve a long-lasting finish, you should do a bit of prep. Sand down the item so that there are no bumps in the wood, and use a primer to make the paint stick better. A sealer protects your elaborate decoration and ensures that it lasts for a long time.
Method 1 of 3: Prepare the wood
Step 1. Sand the wooden object with 140 or 180 grit sandpaper
You can use an abrasive sponge or just a piece of sandpaper; a sponge works best on rounded surfaces. Also, always sand the grain of the wood, not across it.
Some wooden items from the craft shop have already been sanded down. If the surface is completely smooth, you can skip this step
Step 2. Wipe the dust away with a cloth
It is best to use a special cloth that you can find in the hardware store or craft store next to the sandpaper. It literally attracts the wood dust. If you can't find such a cloth, use a damp rag.
It's a good idea to wipe the item down, even if you haven't sanded it. Store items can also be dusty and the primer and paint will not adhere well to them
Step 3. Apply a coat of primer
You can use a brush or spray primer. This seals the wooden surface and the paint adheres better. It also makes the color more intense, especially if you use a light color.
Pre-treat the front and sides first, let them dry, then do the back
Step 4. Let the primer dry properly before moving on to the next step
For a particularly smooth finish, you can sand the first layer of primer, wipe it off and apply another layer. You can do this until you can no longer see or feel any bumps.
Method 2 of 3: Paint and seal the wood
Step 1. Put a dollop of acrylic paint on a palette
Pick a color for the background and pour some of it onto a palette. Acrylic paint dries quickly, so you should leave the other colors in their packaging. You can get cheap acrylic paint from the craft store, which is usually sold in large bottles, or you can get a tube of a more expensive artist's paint. If you are using the artist's paint, dilute it with a few drops of water until it has a creamy consistency.
You can also use small plates, plastic lids, or paper plates as pallets
Step 2. Apply a thin layer of paint to your item
Use a foam brush or a wide, flat brush to do this. Let the paint dry and apply a second coat if necessary. Let these dry well as well. Take care of the front first, let it dry until it feels reasonably dry, then move on to the back.
- Look for brushes made from Taklon fiber, katakana, or sable. Avoid camel hair or stiff, firm bristles if possible.
- Don't overload the brush with paint. The paint shouldn't go beyond half the brush.
Step 3. Let the paint dry and apply a second coat if necessary
How long this takes depends on the paint you use. Most acrylic paints dry in about 20 minutes. If the paint is too thin, apply another layer and let it dry as well.
Take the time to wash your brushes with water. Don't let the paint dry out in it
Step 4. Paint your patterns and motifs
You can use stencils, transfer patterns with carbon paper or draw freehand on the wood. First, apply the base color and let it dry before you get into the details. For example, if you want to paint a smiley face, you should first draw a yellow circle, let it dry, and then paint the grinning face into it.
- Regularly dip the brush briefly in water to keep the paint moist, even if you only use a single paint.
- If you're working with multiple colors, be sure to have a mug of water next to you. Rinse the brush out each time before changing the color.
Step 5. Let the paint dry completely
Read the label on your paint carefully to find out exactly how long it takes for the paint to dry. Just because a surface feels dry doesn't mean you can just apply sealer. Each brand is a little different here, but it usually takes around 24 hours.
Step 6. Apply one or two coats of sealer
Sealers are available with different effects, for example in matt, glossy or satin finish. Just choose the one you like best. Apply a thin layer with a brush or straight from the spray can and let it dry. If necessary, you can make a second coat and let it dry well.
- If you're using a brush sealer, it's best to use a wide foam brush.
- If you use a spray can sealer, make sure you only work with good ventilation.
Method 3 of 3: Try other techniques
Step 1. Skip the primer if you want to draw a design on natural wood
Instead, you can simply cover the whole piece with stain or sealer. Wait for the piece to dry completely, then draw your patterns on it. When the paint is completely dry, you can seal the surface.
Step 2. Apply patterns and motifs to the wood using stencils
Buy stencils or make some and place them on the wood. Go over the stencil with decoupage glue. This seals the wood and the paint does not run under the stencil. Let the decoupage dry and then over the stencil. Carefully peel off the stencil while the paint is still damp and seal the wood with a spray or paint sealer.
- You can also create stencils using contact paper or self-adhesive vinyl.
- This method is suitable for unsealed natural wood.
Step 3. Use carbon paper to transfer patterns and designs onto your wooden object and then color them in
Place a sheet of carbon paper on the wood, black side down. Draw your design, then remove the carbon paper. Trace the lines with a thin brush, then paint the design with a flat brush. This method works particularly well on wood that has already been painted. It may also work with natural wood, but the color won't hold up as well.
- If you're not good at drawing freehand, first print out the design on tracing paper and then transfer it to carbon paper.
- If you're working on a dark surface, you can make your own light-colored carbon paper: smear the back of the paper with chalk, lay it chalk-side down on the wood, and trace the design.
Step 4. Make the painting resemble a colored stain so that you can see the grain of the wood nicely
To do this, use a dry brush to spread a thin layer of acrylic paint on the wood. Dip a damp cloth in a small blob of paint and rub it over the wood. This will ensure that the paint is evenly distributed without obscuring the grain of the wood.
- The cloth should be wet but not dripping wet.
- Alternatively, you can paint the entire surface with thinned acrylic paint or water-based paint.
Step 5. Make a chalkboard
Paint the surface of the wood with two to three coats of blackboard paint. Let the paint dry and then use normal varnish to make great patterns on it, if you like. But let the blackboard paint dry and harden completely. Then you can paint on it with chalk and wipe it off again.
- Limit the pattern to the edge of the wooden object so that you can use most of the area as a board.
- You don't have to prime a homemade board, but you should sand it.
- You can also paint the wood with spray paint first and then draw finer designs over it with acrylic paint.
- Don't forget to prime, varnish and paint the underside of your work too!
- It's better if you apply several thinner coats of paint, primer, and sealant rather than one or two thick coats.
- When it comes to brushes, the following applies: you get what you pay for. For the smoothest possible finish, you should invest in a higher quality brush.
- Allow the paint and sealant to cure for about three weeks before using the painted item. If you have to touch and move it beforehand, do so very gently and carefully.
- Choose your colors wisely. Acrylic paint usually turns one or two shades darker after drying.
- Use small, round and pointed brushes for all jobs that require precision, and flat, wide brushes for large areas and backgrounds.
- You don't necessarily have to use a primer, but it is highly recommended. If you have a simple handicraft project for children, for example, you can skip this step.
- Wear a respirator while sanding the wood so you don't inhale the dust.
- Use spray paint, primers, or sealants only outdoors in a well-ventilated area.