The elements of faux painting aren't difficult but there's always room for error here and there. Keep these important tips in mind and you're half way there.
1. Your end result is only going to be as good as your materials. That applies to paint and brush quality but above all to your surface. Think of it as your canvas. You're about as likely to achieve your aims on a surface coated with flat paint as you would be painting on tissue paper.
Eggshell or satin base paint is the best undercoat. Faux finishes don't work as well on flat paint surfaces. Paint also needs to dry slowly and flat finishes tend to dry quickly and the scope for fixing mistakes is limited. Finally, underlying flat paint just seems to dull finishes.
2. A few cents of commonsense is worth dollars of equipment. Don't bother with unnecessary gimmicks. Spend your money on quality paints and brushes instead. You don't need a special sponge applicator - almost any soft sponge will do. You don't need an artist's palette. Ice cube trays are cheap and actually hold more paint.
Don't waste that paint! You can always stick it in the freezer rather than letting it harden. Another money-saving tip is to use dishwashing liquid for cleaning brushes. You can buy fancy cleaners but a grease-cutting dishwashing liquid works just fine with water-based paints and with stencil creams, which are partially oil-based.
3. If your surface is pitted or cracked, it will need filling, and sanding when dry. A common error is to assume that that once your faux finish is completed your job is done. Wrong! You MUST seal with water-based sealer before painting, or your wall will look blotchy and diseased. Seal with a color that blends in with the rest of the wall or patches will show through. If you don't have that original paint, mix the sealer with suitably colored acrylic paint to minimize the contrast.
4. You know the saying: oil and water don't mix. Remember that when painting or suffer the consequences. The resulting curdled slush is not pretty. In short, know your paints and read your labels. Latex paint may sound like it's oil-based but it's part-water.
5. Not only is it true that mess is stress, but lack of cleanliness will foul up your finish. You need to clean brushes really well if you don't want previously used colors contaminating your handiwork. Running water and finger massage won't clean properly. That doesn't mean you need expensive professional cleaning pads. Check the kids' department: you can find cleaning pads there at a fraction of the price.
You need to maintain a clean working environment, especially when working for others. Small splashes on carpets can be handled without chemicals. Try nail scissors. Wait until the paint is dry. Adding water just spreads it. Then snip the soiled ends, strand by strand. This won't work on larger patches, so make sure you use drop cloths as a preventative measure. For disasters that can't be trimmed out, try product called Goof Off.
6. When using glazes, wet is the watchword! You need to finish in one seamless session. That means no bathroom breaks (so go before you start!) or refreshment interludes. Wet and dry edges won't mix, the dry glaze won't spread and it will show. Work fast, especially in hot dry climates.
7. You may not recognize your painting style, but everyone has their own unique technique. That's why collaborative efforts don't work. People can work together as long as they work on different layers or walls, not different sections of the same layer/wall. Your style can even change during a day: pre- and post-lunch. Plan your sessions and breaks to maximize uniformity in technique.
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