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Notes From the 'Net

By Loren K. Woodard
Email Loren at lorenwoodard@charter.net or visit his web site at http://www.woodcarvers-gallery.com/

Welcome once again to Notes From The Net, a compilation of tips and techniques that were shared on the several wood carving Listserves on the Internet. As is normally the case, chattering chippers have been more than willing to share their knowledge on the Internet once again..



Painting Techniques

It is with pleasure I share with the loyal readers of Woodcarver Online Magazine the painting techniques that were provided to me by a variety of carvers. I have tried to include as many as possible with the space available.


Greg Wilkerson shares his oil painting techniques.

A. Preparing the carving

Before I apply stain or paint to a carving I always look it over and clean up any loose chips or "fuzzies". I think that a clean looking carving is one of the most important things a woodcarver can strive for. After cleaning up the carving I then lightly go over the whole thing with a very fine, almost worn out, piece of sandpaper. I'm not trying to remove the carving marks as much as I'm trying to "polish" the woodcarving, so that it will accept the stain more evenly.

B. Applying the stain

Unlike many carvers, I apply the stain to the bare wood, without pre-staining or sealing it with sanding sealer. I think that the light sanding beforehand, along with the type of stain I use, allows me to do this without having the stain appear "blotchy" or uneven. I use Minwax Wood Finish, which is a stain and sealer combined. The color I use the most on my woodcarvings is golden oak. I have always had good luck with this brand of stain and sealer, and I see no reason not to keep using it.

C. Preparing to Paint

Before we begin the painting process I thought I might tell you my goals for a successfully painted woodcarving. I want to add color, without hiding the grain of the wood. I want everyone who looks at the finished carving to know that it was done in wood. This is why I like to spray the woodcarving with Deft clear gloss Wood Finish after staining. This sort of double seals the wood prior to painting, keeping the paint from soaking into the wood too fast, yet still allowing it to adhere to the carving. After the Deft has dried I lightly go over the carving with #0000 steel wool to smooth it up and remove the high gloss.

D. Painting

I use oil paints exclusively on my woodcarvings. I apply the oil paints with a dry brush lightly dabbed with paint. Because of the processes before painting, the oil paint will spread over a large area very evenly if applied with a light touch. I like to paint from the top down, one area at a time. The reason I start from the top is that this allows me to rest my hand on the carving without smudging the paint or getting me real messy. The reason I do only one area at a time is because I immediately wipe off each area after applying the paint to remove any excess paint and to smooth out the painted area. If, after wiping the paint off, it is not as bright as I want, I simply apply another light coat of paint, repeating the process until I get the desired look. When finished there is still the basic color, yet the grain of the wood is still visible, and the darker color has stayed in the folds and creases of the carving.

E. Shading

Once the whole carving is painted I add a little extra shading to the areas which have sharp contrasts and need a little separation, such as between each feather, along the arms, the folds in the clothing, and under the fringe and coat. I use burnt umber oil paint, again with a dry brush lightly dabbed with paint, to do the shading. This also leaves the carving with a slight antiqued look. I will even do a little shading between the fingers. I think that the shading really helps the various features of the woodcarving to stand out.

F. A Little Extra Something

I always like for my carvings to kind of "stand out from the crowd" so to speak. One of the ways I have done this is to, from time to time, add a little war paint. This is of course up to the artist, and it should be carefully done so as not to overpower the rest of the carving.

G. The Final Touch

After the painting and shading is done I want to make my finished woodcarving durable and protected as much as possible for a lifetime of enjoyment for whoever ends up with it. To do this I apply two more coats of Deft Clear Gloss Wood Finish, either by spraying or painting it on with a fine brush. I like the gloss because it seems like a little harder finish to me. If you don't like the glossy look you can either lightly go over the dried final coat of Deft with #0000 steel wool or instead use semi-gloss Deft for the final two coats. I always feel the carving after the final coat of Deft to see if it feels smooth to the touch. If I need to, I lightly go over it with the fine steel wool and spray it again, repeating this as much as it takes to produce a smooth yet durable finish.

From the Knotholes list Ann wrote;

I like for the wood to show through (why carve, if you can't tell it's wood?) and have found that oil paint pigments are the finest ground, so.... I mix and then thin oil colors to give a light overlay of color to the wood that allows the grain to show through. I then finish the piece with either spar varnish or Tung oil... unless it's a resiny pine. Then I use flake shellac.

Robert, the moderator of the Knotholes list wrote;

I use oil paints like Windsor & Newton and I really do like to see the wood grain show through ...but then again this will depend on what the carving is.

On some cowboy type carvings, I mix a small amount of boiled linseed oil and turpentine, about 1/2 and 1/2 of each...in a small shallow bowl. Then I will add the color or colors to the mix until it "looks right" to me. Then I will try it on a small scrap of the same wood that was used to make the carving ...testing the mixture to make sure it is the right shade of color as well as the right thickness. By this I mean if I want the wood grain to show through the color then the mix with color must be more like a wash" and this will sort of "pickle" the wood, let it dry and then I may add another coat or two in order to get the right shade and effect that I am looking for.

On some such carvings like a cowboy's shirt or pants or chaps and boots, I will make the color more solid and not let the wood grain show through. The coloring really does depend on the total effect that I am trying to create or emphasize.

Understanding color and how to use it properly is very much like doing an artwork painting. You need to know how to make the viewer feel that there are curves and shagginess to fur on an animal's leg or neck area. Doing this on a flat canvas is one thing but to use this same technique on a carving in the round will only add that much more depth and feeling to the carving's over all look.

Painting and color are about as important to the carving as is the doing of the carving in the first place. Let's say you carved a bear in some pose but did not put any fur carving marks on it, just a plain smooth wooden bear. Now give that carving to a good artist and let them do their thing on it. They will be able to paint the fur in such a way, that you would swear it had a real fur coat on it. They will use shading, color and tone, and blending in to show muscle movement, body structure, and the hair tract.

Now without touching this carving but looking close at it you become amazed at how this blending of all the right colors make it look as if it was carved fur. Now do this same thing with that same carving but take the time to put the "fur strokes" on it. The use some of the same coloring THOUGHT'S applied. Notice I said "thought's applied". I know that a carved bear that has it's fur stroke's on it, which will show the depth in the fur itself, and again to show the muscle structure, will be a lot harder to paint and blend in the colors, and not at all as easy as a smooth carved bear.

I hope this little essay of color is a help to some, or at the least get those "color wheel's" turning in trying some new things with color and making use of your own color mixture's. A rule of thumb is, if it works for you then it must be OK, especially if your carving grabs the eye of the judge and they come back around and hang a ribbon on it.

Doug Evans posted Floyd Rhadigan's painting instructions on the list. Mr. Rhagigan was kind enough to give us permission to present his painting instructions to the readers of Notes From the Net. Thanks Floyd.

Rhadigan Painting Instructions

1. After you have completed your project, use dish soap to scrub carving with hot water. Use a denture tooth brush or a small scrub brush to wash the carving. Rinse carving with hot water.

2. After the carving is dry, give it two light coats of Krylon 1311 Matte spray and let it dry.

3. Floyd uses acrylic paint, the cheap brands of whatever is one sale. Use an eyedropper to measure 1 drop of paint to about 15 to 20 drops of water, mix well in a divided plastic paint palette. Floyd paints wet on wet because the paints blend much better. Floyd uses medium flesh for skin tones and tomato spice for blush and lips. All base colors are painted thinned. Anything like eyes, eyebrows, buttons, buckles, and the like are painted with just enough water to make the paint flow.

4. After you have completed the painting, let it dry and give it one more light coat of Krylon 1311.

5. To antique the carving, Floyd uses Watco Finishing Wax mixed 70% Natural and 30% dark. Brush the wax on, let it stand a few minutes, and then wipe off with a soft rage or a paper towel.

Jan Oegema provided us with the following information.

I paint my caricatures with Acrylic paint well thinned down with water and after the painting is finished, I spray them with Deft or Krylon.

Jan antiques most of his carvings with UMBERJUICE, his own creation. UMBERJUICE consists of 1 part Varathane (high gloss), 1 part paint thinner (not Varsol). and 1/2 part of double boiled linseed oil.

Once Jan covers his painted carving with UMBERJUICE, he will cover the carving with Burnt Umber Oil Paint. Jan then wipes his carving down with a soft rag in a down streaking motion VERY lightly. Jan checks the carving about 1 hour later for runs and lets it finish drying. Viola .. you're done.

Walter, a member of the Knotholes List tells us that a good way to test your paint to see if it is thin enough is to paint a newspaper. After painting the print, if you can read the print, the paint is just right. Try it.

Len Dillon was kind enough to share a painting technique taught to him by Marty Dolphins at the Doane Experience. Len tells use how Marty paints a Santa Clause on Basswood using oil paints and boiled linseed oil. If you are painting a Santa on Northern White Pine, Len Dillon advises to thin the Boiled Linseed Oil with turpentine. By the way, Marty prefers Grumbacher oil paints.

#1A Squeeze a strand of Raw Sienna oil paint from the tube into a can lid that is about _" to _" deep and about 4" to 5" across.
#1B Add Boiled Linseed oil, work the Raw Sienna into the linseed oil so that it is thoroughly mixed and no thicker than the original boiled linseed oil. IT MUST BE MIXED THOROUGHLY!

#2A Apply stain mixture liberally over the entire carving. (Marty demonstrated on a 12" Santa)
#2B After all cracks and crevices have been covered thoroughly, wipe off carving with paper towels. With a paintbrush, keep brushing the cracks and crevices, wiping the brush on paper towels to remove excess stain mixture.

#3A Start with the colors on the face, as it is one of the areas always given a close examination.
#3B Using a small tray, add flesh tone for the face. Add a small amount of boiled Linseed Oil, mix it well and apply to the face.
#3C Add a ruddy red to the cheeks and lips. This is a wet on wet application. (Use light shades before dark colors. The dark colors can be used to cover mistakes made with the light colors.)

#4A Next, paint hair and beard with white with white blended with Linseed Oil.
#4B After the hair and beard has been painted and dried a little, dry brush with white that has not been thinned with Linseed Oil.

# 5A Continue to paint other colors on Santa's apparel including the coat, hat, shirt, boots, trousers, etc. Paint the lighter colored items first, followed by the darker colors, wet on wet.

#6A The first mixture applied of Raw Sienna and Boiled Linseed oil will give your carving an antique look when the raw sienna shows through the other colors.
#6B Shadows can be created on the carving by working with wet on wet, using burnt umber to create the shadows.

#7A After your carving is painted spray it with several light coats of 1301 Ktylon. After the 1301 is dry, spray the carving with a couple of light coats of Krylon 1311.


That does it for the painting techniques. I sincerely hope that these techniques will be of help to you in your future carving.

Please take some time and check out the wood carving lists on the Internet. There is a lot of knowledge free for the asking on all of the list serves.

For information regarding the various email lists for woodcarvers, visit The Carvers' Companion Resource Files, or click the links below.

Woodcarver's List - Woodcarvers' Porch - American Stickmaker's - Knotholes List - Fishcarving List2

Editor's Note: Disclaimers and Cautions