Painting and Decorating Made Easier!

There are different substrates in which paint can be applied. The most problematic are those not typically considered. However, when they are, it would be a good idea to know the proper finish so that the paint job will last. Any paint job, when done correctly, can last indefinitely.


The first question is: What types of surfaces are the most difficult to cover? And what are the requirements to produce a durable appearance?


But, before any finish is applied, sand the surface with an appropriate grade of sandpaper. Ultra smooth surfaces may not benefit from this.


Here is a list for you to consider:


  1. Glass – Clean with alcohol. Apply alcohol based primer; top coat with alkyd.
  2. Ceramics – Acid etch. Apply acid based or galvanizing primer; top coat polyurethane.
  3. Plastic – Apply alkyd primer; top coat with urethane.
  4. Rubber – Apply alkyd primer; top coat with alkyd.
  5. Formica – Apply epoxy or urethane primer; top coat with same.
  6. Fiberglass – Apply epoxy or lacquer primer; top coat with epoxy or acrylic enamel.
  7. Copper – Apply acid wash coat; top coat with exterior acrylic latex or oil base.
  8. Aluminum – Apply galvanizing primer; top coat with exterior alkyd.
  9. Brass – Apply acid wash coat; top coat with acrylic enamel.


And, of course, the method of application varies with the type of surface. I recommend that, in most circumstances, you use a fine spray finishing procedure. (HVLP preferred)


  1. Ultra smooth surfaces – They typically require applying a finish in multiple thin coats, with sanding (wet sand #400) in between each coat and tack cloth to promote a glossy, even surface.


  1. Medium smooth surfaces – These usually require mild sanding,(#220-#400) the filling of minor surface flaws with polyester resin, and then painting by thin nap roller (sponge, or mohair).


All surfaces listed in 1-9 are considered to be “smooth.” No products with a high viscosity and slow drying time are suitable for the above surface types.


Recommended products include: Bulls eye Shellac, Bulls eye alcohol based primer, Gripper latex bonding primer, Bin alcohol based primer, Aqualock primer, Kilz oil primer, Washcoat acid etch primer, Zinc primer, Glidden and Sherwin Williams specialty coatings.


Objects come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs. Some are for decoration and some are functional. Most of them can be painted in one way or another depending on your interests.


For our purposes, let’s look at household items which can be designed and finished for decorative reasons. Here is a list of some items you may want to paint:


  1. Electrical outlet cover – Sand cover, using #220 sandpaper. Apply shellac or Kilz primer coat. Top coat with any latex or oil finish desired. Apply multiple thin coats.


  1. Table top – If existing finish is clear, sand with #220 or #400 depending on how smooth the top is. Using spray or short nap roller cover, apply satin, semi or gloss polyurethane, varnish or acrylic clear coat. Apply several thin even coats, sanding in between and using tack cloth to remove dust. Paint requires similar application. Sand, fill minor imperfections and apply multiple thin coats.


  1. Sculpture – Smooth surface with a Scotch Brite pad or sponge sanding block with a #120- #400 grit. Apply coating by spray, including airbrush for even finish. Alkyd paints are most suitable for opaque finish. Bronze, glazed or metallic finishes may also be applied. Experiment with various tools for different effects.


  1. Light fixture – If wood or metal, sand surface with #220-#400 sandpaper. If metal, apply surface adhesion promoter. For optimum finish, apply coating using spray technique. Oil or polyurethanes or urethanes work best.


  1. 5. Vase – If glass, treat with alcohol wash. Prime using Gripper product; reduce with alcohol for thinning. Apply finish using spray methods. Airbrush or low CFM spray gun is best. Use oil or urethane and thin for multiple coats.


  1. Wooden Box – Sand to desired smoothness using #120-#320 abrasive. Apply oil or acrylic latex primer. Sand surface. Apply finish choice as desired. Stain process involves choosing a semi transparent or solid color stain and applying clear coat (polyurethane) in satin, semi or gloss sheens. There’s a lot of variation here.


  1. Candlestick – If metal, follow application for light fixture. Gilding is the most decorative process. Prime accordingly to manufacturer’s directions. Then apply artificial or genuine metallic leaf. Experiment first before trying to complete a finished product.


  1. Basket – Typically made of bamboo, it is best to apply a finish with some flexibility. I recommend using an oil primer, than an acrylic latex finish. Use spray method for uniform finish and ease of application.


What is most difficult to finish is an object or surface which does not offer a recommended application or does not specify which type of material to use. That’s where a paint failure comes into play. When a surface is peeling or cracking, or has bubbled, we don’t often know how to repair it without making it worse.


TOP TIP: Test your technique on a hidden part of the object. Follow all of the instructions as if you were finishing the entire piece.



Painting difficult surfaces or objects can take more patience than talent.


Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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