In this blog, I am going to share with you some hints, tips and product recommendations that I use to achieve a 'CRISP' finish. I work in education and we love an acronym So you can imagine my joy when the steps I'm about to talk you through spell C.R.I.S.P. 😂 Technically there are three P's, all will become clear...
I have included links (where relevant) to where you can buy supplies from too if you are interested in trying products that I use.
Please note: this blog contains some affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase using the links I have provided - you can read more about what this actually means at the end of this blog.
OK, so you have a piece of furniture you want to paint, and you want the finish to be super smooth! Here are the key stages I follow to achieve a flawless hand painted look...
Different materials require different prep. This guide by Fusion Mineral Paint is really helpful for explaining should tackle your piece (it doesn't matter if you don't use Fusion, the advice is sound irrespective of your chosen brand):
I need to start by being honest with you - there is no such thing as a 'no prep' paint. Don't believe the hype!
If you want your paint to stick properly then starting with a thorough clean is an absolute must!
Old furniture gathers dust, grease, smells (and spiders) over the years. Applying paint on top of a piece that has not been cleaned means the paint sticks to dirt and not the item itself. When people complain of peeling and flaking paint, it is usually because the paint has adhered to a contaminant such as grease and not the item/wood itself.
There are lots of cleaning products that can be used ranging from basic sugar soap right through to specially formulated furniture cleaners.
To get my products truly clean (and disinfected!) I use Grime Cutter. It ticks all my boxes because:
- It's ready mixed - no need to dilute.
- Minimises over wetting furniture - when you use products like sugar soap, you tend to need to use several applications to get it truly clean. Each time you apply sugar soap, you introduce more moisture to the wood making it wetter and wetter each time. This means you have to wait longer and longer to proceed to the next step.
- It's industrial-strength stuff so cleans, degreases and disinfects with ease and in as little as 60 seconds!
- It's water rinsable.
Other alternatives include Fusion Mineral Paint's TSP Cleaner () or Dixie Belle's White Lightning (). I have used Fusion TSP and you simply add a small amount to water, mix and use. White Lightning comes in a granulated form and you just add a small scoop to water - I have not used this one but have included it as it is relatively cheap in comparison to the others and gets great reviews.
'R' is for rinse. Some people sand at this stage but not me... After cleaning there's still residue on the item and sanding at this stage, in my opinion, just pushes the dirty residue into the wood... Although the cleaner will have done a good job, you need to help remove the cleaner residue and contaminants it has lifted from the furniture.
One minute after application I use a soft scourer sponge and agitate the product to ensure all the dirt and old icky stuff is dislodged. Then I simply use my water mister () to spray the item and wipe down the piece.
When the rags and cloths are no longer stained in grime, you're ready for the next stage...
Now that your item of furniture is squeaky clean and dry, now is the time for 'I' (to inspect your piece). You will be surprised how many elements needing your attention can be masked by dirt.
Check for repairs that need to be made before you apply your primer and paint. Typically, this will involve filling dings, dents and cracks.
Use a quality two-part wood filler. I use Ronseal High-Performance wood filler (green and white tin). Apply to the areas requiring attention and be sure to leave the product sitting 'slightly proud' of the surface.
Some people when applying filler, go to great trouble and time making sure it is completely flush to the surrounding surface but become puzzled when once dried it seems to have shrunk and no longer flush. This happens because some fillers shrink when drying. By applying a bit more than you need, once it has dried and when you come to sand, you can use your sander to take the filler completely flush with the surrounding area.
Having tended to all the minor repairs your piece needs, now it is time to sand ('S').
Sanding is an important step as it provides a 'key' for the paint to grab hold of and stick to. It also helps to ensure the surface is super smooth and truly flat.
For best coverage and adhesion, I find painting on to bare wood best - although you can opt to scuff sand the item if you prefer (and this is compatible with the brand you are using).
I typically work my way up to 120 or 180 grit before painting.
Word of caution, if you are working with veneer, I would avoid using an electric sander and instead use a paint and wax remover such as Autentico Bio Strip. Electric sanders are very powerful and can easily sand through the veneer to expose the cheap plywood typically found underneath.
Autentico Bio Strip is a water-based stripper and helps lift existing paint, varnish and wax finishes. It doesn't use nasties like chlorides and is bio-degradable. Simply apply a generous layer of the stripper, leave to work, and scrape off.
To see Bio Strip in action check out my previous blog here.
This is where my CRISP acronym doesn't quite work as the next three steps all begin with 'P' 😂
Primers provide a good foundation for paint and help with adhesion. Some species of wood are prone to 'bleeding' which means they release tannins which can discolour your paint. For example, if applying white paint on top of a piece of wood like mahogany without primer, you're white finish will quickly turn pink and blotchy!
There are lots of primers out there. Zinsser BIN is very effective but is oil-based and pongy! I like Dixie Bell B.O.S.S. which locks dours, tains and tops bleed through. It is available in grey, white and clear and is water-based making clean up easy and no nasty smells.
Apply the B.O.S.S. using a brush or roller. The first coat blocks any bleed through. You may notice patchy discolouration when you apply the first coat - that's perfectly normal. Leave to dry for a minimum of one hour, give a light sand and then apply a second coat. This will cover up any bleed that was showing in the previous coat and now you can proceed to the next step without the worry of pesky stains spoiling your paint job. You can get BOSS by clicking .
If you are going to work on a piece with a non-porous surface to which paint will struggle to 'stick' to, then an adhesion primer is needed. I've recently used Fusion Mineral Paint's Ultra Grip for the first time on a Formica countertop and the results were . Dixie Belle does a similar product called 'Slick Stick' (which I haven't tried that one yet though!). If you apply paint and get 'beading' or 'lacing' (i.e. the paint is repelled from the surface) - either the piece needs more cleaning or the surface needs treating with an adhesion primer.
Now the fun part!
There are so many different types and brands of paint.
I've used a few brands over the years and my current go-to favourite is Fusion Mineral Paint for smooth finishes. I love the consistency, ease of application, coverage, and durability of the stuff. It comes in so many colours too.
I apply Fusion using Staalmeester microfibre rollers for large flat surfaces. Having used Two Fussy Blokes before I 'hand on heart' think Staalmeester rollers are the best. I use a range of brushes too - you can find out more about them in my previous blog by . It's worth investing in quality brushes too - the ones I use can be on this blog.
Two coats are typically all you need, although this varies by colour as with all brands.
If you are a fan of the 'all in one' types of paint like me, another alternative to Fusion is Dixie Belle Silk which has great self-levelling properties and is super tough once fully cured. Other alternatives include brands such as Annabel Duke and Frenchic (Alfresco and Lazy ranges).
Irrespective of the paint brand you use, invest in sanding pads and give the surface a light sand before subsequent coats. This helps to smooth out any imperfections from the previous coat(s).
The final part of achieving a CRISP finish is protection. I've written blogs on this topic already so won't labour this point too much.
If you've gone for an 'all in one' formulation paint, such as Fusion or Silk, chances are it includes a built-in topcoat. For most applications, this 'built-in' topcoat will be sufficient. If the item you are working on is likely to get a lot of use and wear-and-tear then it makes sense to add additional protection through a topcoat.
My current favourite is General Finishes High-Performance Topcoat in Flat. This gives a lovely low sheen, is super easy to apply and most importantly - durable! Be sure to check out my previous blog on how to apply it which you'll find by .
Other products I have used and rate include:
I hope you found this blog helpful! This approach has always worked a treat for me, and I hope it works for you too.
Good luck with your projects!
Percy and Albert Interiors
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