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Glazes, Stains, and Waxes

Giving your project an artistic finish often requires using a glaze, stain, or wax that has a color to it. What is the difference between glazes, stains, and waxes? How do you decide which you should use for your piece? What does each one do? There are many factors to be considered and depending on the look you are trying to achieve, figuring out the right one is important for the perfect finish.

Waxes are easy to use and don’t require a lot technical skill. The most popular use for wax is antiquing wax that has a dark color and once buffed on the surface, can give the finish an aged effect. There are liming waxes that can give a whitewashed look as well, that highlights the wood grain and details. There are decor waxes that come in all kinds of pigmented colors, often metallic sheens and are perfect for decorative finishes. I often use the redesign with prima or art alchemy waxes for my carnival glass finishes or other colorful effects. There is clear wax which is used to seal chalk paint. The technique for applying antiquing and liming wax is best with a natural bristle brush to spread the wax on the surface and using a cloth to buff it smooth. For decor waxes, I often use my fingertips or a small artist brush because I am accenting small details and not the whole surface area. Waxes are easy to use for any skill level and the most popular go to for artistic finishes. I love using them with stencils because there is not bleed through and it so easy to apply.

Glazes are highly pigmented liquid solutions with a lot less binder or no binder at all and are usually layered between coats of finish. They are usually semi-transparent. Glaze, like wax rests on top of the painted surface, while a stain penetrates the surface like a dye. Glazes can be applied like paint, unlike wax because it is in liquid form. You can use a brush, sponge or wipe it on with a cloth. Glazes come in all kinds of colors that you can imagine and are used for decorative finishes. You can use glazes for antiquing with a dark colored glaze in black or brown. You can also use colorful glazes to give you more depth and dimension on the surface and to highlight details. Most glazes must be sealed as they have no binder. There are some glazes that do not need to be sealed, for example, I make glazes mixing mica powder and water-based polyurethane so it’s essentially a topcoat already. I love Modern Master’s platinum series glazing creams because they are easy to use and are slow drying so you have more workable time to blend it on the surface. They come in a large array of colors. Some people find glazes easier to use than wax because of the viscosity of glazes, which makes it easier to apply on the surface, however, some find that attribute makes them more difficult to apply.

Stains are like thinned out paint. Sometimes a dye will be added and these are sometimes called a dye stain. Stains penetrate the surface unlike waxes and glazes. Stains contain a binder, usually a thin oil-based product.   Stains always have to be stirred while in use because they contain solid pigments that settle to the bottom of the can after a short time. Usually, some type of topcoat is applied on top of the stain to lock in the color and to allow for multiple coats of stain without lifting previous coats of stain. Stain cannot be wiped off like glaze so there is less room for error. Once applied it is on permanently. They can go on darker than glazes so keep that in mind. Stains are perfect for unpainted wood because they penetrate the surface and will give it an even color. Glazes will make it splotchy and uneven as it rests on top and does not penetrate the porous wood. Stains must be top coated as they have no hardening agent and will not protect the surface. Gel stains are thicker versions of stain. Oil based stains penetrate wood the most as opposed to water based stains. You can thin gel stain with a bit of mineral spirits to make them easier to apply and less dark. Use a foam brush or brush to apply and wipe with a rag afterwards. Stains can give you a lovely antique look just like a glaze or wax but the working time is less than it is for glaze or wax.

How do you decide which is for you? Based on what I have mentioned about the characteristics of each, one may suit your needs more. For me, it’s more about what I have on hand and is available at the moment. You can make any of them work for you but the technique will be slightly different for each as well as the effect you get. Glazes have more variety in colors with the exception of decor waxes. I usually decide based on what color I need for a project. If you are wanting an antique effect, wax or glaze is probably the easiest to use but you can certainly use the stain you have on hand too to get the same look. Wax is buffed unlike glazes or stains. You can play around with wax more but a glaze with a topcoat afterwards is more durable. Decor waxes from redesign with prima dry permanently but like any wax, can be scraped off as it lies on the surface. The advantage of glaze is that you can seal it immediately after it dries with a topcoat. Wax needs to cure before you can topcoat it which can take 30 days or more. The decor waxes need 24-48 hours to cure before applying a topcoat. Play around with each and see which works best for you. Depending on your budget, the availability of the product, and what you already have, you’ll be able to make the right decision for you.

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Morocco Inspired Furniture

I’ve never been to Morocco but who hasn’t heard of the magical land near the Mediterranean Sea and at the north of Africa? I’ve seen photos of travelers posing in front of gorgeous mosaics and tiled walls. The colors of their tiles and the exotic spices found in dishes like tangine evoke a dreamy landscape of sandy dunes and Arabian adventure. I think of camel rides across the desert, dusky colored landscapes, intricate architecture full of patterns and bright colors. It’s hard not be inspired by the romance of Morocco.

The colors that come to me are corals, teals, blues, gold, copper, ruby, dusky orange, and purple. Incorporating all of these colors may seem a bit much for a piece of furniture but I believe a balance can be achieved that will create a wonderful landscape that draws you in and leaves you in breathless. I was lucky to have 2 clients who wanted me to create Moroccan pieces for them and I was happy to take on the customs. Color, for me is a form of expression beyond words. It weaves a storyline of emotions dancing in your head. When I am moved by color, I feel tears brimming in my eyes because the emotions are so overwhelming. It’s like listening to music and having it pull at the chords of your heart. I can’t help but respond.

For my first dresser set, I used blues, teals, splashes of coral, purple and bits of copper. I wanted this one to be joyful and expansive like a clear blue sky on a limitless day. My client is from South Africa so she wanted a bit of animal print here and there. I love metallic paints. The colors you think of when it comes to metallic paints are usually: gold, silver, copper, bronze, or iron. Being lucky to use Modern Master’s huge array of metallic colors has changed my view on metallic paints. I have every hue you can imagine and maybe not imagined. The way they reflect the light, gives them a vibrate I just can’t achieve with chalk paints. Most paints are matte unless you topcoat them with a satin sheen or gloss. Even then, it’s still flat and I often add texture to give it some dimension and depth.

Modern Master’s metallic paint colors

I paint my pieces with a base of chalk paint or other paints that match the metallic color I want to use or is complimentary to all the colors I will be using. Beige and gray are usually the safest colors to use for any of the colors. Warm tones for beige and cold tones for gray. After the base dries, I add the metallic paints and allow each layer to dry before adding another because if you overwork the paint, it will be a splotchy mess. Brushstrokes in one direction help give you less apparent brushstrokes later and help with blending colors. To achieve a beautiful blending when different colors meet, gently brush them against each other until they meld seamlessly. I used mostly glacier blue and sapphire for the dresser set. I also used redesign with prima’s transfer: boho patchwork as it has the color textile patterns she wanted. I used stencils to create the tile and mosaic like surface pattern with decor waxes which are my second favorite next to metallic paints.

To me, this is what boho is, colorful and playful. Boho is a wild and carefree spirit without pretension or convention. For my second commission, I took a different direction with sunset colors and dusk. I wanted it to be warm. I used more coppers, ruby, gold, and subtle peeks of coral for the dresser. It already had lovely detailing on the surface so I just added some subtle stenciling to give it the signature Moroccan patterns. I also created an ombre finish.

The matching desk I wanted to be complimentary but not identical in color. I added appliqués to give the flat surface details like the dresser but in a different style. I created them with fast cast resin and redesign with prima moulds. I used the colors I already had with the dresser but added more purples and teals to it. Sunsets come in all colors and varieties. I did a sort of sweeping ombre from side to side. The top I made more playful with parts of a transfer on top of patchwork stenciling with decor waxes. I sealed the top with resin because I wanted it to be protected the best it can, especially being a desk top, it would be subject to much scraping and scratches. I also love the glass like finish resin always leaves. This one was a magical carpet ride into Jasmine’s palace.

I don’t think this will be the last Moroccan inspired designs I’m asked to do nor want to create. I travel the world in my mind and try to convey the culture in my work. There’s so much beauty and mystery in this vast world that not visiting it would be hindering to the imagination. I have only to look around me in order to find the design for my next piece.

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Glass Bead Gel Stenciling

I’ve used many products for raised stenciling but my new infatuation is with glass bead gel. Glass bead gel is a paste that is formed with microscopic glass beads to give you a unique texture for any type of medium. The one I use specifically is from Modern Masters Inc. The technique for applying it is much like one for any type of paste. The texture you get once the gel has dried is a smooth and durable. I love running my fingers over the surfaces where I have applied glass bead gel and it feels like braille.

Parisian Bar Cabinet Doors

The gel is translucent so if applied on by itself it will give you a sparkly, textured surface. The effect is rather stunning . I usually mix my bead gel with a bit of metallic paint so that it has color but still has the pearlescent sheen. The ratio is roughly 1 tsp to 1/2 cup. You don’t need a lot because the paste is translucent, so it picks up the color easily without diluting it as if you were using white colored paste. It will also darken as it dries so the color you see initially isn’t an accurate gauge on how it will look upon finish.

Dried Glass Bead Gel

I love using stencils with the glass bead gel to get sharp and amazing patterns with a definite wow factor. I use 3M spray adhesive on the backs of my stencils first so that they will be fixed in place with no bleed through to mar the crispness of the fine details. It also doesn’t leave behind sticky residue that will ruin your surface. I apply the paste with a spatula and use a trowel to get it evenly on. When I peel off the stencil, the design that emerges is always stunning. There’s no need to topcoat the dried bead gel surface as it is impossible to scratch once fully cured.

To me, the bead gel surface looks like sea foam. It’s a luxurious product that gives any surface depth, dimension, texture, and color. If you haven’t tried raised stenciling with it, it’s a must on the check list.

Imperial Damask
Alessandro Flourish
Garden Dream