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Taking Care of Paintbrushes

Paintbrushes are one of the most important tools for furniture refinishing. Investing in quality brushes is essential as you use them everyday and they effect the finish on your work. There are many different paintbrushes out there and finding the ones that match your needs is much like finding the right paint to use. I use all kinds of paintbrushes for varying reasons such as size, type of bristle, shape, and cost. I still use chip brushes when I want a certain finish but I expect them to fall apart and shed bristles like crazy. They are basically disposable and not long term brushes. These I’m not too concerned with maintaining but what about the brushes you spend $30-$60 on a piece? You want to make sure you are taking care of your expensive brushes.

I’m not the best at taking care of my brushes or gently handling them. I’m the type where my paint brushes are covered in paint splatters and never look like new after the first use. For that reason, I invest in durable brushes that can withstand the occasional overnight with paint still on it type of scenario. I can clean them and get them back to serviceable shape. What do you do when the paint has dried on the bristles? What do you do when the bristles have hardened over time? What do you do when the bristles have bent out of shape being in the water and crammed with other brushes? There are a few tips and tricks you can use to get the bristles soft, paint free, and in original condition.

Murphy’s oil soap will remove dried up paint and condition the paint brush bristles. I soak them in a solution of Murphy’s oil soap and water for 12 hours and then use dawn soap and a scrubby sponge to clean off the dried paint. I’ve been able to resurrect many paint brushes because of Murphy’s oil soap. Another way to revive your brushes is to soak them in fabric softener. Use 1/4 cup of fabric softener to a quart of water and soak your brushes over night. If you’ve been using oil based paint or oil based products with your brushes, you’ll want to clean them with some mineral spirits and soak in some turpentine to get all the oily residue off. If you’ve been using the brush to wax, use mineral spirits to clean.

Cleaning my paintbrushes that have not been near death and are just dirty with wet paint, I love using Scrubby Soap. It’s made of biodegradable oils so not harsh on your hands and smells citrusy. Using dawn dish soap works mostly as well. I will also spray my brushes that get a lot of residue with Krud Kutter’s tough task cleaner. You can use denatured alcohol to clean your brushes but just be aware that it will dry out the bristles. There are better alternatives to alcohol when cleaning. There are also specialty paintbrush cleaning solutions you can use that work well like Krud Kutter Brush Wash-Cleaner and Renewer. I highly recommend the Krud Kutter brand because their products are non-toxic, biodegradable, and eco-friendly. Soaking your brushes in this solution will remove some of the more stubborn dried on paint/ primer from the bristles.

How you store your paintbrushes is just as important as cleaning. If you want to be extremely thorough you can wrap a wet paper towel around the brush bristles after it has been cleaned, put the brush in a zip lock bag or wrap with cling wrap and store it into your refrigerator. It will be ready to use when you need it. Never store your paintbrushes with the bristles down in a container as it will splay the bristles. I hang mine on my pegboard if I can or store them with the bristles up in a container. I just dampen the bristles with water before I need to use them so the paint does not go on too thick or dry quickly on the bristles. I use Cling on brushes a lot and those you store in clean water. Before I got the Cling On brush keeper my brushes would get bent out of shape with splayed hairs but now that I’ve been using the brush keeper it’s been a game changer. It’s a big fancy stainless steel bucket with 8 rubber holders to prevent the brushes from being crammed on the bottom. It’s also allowed me to easily switch brushes while I paint.

If your brushes are splayed and have the annoying stray hairs sticking out here and there, you can fix it by wrapping some twine around the clean and damp brush bristles loosely. Let the brush dry and the bristles should be back to normal. Making sure you don’t keep the brush bristles down so they rest on a surface while storing, will help to stop this from happening. Maintaining your paintbrushes is essential if you don’t want to keep replacing them. However, if you forget to clean them after each use, you can still revive your dried up paint brushes and bring them back to life.

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Why You Should Use Primer on Furniture

These days, a lot of furniture paints claim to be the perfect all in one that you need. No prep, sanding, priming, or sealing needed. We all love convenience and saving time. Companies are built upon making life more easy for their customers. Minimal hassle and effort are appealing especially for a beginner. There are ways to cut corners and save your time, but as we all know, quality is not something that is minimal effort. A little bit of extra work here and there saves you time in the future. I’m going to explain why you should prime your furniture pieces before painting.

Peeling latex paint

Primers help with paint adhesion and can cut down the amount of layers you need to use with the paint you’re using. If you’re using thinner paints, a primer will save you time in painting. When I use certain milk paints or enamel paints, I will prime so that I get better coverage. Some milk paints are more sheer than chalk based paints so primer helps with coverage. Primers help you to get the best foundation you need in order to apply your paint.

Depending on the type of paint you use, a primer is necessary, such as with latex paint. Traditionally latex paint is meant for walls and walls are not high traffic areas like furniture pieces so cannot be scrubbed or cleaned with chemicals. Additional products are needed to make it suitable for the use of furniture. Latex is however cheaper than most of the boutique paints you can find on the market and can offer more variety of colors so it may be more practical for you. If you are painting on glass or plastic, a primer will help with adhesion as well. With a high traffic surfaces that get lots of wear, using a primer will help the durability.

If you are a painting with a light color such as white, a primer is your best friend. It will block staining which happens when wood tannins seep through the paint causing yellowing and bleed through. It will also cut down the amount of layers you need to get a full white coverage on furniture. Make sure you get the type of primer that is stain blocking as not all have this property. Primers can also block odors which you will inevitably encounter when refinishing antique and vintage furniture.

Many paint brands offer their own line of primers now. Wise Owl has an excellent primer that will save you a lot of extra effort work to get the perfect finish. There’s an abundance of choices out there. Just remember, primer helps with coverage so if you are wanting the color underneath to peek through or for the paint to chip, then you would not want to use primer. There are spray can primers and primers you use a brush or roller to apply. I like using the spray primer’s such as Rustoleum’s painters touch ultra cover for ease of application.

Spray primer used on desk before painting.

Metallic paints need a base such as primer to help with coverage. The nature of metallic paints makes them a bit sheer so using primer first will save you money with using less layers of metallic paints and give you a truer shade of the metallic paint. Modern Master’s has their own primers for warm tones and colder tones of their metallic paint colors. They come in beige and gray with customizable levels of darkness. It helps with adhesion and also helps enhances the shade of metallic paint you are using.

It may seem like an extra cost and effort to apply a primer but overall it actually saves you money and time. You can rest assured that your finish will stand the test of time as well with the proper prep which is the foundation for lasting durability. Do you need to prime all furniture pieces? No, it depends on the look and style you are wanting to achieve. If you are painting over an already painted piece then some scuff sanding will suffice unless the paint peels off easily just by scraping your nail on it. In that case, you will want to strip off the paint and just start with a clean slate as the proper prep was not done to begin with. If you are distressing and want the wood underneath to come through or going for a shabby chic look, primer may make it harder for you to get that rustic look especially if you are wet distressing.

Distressed chest of drawers.

If you are painting over metal, a rust blocking primer is wise to use such as the kind Rustoleum carries. Metal corrodes and a primer will help protect it from corrosion due to the paint you apply on it and natural elements. Not only does it protect the over coat but also what is underneath as well. If painting over raw wood, definitely prime first before painting.

Don’t take shortcuts when you are prepping your piece of furniture or surface. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig and hoping for the best results. Certain steps should not be skipped no matter what the paint brand advertises. For long lasting results, taking a couple extra steps saves you the hassle of having to repaint in the future.

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Redesign with Prima’s Summer Release

When I saw the new redesign with prima’s summer release products, I was over the moon. It has diversity, variety of styles, and improved quality. There’s no doubt redesign with prima is innovative and listens to their consumers. As a brand ambassador, I have the privilege of trying all of their products. Having been with them for 3 years, I have seen the beginning and the evolution of their products over time. They offer the most rub on transfers from any company out there and it just keeps getting better and better. I’m proud to be a part of their team that is also a small, woman owned business that supports many minorities. It’s reflected in their designs of the products.

I worked tirelessly for a month straight to complete 8 pieces for the release. That’s how much I loved the transfers. I could see each one fitting a certain piece and the style that I could create for the transfer and decoupage papers. The part I was most excited about was being able to reflect my Asian heritage and culture. My parents are from Taiwan so I have Chinese and Japanese influence in my heritage. There is a lot of symbolic designs used like the crane, other birds, nature, and flowers. You might have seen the black lacquered furniture with pagodas, birds, fisherman, and elegant court ladies painted that is typical of Chinese furniture.

I love chinoiserie art and the transfer Postal Birds from immediately brought that to my mind. Not only was I inspired by the Asian like designs, I also love the nursery and baby themed transfers. I have a one year old son so that was a perfect reason to redo his furniture. My daughter is 3 and the butterfly dance transfer was a big hit with her. She asked me to paint her dresser and use that transfer.

In Asian cultures the crane represents good health, longevity, truth and fidelity. To be compared to the crane was the highest compliment. It is said a crane lives a thousand years.According to Japanese legend, folding a thousand paper cranes results in one wish. Most famous to undertake this challenge was Sadako Sasaki who at 2 year olds was exposed to atomic radiation from the bombing of Hiroshima. As a twelve-year-old girl she was diagnosed with leukemia. Suffering from the deadly disease, she learned the ancient tradition about the 1,000 paper cranes called senbazuru. Inspired to follow the legend, Sadako folded paper cranes in her hospital bed, praying for world peace. She managed to fold 644 cranes before passing away within the year. Touched by Sadako, her classmates folded the rest of the 364 paper cranes and buried all 1000 with her.

Following her death, a statue of her was erected at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in remembrance of all the innocent lives taken by war. Today, her memory serves as a symbol of hope and her story continues to inspire people to wish for a better future. One of peace, love, happiness, healing, and community. During this turbulent time when there is so much division and anger, when I see these cranes, I think of Sadako and her wish for world peace. I think of how much better the world would be if we were all folding a thousand paper cranes together in harmony.

I was inspired to go bold, using many different colors on all of my furniture pieces. I did a classic black to boho, fantasy, metallics. I wanted to show all the different kinds of styles that the transfers and decoupage papers can create. Redesign with prima decoupage papers are the easiest decoupage papers you’ll find. No worries about bubbling, tearing, wrinkling with these sturdy papers. They are more fibrous and like dryer sheets in texture. I have used spray adhesive, gesso, modge podge, and top coats to apply them. They allow you to use a variety of products without worry of botching up your decoupage. The new designs are amazing and so versatile. You can find the new products and other redesign with prima products here

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How to Use Photoshop for a Mirror Replacement

When I first began using photoshop, I was overwhelmed. The amount of tools you have and options is a lot to take in for a beginner. I’m going to explain how to do a mirror replacement with photoshop. It’s actually relatively easy when you know what tools to use. The quick selection tool makes it easy to erase the mirror in order to replace it with another one. A basic understanding of using layers of images for your final image as well is all you need to get started.

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Blending with Metallic Paint

Metallic Moroccan Dresser

One of my favorite finishes to create is a blended surface using metallic paints. It is absolutely possible to blend any kind of paint, in my experience and each type just takes a specific technique because of the different qualities in each variety of paint. Metallic paints are thinner, acrylic based, and dry fairly quickly especially when you apply them in thin layers like I do to avoid obvious brushstrokes. Metallic paint vary in coverage from transparent to opaque and this effects the finish as well and how I layer them. I will share a few of my tips when it comes to blending metallic paints.

The base coat of the surface is extremely important in that it impacts the color of the metallic finish and how many coats you need to use to get adequate coverage. I usually try to use a shade similar to the paints I am using. For example if I want a pearly white finish I would paint the base with white primer and paint. This will give it a true white color as opposed to if you used a base of grey paint. What kinds of paint do I use for the base? I have used chalk based paints, enamel, and milk paints. My preference depends really on the color and the finish I want. For more rustic boho blends I will use chalk paints and for a smoother, immaculate finish I prefer milk paints in that they self level and you rarely get any brushstrokes. Metallic paint is so thin that the base texture will appear so make sure you sand any scuffs and scratches on the surface.

I use synthetic brushes with metallic paints. I highly advise not to use a natural bristle brush as they shed and will give you a rougher texture. When creating a base you can paint it in one solid color or blend various colors to give it a more apparent transition in metallic colors. When I painted my base for my most recent Moroccan sunset inspired piece, I used a base of General Finishes barn red milk paint. The warm tones of the metallics I was using would be enhanced with the red base. I used orange, reds, yellows and pinks so they are all complimentary to red. If I was using blues, silvers, purples, and colder tones, I would paint the base a cold tone as well like gray or any of the above colors. If your base is darker then the metallic paint you are using, it will appear darker. I rarely use a white base unless it is for a shade of white metallic.

When blending, apply the paint with a damp brush and go in one direction. This will help with a smooth finish and better blended look. I usually use the same brush to apply all the colors unless I am doing a very light color with a dark color. Using the same brush helps with the color transition and making the shades meet without too much of a stark contrast. For my Moroccan dresser I used the same brush and applied the darker color first and from there, onto a gradually lighter shade. I did the copper first, moved on to a orangish hue, dark yellow, and layered the pink on last. Let the layers of paint dry first before applying the next thin layer. While wet it looks rougher then it usually is once dried so don’t worry if it looks different then what you are wanting. Let it dry before deciding if you need to apply another layer. I sweep the paint on in one direction and mist my brush with water as needed to keep it damp and the paint.

When the paint starts to seize and harden using your brush to move it will cause it to drag and look patchy and rough. Work quickly while the paint is wet and leave it alone. Do not overwork the paint. This is the most common problem with new users of metallic paints. It is best to have a gentle touch with metallics and lightly brush them on the surface. They are not thick like chalk paints and not porous so that it allows you to play around with them and blend by spraying water on the surface like chalk paints. Do not spray water directly onto the metallic paint as it will cause droplets to form that will interrupt the smooth coverage of the paint. Dampen your brush to keep it wet. The magical thing about metallic paints is that blending can actually look much more smooth. You can apply a thin layer or a certain metallic color on top of the one you used first and that will give it a light glaze like effect on top of the metallic color underneath it. For example if you apply a thin coat of gold on top of a blue or red metallic, it will give it a gold shimmer. The more layers of it you apply on top the more apparent the top color will be. When I applied the pink metallic on top of the dark gold and orange, it gave it a pink glow that was not opaque. I’ve created my signature peacock finishes this way.

Metallic paint is a light reflective paint so you want to make sure you apply it under bright lighting. When you examine the surface at different angles the coverage will appear differently and show you where it is less and more. It looks very differently under varying lighting making it difficult to capture the true color with a camera. The play of color under light is what I find magical about it as it shifts in tone. It can look lighter and darker from one moment to the next. Practice on a small surface until you find the right technique for the finish you want. Once you become familiar with painting using metallics, I’m sure you’ll find their complex beauty very unique and mesmerizing.

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How to Fix Broken Trim and Appliqués on Furniture

Having bought a lot of antiques and vintage furniture to refinish, I come across a lot of damaged pieces that require some creative fixing. One common problem is broken trim, parts of the feet, and appliqués from rough handling. It’s actually quite a simple fix and there’s no reason you need to pass on furniture that has cosmetic damage. It can be repaired so it looks like new.

All you need to fix these broken pieces is hot glue, wd40, and bondo. I prefer bondo over wood filler because of it’s durability and quick hardening time. Bondo is used for repairing the bodies of cars so you can imagine just how durable it is. You need a replica of the part that is broken in it’s whole state. So for appliqués you need whole ones to make a mould from. Without it, it will be a hard fix to get exact. I spray the wd40 on the area I am creating a mould so the hot glue doesn’t stick too much to make it difficult to remove. You can use any oil at home too.

Unbroken appliqué I am creating a mould from.

I take my hot glue gun and make sure I cover the entire area with hot glue. More is better as you want to get the mould of the missing bit but also around that so you can tape it onto the area you are fixing much better. It’s much like what I explain in my blog on, how to replicate missing hardware. After the hot glue has cooled down and hardened, carefully peel it off the surface. Now you have you mould from which to cast the missing part.

I spray the mould with some wd40 so that the bondo won’t stick to it and I can peel it off easily. Now I mix my bondo in a small little paper cup with a popsicle stick. Use as much as you think you will need to cast in the missing area. Bondo will harden quickly so it’s best to work fast and have everything you need in place before you such as painter’s tape, materials to mix the bondo in, your mould, and wd40. Bondo comes in 2 parts kind of like resin but not liquid. You have a small tube of the hardening agent and the paste like product. You only need a tiny bit of the hardener agent, usually just a small drop. The measurements are on the instructions at the back of the can. Bondo has fumes so wear a mask and work in a ventilated area. For those with health issues to such smells, you can find wood putty that will work as well and is nontoxic. It will just take much longer to dry depending on how thick and wide the part you are recreating is.

Recreated casting of the broken appliqués.

I spread the bondo into the mould at the area that I am casting and then tape the hot glue mould in place so that it can harden and form the shape you want. It typically takes 30minutes to harden fully. After it has cast, take off your mould and reveal the part that was missing before now whole. I sand the surface a bit to smooth it and get it perfect in shape to the original. Now paint over and nobody will be able to spot the difference. If the replica has little spots missing because the bondo did not fill the mould entirely you can patch it up with some wood filler. So that’s it, all you need to know on how to fix broken bits and pieces on furniture.

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How to Create a Harlequin Pattern on Furniture

There is something so elegant about a harlequin pattern. I love creating it on my pieces for a fancy style that compliments a lot of my designs. I’ve tried quite few techniques when it comes to doing a harlequin pattern on furniture. I have used a ruler and drawn the lines and then painted within by hand. This takes a steady hand and lots of patience. Though I find it meditative to do it this way, I can understand why that may not be a preferred method for you. Yes there are harlequin stencils you can buy and use. I’ve been asked why don’t I just stencil it?

The benefits of using my harlequin tape or ruler method is that you can customize it to fit the proportions of the surface area you are covering so they don’t look too large or small for the piece. It’s possible to get clean and crisp lines with a stencil but it takes some practice to do without getting bleed through. Plus, I always get a thrill peeling off the painter’s tape to reveal the diamonds like magic. I find my tape method to be effective and relatively simple on a flat surface. You can do it on a curved surface but it does take some practice to get the tape to lay flat and at the points you want to meet at each end of the square of rectangle.

It’s a bit of basic geometry to create a harlequin pattern. You want to imagine a square of rectangle on the surface of where you are painting the pattern. Depending on whether your surface is more of a square or rectangle the height and width of your diamonds will vary. You want to start with a master line from which all your other lines will use as a marker. The master lines will be from point A to B and from point C to D. You can use a ruler and draw the line or this is where you will tape to create a perfect line that reaches each opposite point.

From the master lines, you begin to create all you other lines using the width of the ruler as a measurement of size by laying it next to the master line, following it along the sides perfectly to draw your line or using your painter’s tape as the width aligning each piece of painter’s tape next to each other starting from the master lines. The diamonds will be painted every other line or else it will just be a solid area of color with no alternating diamonds. If you are using tape you peel off every other painter’s tape from each direction to form the diamond pattern. If using a ruler you just make all the lines in each direction and paint every other diamond. I know this sounds confusing but my videos will give you a step by step tutorial on how to do this.

One direction with tape after peeling off every other one.
Tape going in other direction after peeling off every other.

See how the diamonds have now formed? So when you paint in the untaped spaces it will form the diamond you see. If using a ruler your lines will look like this and you simply will paint in every adjoining diamond going across and vertical thus giving you the harlequin pattern. If using painter’s tape you will have to do step 2 which is taping over the diamonds you just painted after they have dried so you are not painting over them again and instead the ones adjacent that form a harlequin pattern. After doing step 2 you will have your perfect harlequin pattern.

Watch my videos for more in depth instructions.

Harlequin using ruler

Harlequin with Tape on Canvas

Harlequin with Tape Part 1

Harlequin with Tape Part 2

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Watering Can Makeover with Moulds and Patina

Gardening season is definitely here and what better way to bring style and pizzaz to your gear then decorating your watering can? I love vintage and antique watering cans. The metal body and cute nozzles delight me. I decided to give my vintage watering can a makeover using the new redesign with prima mould called Vintage Roots. The mould has various vegetable shapes like a carrot, beet, mushroom and radish.

Redesign with prima Vintage Roots Mould

I made my mouldings out of casting resin as it is durable and I like the sharp details it captures. I glued the moulds onto the watering can using e6000. The mouldings are flexible when you take them out of the mould immediately after it sets. I taped down the moulds so that they curved around the watering can’s body. The glue takes about an hour to dry. After I removed the tape, I painted them using finnabair’s patina pastes.

Finnabair Patina Paste

The patina pastes come in brass, a bright blue, and mint green which is the color of verdigris. I painted them first using brass. After it has dried, I applied the bright blue and green by dabbing it on erratically with a small brush onto the mouldings to mimic real verdigris. The paste dries permanent but if you want you can seal with poly acrylic for extra protection. Cute, fun, and quick, it’s an easy project you can do with your kids or just yourself to make your watering can extra special.

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How to Create a Faux Staging Wall

A staging wall is extremely important for the presentation of your furniture piece and can create an atmosphere that gives you a signature style. For quite some time, I’ve been using a wall in my home that is like most walls, white with texturing. It’s not awful and is certainly neutral so that I can stage any kind of design in front without it clashing with my furniture. It makes for great catalog-like photos so that on my Etsy shop and other listings it shows clean, consistent, and clear.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a white wall. Any wall at all is a must for staging. Being me, I decided one day that I couldn’t stand having a white wall anymore and pondered ‘how I would be able to have a creative wall that is unique and yet serves the purpose of enhancing my photos despite my diverse range of furniture design styles? What color can I use? What design can I do? How unique can I make it? What would work with every style of furniture and yet be a statement?

I couldn’t come up with a decision that satisfied me. There are neutral colors that will complement any other color such as gray, beige, or black but I didn’t feel particularly inspired by painting my wall just one color.

I thought of all the staging walls I’ve seen over the years and how some artists have ones that automatically identify them to the viewer because it is so distinctive. But these artists have a consistent style and I wanted to be able to do goth, industrial, modern, farmhouse, shabby chic, western, boho, eclectic, and more while not worrying my wall wouldn’t work with what I create.

I wanted the freedom to paint as I feel and I wanted the same for the wall I would create.

There was only one solution: create a faux wall that can be swapped out according to what would work best with the furniture I am staging at that time. I decided to do white wainscoting on the bottom because I love the two-tone look of elegant wainscoting and something colorful on top.

I purchased wall panels and the wainscoting from my home improvement store. I found a 4 x 8 white wall panel made of flexible plastic that was pretty lightweight. I then affixed strong velcro across the back of it and to the wall above the wainscoting. I did this so that I could create as many wall panels as I wanted while allowing for easy removal by simply peeling them off and putting up another one with the same velcro. It would allow me to experiment with a diverse range of wall designs, much like my furniture.

In my mind, there was never going to be a perfect wall that would work for everything I do. I was thrilled at the chance to finally paint all the walls I’ve been inspired by and wanted to create but couldn’t feasibly have all in my home. Yet, sometimes, this mom’s brain comes up with a brilliant idea once in a blue moon.

We set up my faux wall over my white wall with the velcro as I had planned. I used industrial velcro that is 2 in. wide and 15 ft. long. We cut the strips into lengths needed to cover the perimeter of the wall panel so it would be nice and flat against the wall.

It was like setting up a blank canvas on my wall. Now I could paint it as I chose as often as I chose. I could share a range of wall designs with everyone and not worry about it being a permanent fixture.

My excitement grew with all the ideas that swirled in mind. I couldn’t wait to begin.

Stay tuned for what I created with my new faux wall.