Prepping Surfaces

Margaret Riley painting basics


By Margaret Riley

When you are a beginner painter, you want to know many things. We try to gear toward beginners and intermediates in this publication plus encourage those who don’t paint to give it a try! It’s a rewarding hobby and a great way to give a gift to someone that has everything!

Many ask how to start on a surface. I’ll try to give you ideas for prepping various surfaces. Prepping means that you have to cover the “raw” surface in order for the background paint to adhere well. Most importantly, you have to choose the correct paint. If it is a cheap paint, it is going to give you a poor finish and appearance. The condition of any surface to be applied to is very important. In fact, a large percentage of premature coatings fail due to improper or incomplete surface preparation. It takes time, but it must be done.

Your first step is to wash and rinse the surface, if it can tolerate water (obviously wood cannot!). Surfaces such as metals, glass, plastic, laminates will need a detergent or a cleaning solution to remove oil, grease, dirt, etc.

Next you will sand the surface, except glass, to add a “tooth” for the prep paint to adhere. If there is unwanted rust, sand it well and spray on a clear varnish to ward off future rusting. You can use tools like wire brushes, sanding blocks, stiff bristle brushes, paint scrapers, and putty knives to aide in loosening materials present on your surface. Always, always wipe off any sanding dust with a tack cloth or a slightly damp cloth.

Glass should be rinsed in rubbing alcohol or white vinegar. These solutions will remove oily finger prints. I have done the same on smooth tin surfaces as well.

When I prep wood, I put on Gesso or an acrylic coat of paint in the background color. Allow it to dry thoroughly. You can use a hair dryer to speed up drying time, if desired. I use a fine grit sanding block to sand the surface smooth. The Gesso and the paint will bring up the grain in the wood, so the sanding will smooth it down. Continue with another layer of paint, no more sanding needed!

If you find a layer of wax on your surface, use rubbing alcohol and a lint free rag to remove it. Do not sand off the wax. Be persistent…the wax will thin down to nothing.

Some pieces may have to be patched with wood filler. There is a filler for metal, too. Just ask your local hardware person. They are more educated on that than I am.

Don’t stress over the prepping. Just clean, sand, and wipe clean. Easy peasy! And you can always research how to prep your surface on the internet.

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