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How to Prepare Wood Surfaces with Acrylic Basecoats

How to Prepare Wood Surfaces with Acrylic Basecoats

Through the years, I have often been asked about how to properly prepare a wood surface; or how to smoothly apply  basecoats.  Do I need to use sandpaper?  Should I sand my surface first or after painting a basecoat?  Today, I thought I would share a little Wood Surface Prep 101 with you to help you create projects with professional looking results!

Let's begin with ... What is sandpaper?  Sandpaper as we know it today is made of these three components:  paper or fabric backing, grit, and the adhesive to hold the two together.  When rubbed against a surface, sandpaper will smooth rough areas.  Sandpaper can be purchased as flat paper in many sizes, in rolls or belts,

 and it is often found made as a hand held block, disc or sponge.  Did you know that when sandpaper was first made in the 13th century it was made of crushed shells, seeds and sand.  In the 1800's it was made from finely crushed glass particles and was known as glass paper!  Since then, sandpaper has improved greatly and is made for many different types of surfaces.

When choosing sandpaper for your crafting projects, be sure to choose the best grit for your surface.  "What is grit?"  The number of abrasive particles per inch of sandpaper is the grit.  Grit is measured by how coarse or fine the material is.  The higher the grit, the smoother the sandpaper.  A lower number means the sandpaper is more coarse.  "How can I tell what grit my sandpaper is?"  The grit number is usually identified on the backside of the paper and is always identified on the packaging. 

Come follow along with me and I'll share with you how I was taught to prepare a wood surface to achieve that desired professional finish!  I gathered a wood plaque, a sanding block, a 3/4" Flat brush and FolkArt Titanium White acrylic paint.

Let's take a close up look at the raw wood plaque.  Can you see the rough surface on the routed edges?  When preparing a wooden surface prior to painting, staining or stenciling, I highly recommend sanding your surface first to smooth those rough edges.   

 "How should I sand using sandpaper?"  I always recommend sanding in the same direction of the wood grain.  Never sand against the grain.  When sanding, always use light pressure until you get the feel of how much pressure is needed to smooth the surface.  In most cases, I use a fine grit sandpaper to smooth and prepare my wood surface prior to painting or staining.  Be careful not to use paper that is too coarse or use too heavy pressure as this may mar or scratch the wood surface.  For this sanding demonstration, I am using a sanding sponge.  I find them easy to use, fit well in my hand and will bend around curves or routed edges.  When sanding is complete, wipe your surface with a moistened paper towel or tack rag to remove sanding dust.

You are now ready to apply a smooth even coat of your desired basecoat color, (again I am using FolkArt Titanium White).  Shake the paint well and squeeze a small amount onto your palette.  Stroke the bristles of the 3/4" flat brush into the paint puddle and begin painting the prepared wood surface.  I suggest painting following the wood grain direction.  I will paint the entire surface ... routed edges and all with Titanium White.  I'll clean my brush and allow the basecoat to dry.

When dry, the surface may feel rough.  Painting a wood surface with water-based paints most likely will dry very rough as the moisture in the paints will raise the grain of the wood.  Check out the close up of the wood plaque photo below.  You can see the texture and know by looking at it that it would feel rough.

No worries ... grab your trusty piece of sandpaper and have at it once more time using light pressure!

After sanding the rough basecoat, your wood surface may look like this .....

And now it is time to reapply the basecoat color once more.  This will glide over the sanded smooth wood surface!  Allow to dry and VOILA!  You now have a properly prepared, smooth surface that is ready for anything ... painting, stenciling, mixed media, stamping and even decoupage ... the sky is the limit!

NOTE:  Remember to always sand with caution.  While sanding a wood surface, tiny particles of wood and sandpaper may fly into the air that can be inhaled or ingested.  You may wish to wear a pair of safety goggles and/or a mask for your protection. 

Sometimes, I even use an electric sander to shorten the prep time especially when I am prepping a large crafting surface such as a big sign or a piece of furniture.  For beginner crafters, however, I recommend sanding by hand. 

I hope that this tutorial on how to properly prepare a wood surface for crafting and this Sanding 101 has helped you.  Be inspired, be encouraged and be energized to take the time to properly prepare your wood surfaces before crafting your masterpieces!  Remember the finishing touches are always important but so are the beginning steps!

Posted: 6/10/2014 7:06:00 AM by LEAP | with 1 comments
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Ray Wellman
I'm just getting back into acrylic painting after many years of drawing/color penciling and digital graphic design. Thank you for the overview! Touched on pretty much everything I already knew but it never hurts to keep researching! I enjoyed how thorough this tutorial was, even a beginner can follow these instructions and have a great product to start with. I especially liked that you addressed sanding back the 'raised grain.' Again, thanks! Ray of Trys10Studios
6/12/2017 7:10:46 AM

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