Preparing Surfaces For Airbrush – Part 2

As you may have noticed before when I wrote about surface preparation for airbrush I’ve added “part 1” into the title, so you may have expected it to continue. Last time it was about airbrush on metal surface. Today you’ll see how to prepare wood for airbrushing.

In matter of quality you need to seal the wood otherwise the paint will quickly discolor. If you want the grain to show you can use a clear sealer. If you require a flat, colored surface consider to use Gesso. It has been used for centuries as a painting base for a huge variety of mediums and has been proven as best by time. It is very comfortable to airbrush on.

I recommend to use a screen printer’s squeegee (or rubber spatula).

If you plan to make just some experimental painting you don’t have to seal the wood. Well, some artists don’t even use it in their professional work. Sealing the wood is optional, depends on what finish you are looking for. If you want to bring out the woodgrain and you can’t get clear sealer then do not seal, but if you need smooth (no woodgrain look) then you should seal it.

Airbrush on Wood Without Sealer

So the first step is to sand it. Start with 60 – 80 grit sandpaper, then move to 120 grit and finish it with 320 – 400 grit sandpaper. After sanding is done wipe it with a damp cloth (wiping with a wet cloth brings up the splinters left after sanding), if you find some, sand it again. The reason to do sanding few more times is to get rid of splinters from popping up when you apply the paint or stain. Then stain it with clear stain (it will bring out the woodgrain – of course if you want it), paint your art, then cover it with clear-coat. The only thing after this process is that you have to do a maintenance (If the art piece is designed to be kept outside you have to re-clear it once every year). This way even if you leave finished piece outside opened to all kinds of weather it won’t loose its look even after few years, guaranteed.

Airbrushing on Wood With Primer/Sealer

The sealer penetrates the wood, slowing stain absorbency for a more even color appearance and grain pattern. Good advice here will be to use sealer so called cellulose sanding sealer. I recommend to apply a few coats of this solution with smooth sanding and about 10 hours between each coat. Sanding sealer is prepared to penetrate the wood and fill up any tiny imperfections. The sealer leaves a smooth surface after sanding and will accept any paint on top of it.

DO NOT USE wax or oil based sealer as then nothing will adhere to this surface.

Why do we need any primer for our painting?

A primer/sealer paint seals the surface of wood so the paint does not soak into it. At the same time some of the natural oils in wood might react with the paint and cause it to discolor. Sealer provides you with even, glossy finish after the wood is painted. Todays primers are mostly water-based and dry very quickly.

I recommend to use a primer if the paint maker suggests it. You will achieve better looking and long-lasting results if you do so. Really professional result you’ll get when you lightly sand the primer before you apply the first coat of paint.

If it’s possible, try to coat the primer with a finish paint within 12 hours to have the best bond between these two coats. If you are intending to just spray it over in one color, sealing won’t matter too much.

Nitrocellulose lacquer

Is often used to paint guitars. One of the best clears you can find for wood is Deft nitrocellulose lacquer, you can get it at most hardware stores. It has a high solids content and brings out glassy smooth. I have written about nitrocellulose lacquer before and I called them NITROS.

This is everything I know about this topic as I have not done much art on wood. I hope somebody might add more info through the comments over time.

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