Experimenting with creative materials

Last year I shared many of my experiences using acrylics in art painting. I included information on choosing your art material, painting hints and tips, brushes and brush care, and a five part series on suitable surfaces for acrylics (part one, part two, part three, part four, part five).

Now, I would really like to centre my attention on experimenting with these creative materials.

So, let’s begin with the first step – base coating a surface. The basecoat is the fundament of any background. Before any painting effects and painting techniques are added you need to basecoat. This also applies to fine art and decorative art projects. In most cases the basecoat may not be visible when the work is finished, but it is the first layer of colour which support’s (in this case, visually) a completed work of art.

 But….before I start I want to go back a step, as I need to reiterate the most important issue before you begin base coating.


  1. Always prime your surface with Gesso or an appropriate Sealer. These products prevent paint from soaking through fibres, they save you on paint and they create a good tooth for your painting.
  2. Although some canvases come already primed, I still prefer to give them a couple of coats of Gesso using my own products. I never know what type or quality primer they have used.
  3. If you need to sand the surface (I prefer to sand almost all surfaces) always wear a mask to prevent dust inhalation.
  4. Always sand outside.
  5. If using MDF as your painting surface, it is really important that you prime all sides and edges of the board before sanding to help prevent any harmful chemicals from inhalation.
  6. Keep food and any food preparation areas separate from paints and brushes.

How to base coat after preparing a surface

As a decorative artist it is important to me that my base coating is smooth and even. I don’t like ridges in my work and I don’t want visible brush marks, unless they are intended to be part of a project which requires texture.

Here are some tips on base coating;

  • Several thin coats of paint will give a smoother finish than one thick one.
  • Brush on each subsequent coat in the opposite direction of the previous coat (first coat – side to side, second coat – top to bottom)
  • Use a good quality base coating brush (1 inch taklon brush should be sufficient).

Let’s begin base coating

Step 1.

Add water to your acrylic paint to thin it out a little, do this a little at a time until you have the right consistency, then brush on a coat. Allow to dry.

Step 2.

Sand lightly with a fine grit sandpaper to remove any ridges or lumps. Brush on a second coat. Allow to dry.

Step 3.

Sand using a very fine grit sandpaper then brush on a third coat and let it dry.

Three coats are usually sufficient when base coating, but this depends on the opaqueness of the paint you are using. If your surface is darker than the base coating paint colour, more coats may be required. There have been times I have applied countless amounts of coats just to achieve the desired finish I’m content with.

Always sand between each coat no matter how many are required. It’s worth the effort.


Now, you are ready to add the background to your surface.

I’ll be sharing some of my favourite background techniques later on in future posts.

Happy painting,


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