Applying multiple colors to a surface

  • By The Carey Brothers
  • Wednesday, September 1, 2010 8:29am
  • Life

For a long time, we searched for ways to paint multiple colors onto a single surface without that bleeding effect that ordinarily occurs with even the best painter’s tape is used to mask and separate the various colors.

We’ll use a cabinet door as an example, but practically anything that you paint in two colors can be done using the same technique.

To paint a plain, flat-faced cabinet door, use light paint for the base color, then paint a shape onto the face of the door using a slightly darker color. Note: Always paint on the lighter color first.

The process is surprisingly easy. In this example we will use two colors.

  • First, prepare all surfaces as you would for any other paint job. Medium sand or remove paint, putty pitted areas, medium sand again, clean with a rag and thinner, then a tack cloth, prime, and when completely dry, lightly sand to make ready for the finish coats. As we always say, “80 percent of the quality of a paint job is in the preparation.”
  • The first of the two colors will be the background paint, in this case, a lighter color. Thin the paint so it flows on smoothly. If brush marks can be seen in the paint a minute after it is applied, the paint is too thick. When paint is thinned properly, it feels like there are ball bearings between the paint brush and the surface being painted. If the brush grabs the surface, the paint isn’t thin enough.

    Don’t try to cover in one coat. The best jobs take two to three finish coats, each applied as a very thin layer. It is important that several days pass before the second color is applied. This is because it is imperative that the base coat be thoroughly dried before you employ our trick to make a perfect connection between the base coat and the second coat.

    Use masking tape to outline the area within which the second color will be applied.

    With the masking tape in place, brush the edge of the tape (on the edge that outlines the second color) with the first color. This will seal the edge of the tape to the surface (and any bleeding will be invisible). When the second color is applied, it will be impossible for bleeding to occur. The result will be a perfectly defined edge between the first and second colors and a great-looking two-tone paint job.

    Important: As soon as the second coat is complete, quickly remove the masking tape. Leaving the tape in place for an extended time might damage the previous coat.

    Undertake the project in a cool, dry place. Heat and moisture might bond the tape to the first coat and damage the surface.

    For best results, use blue painters’ masking tape.

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