PaintPRO, Vol. 8, No. 4
September 2006
PaintPRO, Vol 8 No 3

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Other articles in this issue:
Exterior Wood Primers
Interior Colors & Light Refraction
Choosing a Glaze
Painter: Mattingly Custom Finishes
Bidding on Fire Retardant Coatings
Technique: Stenciling Concrete
Toolbox: Extension Poles
Product Profile: CCFlex
Paint Industry News
Product News
PaintPRO Current Issue
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The Bellagio, Las Vegas

Choosing a glaze for Faux Finishing

Glazes create depth and texture on a wall. They are used by faux finishers to create aged, marbled or wood-grained textures. Most modern glazes are water-based, and they come with dryers and without.
by Elizabeth Gillette

While glazing is one of the oldest and most varied methods of faux finishing, it is also the one that has changed and grown the most in the past twenty years. New products and methods have made the technique more accessible and safer for faux finishers to use.

Janie Ellis, of Anything But Plain School of Decorative Finishing in Houston, defines a glaze as any medium in which tint is placed to give depth and texture to a finish. There are numerous techniques for applying glazes to give surfaces a huge variety of effects, such as aged, marbled, or wood-grained textures. A positive glaze is one in which layers of glaze are added. Negative glazes are more common, and involve adding and then removing or manipulating layers using various tools.

Barth White working on The Bellagio, Las VegasWhile oil-based glazes have been the standard for the past hundred years or so, relatively recent technology has produced water-based glazes. Oil-based glazes needed an additive such as linseed oil or kerosene to allow open time for manipulating the glaze into the desired effect. Water-based glazes do not need such ingredients. “So the biggest thing water-based glazes have done for the industry,” Ellis states, “is provide a safe interior environment for finishers to work in.”

With the advent of safer and easier products, the popularity of glazing as a technique has exploded. Barth White, of Barth's Faux Studio in Las Vegas, explains that knowing how to apply glazes comes down not to how creative you are, but to product knowledge. “Most students know all about textures and pattern, but not about glazing products and how to get these effects. And these days, glazes are 80 percent of the business — everything from wood grain finishes to mottling and everything else.”

The two main categories for glazes, he explains, are those with dryers, and those without.

Most glazes in stores have dryers in them. And this isn't bad, Barth says. These are extremely useful on days where you have to drive a long distance to a site and have only one day to do a job. In this situation you have to apply several coats in one day, and they need to dry quickly. A glaze with a dryer would be necessary to finish the job in the time available.

But when you are working on a very large wall and need more working time on a large section, a fast-drying glaze works against you. If you finish painting a section and want to go back, the longer it stays wet, the more malleable it will be. So picking the right glaze — with or without a dryer — is imperative.

If choosing a glaze without a dryer, Barth has found that most glazes without dryers require a four-to-one ratio, that is, four parts glaze and one part paint.

Barth White working on The Bellagio, Las VegasWhether or not to use a dryer also depends on how a glaze is being applied. If a painter is spraying it on, it will have a more uniform pattern and won't need to be manipulated, so using a dryer is fine. However, when working with your hands or when working over a substrate that is very porous, the drying time becomes quicker, so using a glaze without a dryer may be necessary.

Barth explains that the most important thing is to get a personal feel for what you are comfortable with. How big a section you like to work with will affect how quickly you want the glaze to dry, and of course what base you are working on will also have an effect. The base or substrate you are working on top of should be non-porous, which will give you the most working time possible. So if you are using a flat paint as a base or substrate, you will have little or no working time as compared to using an enamel paint of some sort, which gives you more working time. Also, for better durability, Barth recommends using 100 percent acrylic paint instead of vinyl.

Paint itself works as a dryer, so when used with a glaze that doesn't have a dryer, it slows the drying time. Barth recommends adding water to the paint. “I have found that adding up to 10 percent water makes the paint more pliable,” he says. Although the water dries faster than the glaze, it makes it easier to control and do what you want, so you don't have to work as hard.

Glazes for interior usesBarth offers his priority list when working with glazes. Color is the most important. If the colors don't work, it will never look right, he says. The base is the next most important, because you need something good to work on. He recommends that your base should be the lightest color, or a comparable color to your finish. Third is technique.

Once you have a grasp of how the products operate, learning how they affect techniques is next. Positive glazing, Barth explains, is great for adding specific or detailed colorful effects. In negative glazing, various tools like rags, torn paper and stipplers are common ways to create texture. “There are many ways to create unique finishes when you are doing a negative approach — it is limited only to your imagination,” Barth says. It all ties back to knowledge of glazes and knowing your product, he says.

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