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White Wash It!

Guest Author - Paula Devore

White wash, red wash, black wash, grey wash, chocolate wash. A wash in any color is still the same thing ... a change in the tone of the underlying color.

Tom Sawyer "whitewashed" the fence with a mixture of hydrated lime, table salt and water. The lime and salt (in this order) should be in approximately a 5 to 1 ratio. Water is added to make a mixture about the consistency of pancake batter. It can then be applied with an ordinary brush. This mixture can be appied to a wood or masonry surface and may last for many years. You must, however, be very careful when using lime in this manner. It can be caustic to the skin and should be kept out of the reach of children (Tom notwithstanding).

Washes are a great way to add character and interest to any wall, moulding, piece of furniture, kitchen cabinets or white picket fence. They are also fairly simple to do, providing you use the right tools and additives. I don't make much or a distinction between a wash, pickling or a glaze and prefer to use a more modern approach to my whitewashing, no matter what the color is to be.

The materials you will need include a latex paint in the color you want to use (a quart of the washing color will do all you will be doing, probably), a glazing medium such as Blend N Glaze from Zinnser or Flotrol, both available at most paint stores or paint departments in home centers.

Tools I assemble when I am getting ready to do a wash on a small item like furniture, cabinets or painted moulding are soft rags, disposable rubber gloves, some fine sandpaper (100 or 120 or higher number), a good quality latex brush and usually some medium to large-sized artist's brushes for getting into corners and grooves. You will also need a bucket or paint tray to mix the wash (or glaze) in and a small bucket for clean water.

Next you have to decide just how you want the finished project to look. For a true whitewashed or pickled look, clean the surface of the object thoroughly and dry. Sand lightly. You can basecoat the object in a little darker version of the final color you want to see if the present color is unsuitable or worn. Let dry thoroughly.

When you are sure the object is dry, put about 1/2 of the amount of paint you think you will be using into the paint tray or bucket. Add the Flotrol or glazing medium - about 1/2 of the amount of the paint and the same amount of water as glazing medium. Mix well. Don't make too much; it goes a long way. You can easily mix up some more if you need it.

Now you are ready to begin! With the brush, apply a thin coat of the glazing to the object. If it is in sections, complete one section at a time. As soon as you finish applying the glaze, begin wiping it back slightly with a clean dry rag until you achieve the look you want. If you wipe off too much, just reapply the glaze and wipe off again.

If you want to see less of the basecoat and more of the glaze color, you can allow it to dry and apply again. When you are happy with the look, just quit. For a shabby chic look, you can sand off some of the paint on the edges and any carved areas. And if you like a more casual look, the wash coat can be left uneven.

When you have completed all sections, you may want to put a protective finish such as Minwax Polyacrylic (waterbased finish) or a good quality polyurethane or varnish over the whole project. If you are doing cabinets, I would recommend polyurethane. Varnish will yellow slightly over time and create a patena. Not a good idea over a true white-colored wash, but can be a nice touch on an antique piece.

Get creative and think about combinations of basecoat and wash color that will give an interesting look. How about one of the following:

Basecoat------------------------Wash Color

Light Sage Green----------------Dark Sage green
Baby Blue-----------------------Navy Blue
Sunny Yellow--------------------Burnt Sienna (rich red-brown)
Chocolate-----------------------Black
Chocolate-----------------------Light Pink
Orange--------------------------Lime Green--WOW!!!
Red-----------------------------Metallic Gold

You get the idea - go wild and have fun. You can work first on a small piece of scrap board and practice your technique until you are happy with the look.

Speaking of practicing, you can purchase the colors you want to try out in acrylic bottle colors and proceed as above. They are inexpensive and will mix well with your glaze medium. A great way to practice!

Happy Painting!

Paula Devore
Painting Editor

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Content copyright © 2014 by Paula Devore. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Paula Devore. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christine Sharbrough for details.

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