outdoor photo shoots.

With Spring officially here (and possibly even actually here, I do have a few things starting to come up in my gardens), I’m realizing that I’m really looking forward to returning to outdoor photo shoots this year.

Last year around this time I was feeling really insecure about my outdoor photos.  I had read something online that was critical of the idea of taking your furniture photos outside.  The writer suggested that you should always stage your furniture in spots that show how it could actually be used and that outdoor photos were ‘unprofessional.’

I immediately thought to myself ‘oh man, I’ve been doing it wrong all this time’, ‘I need to change what I’m doing to meet professional standards’ … which led to those inevitable feelings of ‘my work is inferior’ and ‘I don’t measure up.’

I started trying to think of ways I could set up better indoor photos year round.

I do have my photo cottage for summer photo shoots …

But it is in dire need of a fresh paint job, plus I can never quite get the lighting right in there.  Also, it’s small, so I have limited ability to shoot the piece from different angles other than straight on.

I also have the one blank wall in my house that I can stage for furniture photos …

It works great in the winter.  However, we have a lot of trees in our yard and in summer when they leaf out this spot is no longer filled with natural light.

I’d even thought about setting up a spot in my carriage house for summer ‘indoor’ photo shoots.

This spot seemed like it would be ideal because it has an authentic ship-lap style wall, and that concrete floor has a cool industrial vibe.  The lighting all comes from the side, but maybe I could work with that.  But in the end, the one thing that drove me crazy was the fact that the ship-lap is not level with the floor.  So my photos all end up looking crooked.  I can either make the furniture level or the ship-lap level, not both.

Finally I simply came to the conclusion that maybe outdoor photos were OK after all.  I mean seriously you guys, when am I going to learn to follow my own instincts and ignore the naysayers?

There really is something about outside photos that appeals to me.  Maybe it’s that unexpected juxtaposition of an outside setting with some inside furniture.

Or maybe it’s just that I enjoy working outside in any capacity when I have the chance.  Our summer season is so darn short here in Minnesota, so I like to enjoy it while I can.

I do realize that I’m lucky to have an awesome leafy, green background to take advantage of, not to mention a giant Limelight hydrangea to use as a backdrop.

In the end, outdoor photos work great for me.  So I thought I’d share a few q-tips with all of you on how to get the best outdoor photos.

Early morning or late evening light is best.  Photographers call the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset the ‘golden hour’, the light is softer than at other times of day and you can get a beautiful glow on your subject, whatever it might be.

You can shoot outside at mid-day if you’re in full shade, or if it’s an overcast day.

However, you should avoid direct sunlight which creates harsh shadows.

Dappled shade can be a problem too.

 If shooting in dappled shade try to make sure that your piece itself is mostly in shade.  Or ask your neighbor to come over and hold up a large golf umbrella just out of frame to throw some shade on your piece (nnK comes in really handy for this).

By the way, all of these tips work great for portrait photography too.  So the next time you want to get a good family photograph keep them in mind.

I’m looking forward to embracing ‘outdoor photo shoot season’ again this year.

How about you?

porous on purpose.

Gardening season isn’t quite here yet in Minnesota, but it’s just around the corner.  It’s definitely time to start prepping your supplies and getting ready to plant.

Today I have a sort of mixed bag of successes and failures to share with you.  It all started when I saw a YouTube video on how to whitewash terracotta pots using Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint by Karla from Vintage Hip Decor.

I immediately thought it would be fun to take it one step further and add graphics to my pots using Fusion’s transfer gel.

So, let’s start at the beginning.  I pulled out a bunch of clay pots from my workshop.  Some were newer looking than others, and some still had dirt in them.  So my first step was to clean out the pots.

I purchased this awesome pot brush at a garage sale last summer.

It works great for removing crusty dirt from inside your pot.  Once that was done, I also scrubbed any dirt off the outside of my pots using plain hot water.  Keep in mind that clay pots can absorb soap or other cleaning products that you might use on them and that isn’t good if you’re going to actually put plants in them.

Next I followed Karla’s technique and I whitewashed all of the pots with Miss Mustard Seed’s milk paint in Farmhouse White.

I’m not going to give step by step instructions for this, but instead I’ll encourage you to take a look at Karla’s video (here).  It was super simple and I love the results.

Next I printed out some reverse image graphics to use on my pots.

I’ve done transfers using Fusion’s Transfer Gel before.  You can find more info on that plus a printable version of instructions in this post.

I’ve even had success putting them on clay pots before.  That “Grains” pot shown above is one I did a couple of years ago.  But for some reason, most of mine did not turn out this time.  If I scrubbed hard enough to remove the paper, it also removed the design itself.  Out of about 10 pots, only three worked out well enough for me to keep them.  FYI – on the rejects I was easily able to scrub off the entire mess using a plastic scrubby.

I was on the fence about calling the one shown above a ‘keeper’.  It’s on the border line, but I do love a distressed look.

This next one is my favorite …

I went a little heavier with the paint on that pot, and the transfer worked fairly well.  I don’t necessarily think it was the extra paint that caused the transfer to work better, but maybe?

Since I had such a fail with the gel transfers, I thought I’d give you another option for decorating clay pots and that’s to use the Prima Marketing French Pots transfers instead.

That lower pot on the left has a French Pot transfer on it.

They are gorgeous, and they go on much easier and more quickly than a gel transfer.  However, they are not as cost effective since you have to buy each one.  They come in sets of three and I’ve seen them for around $12 on amazon with free shipping, so around $4 per pot (just google ‘Prima Marketing French Pots transfers’ to find them online).  It’s not going to break the bank to purchase them, and it might save you a lot of frustration.

One last caution for you.  I consider all of these pots to be ‘decorative’.  In other words, I doubt they would hold up well outdoors or with a live plant inside.  Clay pots are porous on purpose.  Using a porous pot for your plants helps prevent over watering because excess water will leach through the pot.  However, that moisture coming from behind will compromise the paint and both styles of transfer.

If you do want to use the pots for real plants, I suggest keeping your plant in a plastic liner pot.

Take the liner pot and plant out of your clay pot to water it.  Let it drain, and then put it back in the clay pot.

The pots would look amazing just stacked on a bench or in a cupboard too.  You could also mingle them with some plain pots that have plants in them.

Do you have any tips about using painted clay pots to share?  If so, be sure to leave a comment.

the industrial mechanics tables.

Don’t let the green grass in this ‘before’ photo fool you.  No, it has not suddenly become summer here.  Last weekend while I was writing this post we had a solid layer of white (well, sort of white, and sort of brown from that Texas dust that blew in) snow on the ground, although it has melted again now.  The snow may be gone again, but things are only just starting to look green.

But I purchased this pair of tables at a garage sale last summer and I took a quick ‘before’ photo of them when I got them home.

I then put them in the photo cottage last fall along with a few other smaller pieces thinking I’d get to them over the winter.  Then they got snowed in.  I had a 4′ snow drift in front of the cottage and neither Mr. Q or I had any intention of shoveling that out just to get to some furniture to paint.

I’ll be honest, I only purchased the tables because they were ridiculously cheap.  I think I paid $10 each, or maybe it was $10 total.  I don’t remember for sure.  I considered it a bit of a gamble though, because I wasn’t sure if I could change them up enough to make them marketable.

Initially I was going to go for a feminine look.  Paint them white and add a floral transfer to the tops.  But as I was going through my stash of transfers I came across Prima Marketing’s Industrial Mechanics transfer.

This transfer comes on three sheets.  I had used just part of one of them on a metal roller skate case …

So I had two full sheets plus part of a 3rd left.  Each full sheet fit the top of a table pretty well.  They didn’t go all the way to the edge, but I thought I could make that work by painting the tables a dark color.

I wasn’t sure how the transfer would look over dark paint though, so I was glad I had that scrap of the 3rd sheet to use in an experiment.

I pulled out some Dixie Belle paint in Gravel Road which is a deep, rich grey.  Then I grabbed an old board out of the workshop and painted it.  Once dry I added a section of transfer, sanded it lightly to distress and then finished it with The Real Milk Paint Co’s Finishing Cream.

I wanted to make sure that the transfer would look good over the Gravel Road, and also that it would look good with a durable, washable topcoat over it since they would be on a table top.  The sample board turned out great, so I knew I was good to go with this more masculine look for the tables.

I followed my usual m.o.   Light sanding, followed by cleaning and then painting.  I used two watered down coats of the Gravel Road.  Next I sanded the tops lightly with 220 grit just to smooth them out a little.  I vacuumed away the dust and wiped them with a dry microfiber cloth to be sure they were mostly dust free.  Then I applied the transfer.  Both went on easily and once they were down I even burnished them lightly with the same microfiber cloth to make sure I removed any air bubbles.

So far, so good.  Everything looked great.

But then I decided to sand the transfers lightly to distress the edges a little, again with the 220 grit paper.  Sure enough, I pulled up a chunk of one of the transfers.  See it there on the right toward the lower corner?


This is the second time this has happened to me with one of the full image transfers (a full image transfer is one where the transfer is one solid sheet).  Both times I was applying the transfer over unsealed chalk style paint.  I have not had this happen when using a full image transfer over Fusion Mineral Paint.  I touched on this briefly in Monday’s post about the different kinds of paint that I use.  I recently heard someone recommend sealing chalk paint with a water based topcoat before adding a transfer to improve adhesion (just be sure not to use wax, you can’t add a transfer over a freshly waxed surface).

The more I thought about it, the more that made sense to me.  The Fusion paint has a built in top coat.  If you’ve ever worked with these paints, you’ll know that when freshly dry the Fusion feels a bit more tacky.  Not tacky in a bad way, but it has more gripping power than freshly sanded chalk paint, which feels sort of chalky and dry.

I haven’t tried this yet myself, but I wanted to pass on this tip in case any of you have had similar problems using a full image transfer over chalk paint.

Luckily the background paint under my transfer was very close to the background color of the transfer, so my boo boo isn’t a glaring problem.  In addition, the overall distressed looks of the tables helps it blend in as well.

I think these transfers would look amazing over black, but I like them over the dark grey.

This would be a fun look for bedside tables in a boy’s room.

I set the tables up in my living room to stage some photos of them.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that they were the perfect size to pair with my sectional.

Plus the Gravel Road worked perfectly with my new wall color.  So now I’m thinking I might just keep them.

It’s funny since I purchased them long before I had this sectional, and I certainly never thought I would be keeping them.  But for $10, why not?

Thanks to Dixie Belle Paint Co and Prima Marketing for sponsoring this post with free product.

what kind of paint should I use on furniture?

Every once in a while someone asks me that question.  I imagine that they expect a simple one or two sentence answer.  But no, there isn’t a simple one product fits all answer.  There are so many things to consider such as what sort of surface are you painting?  How much money do you want to spend?  What look do you want to achieve?  How durable does it need to be?  How much experience do you have?  Is environmental safety important to you?  How about protecting yourself and your family from harmful toxins?  All of these factors and more go into choosing which paint or other finishes to use, and the answer is not going to be the same for every project or every painter.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you’ll have noticed that I am not totally loyal to just one brand or type of paint.  I love to use milk paint, but I also use chalk paint all the time.  I often use Fusion’s acrylic paint too.  And sometimes I even use spray paint, but shhhh, let’s let that one be our little secret.  In the spirit of full disclosure, several different brands provide me with free product including Fusion Mineral Paint, Dixie Belle Paint Co, Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint, Homestead House Milk Paint and the Real Milk Paint Co.  However, I make no promises to any of these paint brands other than that I will try their product and I will blog about my experience and opinions.  Good or bad.  None of them pay me to promote their product, and I also don’t make any money from sales of any of these products.

I like it that way.  I don’t want to feel obligated to promote a product just because they pay me.  And more importantly, I don’t want to be limited to using just one paint line.

So, let’s compare, shall we?

Milk paint.  There are multiple milk paint lines out there, Miss Mustard Seeds, Homestead House, The Real Milk Paint Co and Sweet Pickins just to name a few.  When I say ‘milk paint’ I am referring to the casein (the protein found in milk) based milk paint that comes in powder form and you mix it with water yourself.  Milk paint is safe for both you and the environment.  It is a non-toxic, zero VOC product.

When I use it:  I use milk paint when I want to get a chippy, vintage farmhouse style finish.  It gives that ‘aged in a barn for 80 years’ sort of look.  In my opinion, a good chippy milk paint finish looks more authentic than a distressed chalk paint or acrylic paint job.  This is my personal favorite ‘look’ for furniture.  I have 17 pieces of furniture in my own home that are painted with milk paint, so it’s safe to say that I really love this stuff.

Prep required:  It really pays to do at least some minimal prep on all of your pieces, but it’s especially important when using milk paint.  By minimal prep I mean a light scuff sanding followed by cleaning with a degreaser such as TSP Substitute or Krud Kutter kitchen degreaser.  This prep will just take 15 to 20 minutes and is a great investment of your time.  Specifically with milk paint, proper prep will help control how much chipping you get.  Milk paint will chip when the surface you are painting ‘resists’ the paint.  A waxy/oily/shiny surface will resist the paint.  The amount of prep you do can give you some control over that.  Then again, if you’re OK with a massively chippy look, go ahead and roll the dice by skipping the prep (as I did with the chair shown above which is painted in Miss Mustard Seeds Aviary).

Topcoat options:  Technically you don’t have to put a topcoat over milk paint.  Several of my pieces painted in milk paint do not have one including my Specimens Cupboard.  I painted this piece two years ago and it still looks fantastic.

 I especially like the look of the lighter milk paint colors without a topcoat (although I prefer the look of the darker colors with a topcoat).  Over time the milk paint will harden making it fairly durable, however, milk paint without a topcoat is not water resistant or washable.  To achieve that you have to add a topcoat.  Recommended topcoats include hemp oil, wax or poly.  I love using The Real Milk Paint Co’s Dead Flat finishing cream over milk paint when I want a washable surface.

It barely changes the color of the milk paint, adds just the tiniest bit of sheen, is washable after 3 days and is easy to apply.

Cons:  Milk paint can be tricky to use.  It has a higher learning curve than other paints.  You have to mix it yourself and it takes a little practice to get the right consistency.  Making sure the pigments are well blended can also be dicey.  The color can be inconsistent, not only just from package to package, but even within one mixed cup of paint, especially with the green shades.  You have to pay attention and keep your paint well mixed as you are using it because some pigments are heavier than others and will settle to the bottom of your paint container.  Whether or not you get a chippy finish can also be difficult to control and/or predict.

Pros: When it works right, milk paint can’t be beat for providing an authentic looking chippy finish!  I also find this to be one of the easiest paints to apply from a purely physical stand point.  It’s thinner than other paints and it just takes less hand strength to actually paint it on.  I’m having a little trouble explaining this the way I want to, but there is a noticeable difference when you switch from painting something in chalk paint to painting with milk paint.  The brush feels lighter in your hand and you don’t have to work so hard to apply it.  Does that make sense?  In addition, the thin consistency of this paint pretty much eliminates brush strokes and allows you to add multiple layers of paint without adding unwanted texture.  I also enjoy creating my own custom colors with this paint.  True, you can do that with other paints too, but somehow it’s more fun adding various powders to water and watching it turn into paint.  Another plus to milk paint is that although the mixed paint has a limited shelf life, the powder itself has an indefinite shelf life if kept dry in an air tighter container (I keep my opened bags of milk paint in a Rubbermaid container).

Find Miss Mustard Seeds Milk Paint retailers here.

Chalk style paint.

I think we all know that the list of paint manufacturers who have jumped on the chalk paint bandwagon is long.  Actually I think I read somewhere that Annie Sloan has trademarked the term “chalk paint” so all of the others tend to call themselves things like “chalky paint” or “chalk mineral paint”, but I don’t know for sure if that is true.  I’ve been using the Dixie Belle brand of chalk mineral paint for a couple of years now and I really love it.  This brand of chalk paint is non-toxic and has zero VOC’s.

When I use it: I use chalk paint when I want a matte distressed finish, and I don’t want to worry about chipping or adhesion issues.  If I’m going to paint vinyl, such as a chair or a suitcase, I get the best results with chalk style paint.  Also, when painting something black my top choice is Dixie Belle’s Caviar or Midnight Sky with a wax top coat.  This combo just creates the most delicious looking finish with minimal brush strokes.  Dixie Belle’s Midnight Sky was perfect for my baby grand piano.

Prep required: You know what?  I’m going to say the same thing for every kind of paint.  It really pays to do minimal prep on your pieces.  By minimal prep I mean that light scuff sanding following by cleaning with a degreaser.  Many brands of chalk paint (including Dixie Belle) say that no prep is required, but I beg to differ.  If you run into a particularly waxy or oily surface you will wish you had taken the time to do minimal prep.

Topcoat options:  The Dixie Belle chalk paint does not require a topcoat.  However, the finish will be very flat and chalky looking without a topcoat, so if you want even just a little bit of sheen you’ll need to topcoat it.  For that reason I sometimes avoid using chalk paint on large pieces and also on areas that are more difficult to wax (like the inside of a cupboard for example).

Cons:  Um.  Yeah.  I can’t really think of any except what I mentioned above about topcoats.  You’ll need that extra step (and expense) of a topcoat if you want some sheen to your piece.

Pros:  This stuff is kind of a no-brainer.  Once you know the basics, you really shouldn’t run into to many problems using chalk paint.  Therefore, this is a great choice for a beginner painter.  The color will generally be consistent.  It’s easy to distress.  You can even just use a damp paper towel to distress chalk paint.  It adheres well to almost any surface including metal and fabric.  It is self-leveling and if you water it down a little you won’t have any issues with brush strokes.

Find Dixie Belle paint retailers here.

Acrylic paint.

Fusion Mineral Paint and General Finishes Milk Paint (a misnomer) are both acrylic paints.  I’ve been using Fusion paint for years.  I’m super impressed with this company’s commitment to providing products that are safe for both the painter and the environment.  Their Tones for Tots line underwent rigorous testing to be sure it was suitable for use on children’s furniture.  Needless to say, this paint also has zero VOC’s and is non-toxic.

When I use it: First and foremost, I use Fusion when I’m feeling kind of lazy.  It is hands down the easiest of these products to use.  Here are the instructions; open jar, paint, let dry.  OK, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration.  You should do the same minimal prep that I recommend for every paint job when using Fusion paint, a light sanding and cleaning of your piece will do.  But from there it really is that simple. I tend to choose Fusion for large pieces that I don’t want to have to wax.  It’s perfect for the insides of cabinets, and I also like to use it on surfaces that need to be especially durable like the shelving in my living room. I also love to use Fusion on mid-century pieces that I am not going to distress.  Their Park Bench (the green shown below) is perfect for mid-mod pieces.

Cons:  The finish with Fusion is just a tad shinier than a waxed (or oiled) milk or chalk paint finish.  I hate to even use that word ‘shinier’ because it’s still not shiny by any stretch of the imagination.  It’s just not as matte as the other two.  So if you’re looking for a really matte finish, you might not like the sheen. Fusion is also a little more challenging to distress.  It can be done, but it takes a little more elbow grease.  Distressed acrylic paint looks a bit like distressed latex.  The paint sort of peels away rather than coming away as a powder like chalk or milk paint.  This really is a fine distinction though and won’t matter to most painters.

Pros: Fusion can definitely be the cheapest way to go, mainly because you don’t need to also purchase a topcoat.  Not requiring a topcoat also saves you some time/labor since you can skip that step.  Fusion is also fully washable once cured.  That makes it a great choice for items going to a home with small children.  Fusion also provides an ideal surface for transfers.  Of course, you can put transfers over chalk paint and milk paint too, but in my experience they adhere best over Fusion.  I have heard some transfer retailers recommend sealing a milk or chalk painted piece with a water based sealer first, then add the transfer in order to improve the adhesion of the transfer.  Fusion is water resistant, so it’s also a great choice for pieces that might be exposed to water on a regular basis like a bathroom vanity or a metal toolbox that you might use as a planter.

Find Fusion retailers here.

Spray paint.

All of my previous selections are environmentally sound, non-toxic, zero VOC products.  In general I stick with that type of product.  I do a lot of painting, so I try to be cognizant of what I’m exposing myself and Mr. Q to on a regular basis.  I also do a lot of indoor painting in the winter, so I need products that are safe and relatively odor free.  But I do have a confession to make.  Every once in a while I pull out the spray paint.  I will only spray outside though, so this is definitely not a winter friendly choice for me.  But if I’m going to paint wicker, cane, or something like a basket, I’ll spray paint it simply to save time and effort.

One of my favorite tricks is to spray paint the cane on a piece first and then go over that with the paint I’ll be using on the rest of the item so that it matches.  I used this approach with my cane dining room chairs.

So, yes, spray paint does have its place.

I hope this post gave you some good information on the different types of paint available.  Be sure to pin it for future reference!

But now I’m curious, what kind of paint will you be using on your next project and why?  Be sure to leave a comment!


cumulus & thunder.

You know how they say April showers bring May flowers?  Well, how about April snow, sleet and freezing rain?  That’s what we had here yesterday and I felt so sorry for the vendors at Junk Bonanza.  I hope they still had a great showing!

Last Saturday we also had a few of those April showers, but it was too warm for snow or ice.  That made it the ideal weather for a visit to the American Swedish Institute with Mr. Q, my sister and my niece.

The American Swedish Institute is housed in the Turnblad Mansion which was built between 1904 and 1908 for Swan and Christina Turnblad.  Swan Turblad made his fortune in the newspaper business and by making good investments.  Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, ‘The family moved into their new home in 1908.  While it was their official residence, they spent most of their time living in an apartment across the street after 1915.  After Turnblad’s wife died in 1929, he and his daughter moved into the apartment full-time and turned their former home into a museum.’

That kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?  Swan was descended from generations of Swedish farmers.  Perhaps having come from such humble beginnings he felt out of place in such a massive home.  Or maybe the house was simply too large to heat well during cold Minnesota winters.  I don’t know, I couldn’t find an explanation as to why they didn’t live in the mansion much.

 It definitely has a foreboding appearance in the gloom though, don’t you think?  It reminds me a bit of the Haunted Mansion in Disney World …

Maybe that’s the real reason the Turnblad’s didn’t inhabit it for long, it’s haunted!

Currently (through April 28) the ASI is exhibiting surreal photography by Swedish photographer/visual artist Erik Johansson.  If you are local you really should try to get there to see this exhibit.  There are some amazing, thought-provoking pieces like this one called The Cover-Up.

Actually, pretty much every piece is amazing.  I loved this one called Leap of Faith.

If you look closely at the yellow diamond sign on the staircase, it says ‘one balloon p.p.’.  Don’t we all feel a little bit like that some days as we head off to work with our briefcase in hand and our one allotted balloon?  Or is it just me?

My sister really liked a piece called Impact.

They were showing a short video explaining how Johannson creates his art (here’s a link if you’d like to watch the video for this piece).  There is far more work behind these images than I realized.

As we were wandering around the exhibit there were moments when I couldn’t decide what I should be looking at, the photography or the mansion itself.

I was torn between looking up at the beautiful ceilings …

or checking out some of the 11 tile stoves imported from Sweden …

But in the end it was definitely the thought-provoking art that drew my eye.

 I was totally fascinated by a piece called Demand & Supply.

Take a closer look at what is happening in that photo.  Those backhoes are digging away at the very precarious structure that is holding up that entire city above.  It definitely makes you pause for a moment to consider the implications.

I’ll leave you with this charming photo called Cumulus & Thunder.

I guess this explains where all of those clouds came from last weekend!

I’m sure glad they were there though because we had a really enjoyable time at the ASI.  I’m not sure we would have chosen to go there had it been a gorgeous, sunny, spring day.

Be sure to check out Erik Johansson’s website to see more of his work (and definitely some better images of his photos than that ones I took above).  And if you are local and you’re looking for something to do while the snow melts this weekend, I highly recommend checking out this exhibit before it closes at the end of the month.

do as I say, not as I do.

I always joke that I like to learn things the hard way.  But really, that isn’t too far off the mark.  Over the years I have accumulated a fair amount of knowledge about painting furniture that was mostly acquired by making mistakes and then learning from them.

I know there are other (and most would say better) ways to learn, such as taking a class or workshop.  I’ve taken a couple of workshops in my day too.  They are absolutely great for learning the basics, but you can’t learn every last detail in the space of just a few hours.  Another way to learn is by reading blogs like mine.  We make the mistakes so that you don’t have to!

In the long run, experience ultimately comes from practicing, trying things out, and yes, making mistakes.

So today I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned by making mistakes.

No. 1 – Do not apply a furniture transfer over freshly applied wax.

I wanted to use dark wax over bare wood on this piano stool seat to add some color.  For some reason, I thought I needed to wax before adding the transfer.  Big mistake.  The rubbing motion that you use to apply a transfer creates friction, friction creates heat, heat turns freshly applied wax and the adhesive of the transfer into a sticky gooey mess.  I simply couldn’t get any more of that transfer to adhere to the stool.

By the way, this experience also taught me that it’s fairly difficult to remove a transfer too.  Even though parts of this transfer wouldn’t adhere at all, the parts that did adhere were stuck down good.  I tried using mineral spirits and a scrubbing pad and after lots of elbow grease I only got this far …

The fix.

I broke out the orbital sander and sanded the entire seat down to bare wood.  Then I stained the stool top to give it some color.  Next, I added the transfer, followed by wax.  It turned out beautifully.

A little sidebar:  I refinished that stool in March 2018, long before I painted my piano black.  Then I sold it.  Kicking myself now because this stool would be perfect with my now black piano!  I’ll be on the hunt for another like it while garage saling this summer.

q tip:  If you decide you simply must have a transfer on your piece but you’ve already waxed it, you will need to wait 30 days for the wax to cure before adding the transfer.  Or you could remove the wax with mineral spirits, but who wants to go down that road?


No. 2 – Do not use Color Change Wood Filler when painting a piece with milk paint.

This is the Elmer’s Carpenter’s Color Change Wood Filler.  It goes on purple and when it turns white you know that it’s dry.  The packaging says it is paintable and stainable.  So it seemed like a reasonable choice at the time.  The problem is, because milk paint is much thinner (ie. more watery) than other paints it turns the filler back to purple!  I suspect this might happen with chalk style paints too, but I’ve never tried it.

I used it on a desk that I was painting with Miss Mustard Seeds Marzipan.  Not only did the paint turn purple, but I then tried sealing it with Tough Coat and repainting, but the purple still bled thru that too (keep in mind that Tough Coat is not intended to seal bleed thru, I just thought I’d try it).

The fix.

Since it was summer, I used some spray paint primer to block the purple bleed thru.  Then I repainted the entire side of the desk with the Marzipan.


No. 3 – Do not use the Prima Marketing Décor stamps with ink over milk or chalk paint without a topcoat.

This pair of nightstands were perfect for trying out the Decor Stamps.  However, I had painted them with milk paint and hadn’t added a top coat yet.  Because milk paint is so porous it soaked up the ink like a sponge and the pretty stamp that started out looking crisp and fabulous bled into the paint and after about 10 minutes it ended up looking like a fuzzy mess.

After realizing the error of my ways, I painted a test board with several different treatments and then tried the stamp over them.

The fix.

I repainted the nightstands with Fusion’s Putty, and then tried again with the stamps.  This time it worked perfectly!

q tip:  If you want to use a Decor stamp with ink over milk paint, be sure to seal your milk paint with a water based sealer such as Miss Mustard Seeds Tough Coat or The Real Milk Paint Co’s Finishing Cream.


No. 4 – Even if you don’t see any stain bleeding through your piece before you apply a sealer, a water based sealer can pull the stain through your paint.

I painted this linen press using Rachel Ashwell paint.  I don’t think this product is even around anymore.  I’m guessing she tried the paint thing, found it to be super competitive, and it fizzled.  But you can get this result with any paint when you add a water based top coat.  It’s super frustrating because your piece looks amazing before you add the top coat.  Also, the bleed thru can take a while to show up.  So you might think you’re done, and then a day later start to see bleed thru.

It’s really hard to know when this is going to happen.  Over time, with experience, you’ll get a feel for judging whether or not a stain might bleed.  But sometimes it just sneaks up on you.

The fix.

I used Rachel Ashwell Clear Primer to seal the piece, repainted and then finished with the water based topcoat.


No. 5 – When all else fails, follow the directions.

I really loved that Rachel Ashwell brand Clear Primer, too bad it’s no longer available.  However, another great product for blocking bleed thru is Dixie Belle BOSS (blocks odors, stains, stops bleed thru).

However, be sure to follow the directions.  I used it to block an ink stain on the inside of a drawer and the first time around it didn’t work, even though I had used two coats of the BOSS.

So I went back and read the instructions which said to allow for a longer drying period.

The fix.

I added two more coats of BOSS and let it dry overnight and it worked like a charm.

Yep, my dad was right, when all else fails, read the directions.


No. 7 – Be sure to mix your milk paint really well, especially the shades of green.

True milk paint is made with just five ingredients; casein (milk protein, hence the name milk paint), chalk, clay, oxide (natural pigments) and limestone.  It comes in powder form and you mix it with water when you are ready to use it.

Some of the pigments used are heavier than others.  Because of that, they tend to settle to the bottom of your container as you’re using the paint.

As a result, if you paint most of your dresser one day and then paint the final bottom drawer on another day after your handyman has fixed it you can end up with an entirely different color.

Yep, not a good look.  That bottom drawer definitely has a lot more of the blue pigment compared to the others.

I learned a couple of lessons from this one.  First of all, when using milk paint, mix your paint before you start prepping your piece.  Let it sit while you prep allowing the pigments time to fully dissolve.  Next mix your paint well again before starting to paint.   Also, frequently give your paint a little stir as you are painting.  And finally, be sure to paint the final coat on your entire piece in one sitting and with one batch of mixed paint.  If you’ve painted the first coat and realize you don’t have enough paint left for the entire final coat, be sure to add more paint to your mix before starting the last coat.

For more milk paint tips, check out my Milk Paint Basics post.

The fix.

I mixed a new fresh batch of Miss Mustard Seeds Luckett’s Green and repainted the entire dresser in one go.

I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this post.  I’m sure I’ll keep on making mistakes and I’ll continue to share them with you so that you don’t always have to learn things the hard way.  You can do as I say, not as I do.

If you have any lessons you’ve learned the hard way, be sure to share them with us in a comment.

enjoy the journey.

I know, I know.  I share a lot of painted suitcases.  I probably sound like a broken record.  I really enjoy painting them though.  It’s probably the traveler in me.

I have found that certain styles of suitcases will not sell ‘as is’, but usually sell well painted.  This is one of them.

It’s rather blah.  It’s also a bit on the cheap side with a plastic handle rather than leather.

But a little Dixie Belle paint in Caviar and one of Prima Marketing’s new gold Somewhere in France transfers give it an entirely new look.

It was just a happy coincidence that the transfer fit the suitcase perfectly.  And FYI, this is another of the transfers from the yet to be released Spring 2019 line.  They should be hitting retailers in mid-April or so.

There are 3 designs included in the Somewhere in France set …

As you can see, I’ve used the top section on this suitcase.

I used just the bottom two lines of the bottom section on the toolbox that I shared last week.

And again, as on the toolbox, the gold looks amazing over black.

 I took the suitcase in to Reclaiming Beautiful (the shop where I sell on consignment in Stillwater, MN) on Wednesday evening, so if any of you locals are in need of a fabulous painted suitcase be sure to head to Stillwater!

Thank you to Dixie Belle Paint Co and Prima Marketing for providing the materials used for my painted suitcase.